Psst, I heard you were feeling pretty good lately. Almost happy. Well, I’m a 9-part, critically-acclaimed documentary, and I’d like to destroy your weekend. Maybe you heard about me from your liberal Aunt Lala, The New York Times, or NPR. I’ll tell you the truth, unlike Terry Gross who lied to you when she told you I’m “inspiring.” I’m actually a sad lump of excrement rolled into a shiny ball of idealism wrapped in a disheartening but well-photographed sleeve.
Still curious why I’m trending number one on your Netflix recommendations? Fine, get ready to hear about an island where poachers drill holes in baby turtles! Or, what about an exploration of all the times the Philippines have been conquered and the locals exploited? Spoiler: it’s a lot! But if that doesn’t do it for you, get ready for 138 minutes on a loner who only connects with polar bears, who in the last 14 minutes of the film gets mauled by one.
And don’t think that I’ll get better after the frustrating second act. I will slowly sputter towards an unsatisfying conclusion, and I’m taking you with me! I know what you’re going to say. You think that you’re helping somebody by watching me. Maybe you even expect you can do a Ken Burns slow zoom into the human condition. I’m going to whisper a little truth in your ear: you’re not.
Tomorrow you’ll remember a few facts, but by Thursday you’ll have forgotten most everything. When people bring up my name at parties, you’ll raise your cocktail olive-clad pinky in the air, signaling that you, too, have spent the required time in my presence. What you don’t know is that your fellow partygoers liked me even less than you did. But boy do they rave about my “cinematic contribution” and how I’ve “raised awareness.” Nobody really changed, they never do.
I know my future. I’ll be trendy for two weeks before you move on to the next depressing documentary about a missing child who poses as a Silicon Valley mogul only to murder a bunch of dolphins, and sell their remains to spread racism. Then I’ll spend most of my time just waiting to be downloaded or discussed in wordy film Q&As. They’ll tell me I’ve been shortlisted for an Independent Spirit Award. I don’t know if that means anything; I can get drunk on the Santa Monica beach without one.
Sometimes at night, I start to think about what it all means. If anything I’ve ever done will affect change. If my footage was more compelling, or if the characters transformed more, or if the third act twist was more twisty. Maybe I just wasn’t enough?
Oh well. If I can’t change the world, then at least I can ruin your weekend.