Why Do Movies Make Fun of Art So Much?

'Nocturnal Animals'Credit: Focus Features
Modern art can be the butt of many jokes, but cinema loves to lampoon it. 

One of the weirdest running gags in all of cinema is how many writers and directors lampoon modern art, over and over. It feels like no matter the genre or story, modern art can survive as the butt of any joke. Whether it's the gallery in Beverly Hills Cop, or the opening of Nocturnal Animals, or even the painting flip in Se7en, movies like poking fun. 

It's kind of wild how many movies make fun of art—especially when they're trying to create art and be artists. There are countless movies about countless topics, but there is one thing that they all have in common. Let's take a look at some classics to explore the obvious yet overlooked similarity between them all.

Check out this video from Now You See It, and let's talk after. 

Why Do Some People Think All Movies Are the Same? 

Whether it's the bizarre sculptures in Beetlejuice not being taken seriously or Parasite showing how much people overanalyze art, in a movie that begs to be overanalyzed itself, filmmakers have embraced a long history of jokes about other artforms. 

This sort of punching down or sideways feels strange, given that we see film as art. No one I know is creating paintings that indict filmmaking as a joke. Compounding this further is the idea that filmmaking is the most populist artform there is. Anyone can make a movie. Sure, it might not get a theatrical release and happen in Hollywood, but filmmaking is accessible. 

Another fun thing to analyze is that even outside of filmmaking poking fun at modern art, we also make a lot of movies about people making movies. They range from the funny Singin' in the Rain to the dramatic Mank. All of them deconstruct our artform as well, poking fun at the contradictions, issues, and artistic integrity. 

The other thing here is that movies are all made by people who make movies. You have to be a filmmaker to mock filmmakers within film. So what does it mean when filmmakers mock another medium? 

I think at the root of this might be filmmakers' worry that because they chose such a democratic artform that they might be lesser than the "true artists" who are putting it all on the line for something they believe in, no matter how zany or exclusive. Film was made to be absorbed by the masses, but some other forms of art are so experiential that they can be alienating to people who may not "get it." 

Either way, I think all jokes can be on the table, but I also think the best versions need to come from a place that's less, "I wish I were an artist," and more, "Isn't it funny how different kinds of art affect different people?"

When you boil it down, all films are actually alike, because they're all part of the same artform. 

What are some of your favorite instances of art in cinema? Where do you stand on films poking fun at other artforms? Let us know in the comments.      

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I've thought the same things for a long time. Why they keep showing artists as flakey, hard to understand, lacking in content, etc. when they themselves are an industry full of artists and craftspeople.
One of the things that I find working in the film industry is how conservative it is and how much they feed off previous work and not by observing real life. They use stereotypes to save time when introducing characters, often basing them on characters in other movies.

The only film I've seen where artists and art were framed as being important was 1989's The Top of His Head.
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098493/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

August 18, 2021 at 7:44AM

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