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Sep 24, 2017

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opinion22
by Darryl Roberts
Magazine Issue: Vol. 2.2
O P I N I O N
deus ex machina
N E X T P A G E >
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deus ex machina

Before I founded Wine X Magazine, I was a screenwriter in Hollywood/Los Angeles. There was a term that we used in screenwriting and/or development process called deus ex machina. Roughly translated it means the intervention of a God-like figure or some external force to bring a story to a meaningless or non-relevant end. Let's use the following as an example:

You go to the movies to see a western, a true western, with horses and heroes and sheriffs and Clint Eastwood and bad guys and all that, you know, western stuff. As the film progresses, the plot and story line stay true to the genre. In other words, no X-files or giant lizards or weird stuff going on. Now, it comes down to the climax of the story, and our hero is trapped in what is basically an inescapable situation. Realistically, there's just no credible way for him to escape. He's surrounded by 30 godzillion bad guys (led by one really big ugly bad guy), he's wounded, barely alive, blood gushing from every orifice, he's got no gun, no hope... it's just not looking good for him. The main villain (the really big ugly bad guy) now slowly walks up to our hero and stands towering over him. We have the feeling this is pretty much it for our hero.

CUT TO: a close-up of the big ugly bad guy as he mumbles something inaudible at our hero (inaudible because at this point in the film the screenwriters were basically out of any clever dialog). He turns his head and spits some God-ugly brown glop (you have to do this in a western, it's Hollywood's unwritten law).

CAMERA tilts down slowly to reveal the bad guy's hand drawing the gun from his holster.

CUT TO: our hero on the ground: how pathetic.

BACK TO: the ugly bad guy as he levels his gun on our hero.

CLOSE UP: of the gun's hammer as it's slowly cocked with a confident thumb.

BACK TO: our hero: he says his last prayer.

EXTREME CLOSE UP: the bad guy's eye: he squints as he carefully takes aim.

FULL FRAME QUINTESSENTIAL SHOT: of the bad guy's forefinger slowly drawing back the trigger and...

BAMM! A space ship suddenly appears overhead. Out of nowhere. Oh, the humanity! A death ray vaporizes the godzillion bad guys, including the really big ugly one. A beam of light shoots down and miraculously heals our hero. The space ship suddenly disappears as quickly as it appeared.

DISSOLVE TO: our hero on his trusty horse with a beautiful woman, all healed, riding off into the sunset. The end.

That's deus ex machina -- the ending doesn't make any sense. It's not realistic in relation to the rest of the story. It's not probable. And it's definitely not good screenwriting. But it works. It's a movie. You can get away with it there. It saves the day and creates an uplifting happy ending, and everyone leaves the theater happy. It's convenient.

(If you're interested in seeing deus ex machina in all its screenwriting glory, check out '70s Japanese cinema. They were the masters.)

I'm constantly talking to people in the wine industry, especially those older than I, about the problem of younger adults not drinking wine (only 4 to 6 percent of Generation X drinks wine). I try to explain that if the industry doesn't take drastic actions right now to reach this generation and remedy this problem it won't survive. It can't. It would be like going through Prohibition again. But I continually get the same frustrating, canned answer over and over again from just about everyone I talk to, and that answer is: "it'll get better" or "don't worry, they'll grow into it just like every other generation before them. You know, as they make more money and travel more and..." blah blah blah.

That answer, my friends, is deus ex machina. Because it doesn't make any sense. It's not realistic. And it's not probable.

It's a myth because there hasn't been one generation in this country that has "grown into wine" or incorporated wine into their lifestyle "simply because they grew older or made more money or traveled more." In fact, there's only been one generation in this country that has really "gotten into wine." And that's the Baby Boomers. But the wine boom of the seventies and eighties wasn't a result of the Boomers' age or the amount of money they made or how much they traveled. It was the result of an entire generation embracing wine; deciding to make wine their alcoholic beverage of choice. Wine became chic. Wine became "the" thing to drink. Ordering a glass of Chablis was cool. Boomers weren't making any more money than we're making now (probably less). They didn't travel more than we do (in fact, surveys reveal Gen Xers travel more than their parents did). And they weren't any more mature than we are. Wine was simply cool. Wine became the thing. Wine became the fad. And, if you want to know the truth, wine still is a fad. When per capita consumption of wine in this country hovers around two gallons per adult a year, you certainly can't call it an integral part of our society.

