by Brandon Smith, Alt Market:
I don’t write much about the entertainment industry because, frankly, I see it as mostly irrelevant to the bigger picture. Geopolitics and economics are the great driving force in our society, and the elitist groups that influence these elements should be our primary focus. That said, I have to admit that pop culture is a pervasive element of American public psychology, or at least it was until recently, and for decades the masters of pop culture all resided in Hollywood.
I have been a film buff for at least 20 years and I understand the business; I was even a screenwriter at one point and obtained an agent, but after dealing with the slimy behavior of some of the Hollywood ilk I was immediately disenchanted and decided to walk away. What I realized at the time was that the entertainment world is designed for a very specific purpose: To steal the energies of talented people and exploit those energies to achieve the most meaningless or manipulative endeavors.
The people that manage and own production and distribution companies are for the most part talent-less; like most narcopaths they have no capacity to be creative. So, they must feed on the intelligence and imagination of normal people in order to fuel their business. If it stopped there, then maybe the system would actually work and there could be some symbiosis. Many artistic people don’t handle business very well, so someone has to.
But, production creatures want more than money, they also want to micromanage the message of every film, TV show, video game and product that is released. They want to inject their own ideologies into every property. They do this because, as narcopaths, they desperately want to feel creative power even if it means hijacking the projects of others. They also do it because they have an agenda to influence society to accept or reject certain ideas; they want to mold the politics and values of the public.
Hollywood is ultimately about narrative control, not free expression. If you have a unique message or an interesting story to tell, they are going to twist it into something else, something that feels a lot like every other story that gets produced. Writers and directors with vision are either filtered out of the system or they are forced to conform to the propaganda model in order to get work. In the end, the people who get the most work and make it to the top are the people with no principles or morals; the people that will do anything to succeed.
Success and artistry are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts. On the other hand, free expression and artistry are mutually inclusive – You cannot have one without the other.
If you have been noticing a severe decline in the quality of American entertainment over the course of the past decade, you are not the only one. 70% of Americans say they would rather stay home and watch movies instead of paying to go to theaters, even if theaters reopen. Industry spin doctors will claim that the drop in interest is due solely to the coronavirus, but this is a lie. Domestic movie attendance hit a 25 year low in 2017, and this is part of a long term slide which was building for years beforehand.
It’s important to note that when I talk about “Hollywood” I’m including the internet streaming services, which are completely intertwined with the Hollywood machine. While streaming services have been growing (to a point) because of the pandemic lockdowns, the subscription jump is an anomaly compared to the past few years. Netflix in particular was on a severe slide in subscriptions before the pandemic hit, and with the “Cuties” child pornography debacle it will be interesting to see how many subscribers jumped ship in the final quarter of 2020.
Another interesting development among streaming services is that the most popular content is in most cases OLD content. Shows and movies from 10 to 20 years ago draw the most views by far. New content consistently fails, and this is happening among all demographics from Gen Z to Baby Boomers. This says a lot about modern Hollywood’s decline.
The point is, Hollywood was crashing well before the pandemic and the reason is clearly related to the change in priorities from making money and making consumers happy to making value statements regardless of logic or practicality. There is a massive evolution going on, and the public is growing tired of the controlled pop culture paradigm as well as the intrusive zealotry of new hyper-political messaging.
Most people are not stupid; maybe slow to catch on to certain things, but not stupid. They recognize when they are being bombarded with propaganda, and they don’t like it when the balance of storytelling and entertainment shifts too far in either direction, left or right.
Imagine if all movies, television, music, comics, etc. went full-bore evangelical Christian or Sharia Muslim and nothing else was allowed to be made? Well, that is what is happening with the leftist cult religion of social justice right now; they have attempted to suffocate all other points of view and it is alienating millions of people that prefer to see multiple points of view represented, as well as people that just want to be entertained rather than preached to.
Telling a story is actually easy as long as you follow certain rules.
Rule #1: Don’t talk down to your audience.
Rule #2: Don’t tell your audience how they should think or feel.
Rule #3: Tap into archetypes that people relate to.
Rule #4: Write characters that audiences can feel sympathy for.
Rule # 5: Audiences will not feel sympathy for narcopathic characters.
Rule #6: Your characters MUST have a story arch, even if they end up right back where they started.
Rule #7: Most stories have a message, but not all messages matter to most audiences.
Rule #8: People do not need to see themselves in a story in order to relate to a story.
Rule #9: Stories made by committee will usually fail, or they are quickly forgotten.
Rule #10: A superior storyteller is able to meet audience expectations while at the same time surprising them. “Subverting expectations” is a method for weak minded and lazy storytellers.
The current crop of people in Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general are completely incapable of following any of the rules above. Why? Because they don’t care anymore about telling good stories that inspire or entertain the public. They don’t even really care about the public and their money. In fact, they often show disdain and hatred for the public. The only thing they care about is force feeding their ideology to the public whether the public likes it or not.
Hollywood is no longer a business. They are no longer concerned with making a profit. They do not care if the public is repelled by their content. Everything is changing. Hollywood is becoming what I suspect it was always meant to be: An Orwellian bullhorn blaring in the ears of the people 24/7.