What happened? How did we move so quickly from the Golden Age of Television to being awash in an ocean of mediocrity and garbage? And why is the quality of movies, which has been going downhill for 20 years, suddenly reached what feels like the barrel bottom of all barrel bottoms?
Of course, there’s always been lousy TV and movies. We shouldn’t look to the past through rose-colored glasses, which is easy when only the best of the past survives in repeats, reruns, our memory, and personal collections. Perspective is crucial in judging the present, and as someone who loves movies and TV, I think I have that.
Ever since I was a little kid and right up until around 2001, going to the movies was a real treat, pure joy. Sure there was the occasional stinker, but those were so rare the idea that going to the movies was a waste of my time was never a consideration. Now it’s a chore. Now I expect to be disappointed. Is it my middle age? Nope. Good movies still delight. Is it my politics? Nope. Oliver Stone is my favorite living director. I can separate politics from art, lectures from theme, and obnoxious personalities from character.
As far as television, a good memory is not required to remember the Golden Age of The Sopranos, The Shield, Breaking Bad, Lost, The Americans, and on and on… For more than a decade, TV was an embarrassment of riches we could hardly keep up with. Now, with a startlingly low number of exceptions, TV is just an embarrassment.
So what happened? Why is pretty much everything so mediocre, awful, forgettable, and a waste of time?
Three reasons. There are more than three, but these are the main ones…
Hollywood has been producing left-wing movies for as long as there’s been a Hollywood. This was especially true during the second Golden Age between 1968 and 1977. But those were fantastic left-wing movies that celebrated individualism, questioned the powerful, told the truth, fought for a racial melting pot, and distrusted authority. Those movies taught us to stand up for ourselves, to look past skin color, never to conform, that sex was fun, to lift a middle finger to anything that demanded conformity, and to mock those who shame and scold. However, this was conveyed in a compelling way through theme and story, as opposed to today’s pompous moralizing.
Today’s Woketardery, which has infected movies and television like a parasite that sucks the art out of everything, is the complete opposite of what the 70s stood for. Today the sexless shamers, the scolds, and conformists are presented as heroes, while those who dare color outside the lines are smeared as sexists, racists, and selfish.
The liberal filmmakers who came of age in the Raging Bull/Easy Rider era celebrated Americanism like no other era. Today, the Woke Gestapo attack this live-and-let-live credo as toxic masculinity, imperialism, privilege, intolerance, and the selfishness of rugged individualism.
This has destroyed the art for three crucial reasons: 1) it’s a violation of human nature, 2) our so-called “heroes” have gone from imperfect, self-deprecating individualists to the very unlikable, uptight, conformist squares of moral perfection we should be mocking, and, 3) desperate to prove their purity, cowardly writers and directors destroy their own art with woke lectures and plots. The theme comes second, if at all.
- Talent Spread Too Thin
This is a bigger problem than most imagine. There are very few people who know how to create a good movie or television show. Putting the pieces together to tell a story visually requires a unique set of skills most of us (including me) do not have. A competent writer, director, producer, editor, and actor is like a baseball player who can hit .250 in the Major Leagues. Imagine what would happen to the quality of the overall game if we quadrupled the number of baseball teams. To fill those slots, standards of excellence would no longer be so excellent.
This is what’s happening to movies and TV.
In 2002, there were 182 scripted television shows. Last year, there were 559.
In 2002, 223 American movies were produced. Last year, there were 1,357.
Keep in mind that this number does not include the barrels of so-called “unscripted” television — all these reality shows that also require writers, producers, directors, and editors.
In other words, there’s a lot of mediocrity playing the game. A whole lot of .150 batters are suiting up.
Creating a Sopranos, Mad Men, or 24 requires a Murderer’s Row of artists, which is impossible when you explode the number of Major League teams from 30 to over 100.
- #MeToo Movement
Whatever you think of the #MeToo movement, from a purely objective standpoint, it has culled dozens and dozens of gifted film and television artists from the fold.
Whatever you think of Joss Whedon, the man knew how to make movies and television shows.
Whatever you think of Louis C.K., the guy made great TV.
This is far from a complete list: Harvey Weinstein, Scott Rudin, Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey, Geoffrey Rush, John Lasseter, Bill Cosby, Dustin Hoffman, Roman Polanski, James Franco, Jeremy Piven, Max Landis, Morgan Spurlock, James Toback, Jeffrey Tambor, Les Moonves, Brett Ratner, Garrison Keillor… The list goes on and on, and then there’s the other list, that list of talented writers, producers, show-runners, and producers who are not household names.
When you already have a finite pool of talent…
Our one hope is that in a few years, all this on-the-job training begins to pay dividends in the form of a more quality product, but that can’t happen without removing the cancer of Woke.
The good news is that while we are in this Garbage Era, there is a whole world of magnificent art available on home video, an infinite oasis from the past to be discovered and rediscovered.