By JENNIFER BRICE — This time of year, everyone loves to spend snowy days inside watching their favorite movies. Freeform just ended 2017 by running its “Harry Potter Weekend,” giving high school students a reason to spend their final days of winter break procrastinating. It’s easy to dedicate entire weekends to series like Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, to name just a few. But what does our endless obsession with such captivating franchises say about how we value entertainment?
For many, a particular movie series can hold nostalgic value. The original Star Wars film was released in 1977, while “The Last Jedi,” the most recent installment, is playing in theaters today. This gives the movies a legacy that spans generations, which makes shared enjoyment of the films a source of familial bonding. Andre Wasem, a junior at IHS, recalls, “I started watching basically when I was born,” and he still enjoys the films today.
However, not all children appreciate their parents religiously indoctrinating their movie taste. “I was forced to watch it when I was a little kid, but I wasn’t a fan because I didn’t really understand them,” says Aaron Burkhart, also a junior. Whether we give in or not, these popular movies permeate decades of popular culture.
Along with ensuring continuity, propagating a popular film into a series of films also allows added depth. While Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings did both begin as book series, their film adaptations play heavily on the vastness of enchanted environments. This vastness allows hallmark experiences from the series to be exploited throughout the marketplace.
Universal Studios chose to capitalize on our obsession with this other-worldly aspect by opening its Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Grant Harkleroad, an eleventh-grade student, says that for fans of the series, the experience is worth the trip. “The Butterbeer is fire, but it is a little expensive. I’m going again because they’ve added more on [to the park].” Praising the huge empires illustrated in popular film has created an entire market for real-life shrines.
Ultimately, as young consumers, we must approach this franchising phenomenon as a product of our capitalist values. Successful movies are always followed by a sequel because filmmakers will ride a success high as long as it can sustain them. Movie-goers feed into these incessant amalgamations of film because they are our bread and butter. We are seduced by that degree of familiarity and the cliffhanger from the previous installment. Thus, ingenuity is stifled, because real money lies in making yet another Spiderman.
In no way do I mean to villainize George Lucas for creating lovable movies. But allowing a monolithic popular culture–where repetitive movies transcend time and marketplace–may cost us our sense of innovation in storytelling.
[Images curated by Jennifer Brice]
Photo caption: Examples of the multi-volume movie collections dominating modern theaters.