America’s TV Habits Reveal How We Can’t Resist Even The Worst Hollywood Has To Offer

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Gage Klipper Commentary & Analysis Writer
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As we launch into a new year, it’s worth noting just how terrible America’s TV habits were in 2023. While Americans sucked down every derivative shlock-fest Hollywood had to offer, there is a silver lining. In 2024, there’s nowhere to go but up.

There’s nothing new in complaining about Hollywood’s decline. Conservatives gripe endlessly about identity politics, feminism and the overall “wokeness” of film today. It’s certainly a major problem in the industry, but it’s a symptom of a larger one. The endless spin-offs, remakes and sequels that use nostalgia to dominate the box office give everyone Left, Right and center a reason to complain.

“Hollywood has run out of ideas,” goes a frequent enough refrain. But if it seems like everyone complains about Hollywood’s lack of originality, then why have things only gotten worse over the past decade?

Well, as investments go, it’s safe, easy and unfortunately, it works. Americans might resent what Hollywood’s selling, but they nevertheless keep on buying it.

Using data across all of the major platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.), streaming guide JustWatch compiled a list of the top 10 most-streamed movies of 2023. Out of the ten, only one offers any inkling of originality.

Five are explicit sequels, ranging from the modest second installment of James Cameron’s “Avatar” saga to the whopping tenth film in the Fast and Furious franchise. Two are nostalgia-porn adaptations of beloved games, “Super Mario Brothers” and “Dungeons and Dragons.” “The Little Mermaid” is surprisingly the only remake and comes in at number four. While “The Menu” is a stand alone film, it is another iteration of Hollywood’s eat-the-rich craze which has been made countless times in the past decade. Only number ten, the Oscar-winning “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” offers anything close to what would traditionally be considered the art of cinema.

We can blame Hollywood for making crap, but the buck ultimately stops with us as viewers — and consumers. We can’t blame Hollywood for feeding us what we clearly have an appetite for. Why would they invest in risky films when a handful of sequels will keep everyone’s pockets lined?

But herein lies the problem: all of our expectations of film have been destroyed by the broader culture around us. It’s not just Hollywood that’s conditioned us to accept meaningless entertainment. The same force acts on Hollywood itself. This, like many of America’s problems, is at its core a problem of liberalism. (RELATED: 5 Christmas Movies That Prove America Is Worth Saving)

In decades past, cinema lived up to Pablo Picasso’s famous definition of art: “a lie that makes us realize the truth.” The line is meant to convey that despite being derived from the artist’s imagination, great art draws us closer to a deeper, intuitive understanding of the human condition or the world around us. In turn, the artist’s imagination comes from the morals, values, norms and ideals he is steeped in — everything that shapes how he sees “the truth” of the world.

Films of the 1940s and 50s reflected a traditional Americana, the aspirations of a population weary from war seeking to retire in the ideal of prosperity they had fought and died to defend. Films of the 1960s and 70s began to drift in a new direction, as the younger generations sought a break from convention in all its forms. The cultural pulse of America beat toward revolution, and experimental directors supplied it in heavy doses. Films of the 80s and 90s reflected the modern man and woman: sexual, liberated, career-driven, often single or divorced — the individualist ideal.

One can argue the merits of these cultural tendencies, but they nevertheless reflected values that many believed to be true at the moment in time. Artists reflected them because they too believed in their truth. But today, what’s left to believe in? We are stalled in an age of relativism: all moral judgments are equally “true” as long as they conform to the individual’s subjective desires. Worship God or the Devil; engage in whatever depravity suits your fancy; become man or woman, or anything in between — who is anyone else to judge? While it was once the artist’s job to reinforce our collective cultural consciousness — the “truth” — he has abdicated his role, lost in a sea of subjectivity.

Untethered from any real ideals or values, Hollywood is left in a void. It cannot produce anything new because it believes in nothing at all. All it can do is take beloved titles from the past and recreate them to reflect the empty fads of the moment. Viewers eat up anyway, because we operate in the same world. We have all forgotten what it’s like to feel inspired, moved, devastated.

A few explosions are good enough to kill a hot summer afternoon in the theater’s cold air conditioning. It’s nice they made the Little Mermaid more diverse, I guess. All we have left is indifference, temporarily relieved in two-hour blocks. (RELATED: Obama-Produced Movie Reveals The Future Liberals Have In Store For Us)

There is a silver lining, however. Hollywood is in fact running out of old ideas. There is a finite amount of source material to re-make, re-purpose and ultimately, ruin. And despite our abysmal streaming habits, it does appear we are becoming more discerning in our box office choices, as ticket sales fall short of annual expectations. As the source material dries up and old paradigms stop paying dividends, 2024 is ripe for a new type of artist to take Hollywood by storm.

Iconoclastic writers and directors have so much room to create something genuinely new and thrilling, and wake the movie-going masses from the slumber they don’t quite realize they’re in. Here’s to hoping for some better pickings this year on all our favorite streaming platforms!