My post on Captain Marvel/Shazam! generated a lot of comments, both on this site and AICN, primarily because of a single observation…

If I were writing a dissertation on the evolution of the Captain Marvel character, [hardcover anthologies] would be invaluable. But I’m not. So every time I read one of these, I’m struck with the same realization I encounter trying to watch The Honeymooners or a black-and-white movie: Wow. Old things suck.

Was I deliberately exaggerating to make a point? Yes.

Was I baiting readers to write in? Sure.

Was I serious? Sort of.

There’s obviously an abundance of old things which not only do not suck, but are in fact spectacular: great works of literature, music, art, and movies which deserve to be called classics — and not just because they’re in black and white. We study them, we emulate them, because they are just so damn good.1

[kane]That said, for every great old masterpiece, there are a lot of non-masterpieces. And what frustrates me is when society insists on elevating and fawning over these non-masterpieces simply because they were part of some mythical Golden Age. To me, that includes The Honeymooners. Sorry. I can understand why it was groundbreaking, and the enormous challenge of creating a live show, and why it was seminal. But I don’t care. It doesn’t connect for me whatsoever, and I’m too honest to fake any interest in it.

Thus, to me, it sucks. Everyone is free to have his own opinion, at least until the corporate sponsors find out.2

I could have softened the blow by saying, “Many old things suck” or “Some old things suck.” But that wouldn’t be true to my experience. When I watch a classic film and have that holy shit, this is just as good as everyone says experience, that’s the glorious exception. That’s when I’m happy I’ve deliberately set my expectation meter low for anything older than I am.

Setting aside the implicit ontological paradoxes, most people I know would be curious to travel back in time. They’d love to meet historical figures, marvel at extinct animals, and experience daily life in an earlier age. But I’ve yet to meet someone who wants to travel back in time to watch TV. Imagine, you could watch The Honeymooners in its proper context, live, as it was made. Wouldn’t that be the best thing ever? No?

Of course it wouldn’t, because you live in 2007. The world has changed a lot since the days of Ralph Kramden threatening domestic violence against his wife, and you can’t pretend it hasn’t.3

And yet, time travel is exactly what some fans want out of an adaptation — to create a movie as it would have existed in an earlier era. To me, that’s foolish. You can watch The Honeymooners on DVD, safe in its nostalgic bubble, but to slavishly recreate the experience is cultural masturbation.

And yes, I said “masturbation” just to bait comments.

  1. And yet, when we emulate them too closely, the results are invariably disappointing. That’s a good topic for someone’s dissertation, so I won’t try to address it in a footnote.
  2. Read the fine print on the parking garage stub. It’s a contract.
  3. Yes, I know he was kidding. There’s a fascinating apologia on the topic, but you wouldn’t see Kevin James getting away with it today.