One of the dangers of Dish TV is that one spends time watching movies that one would not normally see. Feeling particularly mindless this weekend I sat through Never Back Down. Now I am not the intended audience for this film which is a formula teen-age movie about extreme fighting (mixed martial arts). It has enough fighting and angst for you average teenage boy, scenes of the girl friend teaching the boy to be sensitive for the girls, and enough skin to appeal to both genders–a perfect date movie.
As is often the case, the interesting thing in the movie is the way it portrays the world its characters live in. Milieu becomes more important, or at least more interesting, than plot or character. What was intriguing to me was not the fighting or the girls interest in it. Mock combat as ground for male bonding or mate advertising has existed since the time of the ancient Greeks. Rather I was struck by the ubiquity of the video camera, the cell phone, and You Tube.
The movie opens with a fight on a football field in Iowa where our hero decks a larger opponent. In the next scene we learn that he, with his brother, and mom are moving to Orlando, because his younger brother has won a scholarship to a tennis academy. At the new school, someone has googled him, the You Tube video of the football fight makes the rounds and our hero is drawn into the fight club. The nerd who befriends him has a video camera virtually glued to his eye, Every fight is filmed and posted. At several times we see students walking down the hall of the high school glued to their cell phones, then we see them stare knowingly at the hero. Everyone accepts this loss of privacy and seem to think that being video and uploaded validates them as a person. The only complaint is a feeble protest at being filmed by two girls making out in a hot tub at a party. We don’t take their complaints seriously.
Now the movie is in no way about privacy. I suspect that only old fogeys like myself noticed this about the film. I admit to be sufficiently wedded to my blackberry to suspect that if I were a teen with the requisite electronics I could fall into this world easily. But at what cost. Must we have a constant audience? Must we be a constant audience? As plot the movie is old fashioned; as psychology it’s trite, but as a portrayal of a brave new world it’s unintentionally frightening.