Monday, August 31, 2009

Ebert's Paranoid Insults

Roger Ebert of all people had some choice things to say about young people in a recent column this month entitled The Gathering Dark Age in the Chicago-Sun Times, where he essentially criticized the movie-going interests of young people in recent years and used it to make a point about the dumbing down of America. To be fair, Ebert was not overtly unkind to young people. He recognized the reality that there are a minority of teens who value good film making and he emphasized their non-conformist plight--the issue with his statements is that he grossly underestimates the so-called majority of young people (the ones who flock to films like Transformers over his beloved The Hurt Locker).
If I mention the cliché "the dumbing-down of America," it's only because there's no way around it. And this dumbing-down seems more pronounced among younger Americans....It proceeds from a lack of curiosity and, in many cases, a criminally useless system of primary and secondary education. Until a few decades ago, almost all high school graduates could read a daily newspaper. The issue today is not whether they read a daily paper, but whether they can.
The fact that more teens like box-office draws like Transformers doesn't mean they're dumb, it just means that they enjoy lighter faire. Teens have been doing this since motion pictures began becoming popular. As Roger Ebert might remember, in the 1950's teens used to flock to inane horror and science fiction flicks devoid of any demension, it wasn't because they were dumb, it was because they wanted a fun outing with friends or lovers. The movie was simply set up to get them together, and the same thing is going on in the modern age.

His arguments about the growing commercialism in media are spot on, but it's a shame that he continues to drag young people's movie-going interests into it. As one commenter to this column points out, the reason why young people may not be "flocking" to The Hurt Locker (the film Ebert thinks young people should have paid more attention to if not for their youthful ignorance) is because of its R Rating- a barrior that is put up by adults to keep the young people away. It's all too typical that adults will impose a limitation on young people and then condemn them for following suit--condemn them for not rebelling against the social order as expected and then slap the cuffs on them when they do. They just can't win.

To be fair, the worst insults come from the commenters, both young and old alike.

So many of the comments are either adults condemning young people for being dumber than they supposedly were as teens, or young people condemning themselves to the delight of older readers (and Ebert himself) who seem to get off on it. When confronted with the possibility that what they're saying is in fact insulting to young people, they choose to begin hurling blame at the grand conspiracy of the world that is turning the younger generations dumber--such paranoia in the guise of social consciousness is no model for young people--they don't need to be convinced that young people are dumb by a bunch of adults concocting conspiracy theories about how their kids are in peril (as if we haven't heard that before).

In the end, it just a very low blow for adults to repeatedly condemn young people for the mistakes being made by adults. If kids are indeed getting dumber, it's not their fault. Teens have no say in running this world because adults won't let them, so maybe that's the first indication about who's really at fault for this...if we're going to start playing blame games.


  1. Your last paragraph sums it up beautifully.

  2. Old Saying...

    ‘You can’t put old heads on young shoulders.’

    My comment on this...

    Why would you want to, young heads are much nicer to look at.