It's not that this new audience is disinterested in plot. The success of films such as Amy Heckerling's Clueless (1995) and Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility (1995) with a young audience is proof that the narrative drive and energy in both of these love stories appeals to that audience. Ironically, both are based upon the novels of Jane Austen. But these films, although popular, are not "icons" to this young audience. Those filmic icons are Reality Bites, Natural Born Killers, and Slacker (1991). These icons are notable for their put-down of plot, of the elevation of adolescent rage and anarchy over the continuum of the happy ending in Clueless and Sense and Sensibility.
When plot is less important, incident, or scene, takes on a different meaning, and character becomes everything. When the logic of plot progression is less pressing, set-pieces can stand more readily. Mood, alternating shifts of mood, fantasy, play, nightmare, all can be juxtaposed more readily because their contribution to the plot progression is unnecessary.
Add to that a character who stands against the prevailing values of the society, and for the destruction of those values, and you have the hero/ main character of the MTV-style film: Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites, Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers, Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita. It's as if the Brando character in The Wild One (1954) has returned and again answered the 50s question, "What are you rebelling against?" The answer: "What have you got?!"
In a standard plotted narrative, such a main character would seem reactive and immature, rootless and without a goal. In the fragmented narrative of the MTV-style film, the character is a hero in a fragmented world, a hero who can recite poetry and kill in the same breath, a hero who can't be held accountable It's his world that has made him so.
Having degraded (or downgraded) plot simulates the world of these heroes. Their audience recognizes that world with ease. It's the world they live in, the TV world, the video game world. They see it as a game to cope with the incomprehensibility of that world. For them, the MTV style is a tool, a stimuli, and a philosophy. Less plot facilitates the audience entry into the MTV world view.
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