Snakes on a Plane. Nope, I’m not trying to craft a metaphor to illustrate the panicky reception generally reserved for so-called new music. Those four simple words form the sensationalistic title of a film that bloggers far and wide have been poking fun at for over a year now. Portals like Snakes on a Blog hint at the depth of the phenomenon. We’re talking galleries of homemade t-shirts, YouTube video spoofs, quote trackers, joke eBay auctions, and an audience participation Wiki, all of which have sparked an enormous amount of fan-generated sight-unseen hype for the movie’s release. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The cyber buzz reverberated so strongly that the filmmakers felt compelled to include the most notorious pundit-created hypothetical line of dialog in the final cut of the film itself: “I’ve had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane.” And with that utterance, Samuel L. Jackson just secured his place in film history textbooks. Okay, maybe not. But one thing is for certain: Tonight’s premiere screenings will be riddled with those noblest connoisseurs of pop culture self-parody and all things ironic, a.k.a. hipsters.
The weird thing about all of this is that those filmgoers in search of satire are likely to be outnumbered by general audiences parked in their seats to munch on some popcorn while digging what they perceive as a straight up action flick. Snakes on a Plane is walking a tricky tightrope between summertime blockbuster and cult B-movie. If only this type of subversive activity could happen at, say, Carnegie Hall. But there you have mostly hardcore aficionados (usually un-hipsters) commingling with the not exactly in the know minority. We’ve got an inverse SoaP situation. Regardless, it really shouldn’t matter whether it’s a classical music concert or a film screening: audiences of any ilk should be allowed to get what they want out of the experience. If someone wants to use classical music to simply relax, I say go for it. Unfortunately, our industry seems hell-bent on promulgating the notion that there really is something that’s needed—advanced degrees are helpful—in order to fully appreciate music.
Granted, when I pay my ten bucks to snicker at those motherfucking snakes, I’ll probably take away something from the film totally different than the guy behind me. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In the quest to defibrillate our concert halls, we don’t need to dumb things down. All that’s needed are some kick ass ideas like Snakes on a Plane!
That name alone is so simple, direct, visceral. Call me crazy, but maybe there’s something to learn from all of this. There should be more hype surrounding new music premieres. Not the slick marketing that already pervades the biz, but something more viral, spread through high profile blogs, MySpace, and what have you. New music fans should be privy to advance materials and concepts involved in the piece, and then let them gossip, form incorrect presumptions, and generate rumors. There isn’t much for concertgoers to latch onto before a premiere; nothing sent out to seduce us. While hype is easy to resist, it also holds the potential to invoke an en masse sense of comfort, a “we’re all in this together”-ness. Hey, checkout that little enclave in the first balcony wearing those cryptic t-shirts. What are they doing here?