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Why Blockbusters Don’t Exist

The problem with giving your audience what they want is that they don’t know what they want.



(“Freebird!”) Were these movies produced, the rest of their running time would be more or less exactly what we’ve just seen, repeated over and over and over. When is that exhausted? Isn’t it before the film is even produced? If the audience knows they want it, it’s only because it’s something they’ve already seen.

“I like things that make me laugh.” “I like dog commercials.” “I like chimpanzees.”


That an audience wants something is a measure not of need or desire but of imagination (lack thereof). The echo created has no resonance because what it began as was also an echo. Thought is an extension of what the body handles, what the senses sense– if a thought is entirely new, unanchored in experience, it is usually counted a sign of illness: voices in the head; alien invasion; possession. It only becomes palatable when in another’s mind, in another’s mouth. Healthy, we are synthesists, subsisting on the recycled, the regurgitated. We are assimilation machines, our mental fuels fossil too.


“Ideas” about what we desire are only expressions of nostalgia, a form of folding the mind in upon itself. What form does that folding in upon itself take?

Hollywood succeeded because it was narcissistic: Imagine yourself, only prettier, larger, all-powerful. You hardly need to imagine it, and the imagining of it adds nothing. When it no longer appeals, when mental blocks refuse to bust, is it because Hollywood’s technicians have miscalibrated their own sophisticated gauges? Or is it because the echoes of echoes of echoes have finally quieted?

Is it all elegy? I am interested in failure. “Interest” is a mild expression for that emotion– I am fascinated by failure. Mine is not the bully’s delight, though; it is not the cultist’s cultivated obscurantism, either. I consider myself a humanist. Failure is an evolutionary technology. Success is conservative, reactionary. It advances us not at all.

[What is wanted here, at the end of this introduction, is a conclusion. It is practically demanded. But is also therefore imaginable. For me, failure always seems to come from providing the wrong conclusion, not from failure to provide a

1 thought on “Why Blockbusters Don’t Exist

  1. Gabe, this is a great post. Hollywood gives us what we want, but I think the best films (and books) give us the things we had no idea we wanted, could never have imagined wanting. Just like the crux of humor is surprise, so is the crux of delight, of love, of the creative mind. (Funny you wrote this when you did–I just wrote a post about crappy Hollywood films and stories and was sort of thinking along the same lines, albeit less philosophically and with a somewhat artificial conclusion.)

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