At work, I overhear colleagues talking about movies and saying “Oh, that was awful” or “I thought Director So-and-So really dropped the ball.” On Facebook and twitter I see people complain about tv show writers or actors who are “ruining” a show (mostly Doctor Who). Yet I rarely find myself having such a strong reaction. Generally, I find I enjoy movies and tv shows. Am I missing something? I think not, and I think there are few reasons my visual-media experience is so mellow.
The first is that I watch for more than just plot or writing. I was a Drama Kid, in my first community youth theatre class at age 5 and involved in theatre up through my senior year of college. When I watch movies, I see the actors working their craft and (hopefully) enjoying themselves, and I look for the design decisions made by the art director, the lighting designer, the costuming choices. If any one of these things is awful, it may bother me, but as long as one of them engages me, I’m fine.
And while I’m interested in the choices being made in a tv show or movie, I’m not overly critical. I’m a graduate student: most of my work time is spent critically reading sources (textual and otherwise). I have no desire to spend my small periods of leisure doing the same thing I do all day – that’s why it’s leisure and not work, right? So, yes, I might question why they decided to use a clearly 12th century gown at the end of a film which had been set in a fantasy-influenced pseudo-historical Roman Britain, but I’m not going to get worked up about it.*
Ultimately, I go to movies and television to be entertained and/or engaged. I hold them to a lower standard than I do the novels I read. If I am entertained by the story or engaged by the design, that’s enough for me. When I go to see an action movie, I want things to blow up, the bad guys to be defeated/killed, and I hope that the female characters are three-dimensional people, but I don’t expect depth or even for the movie to pass the Bechdel test. All I want from Doctor Who is to have a “behind the sofa” moment, some running, and at least one snarky/clever quip. I don’t really like most sitcoms because the stories are predictable and the sets are just nondescript backgrounds; they neither engage nor entertain.
Having duly considered the reasons why I am apparently far less critical of movies and television than my friends and colleagues, I find that I’m really okay with being mellow. Everyone needs at least one way to relax, and if that means uncritically enjoying Psych and Shaun the Sheep and even My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, then so be it.
* King Arthur (2004). Seriously, this was the only thing in the entire movie I objected to.