Had a long sprawling conversation in a public house last night about many things. One of the things which cropped up a few times was the way that culture, mass market culture, is tailored to appeal to the most people, thereby theoretically maximising profit. “Obviously” if you appeal to as many people as possible you will get more people to pay to see, read, watch, listen or whatever to your art.
Art is by definition individual to the creator and the consumer. If we tailored all our art to appeal to the masses we’d have no innovation. Oh wait a minute we don’t. Hollywood is so bereft of clear critical faculties they don’t know what’s good or bad. These days it seems almost every film that gets a “major” release is a re-write of a formerly successful film or video game. Max Payne. Resident Evil. The Day The Earth Stood Still. If it’s not a remake it’s a look-a-like knee-jerk copycats of either a specific film or a few other films which were successful. Like the years all movies have been about sharks. Or meteors. Or Mars. Or Gladiators. Or aliens. Or zombies. Or talking animals. Or CG.
Think back on the classic films you love. The books you read when you were a teenager that have lived with you all your life. The classic albums which even as a middle aged old fart like me you get on every new format as they arise and play to death almost every day. The art, the paintings the installations, the sculpture.
Are they a retread of something that went before or are they an original thought? Are they targetted to appeal to a mass audience or are they or were they potentially niche interests? Do they stand up well over time? Do they resemble other similar works of the time or are they “out of time” or even ahead of their time? Do they have real meaning or were they designed by committee? Are they an honest expression of what an artist thinks about the world? Do they have something to say? Are they the authentic stirrings of the human mind and soul or are they the essence of the vacuum formed stencil painted crap that we have become used to?
Modern culture is on a commercial treadmill and driven by greed there is a definite and by now terminal lack of innovation in books, music and movies and TV. “New writing” is just seen by what I’d call “big media” as a kind of starting point, a conversation piece. It’s just fodder to be fed into a literary sausage machine and come out like everything else. Maybe some of the originality can be extracted and essenced or at least a little might rub off and give you an edge on our competitors in the market. The shareholders would complain if you release anything risky, right?
As writers we must always defend originality, fight for freedom of speech, take risks, say things in new ways, and constantly remind people of the beauty and turmoil and suffering and evil that exist in the lives of real human beings. Our work should touch and change everyone who reads it. The written word is mankind’s legacy to its children. Do we want that legacy to be, yeah sorry we couldn’t think of anything original to say so here’s some shit we found and spruced up a bit?
Think about it. You find the love of your life, you can think of nothing except her lips, her eyes, her smile (oh her smile) and yet on a date with her you don’t bother washing and pick some flowers from her neighbours garden?
We deserve more as a species, we demand more as functioning human beings than to be treated like shills, conned out of a few bucks here and there, promised a holy grail but delivered a plastic cup.