Summer movie blockbuster season might be my favorite time of for movies in that my brain can have a rest from the cerebral work from Oscar season, which we currently are entering. That said, now that it is time for Oscar-bait, movies that are considered the most artistic, its a bit disjointed to hear about a blockbuster/action/macho movie being realeased at this time (I’m looking at you, Homefront).
This release really allows for a look at blockbuster season for what it is. When we have one movie that is different from the rest, it stands out. When it stands out, we may see what the others like it actually are, especially when there is a season devoted entirely to a single trope of movie.
Blockbusters are circuses. And popcorn is our bread.
Bread and circuses (or panem et circenses) refers to a Roman satirists’ views on political manipulation of the populous through the use of bread and circuses. The only things that people need to be happy are food and entertainment. If a government can provide food and entertainment cheaply and to all, then the people are satisfied. However, this will not a conspiracy theory on the government using Hollywood to keep the American public in a stupor of entertainment and indulgence.
But, let’s examine the summer movies through the idea of circuses. Eleven sequels were released last summer. Comedy and action dominated. There was a void of any dramatic work, and not much out there that really made people think beyond the moments on the screen. It is boiled down to entertainment.
Why, though, is this a moment of bread and circus? Because it is only entertainment. What purpose does this lens serve? After all, governments use this as a means of control. What do studios have to earn by doing this? They earn money. Blockbusters earn the most money during any year and continue to fuel studios. In an ideal world, the studios would use this money to fund their artistic works in the fall and winter where there is not a guarantee of financial success.
It makes me think of Broadway right now. Revivals of musicals dominate this street, and serves as a tourist trap. Who doesn’t want to go see a Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, or The Lion King? These performances don’t challenge the status quo but serve as entertainment with a high probability of success. Again in an ideal world, a good bit of this money would go into Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway productions where commercialism is not necessary the goal.
I am not denouncing commercialism of theater or of film. It serves its purpose, but it can become too dominant in the creation of work. Then again, there is the ideal, and there is reality