Many of you have probably already read Neal Gabler’s ”The Movie Magic is Gone” and if you haven’t you should go give it a read now.
Now, however, when people prefer to identify themselves as members of ever-smaller cohorts — ethnic, political, demographic, regional, religious — the movies can no longer be the art of the middle. The industry itself has been contributing to this process for years by targeting its films more narrowly, especially to younger viewers. In effect, the conservative impulse of our politics that has promoted the individual rather than the community has helped undermine movies’ communitarian appeal.
All of this has been hastened by the fact that there is now an instrument to take advantage of the social stratifications. To the extent that the Internet is a niche machine, dividing its users into tiny, self-defined categories, it is providing a challenge to the movies that not even television did, because the Internet addresses a change in consciousness while television simply addressed a change in delivery of content. Television never questioned the very nature of conventional entertainment. The Internet, on the other hand, not only creates niche communities — of young people, beer aficionados, news junkies, Britney Spears fanatics — that seem to obviate the need for the larger community, it plays to another powerful force in modern America and one that also undermines the movies: narcissism.
We’re not sure if we buy Gabler’s argument. It has less to do with narcissism and more to do with media savvy audiences realizing that a handful of studio executives no longer have the tight-fisted control of distribution.