Editorial – Do Hits Matter?

The Internet ground to a halt late Thursday afternoon with the Earth-shattering announcement that Jimmy Smits was open to the idea of returning to the Star Wars franchise. And we were just getting over the news that Harrison Ford “may be” interested too. Yes ladies and gentlemen, the reaction with which the Internet has greeted the news that a new generation of Star Wars is on the horizon is quite literally unprecedented. I’ve even seen serious film types talking about it.

Like many of my age I grew up with George Lucas’ space opera as a constant presence. A firm fan of the series, Star Wars was one of the key early influences that helped to push me towards cinema. But alas, upon late I’ve drifted from the films, with last year’s Blu-ray box-set the final nail in the coffin housing a long-held love affair. This is nothing to do with the special editions, Greedo shooting first or the prequels, I simply no longer enjoy them. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least moderately interested to see what Disney has planned for the future of the series.

Which is seemingly not the consensus opinion. While my own reaction to the news of an Episode 7 was one of surprise, followed by a half-hearted interest, the gossip mongers and news junkies of the world set their systems to overdrive and began a glut of speculation and hype that has yet to let up almost two weeks on from the initial announcement from Disney.  It doesn’t help that 99% of the digital ink being spilled is being dropped on pure nonsense: did we really need to be told that Quentin Tarantino wasn’t interested in directing Star Wars Episode 7? The whole thing peaked quite early, on November 1st in fact, with what will no doubt come to be referred to by future generations of humans as the opus of the period. With the headline – Let’s Speculate Wildly: Are Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof Already Working on ‘Star Wars VII’? [UPDATE: No.] the whole sorry affair managed to be summed up. The update was added within the hour of the original piece going live, and while I’m not naïve enough to believe that Hollywood aren’t adverse to spreading the odd piece of misinformation, surely common journalistic decency would see such an article pass through some kind of authority for clarification before any editor clicked “publish”, not least given how soon Disney et al were to clarify the misreporting in the article in question. Holding back for one hour could have saved a lot of red faces.

Ultimately I can’t help but feel a little bit of sympathy for the people that are writing this stuff. It’s not like we’re lacking in things to write about in the world of film.  

One of the worst offenders Brazenly rebuked a comment concerning his lack of a grasp of the US political system with “But what do I know, I watch and write about movies”. In fact, I’d argue it was the opposite way around for the gossip industry: they write about films and then they watch them, with little courtesy for the analytical of or the appreciation for the source at hand*. They love hype, and are the PR-man’s wet dream, a guarantee of a steady stream of hype without the circumstance for any film of a genre leaning. And in their defence, this is what gossip sites do, this is their role, so it feels a little bit redundant to criticise them for doing it, albeit badly or otherwise (some sites offer excellent coverage of this sort of thing: i09 for one). 

But anyway, I’ve digressed hugely, back to the point: do hits matter? The industry is increasingly moving away from the previously all-important “click” measurement, in to an area where the unique monthly visitor is king. Note the way in which the major sites report their statistics. If anything, this culture of encouraging clicks within clicks within clicks, an inception of narrative presentation if you will, is only going to serve to accelerate the painful death of the value of the “click”. And lets not forget the importance of the user experience: forcing the reader to click through to a second or third page to continue reading is alienating and obnoxious. The Internet is an infinite space, 2 or 3 or even 6 pages of semi-hypothetical “news” is unnecessary. Influence, not clicks, reigns on the post-social media and App landscape, and it’s much more difficult to measure than by the old fashioned method. 

I’m sure some will dismiss this as sour grapes: I can only assure thee that it’s not. I care about the standard of writing online, and hate to see it cheapened by tabloid-y silliness. It’s hard enough to be taken seriously at the best of times, and chaos like this only serves to reinforce the notion that online writing is secondary to that presented in physical media.

Adam Batty – Editor-In-Chief

Further Reading

A Heartfelt Plea To All Film Bloggers and Editors Regarding Star Wars. The Shiznit cover ground similar to this.

The 100 Best Films Of The 1990’s. Slant show how the multipage, click-to-continue thing should really be done.

Also

My entry for last weeks IndieWire Critics Survey On My Favourite Bond Film.

*See the numerous articles dismissing The Dark Knight Rises within days of the films theatrical bow, the Internet hive seemingly unaware of the irony in their instantaneous acts of destruction having hyped up and overblown any preaction in the months and years of the films production (and yes, it’s lead me to coin the term “preaction”). That non-existant plot holes were written of suggests that some of these commentators don’t even watch the films that they profess to be writing of with particular attention.

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