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Hypermass, Or Not

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In his Wall Street Journal column, Daniel Henninger both excoriates the bulk of mass pop culture output as exemplified by “cross-market synergy,” yet celebrates access to the idiosyncratic outposts afforded by the same technology that shovels the sludge:

    To put any one “product” (film, singer, or characters created by a TV show, videogame or novelist) in front of millions people in as many different places as possible (say, in Wal-Marts) is the reason AOL Time Warner, Vivendi, Bertelsmann, Sony, Viacom and the rest bought and now control access to so many “platforms.” Thus “Star Trek: Nemesis,” the 10th Star Trek movie, was just awful, but so what? It extends the Star Trek “franchise” as a platform for other products.

    This is the reason that so much of American culture seems so dumb, and is getting dumber. Certainly in the old days movies or music were sold into the mass market, too. “Casablanca” was mass market, and so was Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. But those discrete markets aren’t big or broad enough now to support the massive quarter-over-quarter revenue needs of a “cross-market” media giant. So they’ve created a world of hypermass. It’s a formula all right: Hypermass=dumber¬≤. By definition, you target the lowest common denominator–then think lower. Thus we get the “reality” TV show “Joe Millionaire” now on Fox, which makes the original “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” on ABC look like “Masterpiece Theater.” The hit “Analyze This” degrades into the bomb “Analyze That.”

    ….the same digital wonders that Jean-Marie Messier thought would deliver movie trailers to cell phones looks like it’s going to allow people to drop out of the whole hypermass culture.

    The young people downloading music with Kazaa are mostly just mixing their own CDs. Not interested in “Men in Black II”? Netflix will mail you a Dolby DVD version of Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries.” Silentera.com will direct you to the newly restored 65-piece orchestra version of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (1927). A satellite radio subscription, offering every imaginable musical genre, lets you bypass the unlistenable hypermass music on nearly every radio station. Thanks to technology, you can now assemble and live on your own cultural island, far from the hypermass din. They don’t want us, we don’t need them. Perfect.

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About Eric Olsen