Why do movies suck? Why does TV suck? Why? Because of you, that’s why.
Movies are not simply an artistic expression of a story told in a visual medium, they are a business and as such those who fund these movies are empowered to make back their investment and then some at any cost… including the quality of the movie. Movies are not funded out of altruism, but about of investment and an investment needs protection and protection means no chances are taken. A vital but controversial sub-plot might threaten foreign box office gross? It’s cut. Casting a huge pop star who is completely wrong for the lead just because he brings with him guaranteed fans despite the harm he does to the film? Of course. Cutting the budget of the film halfway into shooting for a variety of reasons that really have nothing to do with the film itself? It saves us money so fuck it.
Television is also a business first and a creative playground second. Bruce Paltrow once said “Television is just what happens between the commercials” and he is right, that you show you love would not exist if not for it’s potential to draw large audience numbers and therefore large advertising numbers. Commercials are why television exists, to sell you something and if selling you something is the goal then artistry gets pushed farther and farther down the path of necessity. It matters not how good something on television is, if it can’t get advertisers it stops being on television.
The reason these two (linked) industries exist is to make money and to do that successfully they must, invariably, cast their net to the broadest possible audience pool and by courting YOU they diminish the very product in which their hopes of ensnaring you are piled on. You have shown in the past, time and again, that you don’t want quality, you want poopy jokes and slapstick and farting and jive talking robots. You have shown them that quality is what dies at the box office and banality is what flourishes at the box office. In any media there is a thing called Narrowcasting, where a specific show/movie/magazine is made for a very narrow audience and not for the mainstream. This substream has the targeted advertisers for their, narrow, audience and they most likely can feed off one another just fine but narrowcasting is something that happens far less than you might think. Most independent movies could be filed under the banner of a narrowcast, they are making an art film for people that like gay romances set against the French art scene or they like quirky character comedies in a future where politics are a tabloid. Those can be narrowcast due to lower budgets that allow for sufficient reaping of a profit from a much more selective and smaller viewership… on the other hand the larger the budget of the movie the more that movie NEEDS to skew mainstream because, as I said before, this is a business and not altruism to the stable of visual art.
When you spend $400 MILLION dollars on a movie* you can’t do anything BUT aim for the middle and by taking that specific shot you must, MUST, make the movie for everyone which ends up pleasing no one. You can’t have a movie of this scale without something for the ladies, something for blacks, something for gays, something for latinos, something for action fans, something for comedy fans, something for… EVERYONE. By doing this you are bypassing the very idea of creating a quality product and simply creating product. The reason YOU are to blame for this is you let them do it and you GLADLY pay them for being talked down to. You go and see mass media disasters knowing they will be mainstreamed to the hilt and you in turn prove them to be doing the fiscally responsible thing. They aim to hit that “everyman” market with their product and who is the “everyman”? YOU are. They know that if they have a story that is above you they will lose you. They know you want the bad guy to get caught/killed and the cop to get him. They know you want the explosion in space (physics be damned). They know you want the sassy black sidekick with the ‘funny’ dialog. They know you want bland, unoriginal claptrap to ease the mind and not force any thoughts into the waning libido of the psyche. They are not making art, they are giving you what you want and you do not want art. Art does not sell to the mainstream and no matter what you think YOU are the mainstream.
Television is even worse when it comes to maintaining the mainstream status quo, television lives or dies by THE MIDDLE. They have to hit THE MIDDLE or they lose it all. Commercials are the sole reason television exists and yet we somehow apply a larger meaning to the programs on television because we desperately want to assure ourselves that we only watch it to stimulate the mind and not simply to kill time. Harlan Ellison once equated to working in television to “putting in time in the Egyptian House of the Dead”, that it was so frustrating how good, original, thought provoking works were dumbed down because “that won’t play in Peoria”. When it is that bad WORKING in television** that shows just how much worse it is to simply watch television and yet… the masses don’t care in the least. Unless you make something for television (broadcast television at least) that AIMS for the middle you have almost no chance to even get it on the air. Go back to that quote from Bruce Paltrow up there “Television is just what happens between the commercials”, that is not factious or snide, that is truth. The networks will put on ANYTHING that will get them ratings which will in turn get them advertisers, it does not matter to them if it’s something smart and biting like Max Headroom or something inane and insulting to the intelligence like According To Jim, what gets the larger viewership gets kept and the low rated yet highly engaging gets dumped. It’s all about money, art has no place in a business. Cable TV can afford to be a little more selective with what it puts on the air but only by a relatively small margin as they are still held to the standard of making money.
YOU allowed both movies and television to devolve into simple ratings chasers and box office counters. You go to see their Transformers movies even though you know that they are awful and by purchasing a ticket you are enabling more of this bullshit. YOU watch horrid sitcoms because you have no grasp over the fact that humor requires thought and sitcoms engage no thought least of all humor. YOU push them into being ratings whores, YOU do this and YOU MUST ATONE… am I getting through to you?
Honestly it’s more of a fluke when something good comes out of either industry as they don’t try to make something meaningful, it just happens sometimes… despite their best efforts to stop it.
*And note that is just an above the line budget, when below the line is considered it can be closer to $800 or $900 MILLION.
**And from my time there I can tell you Ellison is NOT wrong.