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Millennials, Gold Fish, and King Kong

Hamed Hokamzadeh

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In order to understand people, you have to understand where people come from. The controversial name “Millennials” has been given to the population born after 1980, roughly the ages of 18 and 33. Politically, 50% of Millennials identify themselves as democrats. In terms of religion and social issues when compared to other generations, Millennials have the lowest percentage of religious affiliation, the highest percentage of non-marital births, and they are the biggest supporters of gay rights. Compared to other generations while in their 20s, Millennials have the highest percentage of four-year degrees. They are the most stubborn, confident, and hopeful about their financial future, but the least employed. These statistics were provided by the PEW Research Center, whom also reported that in 2013 the average attention span was 8 seconds, versus the attention span of a gold fish, which was 9 seconds. There is a growing lack of focus among our whole population.

         One of the huge facets that led to a shortening attention span in Millennials, and inevitably older generations as well, was technology – e. g., iPods, affordable laptops, smartphones, tablets, Pandora, Youtube. Advanced Moderation for Online Communities says, “Millennials were the first generation to be ‘raised’ on the internet and they represent a substantial portion of internet users.” These advancements are revolutionary and should be celebrated for the way they have changed the world. But conversely, they provide Millennials with so much content at such convenience, that it has made Millennials addicted to content. Emarketer.com reports that YouTube is the most frequently used website by Millennials, with each viewer watching an average of 25 minutes of videos per day. Huffington Post reports that Millennials read an average of 7 minutes a day compared to the Silent generation, whom read more than 30 minutes per day. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician in the field of children states, “Prolonged exposure to rapid image changes during critical period of development equals preconditioned mind expecting high levels of stimulation, which equals inattention in later life.” This concludes that Millennials are vulnerable when it comes to being able to focus, and that Millennials are addicted to content and seek brain stimulation constantly.

         It is fascinating to look at how films reflect this phenomena. Older generations may recall favorite films like The Days of Wine and Roses or The Thorn Birds, and in comparison, label current blockbusters chaotic and claptrap. Meanwhile Huffington Post writes that Millennials see old films as “hopelessly pass?© – technically primitive, narratively dull, slowly paced.”

         Take for example, the last two remakes of King Kong in 1976 and 2005. Both had very similar stories but were made three decades apart. The original King Kong was made in 1933, and it raised the technical prowess of filmmaking to a new standard. Ever since, audiences worldwide have heldKing Kong movie remakes to very high expectations. To illustrate the ambitions of these filmmakers, here’s the tag line of the 1976 remake: “The most exciting original motion picture event of all time!” Than there’s Peter Jackson, the director and writer of the 2005 remake, quoted saying, “No film has captivated my imagination more than King Kong [1933]… it has been my sustained dream to reinterpret this classic story for a new age.” Filmmakers are simply looking to recreate that cinema magic they loved. Impressing Millennials, whom are addicted to quality content, may lead to faster editing, bigger explosions, and loud sounds, among other things. It’s important to emphasize the point here; there really isn’t a conscious effort by filmmakers and studio executives to make big fast-action movies with ridiculously huge budgets. Because of the constant stream of content being consumed everyday, our society, the audience, has changed, and the film industry is simply reflecting that.

         We can look at the number of edits, the number of moving shots, or the amount of music that’s in a film, to find out how much actual attention it requires from the audience. Let’s just concentrate on the musical score of two similar films from different decades. The 1976 King Kong film has a total running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes, and the 2005 remake is 3 hours and 15 minutes long. There’s a total of 53 minutes of score in the 1976 film, while the 2005 film has 3 hours of score. This means 39% of the 1976 film was accompanied by a score, while the 2005 film had 95% of it scored. The Peter Jackson remake has more than 50% of it accompanied by a score compared to the 1976 version. If the score is playing almost through the whole movie, the audience is subconsciously allowed to lose focus at any moment, and still be able to retain the basic mood of each scene without even trying.

         This isn’t to blame any one entity for the short attention span of generation Millennials, nor is it the blame of technological advancements, it is to present utile facts so one can be better informed.

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Millennials, Gold Fish, and King Kong