Last night, I watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead live for the first time in a long time. I fumbled through the disturbing amount of commercials. I cringed a lot, teared up a few times. Mostly, I wondered: why in the hell am I still watching this show if it gives me this much anxiety week after week? I looked over at my husband and whispered, “I can’t do this right now. I need more hope, not less.” I’d stuck with the show after more than a few poorly written episodes and an entire season of lackluster nonsense. It was my last point of pride. While everyone else abandoned The Walking Dead, I stayed. But I can’t, not anymore. I’m officially checking out of this apocalypse.
The climate of entertainment is about to change dramatically.
The ground is giving way to uncertainty. Divisive politics have led to massive stock market instability around the world; currencies are fluctuating, commodity trading is melting down, and international markets are freaked. In the midst of it, I’m noticing a shift. We want to be dazzled. We want to smile. The top movies over the last week? Doctor Strange, of course, and a movie about toys I used to play with as a kid: Trolls.
Let’s talk about Trolls for a second. I took my kids to see Trolls yesterday. We sat down in a theatre packed with many other parents and their young children, my own children buzzing with excitement. We delighted in the rambunctious music together. My daughter cried and hid in my arms when she thought something bad was going to happen to the little trolls. When it wasn’t making me tear up, it was the epitome of bombastic sparkle-fluff. While Trolls isn’t going to change the world, it left us a little happier.
Trolls is a syrupy reminder that most people are inherently good, that they want to do good things. They get lost along the way. Their messages get mixed up. They isolate. Their happiness dwindles and they think that the only way to regain it is by taking it back. But this sparkle-fluff movie, with all of its wobbly narrative bits, is doing one thing very, very well: it’s demonstrating to children and their parents that happiness exists in all of us; that we are enough and have enough to share.
The apocalypse is too close to home, now.
Apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, massive disasters, zombies, disease — many of these themes have dominated popular entertainment over the last ten years. In between war, a massive worldwide recession, political unrest, and a good dose of “look at all of these scary things!” from the mainstream media, people have gravitated toward escapism that reminds them that reality isn’t as bad as pretend. We wanted our escapes to feel a little real, a little gritty, and a lot “maybe it’ll be okay anyway”.
But it’s too real now. I have to look away from the potential reality. It frightens me in ways that I don’t like to be frightened. Give me a good psychological horror or movie monster and I’m in. But the apocalyptic themes aren’t as removed as they used to be. So that triumphant feeling that we used to get while watching movies like Mad Max, or playing games like Fallout, or watching television like The Walking Dead? It’s not as triumphant today. I recognize that entertainment is entirely subjective, but I’m noticing people change their media consumption habits. I’ve been noting what they’re leaving behind and what they’re running toward.
The trends favour hope.
2017 is already scheduled out to be a hell of a year for the MCU and DCMU alike. We know they’ll deliver some much needed hope, along with a spoonful of intelligent escapism. 2018 hasn’t started to shape up, yet. Over the next four years, we will see a new Disney Renaissance. Perhaps it’ll be from Disney, perhaps not. It started here, in November 2016: we need something good to come home to. We’ll find our healing in hope, joy, and laughter.