Experiencing Movies in the Social Media Age

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Movies these days are inherently tied to a particular zeitgeist, especially so with the prevalence of social media.  It’s not just about seeing the film; it is almost required that one must post their thoughts and argue with others online who disagree with them. 

For those that miss the zeitgeist, they can feel left out of the conversation in a way that negatively impacts the movie.  For others, the perceptions that came from social media can overshadow the actual film. 

Two of biggest movie releases, Avengers: Infinity War and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, both had a significant conversation on social media about what they did right or wrong.  After watching both of these movies well after their social media zeitgeist, it is interesting how social media has affected these movies. 

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Avengers: Infinity War was released on April 27, 2018, and immediately took the world by storm.  Online, you could not find a single negative comment on the superhero epic.  It also helped that Infinity War seemed to be everywhere online, from a cavalcade of Funko Pop figures to playing as Thanos in the popular online game Fortnite. 

I was still surprised that The Russo Brothers were able to wrangle the dozens of characters into a complete package, but something felt lacking after soaking in all the social media buzz.  For a film franchise that is all about fun adventures to shift to depressing genocidal campaigns felt a bit too much of a tone change. 

A core strength of the Marvel superhero movies are the characters and how they interact with one another, which was only magnified in Infinity War.  The little moments of Thor hanging out with the Guardians of the Galaxy crew were more in style of what most would come to expect in the franchise. 

Even though social media may not have done the movie justice with how it was represented, overall the online community made Infinity War into something unique and worth checking out.  Seeing a group of people madly into a movie can make others want to be a part of it and experience why people are losing their minds; that same mentality, however, can be a hamper to an otherwise excellent movie. 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released on December 9, 2017, to mixed reviews, and over time it has only gotten more caustic online.  The mainstream social media outcry was The Last Jedi was not a real Star Wars movie with how it treated the classic characters and plot. 

This outcry was soon expedited to harassment after Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose, left Instagram after months of harassment from people online.  Criticism of a film is fine, but when it turns into a coordinated campaign of intimidation is when it crosses the line. 

Knowing all of this made me not want to check out The Last Jedi, but when I did, I was shocked to find it be my favorite Star Wars movie since the original trilogy.  It felt like it had the innovative spirit of Star Wars while confronting the notions of hope and rebellion. 

It is frustrating that a movie like The Last Jedi is actively pushed away from people because of the hostile audience that surrounds it.  This has compounded even more with the hostility returning to the social media zeitgeist. 

Last month, social media groups began to campaign for a remake to the Last Jedi.  They felt that the work done by director Ryan Johnson was subpar to what fans wanted with the franchise.  The response to the unwarranted demands was quite surprising, ranging from Rain Johnson jokingly approving of the remake and artists creating their own remake poster.  Social media has become a part of The Last Jedi, whether it wanted to or not. 

Social media plays a key core of movies today, whether it is to help promote a film to new audiences or strengthen the audience a movie has.  It also is a tool to help dissect coverage and the true feelings of fans.  For those that only know of social media takes on a movie, it can help or hinder their overall experience. 

Movies studios cannot merely ignore social media, or use it as only a tool for promotion.  They have a responsibility and should use social media to help foster positive discussion, whether it be criticism or praise.  Studios should be the first to squash harmful rhetoric online that only means to demean those involved with a movie.  It does not mean that they should entirely control the conversation, but stop hate and abuse from festering in communities.

Bailey MeCey - The Intern
Hi there, my name is Bailey MeCey and I am a journalism student at the University of Nevada, Reno. I love movies, television, and video games. You can follow me on Twitter @bmecey.