Listen. Do you hear it? Me neither, and that’s the problem. That empty white noise is the sound of no one having anything to say in mainstream entertainment.
Even in the best of times, creativity in the top grossing/rated works in film, music and television is about as common as water in the desert – but it’s been far too long since we’ve had any torrential downpouring of creativity.
Big-budget blockbuster season has given viewers an overblown series of box-office explosions and left nothing of particular merit, just more sound and thunder signifying nothing. New bands I hear sound too much like old ones too often for my comfort even on my long beloved CD101, to say nothing of the drivel Clear Channel bombards us with. TV is dried and cracked wasteland, with traditional family sitcoms and reality shows sandwiched between 20 versions of “CSI” and “Law and Order.”
Lately the best stuff, for me at least, seems to commenting on how dull and distancing modern life feels – material that doesn’t shout “Look at me!” as much as whispering, “Yeah, things are a bit crap at the moment; I know how you feel.” Films like the brilliant “Shaun of the Dead” and “Garden State.” Death Cab for Cuties’ lonely and spacious album “Transatlantism” also springs to mind.
To some extent it’s a result of me and my own apathy toward things I’ve seen before. I thrive on absorbing the new, and I have little tolerance for anything too derivative or repetitive. I like work that crackles with thought and clearly came from a heart and mind that believes in what they are putting out into the world. I want a meteor shower of ideas, innovation and insight. Stuff that speaks about the now.
It’s not just me and my own ennui. The business side of things encourages blandness, even rewards it. Understandably, companies that produce music and film want to make money, but corporate greed has bleached any individuality from the work in a effort to fatten bank accounts. In an attempt to reach the widest possible audience, they encourage blankness so as to offend no one and say nothing. The truly sad thing is that this works – the public demands so little from its entertainment and just buy whatever slop in put in its trough.
It’s easy to look at pop culture as a trivial thing, but it is actually a gauge of what our society thinks, feels and values at given moment. That’s why I find the silence so unsettling – it says something vaguely disturbing about where we are as a culture. So to any one out there in these arts: If you have anything to say just say it, say something, anything. I’m listening.
James Moore is a senior in journalism. He can be reached for comment and recommendations at Moore.firstname.lastname@example.org.