July 17, 2006

More on “Snakes on a Plane” [7:03 am]

“Snakes on a Plane” fever (see also Building on a Joke, Online) — the subtitle of this article says it all: “How Hollywood turned a bad movie into an insta-cult classic by pandering to the blogosphere”

If you were in the audience for the opening-day screening of “X-Men: Last Stand” last May, you would have seen a movie preview that begins with a series of silent, ominous title cards:

“AS THE SUMMER MOVIE SEASON BEGINS / YOU WILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE / MOVIES THAT WILL HAVE / HUGE STARS / SWASHBUCKLING PIRATES / ELABORATE CODES / INCREDIBLE SUPERHEROES / AND ANIMATED ADVENTURES / BUT THERE’S ONE THING / WE GUARANTEE YOU THEY WON’T HAVE … / SNAKES / ON A PLANE.”

Seeing this trailer on the big screen was, for much of the audience, the culmination of months of rumors, party conversations, YouTube searches and endless jokes. It was a moment of collective consciousness on a par with the “Lazy Sunday” phenomenon. The word “snakes” was greeted with applause more raucous than for the feature presentation itself. The clapping exploded into arena-rock-caliber cheering because with every clap, each person in the audience realized that the person next to them saw what they saw. Snakes. On a plane.

[...] Snakes on a plane is actually “Snakes on a Plane,” the title of a movie to be released Aug. 18 and starring unlikely cult hero Samuel L. Jackson. The question one should ask is not what — what is the movie’s plot? what is the action like? what the hell were the screenwriters thinking? The answer to all those questions is, of course, “snakes on a plane.” The real question here is how “Snakes on a Plane” became so much more than just a shitty movie.

[...] Everyone who hears about it loves “Snakes on a Plane.” And yet no one has actually seen it. There are countless homages and parodies of all levels of production value on the Web that millions have enjoyed — from film mash-ups using previous footage of Samuel L. Jackson and nature shows, to camcorder images of white college-age males in their garage. None of these are based on the movie. This preemptive attack of fandom was caused by the four syllables that make up the title.

[...] In this sense “Snakes on a Plane” is more than just a title and more than just a cult movie. It’s an exposure of the inner workings of Hollywood. It’s an admission on the part of movie writers, directors, producers and distributors that this movie is, as Samuel L. Jackson has put it, “Motherfucking Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane!” Through a tiny crack in the façade of the movie industry, moviegoers saw that the industry itself doesn’t believe in its own magic. It’s not just that the emperor wears no clothes when he parades through the streets; it’s that everyone inside the palace freely admits that he’s naked.

This is why “Snakes on a Plane” turned into Snakes on a Plane. It is shorthand for that crack in the façade. It is the exposure of what philosopher Theodor Adorno called the culture industry. “Movies and radio need no longer pretend to be art,” Adorno wrote in his essay “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.” “The truth that they are just business is made into an ideology in order to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce.” [...]

[...] Americans don’t just love the culture industry; they fetishize it. But Americans are also savvier than most theoreticians believe. The lamest and most transparent attempts of the culture industry to deceive us are defeated not by outright rejection, but by assimilation.

See also this collection of viral videos

Related: Aaron Sorkin’s woes — Pre-buzz buzz - pdf

Much later (2006 Aug 21) — After Hype Online, ‘Snakes on a Plane’ Is Letdown at Box Office

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