Don’t be confused by the title of this post. I understand that the majority of works labelled as “classics” earn the title in retrospect and, as such, tend to be works from years gone by. The title and point of this post is more about my concerns of how many of todays works will be “allowed” to be considered classics in the future, due to the increasingly cynical nature today’s generation has towards the creative works of others, which seems dead-set on not wanting to enjoy anything.
Now, before I sound too defeatist, I would like to point out that there are a number of movies, video games, and other art works of today that will achieve classic status, as this cynical attitude isn’t an absolute. But I think the works that are to be judged by the Millennial generation will have an increasingly difficult time in attaining that “classic” status, even if they fully deserve it.
For example, films like Inception, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Disney’s Frozen will no doubt go down in the history books. Yet we live in a time in which such things will almost certainly be written off as “overrated” and labelled with even worse monickers by a number of people, simply because their initial reception was highly positive. The internet generation seems to have a dismissive attitude towards positivity, and if anything is greeted warmly upon arrival, they’ll be sure to do their damnedest to shoot them down.
Part of the problem of today stems from nostalgia (lord knows Millennials love their nostalgia). Now, nostalgia can be a beautiful thing, but not when it’s at the expense of giving anything new a chance. It’s quite disheartening how frequently I see people on the internet defend literally anything that came from their childhood, and deride anything new as being inferior simply, well, because. It’s a mindset that automatically prevents anything new from joining the ranks of our favorites of yesteryear.
Nostalgia is only the secondary problem in this equation, however, as I feel cynicism itself is public enemy number one in regards to artistic timelessness.
We now live in a generation where review aggregates are readily available for us to peruse on the internet, and in which people will readily deride anything that has a positive reception on the sole grounds that it has a positive reception. Now, I’m not saying people can’t disagree with the general consensus, I myself have my fair share of disagreements with popular opinion, but there’s a difference between differing opinions and simply belittling something because how dare people enjoy things. And it seems that, all too often these days, the latter is the case.
It certainly doesn’t help that we live in a time that frowns upon success. So you can bet if a movie happens to make a lot of money through box office revenue and merchandise, or a video game sells millions of copies, there will be a vocal lot of people who will hate them on those grounds alone. Whether or not these people even watched these movies or played these games is irrelevant. Because how dare success!
Yet another problem stems from the self-indulgence that has emerged in this age of Twitter and Facebook. Now, I’m not saying these social media sites are innately bad, but they haven’t exactly helped fix the lack of humility found in Millennial culture. People want to feel important, and this day and age, feeling important means belittling the works of people with talent.
Look no further then the likes of Honest Trailers and CinemaSins (actually, don’t look there, they’re rather insipid). These types of internet videos are wildly popular largely because they eviscerate popular and beloved movies in a snarky, self-important attitude. I get that such videos are aiming for “humor,” but again, there’s a difference between simply making jokes about movies (or anything else creative) and arrogantly bullying a work with no constructive criticisms to speak of, which is the trap Honest Trailers, CinemaSins and their equally vapid contemporaries indulge in. And people today eat it up, because it feeds their cynicism and self-importance, and punishes the movies, filmmakers and the people who enjoy their creations simply for existing.
This relishing in pessimism is making it difficult for things to be fondly remembered in the way they were in the past. Can you imagine if the original 1977 Star Wars had to be subjugated to to the same kinds of audiences who simply don’t want to like things? Such works may not have the status they have today if that were the case, and I think fewer and fewer works of today will share that kind of status because of it.
Again, I’m not saying there can’t be the usual contrarian to bring up a differing perspective, but I again point out that today there’s more of an attitude that frowns upon the very idea of liking things. We’ve grown to hate honesty and only allow the sarcastic and the obnoxious to thrive. People just don’t want to like things these days.
As far as video games are concerned, you can look at classics from years past such as Chrono Trigger or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as examples of games that are held on a pedestal. But it would be much harder to find newer games that are held in a similar light, simply because we aren’t allowing them to be. Every time a new big game comes out, it will almost immediately be declared “overrated” or people might go on and on about how much it “sucks” simply because there’s one mechanic they don’t like (as if the camera in Ocarina of Time was perfect). Sequels to big games, even ones with obvious improvements, are declared inferior to their predecessors simply because they aren’t their predecessors. We don’t even give things a chance, simply because we don’t want to. I guess hating stuff is supposed to make us feel special or something.
