I can remember being a teenager and hearing some older folks discuss MPAA ratings. They lamented that movies used to be rated for how good they were rather than how bad they were. A few years have gone by, and now it seems to me that the bulk of our most popular entertainment in one way or another celebrates the unwholesome and degrading, rather than the uplifting.
Part of this can be chalked up to common generational rift. As kids strive to come of age, they naturally find ways to differentiate themselves from their parents. This usually leads to some degree of rebellion. Since it is the parent’s job to promote the good and the normal (significant elements of the glue that holds society together), teens often strive against these mores to one degree or another. You know the routine. Wait a few years and the cycle repeats in the next generation.
Is it just my perception, or is entertainment as a whole becoming increasingly vulgar. HazZzMat’s Wonker thinks so. In this post he says:
“Today, if you're a guy entertainer, you look ugly, have the everyday speech patterns of a drunken sailor, have utter contempt for women, and convey emotion by screaming as loudly as you can, aided and abetted by state-of-the-art amplification. If you're a girl entertainer, you dress like a whore, have the everyday speech patterns of a streetwalker, have utter contempt for yourself, and convey emotion by screaming as loudly as you can, aka, "belting," aided and abetted by state-of-the-art amplification.”
And it’s no better in the film industry. One Hollywood old timer recently remarked that the only thing that could reliably be said about the Oscars in each of the last 30 years is that this is the worst year yet.
Wonker contends that CD sales are down because “people are tired of paying money for engineered crap.” So they are bypassing the industry with things like “single-music downloads and self-created podcasts.” Wonker also thinks that many consumers simply aren’t buying into entertainment content that is heavily politically charged. I would suggest that entertainment throughout time has often focused on political issues, but I don’t know how well that stuff sold at the time.
I see some of what Wonker is talking about just among my own teenagers. They create their own music and swap their songs with friends that also create their own music. They buy individual songs off the Internet. Come to think of it, so do I. The reason people are buying fewer CDs is that CDs aren’t the only game in town any more. Nor does ownership of a pile of CDs confer the kind of status it once did.
While I agree that the bulk of mainstream entertainment is increasingly coming to resemble raw sewage, there are far more entertainment options today than ever before. Just during my lifetime there has been a massive explosion of entertainment options. A few decades ago, the radio and the cinema used to be the only serious offerings, aside from the old Victrola and occasional live band performances at the local dance hall. Then came TV. Then came cassette tapes (I’d like to skip over the whole 8-track thing, if you please), video recorders, CDs, DVDs, and electronic files that can be stored on flash memory. Who can say for sure what is coming next? Live performances have proliferated as well.
I agree with entertainment critic Michael Medved, who says that not only is there more entertainment content available than ever before; there is also higher quality entertainment content available than ever before. But it’s more targeted than most of the mainstream stuff and can be somewhat difficult to find. You usually find out about it from a friend rather than from a media source. Or maybe your friend produces it herself/himself.
What will happen as technology improves to make it possible for serious video production to be done by amateurs the way it happens with music today? If present trends continue, the market will diffuse and more high quality content will become available. But the mainstream will continue to become louder, more frenetic, and raunchier.