Thoughty Thursday sailed right by me this week! Normally, Thursday is the day each week when y’all get to be privy to whatever’s kicking around inside my brain.
So, what’s been on my mind this week?
Heroes. We’re in an era where people are hungry for heroes.
If you look at the blockbuster hits over the last year or so, it’s been the movies and books that take us outside ourselves and let us admire heroic characters.
Avengers, Hunger Games and Men In Black 3 are in the Top 5. If you look at the Top 100 movies of 2012 in terms of box office receipts, you’ll see the trend everywhere. People want to lose themselves in the stories of larger-than-life heroes.
Besides the movies above, our current popular culture is genre fiction.
People are reading genre fiction because it’s light. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t big themes in there, but people want to be taken outside themselves and their own life.
50 Shades of Grey isn’t the best written book in the world, but (in my opinion) it’s had major popularity because it depicts a different reality than people are living, (a reality which isn’t all that hot in many cases).
Kristen Lamb did a great post awhile back about Why Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Sell Books where she talks about “the fat part of the bell curve” and how THOSE are the readers we want to interest.” That part of the bell curve are made up of the people who don’t normally do much reading, but who jump on board when a book gets “buzz.”
Case in point: I work with an office full of accountants who, by their own admission don’t read much. My mouth dropped open when one of them said she was lucky to read 4 books a year! (Holy Cowbell, I do that in a week!)
Every single one of them is reading, or has read, 50 Shades of Grey. And they’re all hiding it from each other! It’s cracking me up. They tell me because they know I’m a writer, but no one is copping to it in the lunch room.
The Gift of Genre Fiction and Indie Authors
People are losing jobs and homes and God knows what else in the current economic cliemate. Being able to get a ton of fiction in the $3.99 or less category is not only feeding existing book addictions, it’s creating new ones where they didn’t previously exist.
(Thank you, Authors, who are providing readers with a lot of options!!)
Getting Back to the Movies… Another time America experienced such a huge surge in genre music and books was in the 1930’s, specificially the movies and music of the Great Depression.
Movies of the Depression era were cheesy and uplifting – and definitely NOT depressing. People had enough of that in their real lives. Beset by deep anxieties and insecurities, many Americans in the 1930s hungered for heroes.
Popular culture offered many heroes in fiction:
- Superheroes like Superman and Batman, appeared in the new comic books of the ’30s
- Tough, hard-boiled detectives in the fiction of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler
- Radio heroes like “The Lone Ranger” or “The Shadow.”
On the other hand, here’s some of the most popular movies in the 1930’s:
Dracula (1931) – Based on the novel by Bram Stoker, this film helped launch American audiences’ love of horror films. Dracula proved to be a huge box office sensation. Within 48 hours of its opening at New York’s Roxy Theatre, it had sold 50,000 tickets. Later in 1931, Universal would release Frankenstein to even greater acclaim.
Frankenstein (1931) – The movie starts with this “friendly warning”:
We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation – life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even – horrify you. So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now’s your chance to – uh, well, we warned you.
King Kong (1933) -Originally released during the Great Depression, King Kong was re-released in 1938, 1942, 1946, 1952 and 1956 to great box office success. Due to stricter “decency rules” in Hollywood, each premier was censored further, with several scenes being trimmed or cut altogether.
These scenes were:
- A Brontosaurus eating crewmen in the water, chasing one up a tree and eating him.
- Kong undressing Ann Darrow and sniffing his fingers.
- Kong biting and stepping on natives when he attacks the village
- Kong biting a reporter in New York.
- Kong mistaking a sleeping woman for Ann and dropping her to her death after realizing his mistake.
Pennies from Heaven (1936) – A musical comedy film starring Bing Crosby and featuring Louis Armstrong in a supporting role. Though it wasn’t the first time a black performer was given billing in a major Hollywood release, special billing was given to Armstrong at the insistence of Bing Crosby, who also insisted on Armstrong being hired for the movie.
Snow White And The Seven Drawfs (1937) – Considered by many as “a big mistake for Walt Disney to make,” this movie became very popular, not only for young children, but also, surprisingly, for adults. It was America’s first feature animated film.
Gone With The Wind (1939) – From the book written by Margaret Mitchell during the Great Depression. The storyline is about a southern belle who must learn to toughen up and live life to its fullest during the Civil War.
The Wizard Of Oz (1939) – This movie was an immense success during the Great Depression, though it lost the Best Picture Oscar to Gone With The Wind. It was originally made to capitalize on the success achieved by Disney with Snow White.
Do you agree with me, or am I completely off base? What do you look for in a movie? Have you watched all the “Classics” or do you stay contemporary? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!!