Genre Movies Are Not Failing Us: A Response to Simon Pegg

His concern is understandable, but I find it hard to think of this as necessarily being a bad thing. Is it worth noting that our society is more likely to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier or The Lord of the Rings than historical documentaries detailing real lesson-worthy horrors of our world’s past? Definitely. But it’s also worth commending the genre for finding a means to communicate such truths and themes in a way that is digestible for an audience at large. He even describes this idea himself, stating that “fantasy in all its forms is probably the most potent of social metaphors and as such can be complex and poetic.”

It’s hard to watch CA:TWS and not see the underlying dangers of privacy invasion by a “well-meaning” government, or to watch LotR and not feel the burgeoning hope that things will get better, no matter how dark they may seem as long as we stick together and defend things that are good. In fact, it’s hard to find any genre pieces that are entirely void of some sort of real world theme, whether intended by its creator or not. Creative works belong to those who consume them, and if someone can pull some sort of personal meaning, whether obvious or not, from a superhero movie or a warrior robot action flick (*cough* Pacific Rim) then that’s a good thing!

I understand where Pegg is coming from. I know he meant well, and his clarification post certainly reframed his thoughts in a much better way than he conveyed them in his previous interview, but I still think he has a largely pessimistic view of the genre in its current mainstream form. Will there be a few movies that slip into the fold that lack real thought-provoking substance? Sure, but there’s far fewer in the sci-fi and fantasy genre than you’ll find in most others. That’s because as a whole I’ve found that we fans of the genre typically demand more of our content, which is what helped turn the Mad Max reboot into the feminist powerhouse it is rather than simply the action-packed speed fest it could have been. Studios only really give us what we ask for, so it’s up to us to demand more from them.

Plus, what’s wrong with the occasional entertaining movie? Why does every movie have to have serious real world allegories? Can I not walk out of a movie talking about how the Hulk fought a robot? Or like a movie simply for its beauty or music? Sometimes I like things that are objectively awful or empty, and sometimes I watch a movie to be momentarily distracted. Is this all I want to see? No, and I think it’s a little much to imply that modern cinema is falling apart just because it’s easier than ever to make a movie, thus resulting in the release of just as many bad movies as there are good ones.

“In short: I love Science Fiction and fantasy and do not think it’s all childish,” he finishes, ”I do not think it is all generated by dominant forces as a direct means of control … much. I am still a nerd and proud.”

While I disagree with some of his statements and agree with others, and I’m sure many of you will as well, I will say that this sort of commentary on modern cinema is something that is needed. Dialogues like this are what result in better and more thoughtful content, and engaging deeply with the content we do enjoy (as most nerds do) is what makes us good fans. After all, there will always be some big media executive looking to soften the edges of the genre “so that toys and lunchboxes will be sold,” and we’d be doing ourselves a huge disservice if we didn’t think critically about what our genre delivers us, and in that respect, Simon Pegg is doing us all a favor with this blog post. We’re all merely dollar signs in the eyes of many at the top, so we must constantly be critical of what we’re given in order to get something better.

Let me know what you think of Pegg’s post and the state of genre movies in the comments!