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By Jeremy Knox | January 24, 2014

Did you know that Dostoyevsky had epilepsy? Well… I think he did. I don’t know this in the true absolute historical sense mind you. I just happened to see it mentioned in Mel Brook’s The Twelve Chairs and it amuses me to no end that such a large amount of my knowledge seems to be lifted from movies. Still, it is an interesting bit of information.

R/B/G begins with a warning that no one with photo sensitive epilepsy should watch it, and then proceeds to illustrate why. Flashing lights, television, people watching television, more flashing lights, television watching us, flashing, flashing, flashing… I watched a screener of this at home and, just for fun, I showed it to my cat. He went BANANAS. It was kind of awesome. The only time he’s ever done that is when he had too much catnip and started to hallucinate.

In all seriousness though, this short has great pacing. It’s hellishly easy to make a film with no plot or dialogue repetitive, since there’s nothing for your mind to latch onto and you find your attention wandering, yet R/B/G isn’t. It’s varied and colorful. You also can’t fault its sense of scope. It seeks nothing less than to offer a harsh and biting critique of mass media and its parasitic relationship to mankind as we travel through the hypnotic billion channel landscape of television.

This is the part of the review where I have to add that I don’t much agree with the theory that TV is the equivalent of mental poison. I’ve always been a firm believer that people watch a bunch of stupid mindless garbage because they actually like that sort of thing, not because it’s forced upon them. In my view, television, far from being a manipulative dark overlord, is always bending over backwards to fulfill the desires of the viewers and not the other way around. If anything it’s a hand wringing sycophant that can never say “No.” Television is the Conrad Murray to the viewer’s Michael Jackson.

Of course, this is just my own personal opinion, and the filmmakers are certainly not alone in thinking the contrary. Theories abound that mass media in general, and television in particular, has a negative effect on human consciousness. Guy Debord wrote about it in The Society of the Spectacle, as did Jean Baudrillard in Simulacra and Simulation. These ideas reached their ultimate, albeit fictional, expression in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome where watching television literally causes a cancer that strips its victim of the ability to tell reality from fantasy.

I mention this because I want to be absolutely clear that I am more than familiar with the critique of mass media and understand how someone could come to the conclusion that television is an evil, even if I don’t agree.

I mean, think about it for a minute, all you have to do is take my earlier example of how I only knew Dostoyevsky had epilepsy because of a movie. The popular theory says that my reliance on fiction to provide information is intended by “the system” to promote ignorance and an over-reliance on mass media controlled sources for knowledge, to make sure that people confuse what they think with what they know, to make everyone easier to control. It’s such a common and omnipresent belief that it’s easy to forget that there is not a whole lot of proof that anyone behind the scenes of television and movies is guilty of doing anything other than appealing to the lowest common denominator, because that’s what the public wants, in order to make the most profit.

Another thing, I’ll tell you all why I learn a lot of “facts” from movies: I’m lazy and I don’t bother looking it up anywhere else. No Big Brother. No Manchurian Candidate. The problem is me. This is a good thing.

It’s a good thing because I have control over my actions, and admitting a problem is the first step to curing it. You know, I often wonder if having a dismal view of mankind isn’t just a sneaky way to avoid having to improve ourselves. After all, if the problem is “everyone else”, then it’s always going to have to be them that have to change and not us. That’s something to think about anyway, isn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the world is all puppies and roses. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that we’re all living in the Matrix just because the public has terrible taste and people in show business are willing to indulge that terrible taste as long as they make crazy money off of it.

Still, what kind of reason would that be not to enjoy this short? Because it didn’t parrot my ideas back to me? Pfft, bullshit. I’m an adult. I can deal with it. Besides, like I said, this is well done, and watching someone toss out concepts about the world that don’t match my own is refreshing.

So did I like it? Of course! I wrote 900 words about a six minute film with no plot or dialogue. If nothing else, it made think about philosophy and psychology and human nature, and that’s always a good thing. I like dick jokes as much as the next guy, but the opportunity to have an intellectual dialogue with myself is priceless. For that, I owe many thanks to Director Alejandro Peña. It’s been an honor, Sir.

Oh, and before I go, I do want to apologize about the fact that this review seems to have turned into a grumpy old man Op-Ed piece. This shouldn’t reflect on the filmmakers or influence your opinion of what you see if and when you watch this film. Mister Knox isn’t always right, and you should always keep that in mind.

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