Tower Of Babel Society

“Elon Musk is being brought in to save SNL’s sagging ratings. He could sink the show in other ways. – In the entertainment and business worlds, there is an argument in favor of the unorthodox host — as well as plenty of warnings”:

Trump united us.

Elon Musk is crazy, unsocialized like many scientists. He’s often spouting inanities, but he has changed this world markedly. GM couldn’t get the world to go electric, but Tesla has, it’s nearly remarkable. Furthermore, the government is moribund when it comes to space, but entrepreneur Elon single-handedly moved the ball forward, albeit with an injection of government cash, and government incentives at Tesla, but I don’t want to get into a debate of Musk whatsoever, this is really about SNL.

I’m gonna check out Elon’s appearance on SNL, not that I expect him to be good. His delivery is kind of slow, his speech doesn’t speed up, and it’s kind of flat, all of which argue against comedy gold. But for train-wreck value, I’ll take a peek, almost definitely not in real time, maybe on the DVR, most probably online.

But that’s not what interested me in this article. It’s the ratings drop.

Prior to the presidential election, SNL was averaging 9 million viewers. Which is quite substantial, especially when compared with other network fare. But after Trump was gone, the audience slipped to 4 million, LESS THAN HALF!

It’s not like the show itself radically changed. As a matter of fact, it’s employing the same formula it used back in the seventies, opening skit, monologue, musical performance, news… But the world changed around the show. The concept itself was no longer new, and therefore it was no longer a cultural phenomenon. You can only maintain your status as a cultural phenomenon if you change. If you stay the same, you can run on fumes at best. David Bowie and Madonna changed, they had long careers, almost everybody else didn’t. Even MTV switched it up. Adding a game show and “The Real World.” But much of the old audience hates change, if you try to crawl out of the box the naysayers will go full throttle, most people cannot combat this, they cave, even Springsteen brought the E Street Band back.

So the truth is during the insanity of the Trump presidency, people tuned in to SNL to see its spin. Whether it be Alec Baldwin as Trump or Larry David as Bernie Sanders… We were all exasperated at the behavior of Trump and SNL provided the joke and the water cooler, we could connect, we felt that we belonged. But that paradigm no longer applies.

Mass appeal events are cratering all around us but no one cares to look at the causes, no one cares to look at where we’re going, they just keep lamenting what we’ve lost.

Like awards shows. Not only were ratings declining, but this year they cratered, essentially by half. But little of the analysis was about the audience as opposed to the institution or the show. Turned out when you give people options, they take them. Everybody scattered to their own little niche, which they were happy to inhabit. The truth is the wants and desires of human beings are vast, and if choice is limited they can be corralled, but if it’s opened wide they run free.

Therefore, everything mass has lost a huge chunk of its audience, EVERYTHING! The only thing everybody is aware of and has an opinion on is Trump. But now that he’s no longer president and is off Twitter and Facebook, most people are doing their best to ignore him. Or as Bret Stephens said on Bill Maher’s “Real Time,” it was like a jackhammer was blasting outside his window for four years and now that it’s gone it’s a relief, he can think, he can sleep…and Bret Stephens is a right-winger!

And this devolution of mass has implications in all walks of life, especially entertainment. Turns out there is no mass entertainment, it doesn’t exist, even though they keep telling us it does.

“‘Gutfeld!’ beats Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’ throughout April

– The Fox News program has also scored more viewers than Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers, and James Corden”:

Jimmy Fallon? America’s fair-haired boy, who knows politics should not be discussed at work, yet now goes there, safely, because someone else paved the way?

Turns out Fallon only drew 1.395 million viewers. Whereas Colbert leads the pack with 1.991 with the other Jimmy, Mr. Kimmel, in between at 1.579. And let’s never forget that it was Lorne Michaels who groomed Fallon and ultimately delivered this time slot.

Fallon is a man out of time.

Like so many in the entertainment business. 

Now let’s not go deep into the numbers, the demographics, clips on YouTube, let’s just say Gutfeld’s show, which was universally panned by critics, which narrowcasts, is beating Fallon, who broadcasts! Turns out you get more people when you go for the niche!

So everybody thinking their career is about world domination, that you’ve got to be fearful of pissing off a potential customer, is just plain wrong. As a matter of fact, you’ll probably do better if you do piss of some potential customers! Turns out your edge will appeal to a large enough crew to give you a substantial artistic and economic footprint.

And the way to go into the mass business is to be a clearinghouse, to be a distributor servicing all the niches. This is what Netflix does. It delivers for the brainy as well as the brain dead. Superheroes and foreign dramas. Low and highbrow documentaries. Netflix knows it’s in the mass. Netflix also knows that it’s not about any individual show, just making sure people subscribe for the package and don’t disconnect.

