Wednesday, May 26, 2010

intercepted memo regarding Spirituality in Film and TV


Dear Hayden,

As you know we are in the midst of a crisis around the studios of the Entertainment Industrial Complex today. With the loss of our signature Pseudo-Spiritual Entertainment (PSE) franchise, LOST, we need to find a new one NOW! I am getting calls from many advertisers, and, as you know, we are in the business of selling things, not making enlightenment available to all suckers seekers.

Our fear is that, since there is a vacuum right now, it could be filled by something truly spiritual or transcendent, instead of one of our PSEs which are verifiably proven through years of market research and tight formulization to manifest the highest possible profit margin, even though the number of participants in relatively low, through the use of this open-ended quasi-spiritual mumbo jumbo that can be interpreted in any way the viewer chooses. If we don’t fill the void, something else will, and precious dollars and energy will be lost (and given to someone else).

You may not know how we have done this in the past, but we found this formula by accident in the 90s with The X-Files. Had there been no internet, this phenomenon would have subsided quickly; as it did with Twin Peaks (can we start discussions for a reboot on this?). However, young Christians and spiritual seekers latched on to the show like a baby to its mother’s breast. They created forums, websites, tributes, books and academic papers.

When we created that show, it was meant to scare people and keep them coming back through a serialized format. However, that stupid poster of the UFO an intern brought in from his brother’s college dorm room (you know who that intern is now? That is correct. He helmed Final Destination III.) with the words “I Want to Believe” made these Christians and other religious types think there was some sort of Spiritual Point to the show. Once we noticed it, we pushed it forward. They bought in hook-line-and-sinker. This was our first official PSE. We had not perfected the formula, as we did with LOST. It did go off the rails, because we had no experience. Of course, the Millennium experiment was our first causality. But, to create an omelet, you must break some eggs.

Around this time, the Wachowskis were shopping around that dumb video game movie. Seriously, they had Keanu Reeves as the lead. What a joke. Anyway, one of my studio heads shared the PSE idea with them. They loved it, threw in a stew of different religious symbols (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and a few more), renamed the lead character Neo (The One)- his original name was Buzz- and had him die and be reborn. Next thing you know Buddhists are talking about it and Christians are latching on to it as some sort of Christ metaphor (seriously, name a movie without a Christ figure) just cause we knew they would love it when Neo died and was reborn (I was thinking of Phoenix from the X-Men comics myself, not Jesus). They wrote books, had sermon series, college classes and created entire curriculums. Hell, there have been dissertations on this film- and it stars Keanu Reeves. Brilliant!

We realized this is gold. But, like the story goes, we went to the well too much with The Matrix. We threw too many religions into the mix and ruined the gumbo on the last 2. This told us we needed a beginning and an end. It also told us that we don’t really need coherence, as long as there is mystery. See, with mystery and a lot of religious crap (churches, light, crosses, doves, candles, Christ figures, martyrdom, redemption, crises of faith), you can sell anything. Just don’t be too obvious. That is why Passion of The Christ worked with the greater population but not with these young Christians, Jews and spiritual seeker types. They don’t want anything handed to them in an obvious manner (not even their own Bible and faith). They want to be strung along (they call it journey, narrative and story), which is good for us. You can wring a lot more out of someone if you keep him strung along for years. The tobacco industry taught us that oneJ

Hence, LOST. The formula, when created according to specifications, is foolproof. Coherence and character development are not needed. Just mystery on top of mystery with a few answers in the midst of the MacGuffins and Red Herrings. Need proof? You have seen Contact (made while formula was still in development), The X-Men movies (heck most of the superhero genre), Battlestar Galactica, Book of Eli (anything post-apocalyptic), Signs, The Village and Avatar. They are all stops on the journey to perfection (I think our PIXAR division is the closest).

Please understand, the formula can be tweaked. We tweaked it for The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, 24 (it works with politics also). Some of the tweaked film successes are The Potter series, The Truman Show, Gattaca and Magnolia (the smart Christians saw through American Beauty). It even works with music. They love this mystical spiritual, could be talking about God or my girlfriend, but with religious symbolism pabulum. Have you heard Coldplay? We are trying a bluegrass version right now called Mumford and Sons. They are better than Coldplay, but who can tell what they are talking about? That is the point. Anything you want. We call the musical concoction The Bono. Of course, if you mix The Bono with The Springsteen, the gold standard is achieved (Arcade Fire).

However, if you are too obvious you get Superman Returns or Heroes. If you mess with it too much you get The Happening, Jericho or Flash Forward. Oops.

And that is what leads us to where we are at this moment. We need a new PSE. There are some pilots in the works and Coldplay has an album this year. On the movie front we have coming this year, The Last Airbender, Inception and Jonah Hex, but all are risky endeavors. However, nothing strings people along like television. We need a meeting like, last week. Set something up with the heads of all divisions and all networks. I am getting calls from potential advertisers like Target, Honda, Fed Ex and Coke demanding a new product.


S. S.

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