In the wake of this week’s Associated Press dictate limiting its entertainment writers (including movie reviewers) to 500 words, Roger Ebert weighs in on the current state of film criticism in general. He sees intelligent criticism increasingly pushed aside in favor of celebrity gossip and he fears not only for critics but for the health of our culture in general.
“The celebrity culture is infantilizing us. We are being trained not to think. It is not about the disappearance of film critics. We are the canaries. It is about the death of an intelligent and curious, readership, interested in significant things and able to think critically. It is about the failure of our educational system. It is not about dumbing-down. It is about snuffing out.”
I hate the profusion of celebrity reporting as much as Ebert, but I’m a little more optimistic about the future of culture…for now. By dumbing themselves down, newspapers are simply hastening their own inevitable obsolescence. They’re losing their hold as the keepers of knowledge, but knowledge isn’t going away. With the Internet, it’s easier to find than ever. The difference is that the act of filtering the information falls to the reader. Readers have to be smarter and choosier than ever before. Will we rise to the challenge or will we succumb to our lazier instincts?