So if all this talk about "getting better" and "growing into wine" is just that, talk, why do people in the industry continue to believe it? Why have they started believing their own propaganda? Why? Because, like deus ex machina, it's convenient. It's a convenient answer to solving a problem that the wine industry simply doesn't know how to solve -- how to reach the next generation. Boomers market very successfully to Boomers. But -- and I always get in trouble for saying this, although it's the truth -- they have no idea on how to market to or reach their children. So instead of attacking the problem head-on, instead of creating a realistic answer to this problem, they simply make up myths to cover their marketing asses.

Well, the solution's really not that difficult. In fact, it's a lot easier than you think. Because if there's any generation in this country that has the potential to totally embrace wine,it's ours. We're a generation that's been raised on a plethora of rich, complex, flavorful foods. From ethnic cuisines to gourmet coffees to microbrews to designer drinks. And we demand these attributes in all the beverages we drink. We drink IPA's, not Bud. We buy Kenya AA coffee, not Folgers. We drink single malt scotch, designer martinis and enjoy fine cigars. The fact is our palates, by the time we're in our mid-twenties, are probably as sophisticated or more so than our parents'. And the fact is we're ready for wine now, and have been since we turned 21. So where in the hell has the wine industry been?

Preaching to the choir, that's where. Trying to steal a little piece of each other's pie. Well, that pie is continuing to shrink. And each piece is getting smaller and smaller. One of these days, unless something's done, unless we reach out to younger adults to get them interested in wine -- in other words bake more pies -- it's going to disappear altogether, and everyone's gonna go hungry. The fact is, unless we as an industry (and by "we" I mean everyone involved -- producers, distributors, retailers, restaurants and press) address the problem straight and come to terms with the fact that wine is a fad in this country with Baby Boomers, wine will, as fads do, come and go.

Hey, I don't know, maybe a space ship will land and 60 million young adults will jump out and magically became the future wine drinkers of this country. Or maybe when we all turn 40 we'll suddenly wake up and say, "Gee, I think I'll drink wine from now on." But I don't think that's likely. It's not probable. Quite frankly it ain't gonna happen. It's deus ex machina. And I'm not betting my future on a myth. And I don't think it's a good idea for the wine industry to either.

So how do we address this problem? How do we get this new generation to drink wine along with the other alcohol beverages they're consuming? Well, like a good screenwriter or story teller, we have to use our creativity, our wits, our resources and our experiences -- and we have to find real solutions to these real problems. A good start would be to support groups like the Wine BRATS, whose educational programs and chapter events reach thousands of young adults all over North America, making sure that these people's first experience with wine is a positive one.

We must develop advertising campaigns specifically designed for younger adult consumers. Let's show ads with twenty-somethings having fun with a glass of wine. Let's show younger consumers that wine isn't just a beverage for their parents. Let's prove to young adults that the wine industry is interested in them and that wine should be an integral part of their life.

What shouldn't we do? Let's not create any more of these exclusive, elitist wine festivals with wine-geek moderators. Let's not support any of these new "rich and famous" wine auctions aimed at billionaires. And, for God's sake, let's get rid of these stupid, staid, dumb, boring bottle shot wine ads with "Joe Shmo says...." or "Gold Medal Winner" plastered all over them. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If Gen X ain't drinkin' wine, they probably ain't readin' about it. And if they ain't readin' about it, they probably don't know (or care) who the hell Joe Shmo is or whether a wine won a bogus gold medal in some wine-geek competition somewhere. We all know what a wine bottle looks like. Get over it! Do something fun and creative for a change.

With all that said, and to start this process now, I've added an in-house advertising office here at Wine X to help develop and implement advertising campaigns and ads aimed at younger adults. But don't wait too long. Because if you do, in a couple years we'll all be standing on a street corner with cups in our hands.

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