In a discussion of the remote hacking of a baby monitor device, Bruce Schneier noted:
The moral here isn't that your baby monitor could be hacked. The moral is that pretty much every "smart" everything can be hacked, and because consumers don't care, the market won't fix the problem.
Emphasis mine. The substance of his comments were about technology and security, but the same, in my opinion, goes for the bad-movie problem (or the bad-book problem, or the bad-music problem).
As long as something has a large, uncritical market for it, the market can't be relied on as a corrective measure for quality. The market will not deliver better books or movies because it is not geared to improve creative products that way; it's geared to simply keep the pipeline fed and put stock on the shelves.
This is bad news for more than just the beleaguered producer of content, who can't find an audience for his work. It's bad news for the audience, which gets deprived -- not even all at once, but across years and generations -- of real variety. And it's bad news for prospective future creators and purveyors, who see running with the herd as the only viable option, and so end up tailoring their material appropriately. Why write that great, creative, maverick project you have in mind when it's going to be difficult to get people to care about it in the first place, because it's so creative and maverick?
I'm beginning to sense a fundamental flaw in the way creative work is put in front of audiences. Our current model is a supermarket, where we let the consumer come in and we dazzle him with a whole wealth of options -- although, on closer inspection, most of those choices turn out to be superficial. (Six flavors of toothpaste?) Maybe we should think more about the museum as a model, where the success of any one thing isn't as important as the general level of attention and the overall enrichment of the culture.
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