The Null Device
The Boston Globe looks at the phenomenon of Snakes On A Plane, the first major commercial film where the decision-making process was subordinated to the collective will of bored people on the internet. Is it a bold new era of democracy in entertainment, or just a larger focus group?
In the year since a Hollywood writer named Josh Friedman posted on his Web diary that he'd been script-doctoring a movie of that title, the ``SoaP" meme has grown like Topsy. It's the latest iteration of viral marketing, an Internet kudzu that initially took on a life of its own against the wishes of the film's corporate keepers. And it's almost certainly the most visible example of a sensibility that didn't exist before the digital revolution: Mass Camp.
Regardless of how the movie turns out, a line is being crossed here, and it raises questions that don't have quick answers. Should audiences have a hand in how a movie is made, even an out-and-out crowd-pleaser? At what point in the process does a director become part of the marketing team? Is this a bad thing or does it just rubber-stamp a practice increasingly part of the cost-conscious film industry? Can studios even hope to control the use of the blogosphere as a marketing tool?
Moviegoers should also wonder if the results will be better films or more films driven by consensus. The two are most certainly not the same thing. Critic Chuck Klosterman recently worried that we may be entering an era of ``the Wikipedia version of a movie," and his concerns are well-founded. We go to movies -- even honest schlock -- not to see what we expect to see but to be surprised by what we hadn't yet considered.