Popularity and public acceptance have never been, nor will they ever be, a valid or legitimate determinant or signifier of quality.
But that detrimental misconception permeates our society.
As Sturgeon’s Law eruditely states: 90% of anything is crap. Hollywood and Big Publishing produces just as much crap as independent channels. And yet, the common, conventional assumption says that whatever is produced by the taste maker/ Gatekeeper machine of Hollywood and Big Publishing and Big Music is somehow innately more credible, more worthy of acceptance than indie productions. Actually, being made or sponsored by Hollywood or Big Publishing is no guarantee that the material is actually any good or deserving of attention and adulation.
I could make an impolite (but true) joke about the Twilight book/ movie series here… but I won’t.
In our society, the value and significance of art is misguidedly gauged and defined according to a criteria of commercial success rather than merit.
With such a mentality, a thing is good not because it is genuinely good by any standard, but merely because it sells and is “profitable”.
My books may (or may not?) be within the remaining 10%, but they will never achieve mainstream recognition, respect and appreciation as long as our society operates under that delusion. Self-published, non-agented books like mine will never be nominated for literary awards, because it would never even be considered. Never be on the best seller list.
But given what qualifies for best seller, I’d be insulted and dismayed if any of my books appeared on that list.
Any award framework that only includes material from conventional or official channels is by nature invalid and illegitimate.
Fellow media commentator Del Marbrook insightfully considers the issue in a recent blog post .
Although that entire post is worth reading, here are some of the more salient points offered:
It’s fair to ask, I think, whether our conventional media are providing us with the very best we’re creating amongst us or with a highly redacted limited edition that caters to a plethora of special interests. It’s fair to ask whether our media are corporate propagandists intent on limiting our vision and the means needed to realize any vision.
They reflect a regressive win-lose society that regards its every venture as a race to commercial success as if that were the only kind of success worth considering. Such a society, ensnared as it is in its commercial obsessions, cannot live up to its own highest ideals.
…it’s always possible that works of considerable merit will fall between the cracks, sometimes finding no publisher, sometimes finding shoestring publishers, and more often falling to critical neglect. That said, it’s also true that works of great merit published by important presses are often neglected or damned with faint praise. Given these issues, the very nature of egalitarianism comes into question. For example, is it egalitarian to say a work of art succeeds because it’s popular and sells well? Or is it egalitarian to say none of that matters, what matters is that it has a chance to breathe and be heard and seen.
We’ve had the gumption but we’ve never had the wherewithal to take on the assumptions of our taste-makers. Now we do.