In her 2003 stand-up special,"Here and Now", Ellen DeGeneres has a hilarious bit about television commercials. She jokes about the obnoxious yet catchy "by Mennen" jingle, saying how absurd it is that 30 seconds of a commercial can be jammed into our skulls forever. Ellen then goes on to say how she thinks sitcoms will be 30 seconds long in the future, in an attempt to keep up with our shortening attention spans.
I thought of Ellen's stand-up special when I watched the trailer for "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" earlier this week. The trailer is an almost offensive step below a "teaser", revealing itself to be a trailer for a trailer. The video itself is 40 seconds long, but the actual screen-time of scenes from the new movie is only 11 seconds long. The scene is literally Chris Pratt turning away from an active volcano, with dinosaurs fleeing beside him, and yelling "run" to Bryce Dallas Howard. After the scene, in the iconic font of the "Jurassic" movies, are the words "TRAILER THURSDAY".
When I first saw the "trailer-trailer" I felt like laughing, but I simultaneously felt pissed off. I didn't, and still don't, understand why someone would choose to make a trailer to announce another trailer. I went online to see if any blog or news outlet was talking about how ridiculous the "trailer-trailer" concept was. To my surprise, all I could find were articles where people were dissecting the 11 seconds of footage and forming possible plots and theories from it.
I couldn't believe it. Not only do people find a "trailer-trailer" acceptable, but they actually thought there was enough footage to form theories off of! I felt like the pretty girl in the episode from "The Twilight Zone" where everyone has pig noses and thinks she is ugly. I felt like I was behind the times because the idea of a "trailer-trailer" was so foreign to me.
I understand that there isn't anything inherently "bad" in a trailer for a trailer. A lot of people are excited for the new "Jurassic World" movie, and this 11 second clip was a fun peek into what we'll see when the movie hits theaters, but there needs to be a limit.
What scares me about the "trailer-trailer" relates directly back to what Ellen DeGeneres was joking about. If 11 seconds of footage is enough for multiple websites to form theories on a movie coming out 6 months from now, then what does that mean for how we process media? Could we be on the brink of television shows being 5 minutes long?
The shortening of media didn't just start with this new "trailer-trailer". The popular CinemaSins channel, on YouTube, takes full length movies and picks apart the technical/visual issues in the film in around 12 to 20 minutes. The videos are almost always on the top of the YouTube trending page each time they come out, and a big reason is the fact that these videos condense movies to 1/8th of their runtime. I enjoy CinemaSins videos on occasion, but even I have realized that I'll watch a CinemaSins video on a movie I want to see, and then end up not wanting to watch the movie afterward.
I think we need to seriously examine how we digest media. I don't think it's hours of playing video games, or violent imagery, or nudity that is rotting our minds; I think it's how much we compress media. Playing video games for long hours might make you inactive or single-minded, but at least you are processing something with a storyline. There is nothing to be gained from watching 11 seconds of a video and then thinking you have enough information to delve into a deep or meaningful opinion about it. This goes for news too. Reading a headline for an article and then thinking you have the facts inside the article is ridiculous, just like watching footage of CGI dinosaurs running for a fraction of a minute and thinking you can write an article explaining what that means for a plotline.