The future of entertainment is cheap entertainment.
I don’t mean low-budget entertainment. I mean entertainment that is not entertaining.
A long time ago, the American audience received movies that only a studio could make. The sets, costumes, effects, stories were extravagant and expensive beyond our imagination.
Once upon a time, the Oscars award ceremony was the most glamorous, out-of-reach event we could conceive of. We watched, breathless.
Today, we’ve seen every set, story, and special effect and can replicate them with tools we own. Today, the Oscars is torn between staying serious and elegant (and losing viewers who have moved on) and trying to be as silly as the modern audience demands (and losing any distinctiveness or legacy). And the best it leaves us with is a couple of interesting dresses… like every other award show.
Here’s the thing: the next generation tolerates, even prefers, really cheap entertainment. As long as it is readily available (YouTube, Instagram, Vine), it doesn’t have to be well-done or even actually funny. “Fred”, “Annoying Orange”, “Shaytards”, “Jenna Marbles” are not, by any standard, entertaining or insightful. They are merely popular.
The entertainment of future will be more like this, not less. And the audience of the future will not give their money for this “entertainment”, but they will, compulsively, give their time. Staggering amounts of their time, which is to say: their life.
“Here we are now, entertain us.” – Nirvana
Here’s the result: the more you consume entertainment (and cheap is easier to come by than quality), the more you stagnate. By the simple reality of time—you cannot be making your own art and pursuing greatness when you are staring at a phone screen for most of your waking hours. Said another way, the more you consume entertainment, the further you distance yourself from the Haves. (See this article.)
There could be worse consequences as well. The more you agree to call unfunny things funny, and to value the worthless, the more tenuous becomes your hold on reality. You could, literally, be walking your mind toward insanity—weakening your hold on reality. Until you, too, see the Emperor’s clothes. And they look spectacular to you.
There could be another grave danger. The audience of today is most interested in “entertainment” that features themselves. Am I in this (vertically-composed!) video? Have you seen my Vine? My Instagram? Was I mentioned in a post?
Rare-to-nonexistent is the artist making use of these new tools. Instead, the tools (inadvertently) feed human narcissism. People could become more and more self-absorbed, ego-centric. And less of the opposite of those, and the opposite is what the world needs.
Those who make entertainment will have to make this kind of entertainment because it is what will sell. And because the next audience is already making it for themselves; in massive quantities.
So here’s the conclusion (and the problems): The audience of the future will…
- care nothing about quality, only about popularity,
- insatiably, continually consume free content,
- care more about the “fame” of a dozen retweets or followers than anything else,
- and have no place in the future economy except serfdom (See this article).