Isn't it frustrating? The ISU, or maybe the USFSA, seem to feel that they are guarding something so precious that it must be kept away from outsiders at all costs. If you or I had something as wonderful as figure skating to share, we'd cut the price and give special deals to network TV shows or at least to a channel that's commonly carried by cable providers. Because we'd know that the profits would come with the growth of crowds and popularity.
That's what Henry Ford did. He made his cars cheap so they would be affordable. He paid his workers a higher rate than other factories so that they could afford to buy his cars. I'm sure he got richer than the guys who made six handcrafted cars a year for the crowned heads of Europe.
You know what would make figure skating more popular? If people could watch it every once in a while. Let's be realistic for a minute.
Comcast (and AT&T to some extent) has a monopoly on television. Universal Sports is no longer part of their basic cable line up, so we're down to a few hours on NBC if we want to watch figure skating.
You might say, but if you were a troooo fan you'd cough up $40 to watch a tiny video on your computer screen streaming GPs every now and then. No.
Canadian Nationals had a few sell out nights this year, I don't think that's happened in a while. Skating may be on a bit of an uptick up here. Our TV coverage has been a bit better than the last two years as well.
Like Mathman says, 6.0 allowed for ignorance. The presence of so many beautiful narratives encouraged it. The ISU didn't need to counteract it because it saw the money rolling in. COP can't be enjoyed in ignorance. There are far fewer media-ready narratives (particularly for the US media and public, which tends to champion the homegrown to the extreme). A much different athletic environment (particularly for women), highly niche media market, etc etc.
This quote from Olympia sums it up.
Where is P.T. Barnum when you need him?Isn't it frustrating? The ISU, or maybe the USFSA, seem to feel that they are guarding something so precious that it must be kept away from outsiders at all costs.
Intriguing, but can you imagine if ignorant audiences dictated how an opera was created? American Aria, now on Fox.
All the US needs to fix the popularity decline is another Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan incident between the current US Ladies.......
Just imagine if Wagner took a hit out on Gracie Gold so she would beat her at the 2014 Nationals leading up to olympics!
The novels of Charles Dickens were mostly written as serials in popular periodicals. If sales dropped off from one week to the next, he changed the plot in mid-stream or threw in some some new characters.
In general, I think it is true that those composers, novelists, playwrights, and the like who wrote for the box office produced work of more lasting value than those who sat down and proclaimed to themselves, "Now I am going to compose Great Art."
Charles Dickens is my favourite author - just saying. Maybe they're turning figure skating from Dickens into... Henry James?
I don't care too much for Dickens, to be honest, for that very reason.
I think popularity depends on success...Just saying
In Russia it's VERY popular)
But seriously, I don't think anyone (including ardent fans or even Michael Bay himself) pretends that Transformers is some sort of artistic triumph or has any lasting value whatsoever. Movies of that ilk are just mindless fun, like watching bad reality TV or reading Harlequin romance novels. There's no point to comparing them to the works of the Dardennes, Haneke or Wong Kar-Wai.
Anyway, the flip side of your question is, how many artists were enjoyed and praised by contemporary audiences (even if not entirely understood by them) and continue to be highly acclaimed today? Start with Beethoven, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, etc., and go from there.
Last edited by evangeline; 02-03-2013 at 03:14 AM.
Did someone order a Burger King burger? Because I see some dead horse beating here (for those who don't know, Burger King has been caught in the horse meat scandal). Anyway, I have nothing against beating a dead horse. Gotta make glue somehow.
And like the pony we're flogging, dead is what figure skating's popularity in the US is. DEEAAAAD. Look at the recent ratings for the US championships. Last year's ratings were awful, this year's is down from last year's. At this point, figure skating is a zombie lurching around in America in search of eyeballs, and none are forthcoming.
It's funny that you guys are discussing high vs. low art. That's related to my theory on figure skating's US demise, though not quite the way some of you frame it. It's not the profit-motive alone that distinguishes some art from others. Yes, as Mathman pointed out, a lot of what is now considered classic works of art were done for mass profit back in their day, the most prominent example being Shakespeare. But where Mathman and others are wrong is to think commercially orientated artworks in the past are similar to the commercially orientated artworks we have now. Corporate culture/laws have changed drastically in the US. The media delivery system, too. To use movies as one example (and there are many others), the blockbuster movies we have now are designed to make a huge profit in the short term, and not off of maximizing viewership.
