If the Lumière brothers had seen the situation in which cinema fell in the years of the z generation they would have looked at each other and would have commented: we fucked you, we were more far-sighted than the other loser pioneers of cinema, ended up working in the soda kiosks or to serve the regime’s power with a difficult life. We told you that cinema was an invention with no future. Now do it yourself.
The z generation born with the smartphone
They were right. To the z generation born with the smartphone in hand, cinema seems to be something without interest, antiquated. Maybe they are right. At a superficial glance, cinema has revealed itself in its history as a showcase of phenomena that always attracts the worst of the culture of every era. To which a group of directors, a movement, intellectuals or artists punctually try to react by trying to bring it back on the right tracks. For now without success.
While there are a few brilliant masters who mark the history of cinema with their masterpieces, a mass of millions of people are approximatively interested in this art. Creating unprecedented confusion in the z generation era. Mediocre and bad taste works have always been created in a vain attempt to ride the fashions of the moment, or to clone the great masterpieces of the past in a modern key. But it had never happened in these proportions. The z generation now only knows about clones and imitations. Although cinephilia burns under the ashes even in the z generation, they have been given the worst treatment.
The new free digital circus (if you give the data)
A circus of new characters of all ages, social networks and youtubers successfully impose themselves, criticize, write about things they don’t know, try to enrich themselves or gain prestige. The cinema, after having seen all its colors and having survived by a miracle thanks to those few hundred films and artists who have gratified it with its existence, is experiencing a difficult phase. The phase of an unprecedented mass homologation that overwhelms everything.
This time we’re not talking about thousands or tens of thousands of people. The web allows millions of people, all together, to have their say. The concept of a competent person on a specific topic has vanished. If there is a channel where fanboy gives its best, it is YouTube. Too complicated to read the words or even an entire article. Better to watch videos where you can have fun with the new fangirl. Or rather, film your own. We need a point of reference for the z generation, a generation lost more than the others.
Of course it makes me think: I was a fanboy too, and I preferred to watch a video to laugh and joke with friends rather than go into a serious reading. Then as I grew up I changed. Perhaps for the worse, perhaps it was better to be a fanboy. But will the kids of the z generation born in the era of smartphones and digital mass approval change with their growth?
Z generation and the risk of digital dementia
Will they be able to tell what’s valuable from what’s not? The amount of meaningless content conveyed through the web makes me doubt this. It could be a generation with no clear ideas, with a big flavorless jam on its head. Some will be saved thanks to their critical spirit, but most will become some sort of digital insane, who however in the near future robotized could be considered holistic geniuses. There is no doubt the web is a great challenge for humanity in the coming decades.
But it’s also a lot of fun in some ways. Isn’t it fun to go on YouTube and see a little boy with green fluorescent glasses doing his video-monologue-review elaborating theories like a great intellectual for whom arthouse cinema is for old men?
Isn’t it fun to connect to Facebook and its film groups and discover that thousands and thousands of people continue to talk every day, in a consecrating tone, always and only about the same films and the same directors? If you work in marketing, yes, that’s a lot of fun.
Isn’t it funny to discover that in these social posts, the large streams of comments and enthusiasm always go to the same posters, to the same images, while the original in-depth analyzes of a certain depth are totally ignored? Looking at the posts on social media this phenomenon is a fact, and digital marketers know it well.
To complicate everything, the giants of streaming have arrived. Not those few, small platforms, which aim to promote film culture. But the monster platforms that have a commercial and audience power never seen before and that are confusing the ideas and perception of cinema all over the world, not only for the z generation fanboy. A kind of sticky blob that spreads everywhere.
The digital ocean of global homologation
I’m not against streaming at all – I find it a very powerful way to reach viewers around the world. An extraordinary potential for distribution for independent directors and auteur films, to complement the “events” on the big screen. A different way to enjoy good cinema on a smaller screen, or in your own home cinema. Streaming is a huge technological innovation that further democratizes cinema and has boundless possibilities. But you need your own critical sense, a great ability to choose in this digital tide.
But how did almost every man-made thing like streaming get immediately taken hostage by someone to profit and gain a monopoly? There is a great responsibility in this. One cannot use one’s power to confuse half the world’s ideas and destroy more than a century of history. Except the great Martin Scorsese, hardly anyone has spent any words to create attention on the subject. There is a risk of appearing dated, old, obsolete. Or worse, to remain unemployed. Better not say anything about it, there is family to support.
You don’t have to take advantage of people’s cultural unpreparedness and weaknesses, their natural laziness and penchant for light entertainment to turn manure into gold, and vice versa. Someone may object, but televisions have been doing it for half a century. Yes, it’s true. But the televisions have always clearly stated “we are television”. And on Monday evening we will show you a column with “the great Monday cinema” written on it in large letters. Monday or at 3 in the morning we offer you a good movie. But after the column, remember: we are television. We deal with tronista and news programs. It was easy for millennials to understand, or any generation before them, whatever name they stuck on him.
