“You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.”—Maya Angelou (via theremixkid)
A little over a week after the conclusion of the first half of the last “Mad Men” season, the journalist and critic Ruth Graham published a polemical essay in Slate lamenting the popularity of young-adult fiction among fully adult readers. Noting that nearly a third of Y.A. books were purchased by readers ages 30 to 44 (most of them presumably without teenage children of their own), Graham insisted that such grown-ups “should feel embarrassed about reading literature for children.” Instead, these readers were furious. The sentiment on Twitter could be summarized as “Don’t tell me what to do!” as if Graham were a bossy, uncomprehending parent warning the kids away from sugary snacks toward more nutritious, chewier stuff.
It was not an argument she was in a position to win, however persuasive her points. To oppose the juvenile pleasures of empowered cultural consumers is to assume, wittingly or not, the role of scold, snob or curmudgeon. Full disclosure: The shoe fits. I will admit to feeling a twinge of disapproval when I see one of my peers clutching a volume of “Harry Potter” or “The Hunger Games.” I’m not necessarily proud of this reaction. As cultural critique, it belongs in the same category as the sneer I can’t quite suppress when I see guys my age (pushing 50) riding skateboards or wearing shorts and flip-flops, or the reflexive arching of my eyebrows when I notice that a woman at the office has plastic butterfly barrettes in her hair.
God, listen to me! Or don’t. My point is not so much to defend such responses as to acknowledge how absurd, how impotent, how out of touch they will inevitably sound. In my main line of work as a film critic, I have watched over the past 15 years as the studios committed their vast financial and imaginative resources to the cultivation of franchises (some of them based on those same Y.A. novels) that advance an essentially juvenile vision of the world. Comic-book movies, family-friendly animated adventures, tales of adolescent heroism and comedies of arrested development do not only make up the commercial center of 21st-century Hollywood. They are its artistic heart.
From A.O. Scott’s “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture”
Initially I was astounded and flummoxed by the reaction many had to Ruth Graham’s essay on Slate. The general gist of the piece is that adults should carry some level of shame for partaking in the consumption of books literally written for children, particularly if they don’t challenge themselves to read actual literature, or at the very least “grown-up” fiction. It’s not a particularly damning indictment of YA, so long as you’re willing to embrace those books for what they are: kids’ stuff that make for easy reading by leaning heavily on shallow characterizations, and trite platitudes, and (in most cases) an absurdly naive world view (It’s Kind of a Funny Story, et al). These books tackle real world problems that The Babysitter’s Club series rarely explored, but not in a way that could or should be construed as mature, sophisticated, or grounded in any sort of reality.
Unfortunately, many adult YA readers read blog posts about Graham’s essay and acted as if she had stormed into their bedroom, ripped every fantasy book about a shallow dystopia off their book shelves, and with those books cradled in her arms screamed “you’ll get them back when they’ve burned to ash!” These people threw honest to God temper tantrums over Graham’s essay that showed they either hadn’t read it or, perhaps more worrisome, hadn’t progressed enough in their reading comprehension to grasp its meaning.
And THAT, I think, is where there’s a problem.
When I was a teenager, I naively thought that the rise of the internet would make people more literate. I was a regular little techno-prophet, expressing this to early and late adopters IRL and on LJ. I saw people voluntarily writing more with a keyboard than they ever would have with just a pen or a pencil. Some may bemoan the passing of the hand-written letter as a means of corresponding with loved ones (though not to the degree that they’d ever have use for a fake handwriting service like the one that employs Spike Jones’ groan-inducing protagonist in “Her”), but the reality is that more people communicate by email than they ever did through the postal service.
I haven’t become a Luddite, or anything resembling a technophobe, but the things I read on a daily basis in my facebook feed and twitter timeline have dissuaded me of that notion. People are writing more, but they are not writing better. It has forced the issue of literacy, but it has not made people more thoughtful in what they express or how they express it. The reaction to Graham’s essay was one of many contemporary examples of what happens when everyone is given a prominent voice, even if they have nothing to add to the discussion.
