Features — 18 November 2014 » Written by
Technology & Timeliness

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I saw Birdman last week. People keep asking me what I thought and I, in turn, keep replying, “I thought it was great. There were some things that I would’ve changed but it doesn’t really matter because the movie works for me either way.” One of those hiccups for me, was the element of social media. Bringing this or technology into any serious film has a way of not only making it silly, or lending credence to a sort of embarrassing thing, but also is visually detaching. Looking at text on a cell phone is boring and when coupled with that text being riddled with misspellings and abbreviations that apparently all screenwriters think young people use, is borderline offensive.

It may seem ridiculous in this day and age to shrug off technology or to request it go unseen. But hear me out. On a superficial level, it’s one of the easiest ways for a film to date itself. Nothing takes away from the timelessness of someone’s sentiment by watching them emote into a clunky cell phone the size of a shoe. And that dating process is not insignificant; it can wholly remove you from the immersion function that makes an emotional response possible. The visibility of technology is also a realism tactic, even though film as a medium, is about escape. How many plot lines would be thwarted by technology’s constant accessibility? Writers find themselves in the dangerous explanatory zones of, “no reception,” and, “forgotten cell phones.” Doesn’t it feel ridiculous to rely on these realities to make a narrative flow?

In Jason Reitman’s Thank You for Smoking, someone says, “These days, when someone smokes in the movies, they’re either a psychopath, or European.” A similar sentiment abounds in the usage of technology. Even though having a cell phone may be a reality we all relate to, it’s hard to watch a scene where someone is utilizing one and to not transfer a viewer’s judgment; your subconscious races, “ah, this character is unpresent,” or, “she’s married to her job,” or what have you. It’s because the idea of including a technological device is unromantic to the puritanical notions of cinema we’ve established. And on the note of puritanical, the other unfortunate byproduct of reference to social media/technology is the reverse judgment, like in Jason Reitman’s newest film Men, Women, and Children where every character is persecuted for their involvement with their phones. Additionally, the visibility of technology, speaks to the filmmaker’s opinion that reliance on technology illustrates a weakness in character. When Reitman insinuated this, Time Out New York wrote: “The first Reitman film to make the 36-year-old director seem about 400 years old.” So let’s stop dating our movies and ourselves by putting too much emphasis on modernity – it’s making us all look old.

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Madeline Meyer

Madeline recently graduated from Oberlin College where she studied Cinema Studies. She writes screenplays and ill-received dad jokes. She likes board games and olives.

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