Fellow Media Whores, Rejoice — the Bloodletting of Corporate Culture Has Finally Commenced

    Did you get sodomized every time you bought a piece of mainstream media?

    Did you walk into the Wherehouse and pick up the latest disc being hawked by MTV (for way over a dollar a song) only to find 5 skits, 3 interludes, 8 snoozers and, if you’re lucky, 3 honestly good songs?

    Did you get fleeced $12-style at the box office for a 200-minute flam-but-blockbuster with a plot thinner than Michael Jackson’s nose?

    You’re nodding. It probably even happened last week (except not at the Wherehouse, sniff sniff.)

    Dry your eyes. These days, you can take it (up the …) with a smile — a real one, I mean. If Culture 2005 proved one thing, it’s that we’re officially beginning to get revenge for all the juice and jangle that’s been sucked out of us by the big boys. We helpless consumers of media are at the top of a big, long hill, and the ride down — on the backs of the major media corporations — is going to be sweeter than Mariah Carey’s sauteed shitpipe.

    Just look at the hard numbers that have industry executives screeching Armageddon: Domestic box-office returns are down for their third-straight year. Home video sales dipped for the first time in 25 years. Music album sales fell 7 percent, and even if you count 10 song downloads as an album, music sales still fell 4 percent.

    Ready. Set. Ouch. (Did you just hear a blood-curdling scream?)

    We college students ought to know better than anyone who’s to blame for all the bleeding — it’s us. Student-age consumers generate the demand that drives the ongoing rise of portable, digital distraction, the devices that many experts describe as the hangman of established (read: highly-profitable) media. Assuming you don’t exist in a soundless (or cashless) vacuum, you’re probably lugging multiple hundreds of dollars in computerized gizmos (call ‘em what you will) around campus, most of which are far more entertaining than a biochemistry lecture, or, for that matter, “Get Rich or Die Tryin.”

    Your iPod doesn’t care if you heard — or bought — the floozy tracks on the Game’s record (or heard the homework assignment). So why would you?

    Amazingly, the existence of this empowering decision apparently hasn’t yet appeared in the minds of the major culture industry executives, whose companies are still producing stale, mostly vomit-flavored plastic entertainment packets.

    Consumers, of course, deserve some blame here. Call me arrogant, overeducated or gay, but I couldn’t stifle a grim sigh perusing the lists of 2005’s top-selling media: Star Wars. Mariah Carey. Harry Potter. 50 Cent. Tom Cruise. Kelly Clarkson.

    Then all of a sudden a startling fear hit me.

    What if we’re draining the life out of our own popular culture? What if single track and episode downloads are killing arty statements like albums and feature films, and encouraging us to fill our iPods with the brainless bus ride-killers we secretly enjoy, but couldn’t previously bring ourselves to spend real money on?

    (Then I remembered that most people like fun-but-bad media, and always have and probably always will. Downloading just lets us all skip the boring-and-bad parts. Grim sigh again and … I’m over it.)

    Anyway, it’s also getting harder to tell what’s good and what’s bad. “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” looked like a 13-year-old’s fare in a preview, but try getting it at Blockbuster for the first three weeks of release. When I finally obtained a copy, I discovered that I loved its subtle charms — those so-true monologues on masculinity and the helpful guide to public urination. Awww.

    On the other hand, as a secure, self-admitted snob, let me tell you: Kelly Clarkson is bad. But at least I didn’t have to get financially reamed to find that out. (Instead, I got to realize that genuine cranial hemorrhaging is only three clicks away.)

    This curious power shift is perhaps the ultimate fleece, turned around on the original fleecers:

    They can give us crap, and we might even sometimes like it, but we sure as hell ain’t going to pay their prices for it.

    Not even with 17,000 lawsuits out against so-called thieves — the amoral users of such sinister file-sharing applications as Kazaa and LimeWire. Note to Industry: We know you’ve sprung more than just a minor leak — the whole ark is going down in this storm — and our ocean sure as hell isn’t scared of your bucket.

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