Hyper-Cultural Memory And Why ‘Scream 4’ Is Important

Scream 4, SCRE4M

We are all very connected, no? We all have our Facebooks and our Twitters and our FourSquares and our MySpaces and our StumbledUpons and our Reddits and our, etc., etc., etc.coms. If you just ate a hamburger and enjoyed it, I know exactly where and when you liked it and I actually liked it myself. If you just went to a store and purchased a cool sweater, I saw what it looked like, where I could get one, and I liked it. If you liked something, I could like it. If you hated something, I could like it. If you wanted something, I could like it. If you didn’t even think of something, I probably liked it. Technology has made common, passive commentary on life and style and society amplified, making my culture your culture and yours mine. You may live in London, you may live in Paris, you may live in Seoul, or you may live in New York City–but, if I liked Scream 4, you will know it. Why? Because I Tweeted about it, Facebooked it, and wrote article upon article professing my love to it on the interweb.

This all goes to say that we are interconnected. Yes, yes we are. And, as Trevor Baum–a Gemini Brooklinite commentator on my last editorial–mentioned, “this has been discussed ad nauseam already.” Yes, yes it has. But, you know what all of this gets at? Our interconnectivity has led to a heightened cultural memory. You could call it a Hyper-Cultural Memory, perhaps.

“Cultural memory” is a complex subject. Its a very modern concept that gets at us all experiencing something, yet not experiencing it together. The experience is the memory, which is something that can be related. For instance, if I drank a Trenta cup of coffee from Starbucks in Los Angeles and you drank a Trenta cup of coffee in Sydney, Australia, both of us not having known each other, we could both agree that, yes, Trentas are too much liquid and it made us both have to urinate. Even though we did not experience these things together, it was an experience, a “memory,” we both had. Yet, we both have a reaction and can easily recall how we felt about it: culture begets memory.

This idea can be stretched to things like your having read Harry Potter and Bobby’s having read Harry Potter or your having eaten a Whopper and my having eaten a Whopper. These are all things we have “done” and they bind us together, which is particularly important when the next evolution of something occurs.

For instance, the Scream movies are something we have all seen. The movie series were a very large moment for movies, the horror genre, and late nineties teensploitation. I remember seeing the original movie in rural Kansas in 1996 and being shocked. It wasn’t because of the movie is particularly gruesome or particularly “new”: it was because the movie was original. It was one of the first pre-millenial moments that was ironic. Horror was comedy and comedy was horror. The genre folded upon itself and, thusly, made way for the horror-comedy and the comedy-horror. It also produced a slew of new films that were exactly the same as well as a new type of nerd: the horror film nerd. The movie was revolutionary and reshaped the face of horror as a genre of film.

It also got our young (and old) asses into movie theaters. Like the Lord of the Rings after it and Star Wars before it, seeing these movies were a “thing.” They were a cultural moment that was to behold, even though the moment was markedly smaller than both of the aforementioned because it was for the horror genre. Regardless, it was a moment and it laid the foundation for a decidedly unnecessary–but not unwanted–sequel to the sequel of the sequel: Scream 4.

This past Friday I caught a viewing with six or so people that I had no idea even existed when I saw part one, two, or three. I watched the movie in a movie theatre of hundreds of people who I had never met. But, we all cheered at the credits. But, we all cheered at the first kill. But, we all sat in the movie until we could cheer at the ending. There weren’t any children or teenagers in that theatre nor were there any people who didn’t “know” what the series of films was: this was a moment where all of our collective pasts met up and had a conversation with a film to build a memory.

After the film, we all went to our phones and computers and spread the word, whether we liked the film or not (but, really, most of us liked it). It was that moment, walking out of the movie theatre, all soaking in the glow of the film, where I realized our collective idea was being deposited into the world’s cultural memory via Twitter and Facebook and Instagram: we were living our Star Wars moment with many around the world, a moment that could never have occurred in 1996.

Of course, this is not anything new. But, what it did for me was make me realize that my experience and memory of this film was the same thing that friends of mine were experiencing on that same night. I found out through Twitter, Facebook, and the like that many of my friends and peers felt the same, something that instantly gratified my notion that this was in fact a good and important moment in movie history. Cultural memory had gone from something you share with a stranger to something you share with the world: it was a realization that technology has made an intimate thought, an intimate moment world wide news. Hyper-Cultural Memory has made a small feeling about something huge, because I can search through Twitter to see what others thought.

This is all obvious, yes. Nothing in this story is particularly new. But, when–this morning–when I got an e-mail from my fifteen year old sister (who lives in rural Georgia) that “the new Scream movie was the best movie she ever saw,” I realized that things had changed. I realized that my sister, someone who lives a world away, an age away, and on the cusp of a new Hipster, was having the same moment I was having, which was the same moment I had had in 1996 when I first saw Scream.

Our cultural memory wasn’t a memory: it was reality. It was something that we could talk about right then and there, via e-mail and phone: it was Hyper-Reality.


April 18, 2011