I was talking to one of my favorite people the other day, Kesseljunkie (He’s my podcast partner on Aggressive Negotiations: A Star Wars Podcast as well as a myriad episodes of The 602 Club). As we so frequently do, we were discussing movies, specifically the DC films and the latest Justice League trailer and it brought something to mind.
There is a scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke is being trained by Yoda and he asks about a place that seems cold. Yoda says it is a domain of evil and that Luke must go in. Luke asks, “What’s in there?” to which Yoda responds, “Only what you take with you.”.
This got me thinking about how movies and movie theaters are a lot like that cave on Dagobah. Whenever we step into a theater to see a movie or que one up on Netflix we are not going in blind, we bring with us a plethora of preconceptions, experiences and prejudices into that cave that act as weapons for or against the movie which impact the film. Now, unlike Luke, there are certain “weapons” that are impossible for us to completely get rid of when we enter the cave. We cannot discard our prior experiences, but we can curtail out preconceptions and our prejudices, if we are self aware enough to know what they are. The reason this is important is because what we get out of a movie and whether or not we enjoy it greatly depend upon our own point of view. To put it another way, it greatly depends on what we bring with us into the theater.
The reason this struck a cord for me was the way in which this seems to directly apply to the geek culture that I am apart of. Every franchise has it’s diehard followers that will defend anything that comes out of that franchise no matter what it is. Then there are others that will seemingly hate everything a certain franchise does, just because it’s from that franchise. It’s par for the course in the 21st century where everything is one extreme or another and there seems to be no middle ground for anything. Hyperbole is the language of the day, films, tv shows, politicians and everything else all seem to be either the worst or the best thing ever.
Again referencing the conversation in The Empire Strikes Back, Luke asks “But how am I to know the good side from the bad?” and Yoda replies, “You will know. When you are calm, at peace.” We live not only in a world drowning in hyperbole but it’s accentuated by an eternal hype machine. So I want suggest a different path, like the Bendu in the recent Star Wars Rebels season and chose the way of the middle. We must unlearn what we have learned as we walk into the cave. Approach every movie on it’s own merits. As Yoda says, we should clear out minds of our expectations, preconceptions and presuppositions and allow the film to wash over us, absorbing what it’s trying to say and do first. If we get out of a movie, only what we bring to it, then it seems important for us to not enter with a bad attitude in the first place. The neutrality of the middle allows us to, I think, truly judge a film better.
For me personally, this has worked out thusly. I do my utmost to approach every movie on it’s own. I do my best not to prejudge too much on trailers, since many times trailers can be so misleading. I find it best to go in always hoping the movie will be good and allowing the finished product to speak for itself. It’s hard work disarming the weapons I can bring to bare, like previous films in a series, thoughts on a direct or actor, my own prejudices. I’ve found it to be a much more rewarding experience with movies, tv shows and even books to look at it without those weapons. It’s made it easier for me to see and understand the themes, character motivations and what each work is trying to say, which in turn allows me appreciate it more.
Now, does this mean I like everything? Of course not. But it does even help there, because when I don’t like something, this process allows me to be constructively critical about why and what I feel made something not work. With the self awareness that comes from trying to disarm all the weapons I might bring with me into the cave enables me to be, I think, more fair to the film, show our book and not resort to hyperbole, but break it down in a more constructive and valuable way. In the end, almost every movie, book or tv show is not going to be the best or worst thing ever and finding out the muddle in the middle is most of the fun.