The Death & Rebirth (Maybe) of American Entertainment

Death of American Entertainment

The evidence couldn’t be more obvious that it’s time to storm the entertainment Bastille and create some new ways to be engaged and amused.


The movies have been an exhausted form since the late ‘70s—we now get off not on watching movies but movies about movies, the kind of mental masturbation that’s the working definition of the Wasteland. TV has always been a wasteland, and only gets worse as it dresses itself up in cinematic trappings and indulges in more & more depraved behavior. And we’re now a few generations in to endless legions desensitized by “cartoon” violence and shooter games.


Every current form of mass entertainment pisses on subtleties, on any kind of discerning approach, instead producing bigger & bigger adrenalin jolts and ultimately encouraging us to do nothing but wallow in the mud. It’s like we’re all taking the Milgram Experiment, and failing miserably. It’s like we’re devolving.


People have had good—as in “life & death”—reasons lately to bemoan the state of the culture and wonder how things got so bad. But they seem oblivious to the entertainment choices they make every day that reinforce our blind rush to the bottom.


But there are some promising signs of new mass entertainment out there, forms that aren’t as smartass and soulless, that subordinate all the tech that can create a false sheen of competence and instead let you connect directly with the individuals and groups doing their damnedest to create things that feel true instead of just slick. Most of it derives in some way from street theater and has echoes of minstrels and vaudeville. It doesn’t just mimic the past but feeds from it—something that hasn’t happened in a long, long time.


In my previous post, I talked about the avoidable and kind of wrenching disaster of the Kickstarter/Netflix MST3K reboot but pointed out that from that wreckage emerged some encouraging glimpses of a brighter entertainment future. Next time, I’ll go into specifics.

Michael Gaughn

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review, Sound &
Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and now this.

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