Some would say that any battle to prevent the dumbing-down of American culture has already been lost. A few of those people have been speaking up since the 50’s and 60’s when concerns about TV and especially advertising on TV led to fears that some kind of group think was emerging in the land of the “free.” Today, the knowledge that Howard Stern’s audience numbers in the millions is enough to make you reconsider having radios in cars.
But for the sake of hope in general, let’s say it’s not too late. Let’s say there’s always the chance that taste and good judgment can replant and grow in areas where they’ve been burned off by the fires of banality, and that culture and entertainment can just as easily make a swing upward as downward.
If that’s the case and we are on the lookout for those fires, then I would like to express my concern about giving a film the title Snakes on a Plane. You’ve already heard that this title has been responsible for stirring Internet pulses, and that the film was not made available for critics to preview because, that’s right, it’s dumb.
However that has not stopped actor Samuel L. Jackson from hawking it in every available media window. So I would ask Mr. Jackson, who has recently professed a new love for “movies that just entertain” whether his love of simple popcorn movies would allow him to participate in a film that was titled, “Funny Black Men in Fast Cars with Guns” (instead of Bad Boys) or from his own resume, “Violence, Sadism, Homophobia and Stuff From Other Movies” (instead of Pulp Fiction)?
Those titles are cumbersome, but they’re not any more dumbed-down than the title of Mr. Jackson’s current product. Here’s where someone might rightfully say: “Take it easy. Dumb pop culture does not hurt a society in any real way.” Let me cite two examples of the dumbed-down marketing of information that might give you pause on this point.
We’re now getting regular events of “terrorist” plots busted up before any act of terrorism takes place, the most recent being the “gel” bombers. That might be good in these times in which a failed presidency has unleashed a war that makes all Americans targets for hate and death. But Paul Krugman has reported in the New York Times that while British officials wanted to wait and watch the “gel” bomb plotters, American interests insisted on early arrests which made it more difficult to round-up all those who might have been involved in the plot.
Did Bush need a simple story that would serve his crumbling, bumbling administration in a positive way right now? In other words, did Bush need to release, “Shampoo Bombers on a Plane” right now during the summer months to help his marketing during the fall campaigns?
Last week CNN ran with and panted all over the arrest of a suspect in the Jon Benet Ramsey murder. They even interviewed, at length, Patsy Ramsey’s sister who commented at length about statements by the suspect. At a time when two wars are raging, CNN was exuberant in its presentation of a beautifully simple, dumbed-down news story of the beautiful little beauty queen’s murderer finally confessing. Except that, as of the time of this writing, there appears to be no hard evidence linking the confessing suspect to the case.
George Orwell predicted that a future society would ingest fictitious news reports about victories and progress in wars that weren’t even being fought. We’re getting close to that, but things are already worse because the wars are real yet the narratives leading us into them are government fabrications. That the public feeds on simplistic entertainment with titles that require zero discernment or thinking process makes the chore of selling those fabrications easier and easier.