The Meritocracy

People do not naturally perform objective analyses.  In fact, some psychologists doubt it is possible, just like how certain “random” numbers come up more often than others when asking a group of given individuals. It seems pretty straightforward, and yet society (at least in America) is based on the lie of a meritocracy.

In a meritocracy the person who is best (strongest, fastest, smartest) will be promoted above others.  America made a huge step forward when we dropped the oligarchy requirement.  That is to say, we don’t honor heritage as a necessity for promotion.  We don’t have kings, princes, lords, and ladies — technically.  (I have discussed plutocracy — elevation of the wealthy — in the past.)

But we know that meritocracy isn’t the norm.  Artists are usually the ones whining about it, but it goes on everywhere.  You and I both know that you’re better than the boss’s son at pretty much everything and yet the boss’s son is the one giving the orders.

Those of us who follow movies and comics are often baffled by decisions.  For instance, the lastest Die Hard movie, A Good Day to Die Hard, was a massive and predictable flop. Why predictable?  Because it was written by Skip Woods who has written 5 crap movies before being given the Die Hard franchise to crash.  FIVE!  Yet he was asked to do another and will probably be asked to do one after that.  If he was a driver and movies were cars, he’d long ago lost his license.  So why is he still getting movies to write?  We know he won’t do a good job.

Simple, Skip Woods has connections.  He knows people who know people who know how to shut him up.  He’ll keep getting second chances because good writing doesn’t matter in Hollywood.  Money matters.

I could spend a lot of time ripping into Skip Woods for having no idea how to make a character likable — or for his subtle racism or his broken sense of humor.  Honestly, it’s like the man has never interacted with another human being.  But I’ll leave him alone for now.

I recently read an article bemoaning the popularity of a comic book artist that can’t draw feet.  Seriously, in all the pictures I’ve seen of his, the feet are either hidden or look ridiculous.  It isn’t just feet.  His drawings of hands, abs, shoulders, and guns also look pretty laughable.  Still he’s drawn for some rather major franchises and will continue to.  There are better artists available — I know people who are better artists — but none of them will make tens of thousands of dollars butchering beloved characters.

M Night Shyamalan is another director with an awful record that keeps getting directing gigs.  Perhaps it’s because he’ll take anything.  (I hate to say it, but consensus is in, he wasn’t the worst part of After Earth.)  Or perhaps, and this is the most likely scenario, its because he makes his movies consistently under budget so that they always make back the money invested.  He lacks artistic integrity, but is a shrewd business man.

The same may be said for Uwe Boll who realized he can make more money off of a flop than an average film.  

You may be wondering what we can do to get talented people where they belong — inserting talented unknowns into Hollywood — but while it is possible it isn’t likely to happen.  It goes against human nature to pick a potentially talented unknown over a well known talentless hack.  Better the evil you know, right?

I mean, the U.S. military has managed to create a working meritocracy, but they did it by reducing people to numbers.  They removed the human element and the human sensitivities.  We wouldn’t be comfortable with that solution on the grand scale.

The flip side of the coin is that editors, publishers, producers, and other media moguls actually protect us from a lot of crap.  Have you read a self-published novel?  They’re almost always pretty bad.  Writers tell themselves that lots of great writers were rejected by publishers, and it’s true, but those same editors also rejected thousands upon thousands of crap writers.  We just never hear of those because there is nothing to hear about.

I recently downloaded 2000 songs by independent musicians.  It will take me five days to listen to all of them.  I’m listening to them and deleting the ones I don’t like.  So far I’ve deleted 200 songs and kept 3.  Of those three songs I’ve kept, two of them ended up on later records.  None of the deleted pieces were picked up by publishers.  That tells me that music publishers are pretty good at filtering out the bad.  Some songs were truly, truly bad.  Others were just kind of same-y.  One song would end and the next would start without anyone ever noticing.  I don’t want to listen to songs so simple and cliched that they might be heard in an elevator.

Later I might write a post on how to tell if you’re in an awful indie band, but I’ll get to that later.

Posted in Media, Philosophy.

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