This New American Life
I write this in a booth waiting for my current delivery order to be prepared in an empty restaurant that ten years ago would have been crowded. The music is a soft bossa nova and the kitchen while busy is careful to avoid clangs. The decor is standard a medium brown stain colors the wood and the carpet is green and clean. A mother and her retired son are the only other customers. She is dancing while waiting for the spring rolls to arrive. The owner hands me a thai tea on the house while I wait. I can’t help but worry for the fate of America. I can’t help but wonder where do we go from here.
The internet has redefined what and why we eat. It’s less about what we like and having haunts we return to but posting from the current trends to be considered a cool kid. Even those who do not post on social media still Google and Yelp their choices based on the impression that the best rated by those apps have more value experience wise for their dollars. The hive mind that is social media causes attention inequality and narrows culture especially food culture.
Speaking of the Hive Mind. What do we talk about when we say we shouldn’t give someone a platform. As in the current uproar over Megyn Kelly interviewing Alex Jones, a man who has been paid to spew filth since my childhood. He long ago built his alternative media platform and give a place for wayward views. He helped Trump win without a doubt and his org Infowars will have white house press credentials. He doesn’t need an interview on NBC but NBC and those who oppose his views do need these kinds of interviews. Darkness cannot be allowed to fester. Pre-internet denying mainstream outlets was a good way to slow repulsive thought but now mainstream media is one if the last shared spaces in American life and is more effective as a means of exposing.
The tendency of the internet to drive conformity from food and fashion trends to preventing public discourse is disconcerting to say the least. Humanity’s story is one driven by innovation through diversity not just the kind on a college application check box. How much have we lost? What will it take next?
Practice What You Preach
It is late May, the culling time of television. The birthing season of fan petitions and thinkpieces by pedigreed “professionals” about how we watched TV wrong by not obeying their proclamations. The post-election partisanization of life has flavored this years crop. Rather than just duke it out in the trenches of Facebook. I thought I would stand on my soapbox.
First I’d like to discuss the left’s response. As exemplified by Maureen Ryan’s piece in Variety yesterday. After 8 shows that featured and/or were created by non whites/ non males, she rings the alarm: Whiteness is coming. She does note she hasn’t crunched the numbers. I will in my counter argument. Let’s begin with Fox: “Pitch” and “Rosewood”, both premiered low for broadcast (under 5 million viewers) and only went lower both failing to get more than 3 million to tune in each week. Compare to the renewed “Lethal Weapon” which brought in 6 (still low but twice as good and stars a non white lead). On Netflix- “Sense8” and “The Get Down” we don’t have viewing figures so won’t speculate there but in terms of production costs we know “The Get Down” cost over 120 mil for 12 episodes and still was terrible (on this critics will agree). Sense8 which filmed in over a dozen countries probably costed a similar amount. Thats alot for two shows that never achieved even critic darling status. On “Hulu” we have “East Los High” which is ending after 4 seasons (60 episodes) and a movie in the works. It was a low budget emmy nominated series that helped launch Hulu as a series creator. We don’t know the viewership but it was never had much buzz which is needed for a series for teens. On WGNA, “Underground” an expensive period piece that dropped from a million viewers at the beginning of season 2 to under half a million for the rest. It was cancelled because the owner of WGNA is selling the network and cancelled all of its scripted television as it pivots back to a focus on reality because viwership is down and scripted TV isn’t cheap. On MTV is “Sweet/Vicious” which had about 200k viewers on average on a network that averages around a million for a stable hit. On ABC is “American Crime” which in season 3 never got above 3 million viewers on broadcast, a sharp drop from the 8 million of the series premiere. This leads me to the grievances of the right.
The right doesn’t have many options in the 400-500 shows currently on air or streamed yet it makes up enough Americans to win the presidency and both houses of Congress. One show, they did have was “Last Man Standing” on ABC. It was the second most watched sitcom on the network (behind “Modern Family”) and averaged 8 million viewers in Season 6. This had lead to outcry from Trump supporters in particular as liberal censorship. As Tim Allen is a vocal Trumpist. In the end, It suffered from the behind the scenes money trail. It aired on ABC but was made by Fox. Part of the deal between the two companies was that Fox would cover the production costs through season 6. Now we are in Season 7 and ABC would have to foot the bill plus licensing fees to Fox for a show that has peaked. Any syndication money (its one of the few off network modern successes) goes to Fox. Thus it no longer is a money maker and the ax.
TV is a business. The shows are there to fill the space between commercials or an excuse to gig you a monthly fee. It also sells the audience. Every May is up fronts, presentations to Advertisers selling them spots based on viewership or prestige from awards. Over 50 million voted for Clinton last November, the left would have you believe that it is even bigger. Granted as I am a Clinton voter, who knows the actual number of progressives. Despite that, I do believe that the progressives are larger than the viewership of those shows. The ones I know watched none of those series. They watched the diverse shows not canceled like “The Mindy Project”, “Master of None”, “Dear White People”, and “Jessica Jones”. Viewership matters more than tweets or feelings. If more diversity is important to the left then they have to show up. I’m reminded of Frank Capra on the director’s cut: we have to show them we really care. His proposal to the studios was that a list of the ten best directors would be agreed by both sides and if a director ever messed up in editing, the union would fly in one of the ten even for a sixties sitcom to fix it on the union’s dime. Directors now have their cut. If diversity is the secret to success as claimed by progressives then they have to prove it. Make those shows, the shows to advertise on. Same goes for conservatives, a mild hit isn’t enough. There are a third of a billion people in America. You wouldn’t know that by the ratings. Be the person, you praise.