“I think what it boils down to - what we’ve got today [are] the audiences who were brought up on these fucking cellphones. The millennian do not ever want to be taught anything unless you’re told it on a cellphone.” (sic)

If you’re even remotely clued into the modern social media landscape, you’ll probably know exactly what the above quote is referring to while also being part of the demographic it is explicitly aimed at. Ridley Scott, the acclaimed director behind classics such as Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator, is annoyed that his most recent film tanked at the box office. If your prestige period drama lost $73 million out the gate, I’m sure you’d be pretty pissed as well. You might even, in your anger, lash out at the youth of today and pin the blame on them and their fancy schmancy smartphones. It happens.

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On one hand, getting up in arms about an 83-year-old man’s views on modern technology is ridiculous. My grandad, who is younger than Ridley Scott, recently told one of his best friends that if he “ever brought that thing (read: phone) to the pub again,” there’d be no more pints for the foreseeable future. As someone who works on my phone quite a lot, I can tell you that even my own friends, who predominantly range from around 24 to 28 years of age, lambast me for burying my head in a screen all the time. Ridley Scott’s perspective on cell phones being detrimental to the collective attention span of society is not malicious, exaggerated, or even unique. To a huge extent, he’s right.

the last duel

On the other hand, what's the big deal anyway? One of the best directors of our time and several times before ours is disappointed that his period drama flopped. If I were to diagnose said flop, I’d point to a lack of proper marketing - the only time I heard about this movie aside from Scott’s recent statement was when Matt Damon was photographed drinking cans in my native Dublin on his day off - and the fact that it’s based on, you know, a medieval rape trial. Christmas is in a month.

On top of all of that, we’re still in a pandemic. Lots of people don’t feel comfortable returning to cinemas yet, and after a year and a half without them, some folks reckon the moviegoing experience in general has become more about overinflated popcorn prices than ambiance. For what it’s worth, I love the cinema and have seen quite a few films in several different theatres since their reopening. Did I see The Last Duel though? No, because I had no idea it existed. Maybe if it was marketed on the screen my head was glued to it I'd have ventured to try it.

That’s not the point though. This whole situation stinks of a similar scenario from not so long ago, in which Martin Scorsese eloquently spoke to the difference between superhero movies and more conventional cinema because in many ways there is a difference. I love Thor: Ragnarok. Two of the movies I was referring to having recently seen above were Shang-Chi and Eternals. I sincerely enjoy watching Hulk smashing up tanks on a screen bigger than my house. Does that mean I should do a wahwah when the guy who directed Taxi Driver talks about the difference between ‘Hulk smash’ and examining the existential weight of a Vietnam veteran with undiagnosed PTSD attempting to enact vigilante justice in a society he sees as morally defunct? I’ll let you answer that one.

taxi driver

More so than anything else, you need to remember that you, the millennial Scott is addressing, are from a completely different era to him. Just because a director is brilliant does not mean they are obliged to maintain the same ideals as every person from every generation after them. Ridley Scott was born in 1937. World War 2 wouldn’t start for another two years. The man grew up in cinemas and directed his first film over four decades ago. Obviously he isn’t all too pleased with his Adam Driver- and Matt Damon-headed October feature earning barely 25 percent of its budget back, especially with its Oscar competitor House of Gucci just around the corner. I’m not sure any of our egos should be so fragile for us to see the guy who did Alien complain about smartphones and take it as a personal slight against us specifically.

Basically, if you saw Ridley Scott’s comments over the last few days - or Scorsese’s a few months ago, or those of any other director four times your age who is usually being either misquoted or liberally wrenched out of fair context - and have taken it upon yourself to slam them on social media… Well, maybe it’s time you put the phone down, eh? From millennial to millennial, there are plenty of things in life that are more important than Twitter and moaning about talented old men for clout.

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