In our ground breaking article “The Simmons Threshold” we established a unit of measure for just how awesome something is: The Dew. Since then, though, I’ve slowly become aware of a disturbing trend in society. Evidently, these days simply being awesome isn’t good enough for something to satisfy movie goers and TV viewers. Dare I say, an overdose of awesome is, in the eyes of growing segment of the populace, a stigma. Not only does this mean that the afflicted individuals have a harder time enjoying pure, unadulterated entertainment when they find it, but it is a serious threat to the very thing that makes humanity as a whole great.
The point was revealed to me when some friends and I were watching a recent film, and it slowly became clear that we might see two werewolves fighting each other at the climax. Not one but two friends groaned, complaining, “Who wants to see a werewolf fight?” Are you kidding? ME! Werewolves are awesome! We’ll put them at a solid .8 Dews. A werewolf FIGHT therefore is 1.6 Dew’s minimum! And yet these two didn’t want to see it. The same goes for the Transformers movies, as I’ve stated before. Yes, the latest one had a pair of irritating racial stereotypes, granted, but come on. Gun fighting robot cars wrecking the pyramids, plus Megan Fox! It is seriously like they took the back of my 9th grade notebook and made a movie out of it.
It baffles me a bit that people can’t sit back and enjoy something like that. Naturally tastes differ, but some of these people that are poo-pooing movies like Crank and Shoot ‘Em Up are the very people who just a few years ago would have kicked down the door of the theater to see them. What changed? One problem, I think, is what we’ll call the Critic Effect. If you want to prove you are an expert, you have to dislike MOST of the thing you claim to like. Not only that, but it has recently become trendy to be smug and judgmental. So you look at something that caters to the lowest common denominator and turn your nose up at it to score some easy points. “Oh, that’s juvenile. That’s just mindless fun.” Agreed. Things like that are the entertainment equivalent of junk food, I won’t deny it. But junk food is delicious! When you throw a party, what do you put on the table? Do you put a crown roast of lamb with braised asparagus spears? No! You put pizza rolls, potato chips, and hot wings. Sure, you shouldn’t live on the stuff, but a little bit now and then is good for the soul.
Ignoring for a moment the complaints of lack of depth and lack of maturity, by far the most dangerous statement people make in regard to shameless amounts of awesome is “Why?” Let’s take, for instance, the episode of Mythbusters where they blow up a cement truck. They were testing to see if a stick of dynamite would be of any use to clean out a cement truck with a hardened load. After it had been established that it was plausible for a light accumulation of cement and busted for a fully hardened load, they packed 400 lbs of explosive into the truck and wiped it from the face of the planet. Did they have to do that? No. Did it help prove or disprove any part of the myth? No. You can ask any question you want about it, but don’t ask why. If you need a reason to safely blow a massive piece of machinery sky high, then you need to learn a thing or two about the human condition.
When George Leigh Mallory said he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, people asked him why? He answered, “Because it is there.” The fact that he didn’t actually make it BACK from the summit of Everest should in no way diminish the spirit of the statement. Sometimes you do things because you can. (Or in Mallory’s case, because you think you can.) Sometimes you achieve for the sake of achievement. It is why we went to the moon.* It is why we blew a hole in the moon! It is why we blew a hole in a comet! Blowing things up that don’t need to be blown up is the purest expression of humanity, the perfect combination of our two greatest passions: To learn, and to destroy.
Human beings try new things, and we do things even if the only reason is to have done them. We set goals and we achieve them. It may be developing nuclear power, it may be finding a way to realistically depict a T-Rex tearing a lawyer in half. The next time you see a movie that seems to exist only to put to screen the adolescent fantasy of every child of the eighties for no reason at all, think about that. You may not be able to enjoy it because you have more refined tastes, or you’ve developed the need to submit everything to a strict set of artistic measurements in order to feel good about yourself, or just to validate your inner critic, but don’t dismiss it as pointless. The point was that it was awesome, and sometimes you just have to be awesome for the sake of being awesome.
*That and to one-up the Russians. Let that be a lesson to all of you. If you can’t win a race, keep moving the finish line until you can.