I was also reminded of some recent tweets from writer Natasha Vargas-Cooper that gave me pause:
Missouri just enacted a 72 hour wait period on abortions! How will strong female leads on premium cable roll that back?
She’s absolutely right, and we’re all guilty of that bullshit. And it extends to our treatment of racism, poverty, and other issues where the debate isn’t how to address them but whether or not they even exist. The conversations more or less boil down to “Yuh-HUH” versus “nuh-UH” and rarely rise above it. Even if you think you’re on the right side of history, the obsession over winning the argument has become detrimental to the cause.
This is not to say it’s a direct result of reading YA, a conclusion that will be reached by more than one reader. As Scott points out in his piece, the concept of adulthood has always been, at best, a veneer to protect a shallow patriarchy and hide our own insecurities. It’s one that’s still employed by a sneering conservative movement that has been tilting at windmills so long it doesn’t even bother sharpening its sword anymore.
However, I do think that embracing childish whismy in adulthood has made us more susceptible to manipulation under the guise of fandom. It’s made us more proud of our consumption and more sure of the righteousness of it. This has led to television’s ascendancy into a higher artform, but it has also made it easier to distract us with news about tentpole blockbusters and viral videos where a handsome couple has “those hilarious arguments couples always have” (the sort of “am I right guys?!” comedy that would rightly get you labeled a hack in the world of stand-up).
In short: it’s okay to enjoy things and pursue happiness, so long as we don’t try to over-simplify things to the point where our enthusiasm for consumerism drowns out the plight of those less fortunate. We are given more options than ever, and less shame in our fandom. In some ways this is wonderful, but if we don’t start becoming a little more discerning in what we take in, there’s going to be a reckoning.
Let’s just hope it’s in the form of a dystopia where _______ is outlawed/prohibited, but one teen will _______ the system by _________.
The improv company I'm in has a team of 7-8 who are responsible for festival shows and a big monthly show at one of my city's biggest theatres. Half of them are selfish, ungenerous performers but are consistently given stage time because they're the senior members. It's really demoralizing as a newer performer (5 years) to see terrible, under-rehearsed work rewarded, especially when attendance at our shows has flagged over the last few years, but how do you tell the house team that they suck?
You don’t. Worry about your own work and move on when there’s a chance. It’s not your show, so don’t try to direct it from your head.
Do the people on the team share your opinion? Probably not, so don’t worry about them. Does the audience like the shows? If not, the show won’t survive. But if the audience does — which I suspect they do — then try and figure out what the show is doing right.
You sound like people who complain that SNL is a bad show. How can that show be rewarded with its long term success when it (pick one: focuses so much on dumb pop culture, caters to a young audience, runs popular characters into the ground with little variation)? Rather than figuring out why it is that SNL is the only show to have survived on American television for more than 5 years (ah, it focuses on the pop culture everyone is talking about, it’s one of the few shows with talent catering to a young audience, it repeats its popular characters).
What I’m saying: You’re being too harsh. The judge who lives in your brain is being given too much power. It will turn on you in times of low confidence and you won’t be able to recover and you’ll quit. Practice compassion and empathy. This paragraph is perhaps too new agey to be accepted at face value, but I suggest you take this advice if you want to be happy doing creative things.
The longer he lives, the more powerful he becomes.
In 2001, we engaged in a “war on terror” that resulted in two occupations and a major shift in our foreign policy.
ISIS is the result.
As so many Senators and congressmen beat the drum for war and call for us to intervene, remember that it is EXACTLY our presence and actions in the Middle East that created the vacuum for this to happen.
