Sunday, February 15, 2009

Please stop confessing

I'm pretty fascinated with titles. I don't think a title makes or breaks a movie, but a bad title definitely hurts a good movie, and a good title definitely helps a bad movie. Fewer people will be induced into seeing the former, and more into seeing the latter.

I've noticed patterns over the years, some of which I may touch on in other postings. A couple years ago, for example, it seemed like every movie that came out had more than five words in the title, usually with a colon jammed in there somewhere. Then for awhile after that, as a market correction, every movie title was just a single word, or a single word preceded by the definite article (The). In fact, one could say that's still going on. (I really do have a post planned for this one. Patience.)

A lot of people don't notice these things, but I do.

But throughout all this, there has been one constant. (There's probably been more than one, but I'm focusing on one in particular today. That's kind like saying "My favorite thing is," when all you really mean is "The following is something I would like to discuss.") The constant is that cinema has seen a slew of films titled Confessions of a So-and-So. Yesterday, Confessions of a Shopaholic was released, continuing the tradition.

I was curious to see how wide and deep this tradition runs, so I searched IMDB by the word "confessions." There were 12 hits that were considered an exact match, some of them just called Confessions, some of them using Confessions as an abbreviation from the more common full title. (The fact that some movies have several different titles, often depending on the country in which they're being released, is also a subject for another post). Beyond those 12, there were 210 partial matches.

I know we're talking about all movies and TV shows that have ever existed, plus anything else that IMDB tracks (video games? plays? instructional videos?), but 210 still seems like quite a lot.

To name just those from this century, in the order they were listed from the search results (most searched?):

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (2002)
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004)
Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber (2005)
Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie (2002)
Confessions of a Head Hunter (2000)
Confessions of a Superhero (2007)
Confessions of a Thug (2005)
Confessions of an American Bride (2005)
Confessions of an Animation (2004)
Confessions of a Burning Man (2003)
Confessions of a Late Bloomer (2005)
Confessions of a Pit Fighter (2005)
Confessions of a Porn Addict (2008)
Confessions of a Teen Idol (2009)
Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman (2006)
Confessions of a Dangerous Mime (2004)
Confessions of a Diary Secretary (2007)
Confessions of a Drag Queen (2006)
Confessions of a Gambler (2007)
Confessions of a Go-Go Girl (2008)
Confessions of an Action Star (2008)
Confessions of a Bondage Lover (2003)
Confessions of a Dog (2005)
Confessions of a Gangsta (2006)
Confessions of a German Soldier (2008)
Confessions of a Hustler: The Movie (2000)
Confessions of a Matchmaker (2007)
Confessions of a Memory Eater (2009)
Confessions of an IRA Informer (2004)
Confessions of an Italian American (2007)
Confessions of an Ivy League Bookie (2010)
Confessions of a Peep Show Junkie (2006)
Confessions of a Rat Pack Party Girl (2010)
Confessions of a Reluctant Bra Buyer (2005)
Confessions of a Slacker (2007)
Confessions of a Sociopath (2002)
Confessions of a Telecommuter (2004)
Confessions of a Wall Street Shoeshine Boy (2009)
Confessions of Captain Freedom (2006)
The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-Up (2009)
Stan Collymore: Confessions of a Premiership Footballer (2004)

Aren't you glad I restricted myself to only years that start with the number 2, and only titles using the construction "Confessions of" somewhere in them? Disclaimer: Some of the above titles may be porn movies.

So why are all these people confessing? Well, it would stand to reason, a person who has something to confess is a person who has sinned. That fits many of the people on this list -- though there are certain ones where it doesn't seem to (Confessions of a Superhero, for example). That's where the second meaning comes in -- a "confession" as a way of shedding light on a heretofore obscure or mysterious person/job, the details of whose day-to-day life would fascinate someone's socks off. Either way, when a movie is titled Confessions of ..., you're supposed to feel like you're getting the real skinny on the way that person operates.

So how did this tradition begin? It had to have its origins in literature, right? Well, even though the internet helped me out by finding all those movie titles, it failed me in terms of researching what inspired them. I tried all kinds of combinations of relevant search terms in google, but that brought me no closer to figuring out where this whole thing began. was no help either. My English professors would be so disappointed in me. However, this might bring back of their some pride: I can tell you that Thomas de Quincey wrote an autobiographical work called Confessions of an English Opium-Eater in 1821, because I read it. What I can't tell you is whether or not his title was paying homage to previous writers.

I think the question really is, can we retire this already? I understand that it's probably more interesting to call the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic than The Shopaholic or I Was a Teenage Shopaholic or Shopaholic: The Life and Times of Rebecca Bloomwood or just plain Shopaholic. But it should take no further evidence than IMDB's exhaustive list of confessional titles to realize that this is totally played out.

Of course, in this particular case, it was based on a book of the same name. But this blog is called The Audient, not The Reader, so I'm stuck pointing fingers at the movies.

Now excuse me while I go change my blog title to Confessions of a Frustrated Film Critic.

No comments: