The Conversation

Culture shapes, culture follows

In response to 'Breaking Bad', 'House Of Cards' And Politics:

The real question is whether entertainment media will seek to make money by following cultural trends and giving the public what it wants, or use its power to shape culture and change the public.  The answer might be different today than it was in the 1970s.  I can't help thinking of that looooong string of expensive anti-war bombs Hollywood dropped throughout the Bush years.  

But maybe they learned from that experience; there are fears the studio system is in dire financial straits, reeling from some very expensive turkeys last summer.  Only one big stinker seems to have failed for obviously political reasons, "Elysium," but maybe the entertainment industry is a bit more interested in giving the people what they want right now.

On TV, there's a whole subset of shows that get mediocre ratings but survive because they flatter left-wing and ruling-class prejudices, but executives also take note of the shows that pull in huge ratings, especially when they stun the industry, like "Duck Dynasty" did.  I've often wondered if the reality show genre wasn't turning in a noticeably conservative/libertarian direction as more of the popular shows focus on "flyover country."  Real people working their butts off in demanding jobs don't usually talk like Aaron Sorkin characters.

When it comes to scripted entertainment, I'm always just looking for a good honest story.  There are plenty of shows I like which are made by people who seem to strenuously disagree with me about most things, like "Sons of Anarchy" (which is having a pretty lousy season so far, but I'm hopeful it'll pick up.)  I think most honest stories turn, over time, in a classically conservative direction - not to be confused with current liberal or conservative politics - because the eternal truths of human nature are the gravity holding such tales to the firm ground of veracity.  

And there will probably always be a somewhat limited appetite for shows that mock and insult the values held by the audience.  They'll put up with some of it - maybe even a good deal of it - if the entertainment is well-made, but eventually they get tired of fighting the entertainment culture, and they gravitate to shows that feel right to them.


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