There was a time, not all that long ago, where video games, much like movies, had some exceptional works where it was clear they were going to be revered as classics. These days, it’s not so obvious. It’s not that video games or movies have gotten any worse (I’d argue movies are doing much better now than they were in the 90s), it’s that we don’t want to like things. We wish to indulge in our cynicisms, and it’s making some truly great creative works suffer because of it.
If people continue to go down this path of self-importance, where creativity is shot down at every opportunity just so we can give ourselves a pat on the back, I fear we may end up with less and less artists who actually care about their creations. I mean, it’s not like we’re giving them much incentive to create things, since whatever they make will be belittled in obnoxious internet videos and any shred of success they may find will be turned against them.
I can’t help but feel a heavy sadness sweep over me every time I think about it. If everyone keeps up this destructive cynicism towards creativity, we can sure as hell expect the future of movies, video games, and other art forms to be riddled in nothing but sarcasm and self-deprecation. People often claim to want “smarter” stories, and yet we’re the ones who are ultimately making stories dumber with our utter distaste for honesty and genuine storytelling.
I can only hope more and more people can start appreciating creativity again, and remember how enjoyable it can be when viewing creative works with a sense of optimism and being able to form actual opinions. If we continue down this destructive road, classics will indeed be a thing of the past.
7 thoughts on “Don’t Let Classics Become a Thing of the Past”
In the end, no matter how good something is, it’ll always get hate, even if it’s just popular. Guess that’s the fate of being popular, right? I’ve seen movies such as Beauty and the Beast get bashed on simply for making a lot of money. I look past the money and look at the movie in general, since, to me, the money never mattered when it comes to the quality of the film.
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“Nostalgia can be a beautiful thing, but not when it’s at the expense of giving anything new a chance.”
I couldn’t have said it any better.
Even though I enjoy Honest Trailers, we do live in a time of overly bitter public perception towards works that are generally well-regarded. I honestly cannot tell why – maybe it is just an attempt to sound unique and “smart”, or be noticed, in the endless sea of opinions across the web – but it is indeed happening.
The examples you mentioned in the pictures are quite accurate because I have come across quite a bunch of criticism regarding those works, and most of them came off as if the person was just trying to sound different or smart, but truly ended up sounding plain bitter.
Super Mario 3D World suffers a lot from that. It sure is not Super Mario Galaxy or its sequel (we cannot reasonably expect to get a game of that absurd quality every generation), but it is an utterly awesome Mario game. Yet, people pile on it because…. lord knows why.
I actually had somebody from work say The Force Awakens sucked, and one of the reasons for that was that the movie had poor special effects. Yeah, you read that right.
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3,720 to 1? The odds are that high?
Anyway, it’s interesting because a lot of people seem to think the nineties was such a perfect golden age for gaming, yet few of them are willing to acknowledge that there were plenty of truly abysmal works that came out during that time (lest we forget that it was the decade that graced us with Superman 64, The Wizard of Oz for the SNES, and Action 52). In other words, every decade has ways in which it excelled and ways in which it was stupid. When a nineties game was bad, you would be lucky if it was playable. Plus, I really do not miss the days when I could potentially pick up a clunker because the box art/title looked cool. These days, if a game is bad, you’ll hear all about it long before you’re even aware of its existence. The nineties was doubtlessly an important decade for gaming, but anyone who actually wants it back clearly isn’t playing with a full deck.
Indeed, looking at my list of 10/10 games, more of them originated from the 2000s than the nineties, and I definitely think the 2000s was the superior decade. It may not have had the sheer volume of great games, but when they were good, they were usually much more polished than similar efforts from the preceding decade.
I’d say that gaming fans remind me a lot of music fans in that they bemoan the state of the industry, yet do nothing to actually solve the problem. Whenever the latest Call of Duty/Battlefield installment is released, they’re quick to bash it for being derivative (and rightly so, to be honest). Whenever an unequivocally good game is released, they either ignore it completely or are quick to say it’s overrated (this is far less forgivable, and it makes the very few times they actually put something on a pedestal as a sacred cow seem hypocritical). Whenever the latest effort from the indie crowd is making waves, they’re quick to bash it for not being a real game (I do sympathize somewhat if it turns out that is indeed the case, and I personally am glad more indie developers are abandoning the “artsy for the sake of being artsy” zeitgeist). If works across all mediums become worse because of this mentality, these fans will have no one to blame but themselves (not that they won’t try, of course).
