Who would have thought it? None other than Joan Collins, one of the living symbols of a former era in mass entertainment culture, deplores the catastrophic collapse of taste, intelligence, and attention span that’s been spawned by the current tabloid-ized version of that very world.
Just check out this excerpt from a recent interview in BlackBook magazine titled “Bling Dynasty,” dated April 17:
BlackBook: Any idea why the “tabloid” is back at the moment in culture, with people obsessing over every little detail about celebrity pregnancies, what they wear?
Joan Collins: Our civilization has become extremely dumbed down, with shorter attention spans. All they want are sound bites. People don’t have the concentration to read an in-depth article or a book, or watch a serious movie. I can’t understand it. And the tabloid magazines are exactly the same every week! People has the same cover as InTouch as OK! as US Weekly as Star magazine. They’re exactly the same! You never read about De Niro, Pacino, Harrison Ford… well, you do hear about him since he’s with Calista Flockhart. Meryl Streep. These new stars are appealing to a young audience, or a rather dumb audience.
The interviewer also asks Ms. Collins for her take on the current crop of young female celebrities a la Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and she offers an extremely negative assessment of both them and the culture of carefully marketed narcissism and voyeurism that enables their pathological behavior:
BB: And what about their clothes, these celebrities like Britney and Lindsay and Paris who go out wearing trashy outfits and no panties?
JC: I don’t think she is well, Britney. I definitely think there is something wrong with her: depression, illness. No normal girl goes out and lets photographers shoot at that angle. It’s bizarre, isn’t it? We have these girls in England. Glamour models. And they will flash their breasts in a desperate attempt to get their photos in the paper. I asked my friend Glenda Bailey [editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar] why she would put Lindsay Lohan on her cover. And she said, “It sells magazines.
Perhaps it would be out of character for me to offer the hearty accolade, “You go, girlfriend!” But I’ll offer it anyway.
Gee whiz, Ms. Collins sounds a lot like Stephen Jones in my forthcoming with him for Cemetery Dance magazine, to wit:
Almost nobody reads these days. There are too many other distractions: cell phones, Playstations, reality TV….Nowadays, in Britain, at least, newspapers have become part of the “dumbing down” process. Here we now have “lite” newspapers that are more like MTV newsbites for people who don’t want to read about anything in-depth. And what they read about is the latest gossip surrounding such empty vessels as Paris, Britney, Lindsay or Angelina. They aren’t actually learning anything—except how not to behave in public and what the latest fashion accessory is.
She also sounds a lot like Morris Berman, Neil Postman, Daniel Boorstin, Ray Bradbury, and any number of additional culture critics, commentators, and writers of dystopian fiction who have seen what’s going on and recognized that the modern mass entertainment milieu represents an absolutely unprecedented and, as it so happens, cataclysmic cultural development in terms of collective intelligence, taste, emotional centering, moral outlook, and historical memory.
So, to repeat (because I just can’t help myself): You go, Joan!
My interview with horror editor/anthologist extraordinaire Stephen Jones has finally been given a definite publication date in the venerable horror industry magazine Cemetery Dance. I first mentioned this interview nearly a year ago, in May of 2007, in a post titled “Stephen Jones on the death of reading” that contained a substantial excerpt detailing Steve’s views on the likely cataclysmic decline of imaginative reading habits among the general population of modern entertainment-drunk societies (like Great Britain and the United States) in the foreseeable future.
CD has had a rough year, what with one of its editors suffering some family crises. They’ve fallen behind schedule but are now back on track. Just today I discovered that they’ve posted the contents of Issue #59, and that my conversation with Steve is included. Elsewhere at their site (in the April 13 update on their Breaking News page) they mention that the previous issue, #58, is shipping right now, and that #59 is “already deep in production” and should go to the printers soon.
So it’s cold beers all around!
I’m pleased to see that I’ll be keeping company between the covers of the mag with such worthy folks as Sarah Langan, Nick Mamatas, Brian Keene, Stephen Mark Rainey, Darren Speegle, Michael McBride, Steve Vernon, Paul Finch, and a few others. Very nice.