Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.
Like many millennials, I have fond memories of watching "Space Jam" as a child. In fact, I saw it in on the big screen on a snowy December afternoon in Londonderry, NH, with my best friend at the time. To say that I loved it would be a colossal understatement. Once we got it on VHS, you better believe I wore out of that tape.
As an adult and above average film aficionado, I can take off those rose-tinted glasses. Michael Jordan isn't a great actor. The dated pop culture references elicit an eye-roll and the whole movie is essentially a commercial (although the live-action scenes with the NBA players are still pretty funny.)
So when Warner Bros. announced a new "Space Jam" was coming out starring LeBron James, I wasn't exactly jumping out of my seat. After watching it, I couldn't believe it actually sailed "under" my expectations. "Space Jam: A New Legacy" is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. That's not hyperbole. I genuinely hated it.
The "plot" of the movie involves James attempting to rescue his son from the Warner 3000 "Serververse." It's maintained by an algorithm named Al G. Rhythm (GET IT) played by Don Cheadle, who is doing his absolute best. In short, Al G. wants to insert James into famous Warner Bros. properties based both on his fame and the information it has gathered. The algorithm decided that's what people wanted to see, so Al G. takes drastic measures to get what it wants after James turns down the offer.
It's really just an excuse to cram a trillion references into a nearly two-hour movie. It's beyond soulless, and makes the original film look like "The Shawshank Redemption" in comparison.
It also got me thinking.
Personal data collection and algorithms already dictate, to a degree, some of the content we watch. Those YouTube and Netflix recommendations have to come from somewhere after all. Is it possible we could see a future where all forms of content are chosen via an algorithm?
There is more personal data out in the virtual space now than in any time in history, and it's only going in one direction. These movie studios, streaming services and networks all have access to this information. They know what is popular and what has been ignored.
There has been a lot said about the privacy ramifications of targeted advertising, but what about the possibility of targeted programming? What if all that information shapes what goes into movies, TV shows and other media?
Honestly, it's probably happening right now as I write this. It would be rather naïve to think user data isn't being mined to maximize engagement with an audience that has countless options.
But where might it go? Could we get to a point in the future where all the media you consume is directly catered to your preferences? And I don't mean in a general sense. I mean "exactly" catered to your preferences, to the point where each individual would not experience the same thing as another.
Essentially, it would be a world where personal data comes in and content comes out. Algorithms and artificial intelligence call the shots and direct the tide.
Call me crazy (and share this post so others may come to the same conclusion), but I don't think that's necessarily out of the realm of possibilities. As technology continues to advance, we may see a day where our personal data unequivocally dictates what we see. All of the privacy concerns surrounding targeted advertising will manifest on a much larger level, and since we are talking about movies and television, people may not be as willing to critique it, or they might not even notice. Product placement exists for a reason after all.
It would also mean the death of creativity. Where all art is stripped of its personality to make way for lifeless material that exists solely to make money and provide brief moments of elation.
OK, that's naïve too. I already know that's happening as well, but it's depressing! We shouldn't let personal data, AI and algorithms tell us where art is heading. Only the artists should. This may all be wishful thinking. Maybe we are doomed to head down this path, but I hope films and movies continue to have a strong human element to them.
I also really, really hate the new "Space Jam."
Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash
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