The big jam ready for the z generation
These platforms, on the other hand, want to take it all with pre-cooked dishes, like those of fast food. Their goal is absolute monopoly through a mix of products that is difficult to decipher. Reality, series, video tutorials sold as documentaries, personal growth videos, spirituality, talk shows, independent cinema, auteur cinema. Where next to the video tutorial for children and new influencers to go on vacation, repair the scooter, together with the video to become rich and famous with the mentor on duty, you will find the categories of art cinema. Hidden in a corner, without the directors’ names. As if they were a shame.
A real humiliation for the directors: they felt it was useless to publish the director’s name on the film’s profile. We find only a nice high-resolution colorful playbill, a captivating short storyline, and the names of a couple of actors. I imagine poor filmmakers letting a tear escape in the solitude of their homes as they log onto the platform site from home.
Likewise it’s even more terrifying and the flow of self-styled cinema savvy youtubers. Characters who look like they came out of a circus, rioters and alternative taverns, z generation fanboy doing video reviews during high school recess and famous film critics of prestigious disappeared magazines overlap in a frightening flow, without an identity, a gigantic blob that comes from other worlds, and that crushes the cinema in a kind of flavorless jam. The war of the worlds becomes the war of digital egos.
The age of analogical and paper
I don’t want to sound critical of technology and the web – it’s something extraordinary. There are priceless treasures in this boundless ocean. But they are few and you have to be able to find them. To discern. It is very difficult. I remember as a teenager how fun it was to go to the video store and spend half an hour choosing a movie to rent. That way I got to know a good part of directors and cinema. To do this, I had to leave the house and go in search of something. But it was much easier to be critical enough to choose. Maybe the clerk from the video store helped you with an exchange of views.
Likewise, it was a ritual to go to the bookstore, in the main street of the city, to buy film magazines that you couldn’t find on newsstands, but which were more interesting. Out of ten magazines it was easy to figure out the 2 that matched your needs. It was easy to separate the junk from something of value.
How can you be clear about this flavorless sea of jam where everyone talks about something they don’t know, trying to assert their point of view? In the age of social media and in the future, can everything and the opposite of everything be true? Can millions of ego trips coexist on one platform, without confusing millions of people’s minds? Can thousands of influencers who influence without having any expertise help, just to get paid by brands who want to maximize profits?
Are fanboy’s ideas about Transformers right like those about spiderman of the young z generation nonconformist critic? Is it right for those who can’t even distinguish a mediocre TV series or film from a masterpiece to spread their opinions on social media, more successfully than a journalist at a film art exhibition?
In this super-democratic global logic, only one thing will happen. The easy entertainment, the most commercial thing, the easy topic that interests the masses, the tutorial of the 10 movies to see before you die will always win. On the contrary, I seem to understand that this is precisely the true nature of the web social. A sort of worldwide homologation, for marketing and sales purposes. The next step in the homologation of individual countries that intellectuals spoke of in the 1970s.
True, this has been happening for a long time with television, cinema, print, everything. Everyone is always ready to jump on the winning horse to reach the greatest number of people and profits. No one has shown a real interest in film culture and culture in general. Not even the same ministers of culture who keep smiling like idiots when their most demented projects reach a large audience. Instead, they should be ashamed and hide away somewhere far from civilization, perhaps in a remote countryside where they can hoe the land and grow tomatoes with humility.
The demolition of art and the targeted man
Television has demolished cinema with banality since its inception. We passed by the theatres full of people to watch arthouse movies we moved on to families gathered in front of the television screen and his talk shows. Now, however, we are undergoing the great changes on a global level. We are no longer even masters of destroying ourselves with our own hands. Big global companies tell us what we need to do. What should we look at. What are the new fashions.
From our pocket, directly from the smartphone, based on how we were targeted, based on our deep psychology that has been studied in detail by the algorithm, a barrage of notifications arrive every minute. Self-styled experienced wizards of life. Marketing wizards, web wizards, fashion wizards, cinema wizards. Fanboys that at the age when I was playing football in the courtyard below the house are already serious and committed successful entrepreneurs. They are already profound connoisseurs of cinema and many other things. They know how to live, they know the secrets. Secrets that will be revealed to us with a decent online payment. They are twenty years old but they look like old decrepit ones.
The z generation will face a difficult challenge. Many of them will learn to recognize garbage, to make separate collection. The irritating commercial break we have been subjected to in the past decades from television has transformed. It’s no longer a glossy commercial with happy families giving you an idiotic smile by showing you the product. They are homemade videos of people who woke up overnight and became self-appointed gurus. Experts of everything and everything. And if you, ignorant, want to know more, put your hand in your wallet and buy their product online. Or subscribe to their free channel. And thank them, because this time it’s free. I do.
Fabio Del Greco