Everything wrong with . . .

Have you ever watched those videos on Youtube called Everything wrong with (name of movie)? Eg. Everything wrong with Braveheart (in 12 minutes). They show clips of a movie while you listen to a cynical voiceover telling you all the errors he can see. He swears copiously which is rather unpleasant, but not unexpected. Everything wrong with videos receive millions of views.

Or perhaps you’ve seen a similar kind of video called ‘How (name of movie) should have ended.’ They take a popular movie, create some cheap animation of the major scenes and then spoof them with their idea of how ‘the movie should have ended.’ Same cynicism. Same crass vocabulary.

I find both of these kinds of videos deeply offensive and I recommend that you don’t ever watch any of them. I know, I know. You’re intrigued now, aren’t you? And perhaps you’ve already clicked on a tab in your browser and have already watched one to see what I’m talking about. If you haven’t done that, please don’t do it now! These videos are profoundly subversive and if ingested frequently will eventually ruin your enjoyment of, well, not just movies but almost any kind of story.

And that’s a disaster.

Whoa, Richard, calm down. Why are you all worked up about some cheap videos? So they’re offensive and use bad language. That’s the world out there. Get used to it. No, no, it’s not the language. I’m used to bad language. It’s in most movies. There’s something much much worse going on in these videos . . .

They completely undermine our appreciation for and value of stories.

That’s why they’re so damaging.

Stories are essential to life. They really are. We cannot live without them and in fact, since each of us instinctively lives ‘inside a story,’ we feel this value inside. It’s part of being human, to live ‘inside a story.’ It’s called a worldview. A worldview is, quite simply, the story of the world in which we live. I’d like to say it’s the one we believe is true but for many people, truth claims are too demanding.

For Christians, stories are immensely important because when God chose to reveal himself, he chose to do so . . . in a story. It is the Big Story which makes sense of all other stories. This is why stories are so very very important.

For a start, think of their ubiquity. News stories, soaps, TV shows, movies, theatre productions, musicals, fairy stories, fantasy, detective fiction and on and on could the list go summing up the many genres of book and movie and play. Even video games contain a basic plot. Then there’s the fact that life itself is called ‘a journey.’

Life is the ultimate road movie.

How do stories work? Well, a person who reads a book or watches a movie is invited to enter a world. The world is created and presented by the story-teller. In order to appreciate a good story, it is essential to ‘enter in.’ If you don’t do this, you won’t get the most out of the story. When a story begins, ‘Once upon a time,’ you know you’re entering the world of fantasy. You could meet dragons or goblins or giants and you will simply accept that these creatures exist in the world created for you by the story-teller. If your response is ‘there’s no such thing as a dragon!’ then you simply haven’t understood the basic premise of story-telling. You’re imposing your own ‘world’ on the world presented by the story-teller.

And that’s not done. It’s not done! Doing that will ruin your enjoyment of the story. And telling others that dragons don’t exist will irritate them and baffle young people who know perfectly well that if the story says there’s a dragon . . . then there’s a dragon! What is wrong with you that you can’t see that!

Apparently Richard Dawkins doesn’t understand this. Read here.

So, are those Youtube videos no more than cynical movie criticism? To be fair, we’re all armchair movie critics nowadays, aren’t we? Are they any worse than us? And shouldn’t we expect this kind of behaviour from our ailing society? Well, perhaps, but I think something worse is going on. Because I fear that such videos seek to alter how you watch a movie right from the start.

And it’s the start which counts.

When you press play or open the page, you’re invited to take part. In particular, you’re invited to suspend your disbelief. Please, come on in and enjoy my world. Enter into the story. When you do this, you allow yourself to imagine the feelings of the players. You hope and fear and are enraged. You fall in love (temporarily!), desire justice, bemoan the stupidity of certain characters and admire bravery and boldness. In short, you become a player yourself. Right from the start, you either agree to participate or you decide to sit on the sidelines, tossing stones at glasshouses. These Youtube videos invite you to do the latter. They don’t believe in ‘entering in.’ They believe they’re superior to the filmmaker. It’s easier to criticize . . . it’s ALWAYS easier to criticize . . . than enter in and experience the movie from the inside.

Why? Probably fear. Certainly arrogance. But let’s return to fear, because I think fear drives a great deal of human behaviour. In this case, it’s fear of emotions. Perhaps I will be moved and what then? My friends will laugh at me. While the makers of these videos might be scared of their emotions (subconsciously, of course; there’s no likelihood that they’re sufficiently aware of their own motivations), there’s something much more powerful and sinister going on.

They don’t believe in meaning. And they don’t want you to, either.

For goodness sake, don’t actually believe in beauty or love or courage. Oh come on! No one believes in those things any more. Oh sure, we know that you want to, but with our cynical comments, we will ensure you feel naïve and foolish by actually entering into the story and believing the idea that values and meaning really exist. After all, goes their implicit argument, we’re just base animals, so beauty is subjective, love is nothing more than hormonal overload and courage? Well, that’s machismo careering out of control.

This cynicism is subversive. Cynicism means distrusting or disparaging the motives of others OR showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality. I’m particularly struck by the idea of distrusting, because when you encounter a story, you are invited to trust the story-teller. By refusing to do so, the cynics undermine the magic of ‘the story.’

And that’s pernicious. Nefarious. Bad.

Because the fact is, some things really are beautiful and some things should be feared. And some acts are noble and bold and brave. And justice is real . . . and love? Well, it’s the most beautiful, wonderful thing in the world. Don’t ever let them strip those beliefs from you. Because they happen to be true. These cynics don’t believe in Truth, but I do and I hope you do too.

So, what to do?

Since we are almost programmed to be armchair movie critics nowadays, are we therefore lost? What can we do when cynicism is so prevalent and we find ourselves critiquing before the first scene is even over? I suggest making the effort to control your inner critic until the movie is over. That’s all. Just watch and enjoy. Don’t ruin it by wondering how Sandra Bullock could possibly have been offered a second lead role. Enter in. Please.

Stories are so precious.

They are life itself.

The Everything wrong with videos are bad enough. But the how (name of movie) should have ended videos are probably worse. One of them I found so disturbing, I ruminated on it for days. How could they? What if my son watches this and it effects how he views movies from now on? This is just awful . . . terrible . . . abhorrent.

But I’ll leave my assessment of that particular video for next time . . .

© Richard Collins 2014