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.