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Stevie Wonders… 'That's Entertainment?'

Steven Schindler

Special to the Village News

Have you ever been at a red light and the car next to you, with windows open, is blasting music where every other word is not only on George Carlin’s infamously banned seven dirty words list, but there are also words and mentions of violence that if uttered in public or private can get you canceled for life? All you can do is roll up your own windows and play the Beach Boys greatest hits CD a little bit louder.

The movie “Barbie” just became the most successful Warner Bros. movie ever in domestic box office. It beats all the other most successful WB movies, including Harry Potter, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman… wait a minute! This could also be the list of a middle schooler’s favorite Underoos.

With all due respect to the talented actors, writers, and directors at Warner Bros. and all the other movie studios, and with a nod to George Carlin, what the (expletive deleted) happened? I’m sorry: I’m not going to see a movie about a doll. I’m also not going to see a movie about He-Man, Polly Pocket, Hot Wheels, or Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, which are all movies in development as you read this. Seriously.

Legendary film director, Martin Scorsese, when asked about Marvel movies (Avengers, Spiderman, Black Widow, Thor) in an interview with “Empire” magazine said this, “That’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” He later backtracked somewhat, saying that if he had “Come of age at a later time, he might be excited” about those types of movies.

But is it really just age? At what age do you see an ad for a movie called “Barbie” or “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” and say to yourself, “I’m very interested in the societal and cultural significance of the underlying motivations and patriarchal dilemmas facing a plastic doll with exaggerated body parts. Also, I just can’t wait to see if the red robot will make the blue robot’s head shoot off?”

Then there’s TV shows. Or should I say, shows that you watch on your big screen, or on your phone, or your laptop, or your Apple watch, that aren’t on broadcast TV, but shown on Netflix, Apple+, Disney+, Paramount+, Peacock, AmazonPrime or a dozen other “streamers” with so many shows they’ve given up trying to have a TV guide.

Need to know what the show is about, what channel it’s on, and what time the popcorn will be ready so it’s finished by the start of the show? Now you have to depend on some online TV show “influencer” or your grandkids to tell you there’s a show you have to binge watch over an entire weekend so by Sunday night, you never want to see anything to do with those characters ever again.

You may ask, “What’s an influencer?” I mean, besides your grandkids. An influencer is somebody who is paid to tell you what to watch, or buy, or read, or drive, or drink, or eat, or who to admire, or hate. They are either paid outright by a media company – a job which used to be called a publicist – or they are some kind of famous person aka celebrity, known for their propensity to expose their exaggerated body parts, or some other supposed talent, and have so many followers on Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook that the mere mention of a product can earn them thousands and sometimes millions of dollars for pushing something out there into the interweb.

And what of those shows? You’ve heard of “Breaking Bad,” I’m sure. It was the rage about 10 years ago, and lives on in repeats and with the recent spinoff “Better Call Saul.” Like a lot of people, having heard so much about “Breaking Bad” and seeing all of the show’s stars trotted out on TV talk shows from the early morning on the “Today Show,” until the last phony laugh of your favorite late night host, I decided to watch an episode.

The episode I tuned into involved how two drug-addict meth-lab lunatics argue over how best to dispose of a dead body. It was decided it was best to dissolve the victim in acid. But wait! Here comes the fun part! One of the idiot junkies didn’t remember to do the dastardly deed in a plastic tub, but instead did it in a porcelain bathtub! So the body and the toxic goo it created melted through the bathtub and the floor and wound up on the floor below! Let the hilarity begin!

I’ve tried over the years to watch the “must-see” shows: Dragon dramas, assorted zombies and apocalyptic nightmares, comedies about murderers, comedies about prison, comedies about zombies, comedies about comedians, but, funny enough, no comedies that make me laugh. It’s usually a matter of minutes, sometimes too many, when my wife and I look at each other and say, “This is awful. Let’s watch something else.”

Maybe that’s why I’ve discovered my new go-to channel for entertainment lately; the free version of YouTube. I’ve watched almost all the Jack Benny shows, Laurel and Hardy shorts, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd movies, “Car 54 Where Are You?” “Bilko” and many others.

Are you a music fan? I’ve watched rare Beatles concerts, Thelonious Monk European telecasts, Louis Jordan music shorts and Puccini’s exquisite opera, “Madame Butterfly.” I’ve also discovered British movie comedies featuring George Formby, Will Hay, Arthur Askey, Charles Hawtrey, and Peter Sellers. Some of the movies are close to a hundred years old. And they still make me laugh!

On YouTube you can also listen to old radio shows, full albums of any genre of music, or a babbling brook to help you sleep. You can watch ballets, symphonies, operas and documentaries on any subject imaginable. I even watched an interview with a man who witnessed Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. He was a guest on the game show “I’ve Got a Secret” in 1956. You can also learn how to fix that leaky toilet, start your own organic coffee farm, or watch a critical review of the 25 weirdest Barbie dolls ever made!

Now that’s entertainment!

Steven Schindler’s latest novel is “Fallout Shelter.”

 

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