And why are we surprised? America is a country of Tweets, fast food, sound bites, and top ten lists. Americans think that Brad Pitt’s marital status is news.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Brad Pitt. He’s a great actor. But I don’t think who he marries, divorces or sleeps with is any of my business. And that’s a good thing, because I don’t care about his private life. If Brad Pitt was on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” I would probably watch it, but that’s because they mostly talk about acting.
Still shot from 12 Years a Slave, we see Solomon Northup (known as 'Platt' and portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor) with Samuel Bass (a Canadian carpenter played by Brad Pitt)
(At this point I actually went to You Tube to see if there was an episode of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” about Brad Pitt, and couldn’t find one. So I got sidetracked into watching other interviews with Brad Pitt - notably about “Fight Club,” and from there got distracted by several reviews of “Alien 3” and random stuff about the Alien franchise. You Tube really is the La Brea Tar Pits of the Internet.)
Anyway, back to stupid Americans…
Since the majority of Americans wouldn’t know a good actor if he or she (yes, actors can be female) was served to them with an AAAA sticker pasted to their foreheads. (AAAA = Actual Acting Ability Assessment) This explains why the announcement of the death of Alan Rickman was not followed by mass suicides.
Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman
I mean, this is a country that thinks K-Pop band members are actually musicians, and that Justin Bieber is actually a singer.
Americans want their news in sound bites, just like they want everything else in sound bites. (Or texts, replacing whole words or phrases with single letters or numbers.) Really, I expect that news broadcasts will soon be given in the form of emoji, gifs and minimal text, such as “4U!” And I expect that the content of the news will include such subjects as studies being undertaken to find out how many cans of Red Bull a person can chug before succumbing to an aneurysm, or what brand and color of disposable diapers people are using for their emotional support pigs and llamas.
People don’t read enough anymore. Not books, anyway, and no magazine articles that require any thinking on the reader’s part. A friend of mine once told me that the average magazine article should take seven minutes to read. This is because it takes seven minutes for the average American to take a crap.
Think about that…
So people don’t read unless they are trapped in a feature-impoverished room by a biological imperative? You could take your Smart Phone in there, I suppose, but the danger of dropping it in the toilet may deter some.
A lot of people I’ve talked to don’t read my favorite magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, because they say that the articles are too long. I can certainly attest to the fact that they generally take more than seven minutes to read, but they generally convey a gratifying amount of usable information. Unlike the productions of Stephen King and Charles Dickens, they are not super-saturated with adjective-laden descriptive passages. (Speaking of 'chewy' sentences...) Now, I like Stephen King and Charles Dickens, I’ve read all of the latter (sometimes more than once) and enough of the former. (I think I quit reading King around 1990. “Misery” was the last King-based film I saw. But The Atlantic Monthly is chock-full of downright information.
It’s the same with monologues. Most people don’t listen to, say, entire Ted Talks. Now to be fair, that’s partly because many of them are conveying deadly-dull information with equally dull presentations. But my average listening-to-talking-heads-time has increased exponentially with the advent of John Oliver. I’ve watched my share of longish – 45 minute – Ted Talks all the way through. I am watching more talking-heads stuff; and I’m watching them longer. I don’t often get the “hilarity-payoff” that I get with John Oliver, and yes, he has his own visual humor. But I’m learning stuff. And learning stuff is like heroin. The more you get, the more you want. John Oliver’s show This Week Tonight, for instance, is pretty much single-handedly responsible for my current interest in politics.
John Oliver on "This Week Tonight"
This is good. It’s good because I live in a democracy. (Whether or how much it is Democratic is a whole ‘nother discussion.) But democracy comes with a price-tag. You have to participate or it becomes something else. If you simple go along with what or who comes down the pike, democracy degrades. It becomes something else.
And oftener than not, that something is not good.