Sunday, November 29, 2009

Popularity Vs. Quality.

Is the notion that most popular forms of entertainment (best seller books, blockbuster movies, music hits) tend to be low in quality is just an elitist idea, or if there is some truth to it?

Well, it would make sense if you think that the ability to assess the quality of something requires exposure to it.

In “Formal Theories of Mass Behaviour”, in 1963, William McPhee noted that a disproportionate share of the audience for a hit was made up of people who consumed few products of that type. (Many other studies have since reached the same conclusion.)
A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better. An American who read just one book this year was disproportionately likely to have read “The Lost Symbol”, by Dan Brown. He almost certainly liked it. (The Economist)

So whether it is an elitist idea, one should not necessarily dismiss it. It is true of food, wine and ‘high culture’ as well.


At 00:11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no idea about these theories. Are they so surprising ?
Speaking about reading, someone who reads not very much will do it being in vacation, after a hype, a literary prize, after seeing a new movie withdrawn from a bestselling book (for exemple the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown). On the contrary people who read a lot are more selective choosing, giving priority to their favorite authors to know them better or being curious to read new authors/stuffs having eared of them by relatives, in columns or good books shops…
I think it’s similar for art : special exhibitions, painters birth-places, famous museum are visited by enthusiasts who don’t hesitate to go abroad as others will go to museum in case of outstanding promotion or perhaps being exceptionally led by friends.
And so on with all sorts of art. I think all that partly depends on how we are curious, how we were educated, with whom we live, work, share our free-time…


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