What are people going to do in 20 years when they are trying to dress up for a 2000's party? I've often wondered that. What is going to be on classic rock stations in the year 2020 when Im driving my 2.3 kids around in my SUV? What will my generation be remembered for? What will my grandchildren study in American Lit?
I have terrible suspicions about the answers to these questions, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt who isn't asking them. I know for a fact who isnt interested in the pervading cultural theme of my life...the people who decide what on what it's going to be: the people who determine what will be on the radio when I turn it on, the people who publish books by Paris Hilton, the people who read the script for Meet Joe Black and decided Brad Pitt could probably sell enough tickets anyway.
It would take too long to speculate on how we got to this point exactly, although I often spend time thinking about it. I think the bottom line is that for at least a decade now all of the evolution that has driven pop culture is toward lower costs. Television and music producers have responded to the explosion in competition (cable TV, the internet, piracy, etc.) by flooding television with reality TV garbage and mass music artist signings by genre. The cornerstone of reality television is the cheap production cost. You would think from the volume of reality shows that your friends and neighbors really have an interest in this stuff, but what is being pitched to the studios is bottom line numbers. In an era when genuinely good shows earn less than they used to because of the amount of competition, studios and investors are turning easier bucks by putting out more reality crap. Why is reality so much cheaper? The actors aren't considered actors since the shows are "real", as such, the cast and crew are all non-union which sidesteps all of the SAG requirements. The onscreen personalities are paid in "celebrity", i.e. just enough money to keep them going and the opportunity to be on a big television show. Many times they are put in the role of quasi-"contestant" and they compete for an amount of money that may seem large but is exponentially cheaper than paying a dozen C-list onscreen personalities.
The most effective producers in this paradigm are the most brutal accountants, the people who are able to squeeze the most from people for the least. That spark of creativity and ability to do something unique stopped being the hot commodity in Hollywood, and we all have to suffer through the substance vacuum.
The thing that we lose sight of is that we aren't contributing anything anymore. There is almost nothing that major studios and labels offer that is thought-provoking or insightful or even very funny. For every hour we spend watching someone eat goat crap or play dodgeball, we are just treading water. Wasting time. That is the goal of all our modern entertainment. Turn off your brain for a couple hours. What is more...that is our pervading cultural theme. That is what we will be remembered for...wasting time. I appreciate people trying to make a buck, but America should demand more for its attention. When I look back on my life I won't give a damn about Full House reruns or Who Wants to Marry a Douche Bag?...and I hope my life is important enough to me to not waste too many hours that I could have been making memories with.