Video Essay: Hollywood's Obsession with Intertextuality

Nerdwriter is back with a new video essay, and this one leans heavily on a troubling trend in Hollywood these days: an obsession with what he calls "intertextuality." Essentially, it means that studios love creating moments that are designed to evoke responses from an audience by referencing things you're already familiar with: things like lifting a scene directly from a comic in a comic book movie, or framing a shot identically to its animated predecessor in a live-action remake. It's not exactly a revelatory observation, but I think it's important that everyone is at least aware that they're being manipulated in this specific way so that maybe we'll be able to demand better from filmmakers in the future.

When studios throw a familiar reference at us (say, the appearance of Sauron in The Hobbit trilogy), we shouldn't just eat it up because we recognize the reference. Of course we recognize the reference. That part is practically a given within geek culture today. The important part is what does that reference mean to the story currently being told? Does it enhance it, or distract from it? Is there a narrative reason for it being there, or is it just empty fan service? Something to think about next time you sit down at the multiplex.

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