It’s a dangerous combination of shallow cynicism derived from having no perspective whatsoever and an unwillingness to think for oneself. It’s the reason why I think the popularity of these shows that bash good works for no higher purpose than ego stroking are more of a symptom of this mentality rather than the cause. After all, if fans didn’t have this problem, these shows would get laughed off the stage rather than embraced. As a counterexample, I think it’s clear when you wrote a negative review of BioShock: Infinite and I did the same for The Last of Us, it wasn’t because we were doing it for the sake of being contrarian; it’s because we legitimately formed those opinions on our own.
In short, the medium is doing just fine; you just need to know where to look. There will be many works from this decade that will be considered classics in the history books even if few people realize it.
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Really interesting and thought provoking read here. Really, I just think that animosity towards undeserving movies/games/etc. comes down to the Twitter generation. With Twitter and other social media outlets, people express their feelings in short blurbs without really expanding on anything or putting much thought into what it is they are saying. You can even blame it on a 140 character limit if you want. I’d take a long and angry Facebook rant in the form of a letter over somebody just shouting “LOL Batman v Superman is terrible, what were they thinking, Zack Snyder sucks!” on Twitter.
And that’s where all of this anger lives, on the internet. In comment sections, Twitter feeds… It’s all shouting contests and hyperbole. The loud and pessimistic voice usually drowns out the respectful and optimistic voice, especially on the internet. For example, the people who watched and liked the new Ghostbusters trailer laughed, closed the tab, and moved on with their lives. The people who disliked it are more inclined to write something snarky in the comments section and create a whole ‘thing’ about it. Of course their are outliers on both sides (I didn’t like it but don’t want to climb a building and yell it to the world), but that’s usually how it goes.
There are people out there who hate The Force Awakens with a passion. But they are the minority. It’s just easier to hear them.
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Great article, but there is one thing that I am still divided on somewhat: The audiences. Now, granted, the internet has ruined a lot of gamers and moviegoers, but they weren’t necessarily saints in the past either. Unfortunately, people will be people. We just have to keep being our artsy selves and get lost in the wonders of cinema and video games.
Again, great article. Speaking of popular video games being called “overrated” and that it “sucks”, I can think of quite a few games that have gotten this label too:
Fire Emblem Awakening – Even though it saved Fire Emblem from entering the coffin, it’s hated by fans for it’s “lighthearted” story (I thought it was pretty dark, actually), and it’s “anime-tropesque” characters (as if previous FE games never had anime-tropesque characters in the past…).
Persona 4 – Oh, you knew I was going to bring this one up because it’s one of my favorite games. Well, this game made the Persona subseries’ popularity eclipse that of the entire Shin Megami Tensei franchise, which made the fanbase angry. Complaints like that are a bit ironic, as the main reason why the Persona subseries was created was to make a MegaTen game tailored for the mainstream. And there are tons of MegaTen fans who think that any game that strays away (even in the slightest) from the dark & demonic themes present in most Atlus games is automatically crap. Mainly the people who gush over SMT 1 & 2 on SNES and SMT3: Nocturne on PS2, but will scream at you when you bring up Persona 3 & 4 or Catherine.
Resident Evil 4 – This game is hated by Resident Evil fans for having “ruined” the franchise, because of it’s change in style, which upset many fans who liked the old school games. Ironically, some of these fans are the same fans who complained that before RE4 came out, that the series was becoming repetitive and stagnant.
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Even though it’s the third time you say it, it’s never enough to remind millennials that cynicism is not equal to wit, or objectivity for that matter.
Do you know this anime called Gurren Lagann? It’s about a guy who basically pilots a massive robot to fight against incredible odds with nothing but his manly bravado and the support of his friends. Yeah people hate it because “it’s just action” and its simplist yet touching story of solidarity and determination. Can’t have none of that! Oh no! We need seriousness!
How dare Nintendo change the text of Fire Emblem Fates to give it more levity? We don’t want to be compared to filthy otakus because enjoying a little bit of fun and romance equals being wholly obsessed by it just like that stereotype that exist more in fiction than reality! I am a serious guy with serious taste!
When can we discuss media more in depth than a simplistic one-dimensional scale of quality? When we get rid of cynicism as a basis and learn that critique is a practice of objective observation and not an American Idol type audition where we give a Yes or No to liking something.
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