Inspired by the AV Club’s enjoyable AVQ&A series, Earn This writers and friends teamed up and decided to do their own roundtable, question-answering session.
The question we stole directly from a recent AVQ&A entry:
You’ve discovered a genie, but he has some limitations: He can only grant one wish, and it must be within the pop-cultural sphere. You can change any one thing about popular culture, no matter how big or small, from “I wish Artist X was the bestselling musician on the planet” to “I wish musical formats stopped evolving at vinyl” to “I wish all media was free somehow.” Show your work: Why do you want this, and what effect do you think it’ll have?
Here are our answers.
I love the Internet. Most of my entertainment these days comes to me through a browser, and I couldn’t be happier. With the Web’s low barrier to entry and the ease of reaching a huge audience, there’s a whole world of entertainment available that most networks would never take a chance on before they’d proven themselves online.
But while Internet phenomena have occasionally made the leap to the “real” world, it’s mostly been in only the least challenging or interesting ways. Take Shit My Dad Says as an example. Even during its earliest, best days as a Twitter feed, it was basically Ray Romano’s dad in 140 characters or less. Is it any surprise that it went from an unimaginative string of one-liners online to an unimaginative string of one-liners on TV?
Instead of embracing the side of the Internet happy to keep pandering to the lowest common denominator, I wish for more mass media acceptance of the kind of weird, high-risk- high-reward entertainment that makes the Web special. Intersperse commercials with dramatic readings of@Horse_ebooks tweets. Make an Achewood miniseries. Hell, Katie Notopoulos alone could probably fill a whole network. There’s been some of this – Brad Neely’s China, IL is a notable example – it’s still the exception rather than the rule. And that’s a shame.
I wish music artists chose their singles better.
This has always bothered me about the radio and popular perception of groups. Countless artists I love get, in my opinion, an entirely misguided appraisal thanks to their selections of singles and what’s played on the radio.
To wit: The Police’s “Roxanne” is my least favorite song on its album. The Cure’s “Love Song” and U2’s “Mysterious Ways” are each my second-least favorite off their phenomenal albums. The only mainstream appeal that the relatively obscure Placebo seems to have is via “Pure Morning,” even though they have many dozen others with better melodies and more style. The ubiquitous “Love Will Tear Us Apart” doesn’t really sound like Joy Division. And what in the world are languid tracks like Green Day’s “When I Come Around,” The Clash’s “Train in Vain,” and Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Otis” doing as flagship singles off their respective albums?
My frustration peaked in the middle of 2011, when the Arctic Monkeys’ first three singles released off the excellent Suck It And See were my least-favorite three on there. Honestly, is something wrong with me? I understand that singles are chosen for maximum expected appeal, but it’s hard to hear people offer opinions on artists without really knowing what they’re like. Furthermore, how many groups have I ignored because I didn’t like a single or two that didn’t represent them well?
Naturally, there are exceptions to this feeling; my taste isn’t that weird (I think). Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” rules, as does Oasis’s “Wonderwall,” AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” The Offspring’s “Self Esteem,” and Fugazi’s “Waiting Room.” But, genie, I would like for more people to be able to, say, judge American Idiot on the basis of more than freaking “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” That’s my wish.
I wish that reality TV wasn’t so popular. It amplifies the voyeurism of the Facebook generation while simultaneously diminishing the impact of the efforts made by creative television writers. Reality show viewers take time that could be spent engaged in insightful, plot-driven entertainment to instead watch brawls and tears. I especially wish that Snooki was not a celebrity.
However, if we must keep reality TV around, I propose a show about research scientists competing for ground-breaking discoveries. At least something useful might come from the drama.
I’m not sure if this counts as part of the pop culture sphere, but if I had one wish I would use it to get rid of CNN, Fox “News” and all other 24 hour news channels (and their corresponding radio stations). I think they are literally destroying America, or at the very least making it a much shittier place to live.
Because news channels are private companies, they exist for the sole purpose of making money, which they do by getting people to watch and listen to their shows. Unfortunately everyday life boring as hell, so these channels scour the country looking for the most sensational stories imaginable. This creates a distorted sense of reality among viewers and listeners, and they come out thinking the country is a much more fucked up place than it really is.
Then, on top of that, in a quest for ratings, they employ pseudo-intellectual blowhards like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Keith Olberman, et al., who have found that the crazier the shit they say is (“Obama is a terrorist!”), the higher their ratings are, so they start saying crazier and crazier shit. As a result, the millions upon millions of people who watch these channels think that the country either going to be destroyed at the hands of the evil socialist Democrats (Fox News), or that the goal of the Republican Party is for all poor people to either starve or die from preventable disease (MSNBC).
The very worst part about it is that the people who watch these channels come out of it thinking that they are “informed” and that they have a better “grasp of the issues” than the common person. They refuse to listen to the other sides of issues because they are so ingrained in their beliefs, and as a result they elect more and more radical politicians (e.g. Tea Party). The more radical the politicians are the less likely they are to negotiate with the other side of the aisle, so instead of working together politicians result to blaming one another for the country’s faults.
