Destroying the magic of cinema, one gadget at a time
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 23:09
Last week, Disney announced its new iPad app for the theatrical re-release of “The Little Mermaid,” thus giving children everywhere the chance to ignore the 1989 classic, which brought Disney out the dark days of the 1980s and into the gleam of the Disney Renaissance, in favor of iPad games. Despite the pandemic of cell phone usage in theaters, more shows and movies are encouraging the smartphone and tablet usage, negating the very real fact that some entertainment forms may require more than the barest of your attention. To encourage this is to encourage negligence on the part of the viewer who must, simply by virtue of pressing play or buying a movie ticket commit him or herself to experiencing the film. iPad apps and “Story Syncs” have destroyed the complete immersion of oneself into the art of cinema and television, to the detriment of the industry.
This is remarkably different from the attitude towards film decades earlier when Alfred Hitchcock refused to let patrons enter the theater later than the scheduled show time for his moderately successful film, “Psycho.” While a huge multi-tasker myself, we have to ask ourselves, at what point are we just not watching what is in front of us. I know not every film has the plot complexity of “The Godfather” or the number of subtle, blink-and-you-miss-them jokes of “Arrested Development,” but you can’t complain that the plot of film is too complex if you’re spending half your time looking at your iPhone instead of the film. Films and TV shows should and often require one’s full attention; if you can’t remember all of the “Game of Thrones” characters’ names when you’re paying attention to the show, try doing it with “interactive features” on your HBO app.
Now, what are the elaborate methods by which Disney and other conglomerates using to divert your attention? Disney’s “Second Screen Live” app for “The Little Mermaid” provides games and other forms of competition with other audience viewers. AMC is a huge fan of their “Story Syncs” online which provide additional content, like trivia, photos, flashbacks and polls for shows like “The Killing,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Breaking Bad.” My question here is why? While it’s great to be interactive, these social TV products will take away from the overall experience of the show. As fun as live-tweeting is, when suddenly the hashtag in the bottom corner is taking over the whole screen, we’ve perhaps reached the stopping point.
As I’ve said these social television contraptions are being used for shows like “Breaking Bad” and movies like “The Little Mermaid.” This is one of the more confounding aspects of these apps. What do you need to complement a show like “Breaking Bad?” I’m far too busy arguing with my boyfriend over whether or not Jesse is the moral center of the show (hint: he is) and then there’s always those moments that I stare dumbfounded at the television trying to figure out if I can go on with my life after [insert breathtaking spoiler]. Now, for “The Little Mermaid,” when I was a kid, you could not tear me away from a Disney movie long enough to eat or bathe, much less play some dumb iPad game. I surely did not need an app to tell me when to sing along (I mean, you just do it when the music starts, duh.). Why are we adding components to shows and films that have clearly proven their worth in terms of content and attention holding? Sure, maybe “American Idol” could use social TV for the benefit (I mean, you can still hear how bad they sound even if you look away.), but it’s a little insulting to utilize it for one of the greatest television shows of our time.
It comes down to a simple argument of entertainment versus art. Are either moving towards real artistic effort or are they moving towards pure entertainment industry? I agree that you have to be appealing but the content should be compelling on its own – without any flash in the pan media. In many ways it cheapens the product, reducing great films and television to a side show. Cinema should and often does require our full attention, and social TV only hurts the original content it tries to raise up.