I thought the idea of Bling was old hat. But apparently, it is just getting going. In a few new movie releases, bling is king. A.O. Scott reviews them. He calls them “fables of acquisition”.
Acquisition stories are old as the hills. These are stories of the sublime pleasure of getting rich. Remember, for example, King Midas? And bling is our current popular word for exultation in acquisition — whether the gains are earned or not. From the films, it appears that it may be preferable that they are not. Bonnie and Clyde redux.
So what is going on? Part of it is media hype. Hollywood needs to break taboos to sell its schlock. So it broke all taboos with respect to sex and violence. Like the alien impregnating Sigourney Weaver — hope she took home a nice fee for that one. Yech! By now these topics are boring. There are only so many times we can see someone’s head getting ripped off before we lose the shock value. So why not try stories of the sublime pleasure of sudden and “easy” acquisition of luxury? Errr … as Nike would say “Just do it!”
And to what effect on the rest of us? On the plus side, there is nothing inherently wrong with liking great things. The good life. So acquisition stories remind us that the good life can be sweet. And according to Csikszentmihalyi, we start our quest for meaning in life by taking on a goal. Like the good life, or like being like Gatsby. Indeed, it doesn’t matter so much if we make a mistake in selecting our goal as long as we commit to learning. So far so good.
On the minus side, and this is a whopper, we all know by now (or should) that shopping — including shoplifting — gets boring after a while. As does showing off the latest acquisition. They give a very ephemeral sort of pleasure. They can keep psychic entropy at bay for a while. But at the end of the day, they are distractions and they do not deliver meaning.
Do we dare tell stories about meaning? Sure … but using Hollywood’s logic, we can do that as long as they are naughty. Naughty life learning? Sort of like a mischievous buddha? That might be a tough movie pitch, if it meant no product placements and no broken taboos.
And presto! Because of the limitations of the story telling that Hollywood can do with any degree of competence, Hollywood resorts to “dumbing down” those foolish enough to take it in its silly messaging.
Can’t we disrupt this somehow?