To be fair, this part of politics existed before the advent of cable news, but I just think that it has pushed this issue in the wrong direction, and the country would be a better place to live if you didn’t have to listen to some dumbass tell you how Glenn Beck proved that Obama was seven degrees of separation from a drug lord.
Anyways, I hope that counts as being part of the pop culture sphere. If it doesn’t then my wish is that Roger Waters didn’t have the unimaginable arrogance that caused him to leave Pink Floyd.
I wish that there wasn’t such a stigma attached to artists licensing their music. The minute a musician has their music attached to a commercial, they are labeled a sell-out. We expect these people to continue to make solid albums, yet we scorn them when they attempt to make money in order to continue innovating in their craft.
I saw an interesting interview with The Black Keys where they defended having a couple of their songs featured in advertisements. They said that they held off from licensing their music at first, because they felt their fans might view them as less genuine, but they were broke and living in a van. Contrary to popular belief, artists produce better work when they aren’t starving.
The same as “selling-out” is generally considered to be basing your creative endeavors on what outside influences feel is best, I feel that there is also a sort of negative selling-out, which is not making the music that you would like because you are unwilling to accept monetary help, all because you are worried about what snarky music critics will think.
I’m not saying that musicians should feel obligated to license their music, but rather do what they feel will better help their art, rather than worry that some housewife might hear their song during a Target ad and somehow destroy the value of their work.
It’s well known that with, music being as available as it is on the internet, artists can’t rely on record sales for a living. Perhaps we need to consider it as a modern day art-patronage, such as that of the Medici’s during the Renaissance. Do we view several of the great Italian master painters as any less influential, because they had the support of a family of bankers?
I’ve had a couple of really crummy concert experiences. Sometimes the band is too shoegaze, so the crowd just stare at their feet and bob. Sometimes the band is too classic, or the arena too large, so the crowd stay in their seats or stand idly sipping beer as if they were at a tailgate. And sometimes the whole sea of attendees succumbs to “dancing like white kids,” i.e., not actually dancing, just singing all the words they memorized to compensate.
Well, I say the live experience ought to be the pinnacle of the musical experience, and I say there’s a simple solution: at every concert, require at least half of the audience to be ska fans. These are people who know nothing but happiness. I have no trouble picturing ska fans skanking hard to Kelly Clarkson, the Stones, Aphex Twin, or Yo-Yo Ma. Guaranteed to enhance any experience, liven up the dance floor, and bring people together, ska fans are the solution.
I wish that there were more, and better, management simulation/grand strategy/open-ended RPG computer games. Games that have complex rules, drown you in information, teach you something, last for hours, have procedurally-generated and unscripted challenges, challenge your problem solving, pique your curiosity, have infinite replay value. Games like Europa Universalis 3, Mount and Blade: Warband, Capitalism 2, and Out of the Park Baseball (or franchise modes of non-management sports games). Most “mogul” or “tycoon” games don’t cut it — they’re too short and simple.
Here’s a list of five games I’d really like someone to make, in no particular order:
• TV Network Manager — Take over a tiny niche channel, a major broadcast network, or anything in between. You buy shows, either as new pilots or through syndication, and choose the time slots. You compete for major contracts from sports leagues and other content-providers. You manage staff, choose a target audience, and buy out other channels. Not only would this be fun as hell and fascinating, but it may give me some insight into why networks do things that seem idiotic from the outside, like NBC shelving Community or FX canceling Terriers. I’m sure there’s a whole world of ratings and economics and psychology behind it, beyond TV By the Numbers.
• Rock Band Manager — You wouldn’t actually create or listen to the songs. Instead, you’d find band members, carefully allot your time between practicing/recording/performing/etc, choose genres and styles, track album sales, read (pre-formatted) reviews of your work, deal with fan backlash, etc. Of course, there could be some trashy fun to it too (groupies, drugs?) but I’d be most interested in crafting a band and navigating their creative career.
• A fantasy-themed kingdom management game – I’m thinking of a game with the open-world army-raising, kingdom-running gameplay of the Mount and Blade series, but with a fantastical roster of characters and an element of magic and legend to it. I just imagine charging into hundred-person battles with my hand-picked armies under my banner just beyond a castle I built; I’m riding a huge griffin or something; and I’m immediately willing to drop $50 on this game. (There is a LotR overhaul of the original Mount and Blade that I should probably look in to.)
• Football/Basketball/Hockey/College Sports management games as good as OOTP Baseball — The problem with NBA2k12 and Madden is that their suite of “Franchise” or “Dynasty” features is built on top of the on-field game. Games like Football Manager and Out of the Park Baseball are built from the ground up as management games and are thus much more robust and deep on the simming front. I’d really like some great management-oriented sports games in sports other than baseball and soccer. There are the obvious pro sports and college sports, but a cool twist would be running an entire athletic program for a college.
• A decent, open-ended, open-world, unscripted Harry Potter RPG — Come on, is there any chance that a game that lets you play some role in Hogwarts, maybe get a job at the Ministry of Magic or open your own competing magic academy, wouldn’t make JK Rowling another billion or two?
We hope you enjoyed our responses!