Is Tik Tok the New Cinema of Attraction?

Although launched in 2017, the video app TikTok has really taken off in the past year with the introduction of Eboys, VSCO girls, and a whole generation of tweens who never experienced Vine. Any seasoned Vine consumer will argue that TikTok doesn’t have the ability to replace the entertainment outlet that Vine gave our generation (and they are correct). But there has grown a niche in the entertainment world in which TikTok has a home: spectacles.

Photo Credit: TikTok

When you scroll through TikTok (or watching compilations on YouTube) it becomes clear fairly quickly that no one is trying to tell a story through their TikToks, and if they were, who would watch them? Our society has always prided itself on our desire for storytelling; however, TikToks demonstrate a severe lack of storytelling. Whether it’s someone getting caught playing the recorder poorly, an Eboy transformation, or a clip of someone dancing perfectly to the music, we’re waiting for that “it” moment, not a story. There is no beginning, middle, and end, but instead, this “it” moment becomes one of many spectacles we enjoy.

Here’s a spectacular compilation of some Howie Mandel Tik Toks.

Why spectacles? It might seem like an odd word for me to use to describe a TikTok, but what’s important is the history of spectacles in entertainment. At the very beginning of filmmaking, directors like George Melies (famous for A Trip to the Moon) also wouldn’t tell stories. Melies was particularly famous for his use of filmmaking as a way to showcase magic tricks. In one short film, he makes a woman disappear, tries to bring her back twice, the first time bringing back only a skeleton and the second time returning her. This use of film as a way to capture spectacles became known as the “Cinema of Attraction.” The films were attractions, much like that of an amusement park or carnival. Sometimes when we watch films from the Cinema of Attraction, they seem uninteresting, but these films were the norm. Early filmmakers were capturing spectacles, not stories, just like TikTok-ers are today.

You can watch one of George Méliès’ films, The Vanishing Lady, here.

Photo Credit: IMDB

The moral of the story is, next time your aunt or uncle tries to discredit our generation by saying we have short attention spans and aren’t interested in media with substance, remind them of the beginnings of film. A spectacle is just as much a form of entertainment as a story is. 


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