Is What We Watch Who We Are?

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Having taken in a fair amount of the weekend’s pop culture offerings, something has now dawned on me. Is our entertainment starting to mirror the state of affairs in America today? For example, on this Monday, water coolers nationwide have the following talking points with which to begin their dialogue: Mad Men bowed, and the Salt vs. Inception showdown wound up with brains trumping badass. And given this turn of events, maybe our entertainment is actually reflecting some of the ups and downs that we’re experiencing as a nation. Here’s what I mean. Case in point: Mad Men: season four has its premiere, and what do we see? (I don’t want to spoil too much in case you didn’t catch it yet). Basically, Don Draper’s character and ability are now called into question. The mighty American dream is suddenly not so dreamy. Things are anything but rosy. They have a scrappy start-up ad agency with lots of things hanging in the balance, and the situation is shaky. Does this sound like anyone’s economy we know?  Does the element of workplace uncertainty (especially with unemployment the way it is) ring truer for viewers nowadays than it ever has before? Now maybe that’s just really good writing/storytelling – for which of course Mad Men is known – but I couldn’t help but wonder about the premiere’s dark tone. Another case in point for my theory? The movies. Everyone thought Salt would blow the doors off all the other films out there this weekend, given that it’s a serious shoot-em-up featuring the astonishing firepower of one Angelina Jolie. And sure, she’s terrific (I saw Salt and regardless of what else you hear, think, or read about the movie, I doubt anyone will ever dispute Angie’s top dog qualifications when it comes to action heroines). But you know what?  The shoot-em-up lost out to the brainteaser. How about that? Chris Nolan’s mind –bending tale of planting thoughts and curling pavement trumped the modern day good guy/bad guy Cold War thriller.

Similarly, San Diego’s Comic-Con — for years a total geekfest featuring comic books and the folks who devour them – is now a huge national event. They’re even discussing moving it because of its size; this year’s fest was so chaotic that someone actually got stabbed with a ballpoint pen. Now Comic-Con isn’t really part of my theory about modern entertainment trends mirroring our shaky society (we’ve known that techies would and do rule the world for quite some time now) but it’s interesting to watch giant  companies brought to their knees as they struggle to figure out what a  twelve-year-old will watch, wear, or play. So my theory is this: if TV and movies of the past weekend are any indicator, we may be — as consumers —  becoming just a teensy bit more thoughtful, more considered, and even more susceptible to our own anxieties. Then again, with programming like Jersey Shore afoot, maybe not. Anyway, let us know what you think – and  while you’re  at it, voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of this weekend’s top three movies you’re most excited about:

1)    Inception

2)    Despicable Me

3)    Salt

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