Back in 2009 I wrote that I thought animators would one day cross the “uncanny valley” (i.e. the way CGI animation can make talking chipmunks seem human but humans seem like dead-eyed corpses). The prize plum of CGI designers is to break through this valley and create avatars that look completely human, to nail the “eyes have it” connection between people. The company that can achieve this will be unfathomably rich, and actors will become incredibly poor. They will, in effect, no longer be needed… at least not by George Lucas.
It seemed since I wrote that the valley would never be crossed, but– ever the good hosts — we consumers of images are much more adaptable than computers and I hereby suggest that rather than risk alienating their computer counterparts, kids of today have deliberately feigned a glazed anime look in their eyes. Glazed is the new sharp. These kids have become pro-active and gone into the Uncanny Valley all on their own.
We who remember the seventies probably looked glazed-eyed to our grandparents, for we were the first to get by on a diet of endless television and sugary cereals, before parents started realizing we could no longer sit still or concentrate, at all, ever, on things like the slow pace of an elder’s talking, thus the short circuiting of the mythic trans-generational express that has led to our woebegone national state.
These kids are aping anime, creating a dead look about their pupils, removing all glimmer of intelligence from their face as if trying to pass as a zombie in a post-Romero school environment, where any glimmer of humanity is met with devouring and slobber. Thus we’re slowly meeting the anime/CGI gaze vacancy more than halfway… Baudrillard would be so proud, were he alive to see it. Oh wait, he is, I mean… how do I know he ever existed? Pictures are no longer proof.
So, no waiting for CGI to cross that uncanny valley: let’s be flattening ourselves, wearing digital clothes that have blu-ray sharpness, standing before screens of sky and reproducible sunlight streaming out of light boxes in the morning, that 1080 sharpness more realistic than the real thing. How’s that for you, Mr. afraid to use real vines and trees and people and claymation to talk about the evils of industrial progress Cameron? Nothing like drinking the digital reproduction of a rich man’s tears for the world he hath left poor to truly dig the unapologetic rush of an indie drama, a non-CGI movie that has all the real dangers of your first trip to hang out with your older brother’s denim and Metallica-wearing friends, as opposed to staying home and watching the suffering of the third world filtered through the very air conditioned technology that hath wrought it! I see to thee, sharpen that look in your eyes – be not a zombie and do not cross the uncanny valley in reverse. Let the avatars come to you! They are anyway… can you not hear their slow steady march, all amplified in THX?
PS – No disrespect meant to Channing or Taylor Lautner – I think they’re both heads and shoulders above the norm as far as acting in teen-targeted films goes, and I understand the teen appeal of a ‘blank’ faced boy – it enables one to project an array of things onto him, like nonthreatening attraction. But I’ve seen this blank look mirrored in the faces of kids in the streets, so it’s meta, man, it’s a meta thing. Or maybe I’m just getting old, and I’m afraid of one day seeing completely believable, valley-crossed CGI recreations of a long dead stars, like Groucho Marx or Bogart.