Reader Eric Dzinski calls attention to this USA Today story on the latest crop (hmm, is that the right vowel?) of message movies emanating from Hollywood. (Apparently, Tinseltown execs must think the box office isn't suffering enough.)
"Storytelling has an enormous effect on people's lives," says Ricky Strauss, president of Participant [Productions]. "You're sitting in a theater and having this collective consciousness as a group. Movies make you emotionally more charged."
If we're talking collective consciousness and the role of pop culture in edifying audience automatons, then I prefer we go with Adorno and Horkheimer's rap against Disney: "Donald Duck in the cartoons…[gets his] thrashing so that the audience can learn to take their own punishment."
Back when the thankfully repressed movie John Q. was making the case for Soviet-style healthcare, Reason's Tim Cavanaugh limned the essence of latter-day message movies:
Too often the issues are presented not as fodder for stirring speeches or rabble-rousing drama but because their makers seem to believe the audience needs remedial education. John Q's end titles even lay out nationwide statistics on insurance coverage and transplant waiting lists.
Hollywood dilettantes are a particularly ill-chosen group of spokespeople for uninsured families, oppressed minorities, and other huddled masses; the reliance on statistics and abstracts, rather than drama, to deliver messages may be an indication of just how far, in shared-experience terms, Tinseltown is from the people for whom it speaks. As a result, the message movie is not only back but simpler and more didactic than ever. The only question is whether audiences will be slow enough to follow along.
The title to Cavanaugh's piece offered advice that still rings true: "Shoot the Messenger." Whole thing here.