Which means if you’re a musical act, the album is just part of the package. If it’s not generating that much income, even if it doesn’t have that big a reach, it may not matter, as long as you tour and participate on social media and release enough new product to satiate those who do care. You’re not playing to radio, you’re not playing to the looky-loos, you’re playing to the hard core, who will stand by you, you don’t want to alienate them, and you hope they spread the word and you get lucky. But if you try to jam it, try to make everybody pay attention, the audience is turned-off, if they’re aware at all, today you can shoot up a school and it can be off the news in a matter of days!

So, major record labels pursue limited genres leaving the landscape open to competitors in every other genre. To their detriment. Same deal with movie studios, they make mass appeal movies to play around the world and it turns out most people don’t care and tune out, don’t even bother to go to the theatre at all. Sure, the press tells an opposite story, the press is a tool of the entertainment industry, but the truth is the hoi polloi, the average consumer, is totally disconnected from the press. The regular folk get their news and opinions online, oftentimes from individuals as opposed to mass outlets. And you wonder why everybody in America is on a different planet.

This is what the Republicans don’t understand. They believe if they fire up their base it’s enough to win. But that is patently untrue. You need a big tent to win today. The Democrats need AOC and Joe Manchin. You’ve got to get along if you want to build a coalition to succeed.

So the Republicans are now trying to tilt the table, rig the game, with voting restrictions. They don’t realize that most people have lost respect for the game itself, and the more you mess with it the more you lose control. Like with vaccine reluctance, many people no longer trust the government, full stop. Just like lawyers got a bad name after Watergate. Everybody’s looking out for themselves.

And it turns out we don’t have a cohesive government anyway, this is what Covid-19 proved, it’s not only Trump, the government systems couldn’t get it together to enact a comprehensive plan that the public would adhere to, therefore the United States ended up with an untoward number of deaths and ultimately sacrificed the confidence of the populace even more!

We’ve become Balkanized, it’s amazing the United States even works. Which is one reason authoritarianism is gaining traction around the world, many people want someone to make sense of an unsensible world.

But the most interesting disconnect is between those with the communication power, who had a perch in the old world, and the public. Hell, the news missed the rise and appeal of Trump completely. They thought there was no way he could win. They had no idea what people were actually thinking.

Same deal with the Democrats and Bernie Sanders back in 2016.

But it’s not 2016 anymore.

Everyone in America is out for themselves, thinking about themselves, which is why no one else is. Everybody believes they’re entitled to an opinion and it’s just as valid as anybody else’s. Anybody with a profile proffers an opinion and zillions of people come out online excoriating it. Gal Gadot, a Hollywood hero, comes out with an inane “Imagine” and there’s a backlash, it hurts her profile. How can this happen to a movie star! VERY EASILY!

And sure, Trump is still in our peripheral vision, we’re keeping track of him, if for no other reason than the GOP’s desire to depose Liz Cheney, but we wonder is it a sideshow we can ignore or is it a harbinger of future control of all of us which we will abhor?

Yes, people are afraid they’ll have to go back to a three network world. That they’ll have no choice. That it’ll be like communism. But the truth is communism isn’t even like communism anymore. You can be rich in China. And Russia is just authoritarian, there are elections but you can’t get rid of Putin.

And the more you sit at home and watch the shenanigans, the more you’re both enraged and prone to lay back and let it all sail by.

And now with Trump gone, most people believe the imminent threat has disappeared so they’re going back to their lives and it turns out, all those lives are different. They don’t need to tune in to the old stalwarts, they don’t have to follow the news 24/7, they can relax and do their best to satiate themselves.

This is what the internet has provided, a world without boredom, where you can find like-minded people in every nook and cranny, where you can even make a living just appealing to the nook and cranny. The country is no longer top down, but bottom up.

But no one in power seems to realize this. They’re no different from ancient rockers who believe Spotify is the devil, forgetting that they can make the music for free and distribute it online for almost nothing and tour at inflated ticket prices while they stay in touch with their audience online. But that does not mean people will care anyway, if you want to be alive you must prevent yourself from dying, you must innovate.

And for two decades the innovation all came from Silicon Valley, first in hardware and then in software. But the truth is these tools have now been harnessed by the public, to the point where those who own the platforms can’t even control their usage. The public has run away with the conversation, and it’s all about conversation, opinions, no one debates how Facebook works, the pipes, it’s about what you can do with it.

So this is where we’re headed. A Tower of Babel society where everybody speaks a different language and people can’t communicate. Look at politics for a prime example. Why should it be any different in entertainment?

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