Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Decade Predictions



When I was 12-years-old, I considered myself to be a sophisticated television viewer. My favorite channel was "Fox 47," and since the Fox network at that time consisted of about two shows, the vast majority of the station's programming was syndicated. But it was a hodgepodge of syndication--shows that were produced specifically for syndication, reruns of series that were still airing on networks, and reruns of old shows from previous decades. Wikipedia wasn't invented yet, but I didn't need a reference source to know which was which. And if you were to name two of the shows at random, I'm pretty sure I would be able to tell you, based on the shows' aesthetic (though I wouldn't have known that word at the time), which was the older of the two.

I don't necessarily think that any of the above is particularly interesting. However, what I do find interesting in hindsight is that though I was acutely aware that television had evolved over time, I had no sense that the evolution would be continuing in the future. Though I may not have consciously articulated it, I was operating under the impression that shows like "Small Wonder" and "Out of This World" represented the telos of television, and I believed that for as long as I would live, programming would remain in the same mold. Shows with laugh tracks would exist in perpetuity. I couldn't conceive of anything more sophisticated.

This is all an obtuse way of pointing out that we are slaves to our time, that we can easily spot what is ridiculous in bygone epochs, but we are woefully ignorant of the absurdities of the present day. But I believe that it is worth attempting to transcend the current paradigm, to at least try to conceive of what we take for granted today that will be a punchline in the future. And since this is my first post of the decade, this would seem to be an appropriate time to do so. (Caveat: I don't necessarily believe we will experience any paradigm shifts regarding the following phenomena in the following decade, or even in my lifetime).

1) Ties: The only function that ties serve are to convince other people that we are taking a situation seriously. In the future, I am certain that we will develop a way to do this without choking ourselves.

2) Smoking: One day, it will seem patently absurd that people at one time paid money to buy wrapped-up leaves, for the sole purpose of setting them on fire and inhaling smoke, in many cases signing their own death warrants in the process.

3) Professional Wrestling: I used to wonder if pro wrestling would be more popular if it were actually real. Then MMA came along and I don't wonder anymore.

4) Daytime Soap Operas: Like pro wrestling, I acknowledge that a large segment of the population already finds the phenomena absurd. But there are still millions of devotees. Yet when those devotees die, the decades-long genre dies with them.

5) Academic Gobbledygook: People today read Kant--not a lot of people, but considering he died over 200 years ago, a remarkable number nonetheless. Hegel is considered to be rather inscrutable, but people take him seriously. I don't see people in the future taking Judith Butler seriously (this article presents a critique of contemporary academic prose). The commercial success of Gladwell and the Freakonomics guys shows that a significant sample size of the book-buying public is not anti-intellectual. Unfortunately, most of our intellectuals today write in a style that is anti-public. I have got to think that this is a phenomena that will one day be regarded with disbelief.

6) Televised Commercial Blocks: I find it hard to believe that people sit still and watch even two continuous minutes of people driving cars, old couples simulating intimate moments, and mooks drinking beer. But when generations used to time-shifting and on-demand entertainment succeed generations that have been beaten down into passively receiving intrusive commercial messages, this phenomenon will cease to exist. (This is not to say that I think marketing or commercialism is going away--just that the status quo will be displaced).

7) "Factory Farming": The radical wing of the "animal rights" movement has spurred a continual backlash that has prevented a more expedited inquiry into the morality of corporate agricultural practices. But the more moderate factions of the movement are making tangible inroads that will probably become mainstream at some point.

8) Packaged Breakfast Cereal: I realize I'm going out on a limb here, as Wikipedia reports that "The breakfast cereal industry has gross profit margins of 40-45%, 90% penetration in some markets,and steady and continued growth throughout its history." But to look at a singular "Frosted Flake" with a fresh pair of eyes, to truly behold the absurdity that is "Tony the Tiger," is to fleetingly inhabit a plane we may one day ascend to.

Final thought: I will gladly pay the industry standard 99 cents to anyone who records an updated version of "Imagine" using the ideas presented herein.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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