Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: The Culture Machine, OR, The Five Star Scheme

“Star ratings were a conspiracy hatched by an Illuminati that seeks to de-luminate you. It’s clickable, skimmable, nonsensical and diabolical – that natural next step from awards shows. They are the neuro-cynics who make you cede your minds to their widgets.

“Annual awards slowly tricked you into thinking great stuff comes out every year. Hey, a Man Booker shortlist. Did you watch the Emmy nomination livestream? And some movie wins every year, and now ten films get nominated! Culture is so saturated with congratulation that you never have the opportunity to reflect on the last work of art that profoundly altered you. Now simply mattering in an annual cycle bestows greatness.

“And now – now it’s even easier, because everyone votes on Amazon star ratings and Metacritic User Reviews. You don’t even have to review it. Just click! Four of five available stars? That’s pretty good, and since most users are too stupid to use anything but the top and bottom of the scales, thousands of products get high averages. Good for companies, good for actors, good for authors, as you’re gradually convinced that all five-star books are the same. You don’t need truly exceptional works, because Breaking Dawn really is as good as Brothers Karamazov. Heck, it’s rated a tenth of a point higher by the average reader! And who are these readers? The five-star scale doesn’t care, because democracy doesn’t care who you are. It’s about registering to vote. Registering to churn the culture machine.”

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