Where Have All The Writers

Is it weird to anyone else that the movie listings these days read like a hodgepodge of entertainment relics including a TV guide from the late ’70s, an old comic book convention flyer and a sci-fi radio program that induced mass hysteria nearly 70 years ago. This summer at the movies will literally be déjà vu all over again. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar … The Longest Yard, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Herbie Fully Loaded, Bewitched, The Honeymooners, Batman Begins, King Kong … all with one thing in common; they’ve been done before.

As I have sat through trailer after trailer of reprocessed stories and characters one thing has become abundantly clear; Americans have really lowered their standards for entertainment. Our movie-going habits have made us such a predictable bunch. Why would Hollywood risk something new, something unproven, when they can remake a show or film they know we liked 20 years ago?

This has translated into the death of creative screenwriting in Hollywood. Gone are the days where a wide-eyed young screenwriter, after putting the finishing touches on his new script, can walk into a movie studio to sell his script and a few years later see his script on screen. Unless the script is pitching a Diff’rent Strokes adaptation or the next chapter in the Indiana Jones saga, you shouldn’t bother.

Speaking of Indiana Jones (the as yet untitled Indiana Jones is in pre-production); it’s not just the kitschy remakes that are inundating movie theatres lately. The prequel/sequel fad has exploded full force and any movie that makes even a mediocre amount of money at the box office is sure to be back for more. I almost fell over laughing when I saw the cardboard cutout for the new Deuce Bigalow movie at my local theater. The obscure ’70s Santa Monica skateboarders, the Z-Boys, even have a second film out in theaters after 2001’s documentary Dogtown and the Z-Boys was an indie hit. However, no film franchise demonstrates Hollywood’s penchant for the underdone redux better than Star Wars. The three Star Wars prequels perfectly sum up what movie making has become; an all out cash-grab. Moviemakers could care less if the two hours in the theater are less entertaining than a Joey marathon. You already paid your $10 at the door.

It’s not just the cinema that writers have been banished from but family rooms all across America as well. TV has truly lived up to its idiot box moniker as of late with the continuing infestation known as “reality television.” This is the biggest misnomer of all time as the reality of my life has never put me in the board room of Donald Trump or stranded me on a dessert island doing puzzles in order to keep me there. My mom has never switched places with another mom in the neighborhood, nor has a rapper ever “pimped” my Chevy Cavalier. Any time I have fallen in love it has only been with one girl at a time, not 25. It is scary for me to say this but it’s true; my life is more like the characters on The OC than on The Inferno.

What’s missing from entertainment media today is the human touch that can only come from someone who is writing from human experience. There are no relatable characters or story lines without writers who creatively take human experience as they see it and translate it in a way that connects to our own human experience. We need to know and support names like Zach Braff, David O. Russell and Alan Ball as much as we do Steven Spielberg or Mark Burnett.

There is much in the news about the movie business being in dire straits, and I think the blame can be pointed directly at the people who greenlight reprocessed film ideas like The Dukes of Hazzard and Fantastic 4. Sure people will go see them; heck I might go see them. But I know I won’t like them because they will be missing something intrinsically important—creativity.

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[Tim Bower is a youth pastor in Artesia, Calif. You can find him leaving his local movie theater, disappointed and disturbed.]

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