The Electric Commentary

Monday, April 25, 2005

Dan Drezner on the Average American

Dan Drezner links to all sorts of good stuff this morning, in praise of the average American. This piece by Steven Johnson in the New York Times Magazine is especially interesting:

For decades, we've worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the ''masses'' want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But as that ''24'' episode suggests, the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less. To make sense of an episode of ''24,'' you have to integrate far more information than you would have a few decades ago watching a comparable show. Beneath the violence and the ethnic stereotypes, another trend appears: to keep up with entertainment like ''24,'' you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships. This is what I call the Sleeper Curve: the most debased forms of mass diversion -- video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms -- turn out to be nutritional after all.

This article raises several good points about how television shows have increased in complexity under the noses of many television critics. Johnson is absolutely right; too many people judge a TV show's value by looking at the violence content or the sex content, but in reality, a show like Deadwood, which contains every form of vulgarity known to man on a regular basis, is a much more complicated and interesting show than the hokum that they used to peddle out as entertainment.

Read the whole thing.


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