Our selective outrage and cherry-picking of democratic reform, publicly stated to be driven by an opposition to tyranny but more closely resembling a combination of greed and ego obscuring our long-term outlook, has resulted in Islamic fundamentalists getting exactly what they wanted.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban fell, for the most part. Yet the actions we took resulted in this: a caliphate that cuts a large, bloody swath over much of the Mideast. They were the fundamentalist nuts, and yet it was OUR reactionary behavior that delivered the Mideast on a silver platter.
We did exactly what they fucking wanted to us to. We got played, because they knew what America loved most was jingoistic war-mongering.
A QUICK WORD ABOUT THE LATEST CELEBRITY HACKING SCANDAL
As you have probably noticed from your timeline on twitter, your facebook feed, or the comments section of various news stories and blog posts, there are a lot of people that are not very bothered by what happened to certain celebrities recently.
For those who have been away the last few days, I’ll bring you up to speed.
A hacker, exploiting a fatal flaw in Apple’s iCloud security, was able to obtain photos of well-known individuals showing them in various stages of undress. These photographs were not meant for public consumption, and may not have even been meant for another human being’s eyes.
You’ll notice I’m not naming any of those individuals. More on that in a moment. But first, we need to discuss the reaction that many (most?) men had to this: the joy, exaltation, and public shaming of the victims.
The comparison was drawn to actors doing a nude scene in a film. This false equivalence isn’t just absurd, it exposes those making it as active participants in a culture that literally presents a danger to all women, because a nude scene in a film occurs in a controlled environment, with restrictions that can be dictated by the participants. In short, it is consent. Those who make that argument that what’s happened recently is no different or should not be treated as a gross trespass and violation of basic decency are exposing their belief that consent does not matter.
No amount of apologetic spin can explain that away. Nothing has reinforced the existence and prevalence of “rape culture” quite like that aforementioned reaction, which is essentially “you me your body.”
What happened goes beyond the invasion of privacy. It’s not a rumor published on Page 6 of the Post or whispers at a cocktail party. It’s a violation of a person’s rights; not just in the legal sense, but as a human being.
The postulation of sexual debt from anyone, regardless of notoriety, is a cornerstone of “rape culture” that seems not to have subsided with the rise of the internet and especially social media in day to day prominence. In fact, it seems just the opposite.
Men who feel an actress’s stolen nude photos are fair game, men who think politeness is not a virtue but a commodity that should be rewarded with reluctant sexual acts, the fraternity date rapist, and the serial rapist are all encouraged by a continued culture of rape, misogyny, and male dominance in the cultural sphere. That’s why the lines between them are not thin, they’re non-existent. It’s not a matter of degrees, but opportunity.
Which is why, to an earlier point, you noticed I didn’t name any of the individuals affected. I won’t identify them because I consider them victims of sexual assault. And until we treat it in that context, we have no right whatsoever to dismiss any and all discussion of “rape culture” or tout any gains we’ve made recently in attaining anything resembling basic decency, let alone gender equality.
Should also take this time to remind those that suffer sexual assault of the resources available to them.
Still keeping Joan in my heart and in my every thought. Looking through old stuff and found this transcript of an interview I’d done with her for a magazine a few years back. I had already cut out a lot of the personal chit chat, which I’m kicking myself for now, because I’d love to still have…
thesportssoundoff said: To be fair, for a dumping ground like Spike, effort and cost effectiveness matter. They kept TNA alive for a long time despite moving benchmarks because it was cheap to produce, cheap to advertise and flat out cheap for them in general.
TNA also did better numbers than most of their programming and was a shockingly great lead-in for any and all programming they threw at the end of it. Especially Bellator. There was actually a chance TNA could have stuck around for that reason, but they fucked it up by being TNA and just getting worse and worse and self-sabotaging and…oh, we all know. Poor bastards.
As for cost effectiveness, it matters RIGHT NOW, but as ad revenue continues to go down for all of cable, it’s going to become less important. Cable’s not going anywhere, but it’s not getting more profitable to run a cable channel. The only ones thriving are the ones taking chances (more on that in a second).
thesportssoundoff said: Also I suppose to further dive in on this matter: Would people flock to Spike for good original programming? I’d bet that by this point, it’s about like how Samoa Joe couldn’t go to NJPW because he had “Zero One Stench” on him.
