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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Where is the beautiful end to monoculture the Internet was going to bring us?

Filmmaker Louie Psihoyos, at Gothamist, laments the fact that his totally gripping documentary The Cove — about an abhorrent annual dolphin slaughter in Japan — isn’t being seen by very many folks:

It’s like we’ve become a nation of dunces. Where are we getting our information from? We’re not reading and we’re not going to the movies for anything serious… I don’t think the answer bodes very well for America.

Jesus, it’s a little bit daunting; I mean we thought we had this crossover film. This film has action, adventure, was set up like an Ocean’s Eleven film, and at the end of the day, you know, you feel better for it… It’s got everything. Except an audience!

Meanwhile, at New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, Ada Calhoun reassures everyone who might be worried that mass culture is dying that everything is just fine:

The second you step off the island of Manhattan, everyone dresses pretty much the same (Old Navy, JCPenney, Target), buys their groceries at the same place (Wal-Mart), and listens to the same music (Top 100, or one of several other nationally mandated formats with strict playlists).

We’re all on Facebook and use Craigslist; thanks to the Internet, anyone and everyone can get their news from nytimes.com. Most Americans have the following most-convenient choices for eating out: Chili’s, McDonald’s, the Olive Garden. There’s Harry Potter and Jay Leno (now at 10 p.m.!) and Dan Brown. We all watch American Idol. We all follow the same handful of celebrities and their adopted children. Just because you can now also satisfy obscure interests online (cake pops, cougar porn, anime fan fiction) doesn’t mean the mainstream has ceased to exist.

Calhoun seems to think this is a good thing. And anyway, she’s wrong. We don’t all watch American Idol, for one — in fact, if 30 million people watched the most recent season debut, that’s only 10 percent of the total U.S. population: nowhere near a majority. But the fact that there’s a perceived need to assure us that America is just as conformist and dumbed-down as ever sort of terrifying, and clearly unnecessary.

Where is the beautiful end to monoculture the Internet was going to bring us? And why is everyone so afraid of it?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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