Vox Populi

A Monday post! I know, how odd. I had free time today, so I’ve decided to address an issue that I’ve wanted to cover for quite some time.

For those unfamiliar with the term, vox populi is a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people”. It’s a journalistic technique that used to involve walking around the streets and asking the same question to a variety of people to get their opinions. However, you can now see examples of the idea in the Twitter feeds that they run on news broadcasts or comment sections in articles. While it may be a ploy to get people to dedicate themselves to the station, the general idea is to let viewers/readers see the opinions of other people.

Here’s the problem: the vox populi is an idiot.

No, this isn’t a Randian push to say that I’m better than the people, not at all. However, I do know one fact: everyone that I know, myself included, are not educated or cultured enough to judge the world in that way.

Let me explain.

There’s two ways that this principle applies: news and culture. I’m only going to touch briefly on the news aspect, because there’s no real way to fix it. I’ve said before that reading foreign news sites has taught me that my local news stations edit the hell out of reality, which means that they should never be fully trusted. This is no news flash (see what I did there?) because the stations have been corrupt for a long time. However, I would take biased, yet educated news over biased and uneducated any day. Journalists might have a slant, but they’re also educated on the proper ways to analyze a situation in a fairly objective way, even if they don’t report in the same way.

The populi, on the other hand, will view everything through a thick filter and only have a brief flirtation with reality. The idea that humans never act irrationally in the end is completely true; someone might look like they’re acting oddly in the short run, but you can usually take their background into the equation and arrive at a logical result. This is one of the reasons why the two-party system has stuck around, everyone votes for what is best for themselves in one way or another.

Let’s make this simple: The economy. There’s a very good reason why you should value the opinions of a team of economists over that of your Aunt Mary. The reasons should be obvious.

Now, culture.

We all know that the Oscars are at least a little political. They’re also run by fairly respectable people that are well-versed in their field. I’ve been surprised at the recent turn in the awards towards more popular movies, however. While I’m not a hipster snob that rejects anything popular simply because people like it, I’m worried that the Academy is starting to cater to the masses. And like I said early, the masses are idiots.

Let’s take me, your lovely Cat, for an example. I haven’t read a proper book (save my goddamn textbooks) in months. Let The Right One In was the most “cultured” film that I’ve seen in ages, if only because it was dark and in Swedish. I’ve been trying to “broaden my horizons”, but my Netflix account will tell you what I really watch; listed from present to past: Futurama, Freakonomics, Law Abiding Citizen, Prince Of Persia, Let the Right One In, Darker Than Black, and Defiance. They were all good, yes, but I’m betting that there was better.

When you boil it down, I run AC to give publicity to webcomics that are better than their statistics figures. While the reviews are nothing more than my opinions, I’d like to think that I’m more knowledgable about them than the layman. Does this mean that I’m an authority on them? By the gods, no. I’m a blogger, that’s it, my opinions are pretty much shit. Yes, I appreciate that calling my opinions crap in a opinion piece is odd, moving on. However, I can see how reading all these comics has altered my perception of what is good or bad. I remember looking back on my Questionable Content review a month or so ago and having to remind myself that I once thought that QC was the greatest comic out there. Now, since I’ve grown from experiencing the medium, I can put down a slightly better piece than the layman.

The same principle should apply to anyone in the entertainment industry with a voice.

I have a deep respect for Roger Ebert. While he has come under fire for a few unsavory comments about video games, he’s surprisingly tech-savvy for someone from the 40’s and I love him for his movie criticism. Ebert has the rare ability to take a movie for what it is, which is more rare than you might think. He has no qualms about saying that a popular movie is crap while giving very positive reviews for relatively unheard-of flicks. It’s not because of his film critic snobbery that this happens, however, it’s because these movies deserve what they get.

But why does his opinion matter more than mine, or yours? It’s because he has spent years entrenched in film, learning what makes a good movie good and a bad movie… you get the point. I don’t have that experience, you probably don’t, and I can guarantee you that the vox populi doesn’t either.

It sounds like I’m drinking the governmental Kool-Aid by saying that we should be told what to do by people smarter than us, and that’s partially true. Bear in mind that I’m not telling you what to think, only how you get your information. After all, a lot of critics liked Avatar; I hated it. There will always be personal taste, and we will always have access to the stuff that is mainstream; no critic can stop that. Instead, we need critics, newscasters, journalists, writers, bloggers, sign-wavers, basically people that know what they’re talking about; they should be the ones to tell us what is good outside of the spotlight. Otherwise genius will go unappreciated while the markets will fill with utter crap.

Want Hollywood to become more “intellectual”, to go back to an era of “good movies”? Of course you do, it’s the top criticism of the cinema at the moment. Nothing’s going to change if you don’t research into what is good outside of the posters hanging in the lobby, or how much your buddy loved Avatar. Go see Black Swan instead of Take Me Home Tonight. Failing at that, well, there’s a century of cinema to experience, give it a shot.

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