As an American abroad, you hear a lot of stereotypes: Americans are loud, narcissistic, obsessed with guns and can’t even point out another country on a map. There’s a whole host of often unflattering adjectives that come with the territory of “American.”
When people say study abroad, they envision art museums, brunch in quaint cafes and tall men with French accents. But studying in a foreign country has highs and lows like any other experience, and it isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
Have you ever sat through the credits after a movie and watched thousands of names roll across the screen? I used to think there couldn’t be that many people in the country, let alone on a set. There are millions of titles I don’t even know the meaning of — key grip, best boy, script supervisor — all coming together to make one 90-minute feature.
Although I decided to study film in Prague for a semester, I’ve always been nervous abroad — a byproduct of my woefully American fashion sense and drawl. Despite possessing an English mother, I’ve found my accent does me no favors in Europe; my brother and I joke that as soon as we dare to speak within London, the surrounding passersby’s estimation of our IQ drops by 30 points. At times, it’s difficult to not feel judged.
The “Scream” franchise has always been self-reflective. Since “Scream” (1996), the movies have reflected, subverted and, at times, invoked various horror tropes. Throughout the initial installment and four sequels later, it has been praised for its clever — and at times feminist — genre commentary. But the newest flick, “Scream” (2022), the first in the installment not directed by Wes Craven, has perhaps taken the schtick one film too far.
People have long stopped discussing Tom Hooper’s infamous “Cats” (2019), which features flat jokes, horrifying visuals and an Idris Elba cat that somehow manages to be so much more naked than any of the other cats. And I’m here to do the thing nobody asked for: bring it back.
Every time I watch another superhero blockbuster, I can’t help but imagine the producers sitting around a table, breathing down the screenwriters’ necks as they decide which social issues to water down, aestheticize and shoehorn in. Will it be something contemporary, like the pandemic? A timeless classic, like misogyny? Or a safe choice, like wealth inequality?
I will admit I love Hulu’s “The Dropout” (2022), a highly-anticipated miniseries on Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. It’s beautifully written, beautifully shot and beautifully acted. Even teachers at my high school, Holmes’ alma mater, have commented on how well the miniseries captured Holmes’ eccentric character. But the show occasionally falls into the pothole of becoming what it means to analyze: America’s obsession with narrative smoke and mirrors.
I’m growing weary of the current Hollywood craze for substandard movies that play up righteous messages to overshadow their flaws. Call it callous, but it’s difficult to subdue my cynicism towards films pushing truisms like ‘obviously bad thing … is bad,’ especially when creators then weaponize the message, accusing their movie’s critics of stupidity or of opposing its banal, virtuous axiom.