My favorite tv show, other than the Apprentice, is a show called Project Greenlight. Unknown screen writers enter a competition, and a screenplay is selected to be produced into a motion picture. An unknown director is selected to direct. The process is filmed in traditional Real World fashion. The show is interesting, because people love movies and want to see how they get made. And because most people believe that, if given the opportunity, they could write, or direct, or star in a motion picture, just as good or better than the movies that are actually made.
The show could be argued to prove the opposite: that the people who are making movies really do know what they are doing. The process works.
The show could also be argued to reveal the ways in which factors wholly unrelated to creativity – e.g. “star power”, personality conflicts, and budget – dictate what the results will be.
In any event, we are faced with a more and more democratic way of delivering art. Books can be self-published. Self-made journalists can simply fire up a blog. Our neighbors appear on Oprah and become the stars of reality tv shows. Every musician has his or her own CD.
The great thing is that everyone gets an opportunity. Everyone has a voice. There is a lot more entertainment and information and education available.
The bad thing is that a lot of it is garbarge.
Of course, a lot of the Establishment’s music, journalism, literature, and art is garbage too. But there was less of it. So you had a way of separating out the good from the bad.
Though more complex, the essential questions remain: Where are the standards? Who makes them? Are they doing a good job?
We have all heard the lay person call in to a radio or television show, or write in to a newspaper or magazine, with that one perceptive comment that all of the “experts” had missed.
And yet, for every one of those comments, there are the 50 completely worthless, boring, inane, often counter-productive “dittos” and “ums” and re-hashings of mis-guided and unsupported theories that are just being parroted from one person to the next.
You listen to talk radio these days, and half the show is about how “good” the calls are. Some guy on the Jim Rome Show reading from a homemade cue card delivers the same type of endless, sarcastic, Murphy Brown-style string of oblique references in a statement-joke format that got Dennis Miller fired from Monday Night Football. And then, you can’t tell whether – after congratulating the caller – the host is speaking off the cuff, reading prepared text, looking at something one of his writer’s slipped to him, or reciting an e-mail from a caller. Not to pick on him, necessarily. He is the “best” person on at that time, or I guess I wouldn’t listen to him. But, presumably, the person is on the radio precisely because he or she is more intelligent or entertaining and well-informed than the average caller.
Democratization is good. But it’s also limited. There just isn’t enough time in the day to listen to, and to read, and to watch, everything that everyone’s got to say. So it’s more important than ever that those people who have the keys to the airwaves, or the internet, or the studio, use them responsibly, so that the best of what people – any people – have to offer is placed on the pedestal.