There’s a phenomenon that I’ve only recently become aware of that, I guess, is a pet-peeve of mine.
When a piece of entertainment reaches critical mass, anything new that happens within that property suddenly becomes newsworthy. That in and of itself doesn’t bug me. Like if Harrison Ford gets his foot smashed on the set of The Force Awakens, it’s news. But there’s a line to be drawn here because entertainment journalists have to exercise editorial judgment in what is and isn’t considered newsworthy, and this tends to either follow and thus reinforce pop culture trends, crowding out any and all competition.
Where this grates on me the most is reportage about popular TV series, mostly of the current serial variety that is in vogue these days.
Now, if a special interest fan-site wants to track every single new episode of a show, that’s fine. You’d expect that. But what happens is national rags pick and choose their “it” show and then report on that. This article in Vanity Fair about Westworld is a good example. Westworld used to be a favorite of mine–the original. So I’ve got nothing against the idea of making a TV show of it other than the fact that I’m a little tired of Hollywood raiding the attic again and again, especially when it involves putting fricken JJ Abrams in charge of it, after soiling Star Trek and (IMHO) delivering a ho-hum Star Wars. But what bugs me is articles like this start out with this central presumption: that the readership is so universally enthralled with a show that it is imperative to dedicate precious wood-pulp to covering every new wrinkle of the unfolding plot.
The problem is that simply the act of writing gushing fanboi/fangirl articles like these serve to promote or reinforce the status quo. It’s a feedback-loop. There may be some OTHER really great stuff to watch, but you won’t know it because of the group-think effect of everyone getting on the Westworld/Game of Thrones/Walking Dead/Outlander bandwagon and associated national watercooler discussion.
While there’s a part of me that does miss the old days of three networks and the communal experience of knowing everyone’s sitting around watching a Charlie Brown special or the M*A*S*H series finale, that’s not the world we live in today. While entertainment writers will claim they are merely reflecting the popularity these shows already have, I also feel that this sort of coverage elevates that popularity to almost national cult levels, making it difficult for anybody else’s creative voice to be heard. This is made even worse by the fact that people increasingly get all their news from Facebook and therefore the right sidebar of Trending topics becomes the world’s tastemaker.
The internet was once thought of as the great leveler as it gave everyone a voice. However, what we’ve seen is greater and greater media consolidation. Disney in particular is dangerously monopolistic, as it owns its own classic properties in addition to Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars. So while it’s true that the barrier to entry has been shattered and everyone can have a voice, I’m not so sure that people are really listening to more voices these days than they did back in the days of the three networks. When it comes to popularity, there seems to only be huge media events on the one end and ignored little art-house fare on the other, with narcissistic youtube “stars” somewhere in the middle, people who speak a lot of words and have lots of followers but who really have nothing to say.
Not exactly the utopia for content creators I once thought we could become…