On a local newscast last Sunday, the anchor read a brief story about the weekend's highest-grossing movies as a clip from "Ted" was shown. The muted clip was of Mark Wahlberg sitting on a couch engaged in conversation with a cute talking teddy bear.
In one of those adlib, happy-talk segues offered between stories on every newscast these days, the anchor told the weathercaster that she might want to think about taking her kids to see the movie. Hey, it was a cute talking teddy bear.
It was apparent that neither of them knew anything about the movie but someone off camera warned that it was an R-rated film and not for children, which the anchor quickly clarified. They had an on-air chuckle over it and that was the end of it.
At first I thought, really?
After a week of articles in national and local papers, magazine covers, appearances on talk shows and all the usual marketing devices that accompany big-budget, major-studio movies these days, how could two people who make it a point to stay abreast of current events not know about "Ted"?
Then my wife reminded me that not everyone keeps up with movies like I do. I'm the exception, not the rule. And here's the kicker: She added that if she had not learned about the movie from me, she also might have thought from glimpsing short clips and TV ad spots that it was a family movie about a talking teddy bear. Until she noticed the R rating, anyway.
"Ted" is a fantasy about a walking, talking teddy bear that was wished alive by a young child, but then never went away. Now the boy has grown up and he and his teddy-bear pal engage in raunchy dialogue and sleazy action about as far from a G, PG or PG-13 rating as it can get.
This served as a reminder to me that movie fans, and movie critics in particular, tend to live in a bubble, blissfully unaware that there are a lot of people out there who don't give a whit about movies or box-office revenue — or pop culture in general — and to whom the words "auteur" and "genre" and "film noir" are meaningless.
I have a lot of friends and colleagues who keep up with pop culture, and movies in particular, but I also have a lot of friends who wouldn't know Kim Novak from Kim Kardashian. Their idea of going to the movies frequently is twice a year. Most of them are blissfully unaware that a new "Spider-Man" movie opened this week, unless one of their kids has been trying to hang upside-down from a ceiling fan.
And if you can miss all the publicity for "The Amazing Spider-Man," you can miss anything.
My wife likes to remind me now and again that there are things in life besides movies, like grandchildren's birthdays and canyon hikes and Wimbledon and clogged rain gutters and colorful sunsets. It's nice to have someone in your life who helps put things in perspective.
But then, there's "Ted," which had a huge opening weekend, meaning that someone — actually, a lot of people — paid attention and helped make it a big hit. Maybe a "Hangover"/"Bridesmaids"-level hit. Time will tell.
And I'm sure those moviegoers knew what they were getting into, since the posters are selling it as written and directed by the creator of "Family Guy," an extremely raunchy prime-time, network-television cartoon series.
If Internet chatter is to be believed, however, a number of parents around the country did not realize what they were getting into and made a beeline for the exit with their children in tow after the first few minutes. Apparently they purchased tickets thinking "Ted" was akin to animated chipmunks interacting with live-action actors.
Did no ticket-sellers or ticket-takers think to warn parents with children?
I'm often asked why in the world I walked away from reviewing movies full time in the mid-1990s, since it was, after all, such a dream job. My answer is that it turned into a nightmare job as raunchy comedies and gory horror movies began to dominate the movie landscape.
The position came to me in the late 1970s and early '80s at the beginning of the graphically sexual teen-comedy cycle, which coincided with the bloody teen slasher-horror cycle. Over the next 20 years, instead of those cycles fading, they expanded as big-screen movies became more and more explicit and disgusting.
Sure, there are always a few good movies around, but wading through the dreck to find them was becoming a chore.
And whenever a movie like "Ted" rolls around, I remember why I wanted to become more selective in my moviegoing habits.
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