Living in the land of the sequel

Thomas Gallick

American culture is the culture of the sequel. Think about it. What other nation would not only put up with “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” but make it the biggest movie in the nation, and give a new show to Jay Leno in the same summer?

Hell, sometimes I think we would have elected George W. Bush for a third term were it constitutionally possible. Don’t laugh, because the same stupid fear that gave us another adventure with talking robots hitting each other gave us Bush and Cheney in ’04.

We as a culture are afraid of the unknown, which is completely forgivable to a point. Something new is scary, and our ancestors’ suspicion of unknown situations quite probably kept a few of them alive to pass on their genes.

The only problem with this type of fear now is we live in the age of information. If you just take a little time for research, you can take an informed risk that a new choice is better than the current bad or simply passable choice you’re currently making.

Most people would agree Bush’s first term was a catastrophe, but then again, most Americans had not heard of John Kerry before the election.

Kerry was a bit of an unknown to the average person. This was terrifying to anyone who even leaned conservative because, theoretically, Kerry could have forced everyone to marry someone of the same sex and taken away our guns. He probably would not, but our nation went with the evil we knew because Bush could not possibly be worse in his second term.

We elected someone we knew to be, at best a failure and at worst, a criminal for a second term because we knew what we were getting. This is exactly the logic Americans used when giving away an estimated $363 million this summer to “Transformers 2.” No one really liked the first one. Early reviews from respected critics all bashed it (Roger Ebert called it “a horrible experience of unbearable length”), but America still made it the No. 1 movie in the country because searching out a good movie would be hard work.

And we’ll do the same with Jay Leno’s new show, too. He’ll walk around and talk to stupid people getting the same answers about how they don’t know where the Gettysburg Address is, and America will be generally unexcited, but still watching in a trance-like state.

It may be anecdotal evidence, but beyond possibly “The Godfather: Part II,” there has not been a sequel more critically acclaimed than the original. Were we just assuming the second movie about robotic cars and explosions was going to take a great leap forward artistically?

But even with the knowledge the film would be disappointing, the country ran to the theaters and dropped its collective coin because taking a chance on something new could be disappointing, frustrating or disturbing. What we need to realize is choosing anything, be it our art, politics or even what we put on the dinner table, should include a little investigation.

If not, the siren call of the sequel will get us every time. We’ll be in the theater snoozing through “Transformers 3,” watching Jay Leno’s laugh-free monologues and electing the next Robert Byrds and Strom Thurmonds for life on name recognition alone.

Tomas Gallick is a senior newspaper journalism major and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].