Frank Rich finds that the American public's attention span, sense of quality and critical independence are longer and stronger than the entertainment industry gives it credit for:
- Here's what's wrong with kids in the digital age. They live in front of their TV and PC screens. They steal music online. Their attention span is zilch. They multitask on everything and concentrate on nothing except video games. They will buy any trashy product that the media goliaths can sell them, then drop it as soon as the next big hype comes along.
That's merely the short list of hard-wired assumptions that were short-circuited by last weekend's publication of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."
....Let it also be noted that Harry's $100 million is about 35 times the total weekend box-office take ($2.7 million) of "From Justin to Kelly," Fox's cinematic attempt to cash in on the stars they minted during the first round of their prime-time hit, "American Idol." Maybe there is a God.
....The children entranced with Harry don't need a fast cinematic cut to whip them to attention, with an MTV lash, every few seconds. They are perfectly happy to concentrate on a sustained narrative that in "Phoenix" sprawls to a Dickensian 870 pages. No sooner did these young customers get their new books in the wee hours last Saturday morning than they sat down and read them - perhaps explaining in part why ticket sales for "The Hulk" actually fell from Friday to Saturday to Sunday last weekend. (Another likely factor: the movie itself.)
As "Harry" readers suffer no shortage of attention span, so they still love fantasy that does not come equipped with computer-generated special effects.
....The question is: How do all those lovely entertainment-seeking kids weaned on "Harry Potter" grow up to become thieves? Surely, they know that stealing copyrighted songs and movies is akin to shoplifting sweaters at the Gap. There is no single explanation, of course, and there is no acceptable rationalization that can excuse theft. But it's no secret that music piracy spread as CD prices rose and teenagers were enraged to pay roughly the same price as a "Harry" hardcover for a dozen or so tracks of which 10 might be filler.