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"Indeed, the rage of theorists to make constitutions a vehicle for the conveyance of their own crude, and visionary aphorisms of government, requires to be guarded against with the most unceasing vigilance."
     -- Joseph Story
     Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States
     Book III, § 1857.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Jane Galt comments on a debate over the quality of media offerings. To my mind, the terms of the debate set out a false alternative, on the assumption, first, that Hollywood knows what it's doing, and second, that the public finds its tastes satisfied: that the studios, knowing the audience, make a deliberate choice up-front between quality and dreck, and then pursue and fulfill their business vision, at the end of which the customers get -- and pay for -- what they really want to see. The truth is, Hollywood doesn't have any choice in the matter, because it has no real means of determining whether a work will appeal to audiences (if it's pursuing the big bucks, as Twitchell advocates), nor any idea of how to judge the work itself (if it's forced to produce "quality," as Jhally advocates); the public pays its money only hoping to see something good, and frequently finds itself disappointed. All Hollywood knows how to do is to pile on top of success wherever it happens to show up, in the hope that it can be repeated. Think, for example, of the number of space operas that hit the screen after the success of Star Wars, each worse than the last. These were not the result of deliberate business choices to make bad movies and rake in the bucks; these were the productions of studios that honestly didn't know how to tell the difference and usually lost money because of it.

-- posted by Clayton 4/30/2003 02:13:00 AM

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