To wit: Michael Bay movies, some of them at any rate, may be considered blockbusters now. But adjusted for inflation, or looking at actual box office attendance, or looking at ongoing home video sales, they don't even rank. Adjusted for inflation, Doctor Zhivago (something all figure skating fans should be painfully familiar with, at least music-wise) is one of the most successful movies ever. I'd wager its ticket sales, i.e. the number of people who actually saw it in theaters, are higher than all of Michael Bay's movies combined. This is partly because ticket prices have been jacked up much higher than the rate of inflation in recent years. And that is a symptom of the short term profiteering that plagues business culture today.
Another symptom is WHEN a movie's profits are made. Time was, a movie would trickle out to theater for months, and people would keep going out to see it. And it would eventually build up into a massive hit. Starting with Jaws in the 80s, Hollywood discovered the rush of the blockbuster. That is, a movie that makes a huge bundle of cash in its first weekend. Nowadays, all the top grossing Hollywood films make the majority of their box office money in the first weekend it debuts! Hollywood execs like it this way because A) They want to know they're successful right away. This is necessary for their own survival as the next quarterly report is just around the corner, and the stock market is opening right the next day, and investors are more fickle and myopic than ever. B) This preempts the possibility that a crappy movie will torpedo its long term prospects when bad word of mouth gets out.
This kind of short-term, grab the cash while you can mentality applies to other commercially orientated art, too. Think back to when album-orientated rock was a viable format for radio. That's commercial radio that succeeded by playing 7 minute songs that aren't heavily promoted singles. Nowadays, radio stations are all owned by the same two companies, and the biggest hits are 3 minute songs that have the good fortune of being attached to a viral video on YouTube.
It's not that artists didn't try to make bank back in the day. It's how they go about grabbing that delicious cash that's different. If they don't make a huge amount of money immediately, they're a failure and who ever's bankrolling them will pull the plug. Just think how much that changes the kind of art artists make. Artists can no longer wait for an audience to come to them. They cannot afford to make art that relies on the audience's patience, understanding, deep knowledge or sufferance.
All of this started in the 80s, more or less. Corporate deregulation unleashed the corporate takeover of the US. The de-funding of public education increasingly removed the study of art in school, where people may have otherwise learned the patience, knowledge, etc. required to be rewarded by some art.
How does this relate to figure skating's success in the US? Well, while figure skating isn't pure art, the art part is a fundamental part of it. In the US public consciousness, as I mentioned above, the space for art that requires study and patience has shriveled to nothing. Figure skating doesn't require that much effort to enjoy, but it's still a bridge too far for modern Americans, who are now positively pavlovian to instant gratification and won't get up for anything else. Sports entertainment needs to be visceral to hold American interests. Figure skating is not.
And then there's the business culture. Figure skating isn't producing the numbers it used to? It gets the axe. It's instant gratification all over again. The post-whack success of skating can't and didn't last. So skating gets shafted, which leads to less attention and appreciation for skating, which leads to more of skating getting shafted, and so on.
There is, however, some very long term hope. This kind of corporate culture has actually caught up to a lot of the content industries now. Like I mentioned earlier, Michael Bay movies, and really most modern blockbusters, are actually not very successful by historic standards. Movie theater attendance in the US is plummeting. The record selling industry in the US is a joke and a cautionary tale cited by executives in all the other media, but one they have yet to learn from. The pendulum has swung too far. The public has been milked too hard, too fast and now all that's puffing out is dust.
Education and arts funding is going to make a comeback, as our three decade long experiment with trickle down economics seem poised for a long overdue backlash.
I don't believe that the beauty and value Americans found in figure skating for so many decades are irretrievable. It will be adapted and changed a bit to suit newer tastes, but eventually, it will be back.
I sure hope so, Serious. Your argument is very intriguing.
In terms of movies, it's interesting that two successful franchises these days, Harry Potter and Tolkien, were efforts by filmmakers who really believed in their subject matter, and they were based on books that were created by their authors in a totally individual way that happened to strike a chord in the public. These days it's easy to think of the Harry Potter films as a successful franchise product, but the books were innovative (though based on traditional elements such as the British "school story") and well-written works based on the author's own imagination and individual creativity. As for Tolkien's works, you can't get any less "gee, this will hit the bull's eye of American public interest" than an Oxford don who based his books on things like eighth-century Anglo Saxon literature. (I once went through the names of the Riders of Rohan with my Old English dictionary, and Tolkien got them straight from sources like Beowulf. Oh, by the way, all the dwarfs in The Hobbit got their names from a passage in the Old Norse epic the Elder Edda.) And yet crowds line up to see these films again and again. I know that Barnum said no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public (Kardashians prove that to be true), but you can clearly get masterpieces in front of them if you do it right.
Last edited by Olympia; 02-03-2013 at 09:43 AM.