Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle, a writer for the New York
Times explores the theory that movie attendance is tanking
because the quality of all too many mega-hyped “major movies” has
plunged into the crapper. Well, no shit, Sherlock — what was
your first clue? Pearl Harbor? Alexander?
Mission Impossible II? What’s really news about this story is
that it’s news — a startling break from the blame-the-audience
thinking so prevalent in Big Media over the last decade.
It’s been most egregious in the music industry, which has spent
most of that decade desperately trying to pin the blame for anemic
sales on anything other than the fact that it spends its marketing
budget pushing no-talent assclowns like Limp Bizkit and ‘N Sync (and
yes, for you Office Space fans, Michael Bolton too).
“Nah,” say the record-company executives to themselves, “It couldn’t
be that. I know, let’s blame file-sharing! Bad audience.
Newspaper circulation is in a death-spiral so steep that at least
four major-city dailies and a national syndicate have been caught
making up millions of readers out of thin air just to stay
viable-looking to advertisers. Could it due to be shallow
print-the-press-release reporting, political bias, and a surfeit of
sensationalism and fluff? “Nah,” say the newspaper executives to
themselves, “It couldn’t be that. I know, let’s blame the
Internet! Bad audience. Baaad!“
Of course, one could argue that Big Media is simply taking its cue
from the Democratic Party. (Yes, I know one of those is a wholly-owned
subsidiary of the other, I just can’t keep straight which one is on
top.) If Republicans are beating the stuffings out of you in every
election, it couldn’t be because you have no program beyond screaming
“George Bush is eeeeevil!” and licking the anus of the Designated
Victim Group Of The Week. “Nah,” say the DNCers to themselves, “It
couldn’t be that. I know, let’s blame talk radio and Karl
Rove! Bad audience. Baaad!“
What’s really going on here is a confluence of trends. One, which
the Times article points out, is that audiences are
getting better at seeing through hype and rejecting the crap. A second
that the article doesn’t highlight is the proliferation of media
channels and the rise of the Internet. Blogs, cable, satellite radio,
podcasts, remix culture, — these are all part of a trend that
gives media consumers far more choices than they’ve ever had before.
Which means more alternatives and less temptation to settle
for the crap.
Which means that, exactly as audiences have been breaking free of
media oligopolies, media bosses have been telling them they should
kiss their chains. Bad audience. Baaad! But wait —
perhaps this Times article, brought to you by the Grey
Lady aka Dowager Empress of Big Media, is a leading indicator that
some tenuous contact with reality is beginning to develop in the
That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But I’m not holding my breath.
Here are some indicators to watch for. More movies like the
Rings trilogy or the Harry Potter sequence that
actually seem to have some kind of heart and respect for their
sources. More pop bands like Lynkyn Park and System of a Down that can
actually play their instruments and seem to have some ideas that weren’t
test-marketed to death by some soulless A&R hack. Newspapers where you
can actually tell the war news from the partisan editorial ax-grinding
(sorry, can’t think of any of those). And — OK, I know this
is a stretch, but stay with me here — a Democratic Party with
an actual platform.
Hear that, media bosses? Best you get it together, because here’s
the sentence that will spell your doom otherwise: I have choices,
and I know how to use them.