Movies are getting worse over time. When’s the last time someone released a real classic like Citizen Kane or Casablanca? For that matter, music is degrading too. Have you heard the latest hit by the latest teen boy band? It’s just repetitive drivel. The videogame industry is dying; just look at the way how Electronic Arts and Ubisoft consistently release unfinished games. How can Destiny compare to classics like The Legend of Zelda and Crash Bandicoot?
Except that that’s not true at all. That’s elitism and it’s been around since people started making art; people have always liked to say that no one could possibly ever do it better than it’s been done. There have always been a lot of bad movies. We just don’t know about most of the old ones because nobody bothered to keep them around. There’s only one Twelve Angry Men. There are a lot of terrible sci-fi, horror, romance, and comedy films from the same decade, but they’ve fallen into obscurity because they’re bad.
There’s always been a lot of bad music as well. Gregorian chant had no specific rhythm and almost no tone. Bach wrote some great pieces, but most of us only know a few of them because the rest just aren’t that good. Mozart is universally known as a musical genius and the same applies to him. The pieces get stale and repetitive, sometimes the melody doesn’t really work, and sometimes the cliched cadences feel like juvenile rhyming couplets. That was okay back then because nobody had anything better to do than listen to mediocre music.
When videogames first started, there was pong. That was it. A bad simulation of tennis. Over time, people started to realize that games can tell stories, but principles of game design hadn’t really been invented yet. A lot of games were glitchy and broken. Difficulty was defined not by intentional intellect or skill challenges, but by sheer difficulty in beating the game — which frequently just meant the raw quantity of things on the screen that can kill your character. Scenarios were common in which a decision you made five minutes into the game has now made it unbeatable in a completely unforeseeable way. Games had to be technically “finished” on release, because the internet wasn’t big and accessible yet, but they didn’t have to actually be good.
Media in general are not in decline, despite appearances. They have always looked like they were getting worse, and they’re still here. Rather, media are following the same natural iterative process that they always have where a lot of people make a lot of things, a few gems are good enough to be carried forward in time, and the rest are dropped because they’re terrible. In fact, because any generation’s standards are based on the classics of the previous generation, if anything, all media are actually slowly improving over time.
Elitism is silly. Great music comes out all the time and has for a very long time. Focusing only on the events of a 100 years ago as the pinnacle of artistic creativity and skill can only possibly cause you to miss the exciting new things that have happened since and will happen next.
They didn’t have electric guitar in the 18th century.