Welcome to the Future
The mainstream media gospel says that people’s attention spans have gotten so short they’ll only tolerate about 6 seconds before you lose them. (Never mind that movies are still about 2 hours long, and most dramatic films run longer than that.) The Church of Hollywood (with branch locations on Madison Ave., in San Francisco, and in media capitals around the world) also says you have to use really fast, aggressive cutting, digital effects whenever possible, relentless orchestral music, and so much image manipulation that even “serious” films look like comic books.
Discuss producing a media project with just about anybody, and they’ll tell you you have to have lots of all of the above or nobody will watch. It’s treated like fact, but it’s actually dogma; and like most dogma, it’s born of ignorance and meant to create a passive, unthinking audience. It also happens to be incredibly wrong.
There are some pretty strong indicators of entertainment’s future, and they don’t honor any of the above. If people only have 6-second attention spans, why has stuff like 1-hour-or-longer livestreams, 7-minute one-take, no-edits dance videos, and even online telethons racked up view numbers that make network shows look like the creaky, stumbling relics they are? If we can’t live without quick cutting, wall-to-wall effects, pummeling music, and endless manipulation, why do tens of millions of people repeatedly watch basically raw footage with no cuts at all?
There’s more than enough evidence to refute the dogma, and yet it persists, and it persists because producers are too insecure to defy what they think are the audience’s expectations and needs. They’re stuck within the mainstream media bubble, terrified to second-guess unfounded truths, trembling like wet kittens in a storm.
There are tons of examples I could offer up to refute the media gospel, but consider the amateur dance video at the top of this page, which has gotten almost 43 million views.
You can’t spend any amount of time watching videos online without coming across stuff like this. And it shows that amateurism can be a kind of blessing. Knowing they can’t match Hollywood flash, the creators keep it simple. (Conversely, online attempts to ape Hollywood are inevitably painful to watch.) In other words, lack of access to the means of production tends to keep these guys honest. (Relatively speaking.)
This is a complicated argument, but it’s also a really important one because it shows exactly how hollow mainstream entertainment has become. The real pleasure lies elsewhere, outside the realm of Hollywood’s increasingly sadistic shock therapy. I’ll present more evidence in a future post.
Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and