What McDonalds Taught Me About Hollywood – By Charles E. Pratt Jr.

When
we go to McDonalds (or Burger King or Sonic or Hardee’s, etc.) we say
we go because we like the food. That’s inaccurate. More than likely, we
tolerate the food well enough but what truly motivates us to frequent
these places is FAMILIARITY. Good, bad, or bland, we KNOW what we’re
going to get, how it’s going to look, how it’s going to taste, and how
many Rolaids we’ll have to eat to quench the indigestion afterwards.
McDonalds tastes the same in Spokane as it does in Minneapolis or
Russia. We know how big our drinks are going to be and we know how the
pop’s going to taste and whether the fries will be the kind we like or
not. It doesn’t matter really so much about the quality; we’re much
more hooked on familiarity.

Familiarity breeds frequency and
frequency breeds HABIT. And habit will make you put up with some whacky
inferior stuff! Summer blockbusters, for instance, and about 85% of any
big studio movie are the equivalent to Big Macs. They are familiar.
Everyone recognizes them because they’re all made from the same plot
formula, choice of actor, etc. Therefore, we consider them safe and
inviting. We consume them until they become habit. We eat the hell out
of them whether they’re good or not, even while complaining about them.
Hollywood knows this and they use it against us.

BLOCKBUSTER = Insane action to the point of over saturation,
spectacular stunts, incredible explosions, mind numbing computer
generated effects, product placement, tired clichéd plot.

BIG MAC = Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun…

FAMILIAR. FRANCHISE.

That is why despite all of the talent the world has to offer we’re
served Beverly Hillbillies The Motion Picture, The Honeymooners, The
Motion Picture. The Dukes of Hazzard The motion picture, Dragnet The
Motion Picture, Bewitched The Motion Picture, Flintstones The Motion
Picture, ad naseum. As if remaking every TV show in the book isn’t bad
enough, in recent years we’ve even been served a horrid side dish of
video games turned movies: Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Doom, Halo…
Hollywood is not about to turn loose of its money for unproved
commodities such as original screenplays just like you and I are
unlikely to pull into the mom and pop restaurant across from McDonalds.
The mom and pop place probably tastes 10x better but we haven’t ever
got out of our comfort zone to try it. What if we spend our money there
and we don’t like the taste of it? At least with a big Mac we know what
we’re getting…

Same mentality in Hollywood. Go with what’s turned a buck before, no
matter how insipid or uninspired it is. Use the same plot, the same
stars, same…same…same…

The thing is: a movie, just like food, doesn’t have to be familiar to be GOOD.

Movies don’t need huge stars, big budgets, egotistical directors, and
outlandish special effects to be effective and worth while but we’ve
listened to the Hollywood propaganda jingle so much that we’re
beginning to believe it. Anything repeated often enough will become
fact in the minds of the listeners.

Extending the analogy, “thinking outside of the bun” is one of the
saving graces of many cult/b-movie/indy productions. Back in the day
when food wasn’t so fast and films didn’t have to break a 100 Million
on its first four day release to be successful, films were made more
out of love of the craft than a desire to be next Christmas’ hot action
figure. A long time ago, in an age that seems far away, movies were
fingerprints, not cheeseburgers. B-movies had stories and characters
that pulled you in and entertained you on budgets smaller than most
small production catering bills. Blockbusters have taken “super-size”
me to all new dizzying heights and it’s done nothing but prove that big
is not always better.

The Hollywood McDonald’s is here to stay. There’s no getting rid of the
blockbuster and I’m not even suggesting that we should. I would just
like to put forth the thought that to every diet must come a little
variety. Don’t be trapped into thinking that Mr. and Mrs. Smith and
Bewitched and The Honeymooners are the only entrées out there. Take a
chance on something new and refreshing. You may find yourself enjoying
it.