Ha! “Zero One Stench.” I love it.
Anyway, AMC. ‘nuff said.
If not ‘nuff, AMC was the absolute PITS. I mean it was awful. Worse than when they just aired old movies. Then, they went into original programming - original programming that was expensive to produce, and despite critical acclaim, lost money.
Something happened, though - it improved the quality of the programming. They’ve slipped this year, but those shows allowed them to start doing stuff that made them serious bank (“Walking Dead,” et al.). They were literally dead on the vine, and now they’re at the top of the food chain.
The reason? They took a risk. They knew that to print money, you had to buy some ink. Stuff like that matters.
NOTE: some of this was originally contained in a reply to another post. I’ve isolated one section of it because after running the numbers, it’s worse than I even initially thought.
There’s a UFC pay-per-view tonight. You already know this, though, because it’s been all over the news the last few…
I assume this is directed at us (because attention whore and all that) so I’ll touch on a few things which I’d like to comment on.
I won’t go into the PPV stuff because it is what the numbers say it is. That much is for certain. Then again I don’t think bad PPV numbers are a bad thing for consumers. Let the PPV numbers be what they are and cut back on them. Let PPV numbers be what they are and let them adjust accordingly. Let them see bad PPV numbers and realize that this combined with boxing flopping on PPV is proof that the model is a failure now.
Let’s talk about the UFC on Fox ratings. As Dave Meltzer discusses here: (http://www.mmafighting.com/2014/7/29/5949403/lawler-brown-ufc-aveages-2-5-million-peaks-at-3-4-million-viewers). their big Fox numbers are pretty much what they are. They pretty much do the same thing every summer, title fight or not. Declining ratings on big Fox is one of those things people say that’s neither true nor false. They just do what they normally do outside of football season. There’s nothing wrong with that I suppose. The reality is that MMA is not for everyone and their TV numbers on Fox will always reflect that. Things change normally during football season where they do higher numbers when they have a tantalizing fight.
As for Fox Sports 1 ratings? I’d say it’s a combination of a) Fox Spoprts 1 wanting to a lot of content, b) Fox Sports 1 being obscure and c) injuries and a hectic schedule. It’s easy to say “THE UFC’S RATINGS ARE DECLINING!” but then if you look at what else FS1 is doing, it’s more a case of nobody wanting this network. Baseball games do 230K in prime time. The network is to this point a bust and the only thing that does anything above the mean is a UFC or Nascar event. That’s the struggle.
Where I most disagree, vehemently even, is internationally. The idea that they haven’t progressed internationally is a fallacy to be honest. They re-inked a deal with Globo Brazil that will pay them a lot of money. They just broke into Mexico and from knowing someone who had a hand in that deal, I know it pays them QUITE a bit going forward. They got into Ireland again and inked a TV deal there. They inked a deal with Abu Dhabi media that will pay them a lot of money. I think the one area where they struggled the most was Asia and I’d say it reflects on Mark Fischer getting replaced. That said it sounds like they’ve made waves there as well and the idea that Macau was a stop into Mainland China proved to be false when Bob Arum came out and said “we get site fees so rich in Macau, there’s no point in putting on shows in the US”. A pal of mine who works in the Asian media said that Macau pretty much is a money pit run by money marks. I do think there’s been massive stagnation though in Asia but hopefully they make headways there. I also know they’re working on some things for France, Germany, Korea and Argentina. I’d argue the INTL business is 10x stronger right now than the domestic business.
As for Fight Pass, while nobody knows the numbers, Dave Meltzer has come out and said it started making money instantly. This has been echoed by just about everyone who seems to have an idea about Fight Pass. If you think they’re not making money then that’s fine…but it also flies in the face of Dave Meltzer’s track record which in turn suggests his PPV buyrates aren’t trustworthy information which blows the entire “here aree the PPV buys” discussion up.
