Do not avert your eyes. That’s what’s coming at us. This is what a collective anonymous body of majority wants to see on television. I think about this quote a lot from Werner Herzog. He was talking about television, and specifically Wrestle Mania, but I think it it applies to any form of popular entertainment. The basic idea is that the most popular things, the biggest movies and TV shows and even digital media are a reflection of what we want to see, so we can read from them insights about our desires and aversions. As professor John Hunter from Bucknell pointed out recently in a TEDx talk, which I’ll link below, our tentpole movies aren’t entertaining by accident. If you’re investing in something that costs anywhere from 200 million to 300 million dollars, you aren’t taking any chances. Every second of these films and TV shows is scrutinized by editors and photographers and directors and producers and marketing people and studio executives, and it is designed to cater to our desires, to your desires to be as popular as possible to as many people as possible. Hunter argues that what our biggest movies tell us is that we’re not interested in seeing reality as it is. We prefer worlds that are animated or in a galaxy far far away. We prefer a universe populated with superheroes, or an island populated by dinosaurs or a super advanced kingdom hidden away in the jungle. Now to be fair, popular entertainment has always had an escapist element, though you could say that it’s more prominent now than in the past. But what I find more interesting about Hunter’s argument is a specific aversion that he finds in the entertainment of today. The resentment of our… smartphones. Those ever-present things that connect us to social media and capture more and more of our free time every year. If we look at our most popular movies, he says, What we don’t see, is our devices I immediately became interested in the truth of this claim, so I decided to take a closer look at the highest domestic grossing movies of this year, 2018 to see if smartphones were in them, and if they were, how exactly they were being used. Okay, first in Black Panther, America’s highest grossing movie in 2018 (and likely to stay that way), There are three brief instances of smartphone use. First, by Linda. You guys remember Linda, right? She uses her phone to intercept security footage. Then we see a couple shots of people taking pictures of T’Challa after a chase sequence Then Claw uses one to text someone later in the film, though we don’t see who or know why. In Avengers: Infinity War, there are exactly zero smartphones. None. However, Tony Stark, the most technologically advanced human on the planet, who wears a suit made of nanoparticles, does use a phone in the movie. It just looks like this. In the third highest grossing movie of 2018, The Incredibles 2, There are also zero smartphones, having to do with the fact that the world has this mid-century, modern aesthetic even though there are some high tech things… it’s confusing… Like Infinity War however, there is no shortage of older phones. In Jurrassic World: Fallen Kingdom, We get our first look at a major character using a smartphone for something other than communication, and we actually see what she’s looking at Claire is reading the news. though it’s brief and the other three instances of smartphone use in this movie are all phone calls. In Deadpool 2, we get one phone call, one mindless surf from Yukio, and this homage to “Say Anything”. In Mission:Impossible – Fallout, Ethan Hunt, the “Linda” of these movies, Repurposes a smartphone to use it as a tracker, twice. There is one FaceTime call, and one, uh, phone handoff. In Ant-Man and the Wasp, there is just one FaceTime call and one regular call. And finally in Solo, There are no smartphones at all, because this is a far-futured galaxy, that’s set in the past, that has what George Lucas thought future things would look like 40 years ago. All together that’s 16 smartphones in the top 8 grossing films of 2018. (I couldn’t get access to 9 and 10 because they’re still out in theatres, but I think this is a good sample. The uses breakdown like this: Five phone calls, two video calls, four what I’ll call single-use spy stuff one news source, two camera, two unknown, Claw and Yukio, and one “Say Anything” homage. If we’re trying to determine the truth of Professor Hunter’s claim, that the lack of smartphones is indicative of a popular resentment toward the way these devices control our lives and eat up our free time, we should compare the way that people use smartphones in these movies to the way that we do. Through that lens, we can see that at least five of these uses have little or no relationship to real life, unless you’re a spy, that is. Phone calls, similarly, are an activity that can just as easily be done on Tony Stark’s flip phone or Mr. Incredible’s cordless. That leaves only six uses: video calls are I don’t think something that most of us worry about when it comes to time wasting, same for taking photos. And as for Yukio and Claw, we don’t even see what they’re doing. That leaves this single instance of Claire checking the news. Now, for me at least, that is definitely a common time-sucking use of my smartphone. In the end, you can decide for yourself whether this evidence is conclusive. I think there is enough here to at least partially support Hunter’s claims, because though there are smartphones in some of these movies, their combined runtime comes out to only about a minute, if that, and I don’t think we really see anyone using them in the ways we might be frustrated with in our, on average, 3.3 hours of mobile usage a day. And I’m more convinced when I realize that in all of these films, there are no references or mentions at all of social media. According to the data company “Apptopia”, across the hundred most popular apps, 54% of screen time is spent in apps owned by Google or Facebook. That’s things like Youtube, Gmail, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. None of these apps, or any generic equivalents, appear in the highest grossing movies of 2018. The time-wasting, data-mining, addiction-creating activity that has become a key, maybe even a defining feature, of our relationship with these devices is absent from our most popular entertainment. Now this doesn’t mean that our smartphones and social media don’t feature in any movies. In fact, one of the best movies of this year in my opinion, Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade”, is all about the ways that our devices and the social internet shape the way we interact. Confronting that relationship is, and will be, an important subject for film. But our most popular movies have never really been about confronting our fears and resentments, They’re about escaping them for about a couple hours at the end of a hard week, and in that spirit, I think you can say that smartphones may play a big role in our lives, bigger maybe than we want to admit, but they barely have any part in our biggest movies. Hey everybody thank you so much for watching. I hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving. 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