My dad has a unique brand of amnesia centered exclusively on the film Outbreak. He’s seen it hundreds of times, he owns it on DVD, but if it’s ever mentioned he swears black and blue that he’s never seen it.
My ability to make the same mistakes repeatedly are renowned. Obviously this punctuates my personal life, but in pop culture, it centres on episodes such as paying to see The Internship, for example, and being mildly surprised that it was crap. Or letting my passionate love of a book like Under the Dome cajole me into watching the TV hack-job. At the spectrum’s other end it has me dragging my heels to a documentary like We Steal Secrets and then being unable to shut up about its fabulousness for two whole days.
By revealing these examples of idiocy, I’m trying to contextualise how I truly didn’t realise that World War Z was going to be about zombies.
“What did you think the Z stood for?” asked my friend’s boyfriend as we left the cinema.
Yep, fair call.
For what seems like years, I’ve had seemingly normal people try to convince me to watch Game of Thrones. My standard response is that I don’t do dungeons nor dragons. Inevitably The Evangelist will respond, “oh, but it’s so much more than that.”
For eons equally, I’ve had people blathering on about the worth of The Walking Dead. When these campaigns first started, I was naively convinced that the person was simply a johnny-come-lately to the wonders of Waking the Dead – I’d respond, “oh sure, it’s great.” Later I’d find out about the zombies. I’d roll my eyes and they’d passionately plead “oh but it’s more than that.”
What the hell does this phrase even mean?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used it. Oh, I’ve used it. I’ve tried to convince my parents about the virtues of Big Love for example, by claiming it’s so much more than polygamy. That Breaking Bad is so much more than crystal meth manufacturing.
I’ve heard it, I’ve used it and I’m convinced that it’s the stupidest, most meaningless way to convince someone about the virtues of any screen obsession.
A lot of television today is good. Bloody good. Often better than much cinema. Gone are the days when a stage or cinema star would rather live on 2-minute noodles than dirty their CV with a TV credit. Television has finally come into its own.
When TV is good - when it’s great - it combines a number of factors, none more important than the writing. And quality writing requires nuance and layers and obviously so much more than any one one-line pitch.
Of course any decent show is going to be more than zombies. More than vampires. More than dungeons, more than dragons, more than boobs.
And surely we can find ways more persuasive to share our love of that latest screen discovery than a whinging, “oh, but it’s more than that.”
For the moment I’m thinking deceptive titles might help. “Game of Thrones”, for example, sounds like it was purpose-built to give bumbling boys a chance to rest their hands between rounds of World of Warcraft. Had they used the working title for it - A Song of Ice and Fire - I think I might have been tricked me in. I’d have thought of Tori Amos’ Icicle (1994), maybe a little James Taylor Fire and Rain (1970). I’m always open to a little creative chicanery.
World War Z, for the record, isn’t more than zombies. It’s less. Much, much less.