So I guess what are we getting at here? Well we’ve got a company that at the onset made it clear that this was a rebuilding year. That’s pretty much what it’s been for the most part; a rebuilding year toward international growth. They’ve made strides in terms of that in my opinion. You’re entitled to not agree but I think the whole “this is dire” type feel is a little overstated. Things are good in some spots, bad in others. It’s been that way since Brock left and will continue to be that way.
2012 gave way to a massive 2013 with two PPVs topping 1 mil buys. If 2014 gives way to a bountiful 2015 (and it’s possible) then ultimately, we’ll all be fine.
Some decent points, but a few things I gotta nitpick.
First, on that last point, two PPVs topped 1 million buys, but on the whole 2013 wasn’t bountiful. In fact they barely did better than 2012, and were saved from a drop by those two events doing over a million.
Dave was told it “instantly made money,” but they’re not saying anything other than it’s making money. Since it was built on top of the previously existing UFC.tv, they don’t have as much overhead and it didn’t cost a fortune to launch. Supposedly it generates $1 million per 100,000 subscribers. But one, we don’t know how many subscribers there are, and Dave can only go on what those inside the UFC tell him, which is that it makes money. If that’s the company line, then there’s nobody really to check that.
PPV buyrates are different. You’re assuming Dave’s sources on both are the same, but they’re not. Trust me when I tell you that when Dave has to rely on internal speculation, he doesn’t always get it right (working for WWE and listening/reading his stuff was eye-opening). For Fight Pass numbers, it’s similar in that those are all internal. PPV numbers, on the other hand, are verifiable from the outlets and service providers. When Dave gets a number estimate on PPV buys, it’s based on numbers that come in from all of them. For Fight Pass info, again, it’s an internal information that only a select few are privy to.
As for international, it’s good that they got those deals signed, but to my earlier point, they were already in those markets. They get stupid money for doing Abu Dhabi and Macau, but it’s stupid money for live gates. With a promotion as large that spends as much money as the UFC, it’s good but not great.
I have no idea where you’re getting that the international is 10x what’s being pulled in domestically. I’m sorry, but that’s preposterous.
The most telling, actually, is Arum’s quote. If he says that it’s so rich there’s no point in doing shows in the U.S., then why does he continue to promote shows in the U.S.? The answer is two-fold: one, because it’s an exaggeration; and two, because Pay-Per-View is still the primary business model and means of revenue, just like it is for MMA. Besides, you’re going on Bob Arum’s word?! C’MON SON.
I agree with you regarding nobody wanting FS1, which is why I didn’t even touch that. They’re doing okay, but given they were already over-performing given the rest of that channel’s lineup, there’s an argument to be made that they could be doing better. There’s another argument that they NEED to do better because that Network is, well, not doing great and they’re shouldering the burden. If it continues on this course, it’s hard to imagine Fox Sports being as expansive (existing?) past 2017; that with what I’m about to discuss could hurt them when TV rights are up. Or it could help them if it’s literally the only thing people will watch on that fucking channel.
As for Fox, you isolated one show that roughly as well as any other spring or summertime show, but still ranks among one of the historically lowest rated events on the network. Dave said it was comparable to the April 21st show, which was one of the lowest ratings the UFC on Fox has ever done and was second to last in the 18-49 demo for broadcast (considering what it’s up against on Saturday nights that’s REALLY REALLY BAD). Again, check out Brent Brookhouse’s analysis of how it’s performed over a three-year period. As he shows, there’s a definite downward trend.
Bottom line is that by every viable metric other than hearsay, numbers are down and at its worst with Pay-Per-View, which is still their primary business model. It’s part of a trend that’s been happening for some time now, that many in the MMA media have identified, and now the drops are becoming exacerbated by diminishing returns and disenchantment among its core fanbase.