We hear the complaints after every blockbuster, vampire romance novel, reality TV show, bloody video game and hit pop song: the entertainment produced by mega corporations lacks substance and thoughtfulness. The characters in entertainment are flat, blockbuster plot-lines are hardly coherent and there’s a scarcity of originality in these mediums.
There are several reasons this bothers me. It is easy to claim that it’s no big deal; that all of these things are just entertainment and have no impact on us. But the fact is, consuming mass content means that pop culture affects our lives. Technology has made our world move faster and given us more free time. So what do we do? Consume pop culture, constantly.
Now don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing inherently bad about consuming pop culture. However, I feel that being so inundated by mediocre content can only have a negative impact on us. I don’t think the entertainment industry creates such shallow content maliciously; it’s done to turn a profit. But then the creative forces involved receive a tiny portion of the profits (authors who use major publishing companies to distribute their work typically get 10 percent of the profits of the novel they wrote), and the conglomerate reaps the rewards. After all, the artist usually can’t make it without these businesses, as they have no way of distributing their content otherwise.
The problem is that this system creates content that is all the same, because the conglomerates think the familiar will sell more. Hollywood is not going to stop portraying women as sex objects for men to consume until teenage boys stop gawking at them, nor will they stop degrading people on reality TV shows until we quit laughing. For decades, even centuries, these industries have been able to get away with mass production of mediocre “art” because it was impossible for individuals to compete with them.
But with our technology-inundated generation, that time could end.
It is now possible for artists to create their work in a variety of mediums and distribute it around the world in seconds through technology, an unimaginable concept just a few decades ago. Our generation has a unique opportunity to create the art that we want to create, not what is dictated by mega corporations. Just as Macklemore wrote The Heist without the help of a major label to massive success and author Amanda Hocking self-published her novels as ebooks and has made over $2 million for it, so can artists of our generation succeed in the entertainment industry without giving up their artistic integrity and conforming to industry standards.
Admittedly, this still relies on distributors, who simply come in the form of tech companies instead of conglomerates. But when I, as an aspiring author, can retain my artistic license and get 70 percent of each sale of my work publishing independently, or choose to part with my integrity and get 10 percent of profits by using a major publisher, the choice is a no-brainer.
I think the millennial generation is the one that can make a change here. Even if it simply results in the big corporations changing their ways, I’d prefer that to retaining the status quo of mass-produced drivel. Supporting independent work and choosing artists over giant companies is something I feel will work in our favor, so let’s start doing it and make a change.
Collegian Columnist Dan Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danriceman.