Friday, September 08, 2006

Of Rags and Riches

I recently went to the theater to watch a movie. As with any movie-going experience, there were previews. All of them sucked. But this one sucked the most for a number of reasons. Material Girls stars Hilary Duff and Haylie Duff. The Duff sisters. Obviously, I will never, ever, under any circumstances put myself through the drudgery of watching this film, but it's an interesting concept. It used to be common in popular literature, and even in film in America to write the "great american what-have-you." A great many of these were what you could call "rags to riches" stories. Born a poor farmer, so-and-so claws his way against all odds to the top of some sort of financial empire. The struggle made him what he was. His roots in poverty gave him a connection to the common man. His dream and personal resolve made him great. Blah blah blah.

It is now increasingly common in literature, film, and pretty much everything else, to tell a completely different kind of story. It's the "riches to rags" story. Material Girls (starring the Duff sisters) is one such film, though I suspect that since this is going to be a popular American comedy, that they will probably get back to riches by the end of the movie after having learned a "very valuable lesson."

Of perhaps more important impact and astonishingly higher quality is the hit Fox TV show "Arrested Development." Compellingly (surprisingly so) narrated by Ron Howard, this fast-paced, off beat comedy has been drunkenly declared by myself at many parties to be the "best show on TV," and this should be enough for most people to accept it as truth. Again, "Arrested Development" is a riches to rags story.

It appears upon close examination of this new type story that's just now being told, that we have a backlash against the rags to riches American Dream. It appears that someone out there is trying to establish as a point of fact that riches are transitory. Where once people liked to dream wistfully of what they would do when or if they ever became extremely wealthy, it now has become extremely trendy to look upon the wealthy, particularly the idle rich, with a certain degree of contempt, and to imagine how wonderful and perhaps even entertaining their downfall might be.

While the characters in the Duff Sister's Movie are probably contemptible on every level imaginable, so are the characters in "Arrested Development." Not a single person, not even Michael, the least morally bankrupt character, is completely beyond reproach.

I think this is a very interesting trend in mainstream media, and I think we will see a lot more of in the years to come. That is, unless some horrible catastrophe strikes and we are all wiped off the face of the planet, and all cinema, literature, and art created by human hands is utterly destroyed never to be seen, heard, viewed, or cared about by another other creature until the end of time.

Dr Kuha out.


Puuda Maggui said...

All looks and no talent equals no future

Won't leave the scene for a degree.

Alternatives include MTV hosts, grills, and a nude motion picture.

Sharon said...

Very interesting! I still like to watch TCM to see those old movies where the poor but honest hero (heroine) works hard to achieve money/love/recognition...
Call me old-fashioned... oh, wait, I guess I just did...

roman said...

When I was just hitting puberty all movies ended on a happy note. Everyone rode away into the sunset happy as larks. Then I took my date to see a movie called "Soldier Blue". It was the US Cavalry massacring Cheyenne women and children back in 1864. There it was, in its most violent brutality. I looked over at my date and she was crying uncontrollably. My initial reaction was that I got ripped off. Movies were supposed to be entertaining. I paid good money and fully expected to walk out of that theatre as happy as can be. BUT NO, the hair on the back of my neck was still erect and I was totally depressed. Later, when I thought it over, it was the best money I ever spent. That movie forced me to graduate from the comic book world which I had been inhabiting, to the real world. It was a watershed moment for me. No more rooting for the "cowboys in white hats" from that point on.
This new phenomena of riches to rags movies, if done right, might just graduate some more Pollyanna types to the real world.