Like so much else these days, the rapidly sinking ship of the U.S. newspaper industry has been obscured by the iceberg the global economy smacked into roughly 6 months ago. But sinking it is, and with it the livelihoods of its journalists, among them foreign correspondents, investigative reporters, policy wonks, columnists, and media critics. Entire professions, the entire culture of the livable wage writing life, is disappearing before our very eyes.
It's those film critics still barely holding on to their current gigs (and if they're really lucky, their work is widely syndicated) that I end up feeling the most pity for. With the economy increasingly coming to resemble the mythical Sword of Damocles, it's these writers whose future I feel, tonight at least, the most trepidation. And pity. I can't help but feel deeply depressed and agitated over the prospects of, say, Chris Hewitt, the movie critic for St. Paul's Pioneer Press, having to sit through Jonas Brothers: The 3D Experience. After all, there's a full-scale recession going on and his fellow film critics are being flushed down an economic black hole. His job could be the next on the chopping board for all he knows, and yet he can still somehow call up the courage to write this:
...the staging of the nattily dressed brothers' show is agile and full of fun little gimmicks. They're energetic performers and their songs are catchier and smarter than most acts of this ilk.
And then there's Roberto Boca, the Denver Post's Pop Music critic, equally giving himself over to the Jonas Brothers and coming away with this:
In a struggling music economy, the big screen can be big money — for the right acts. And the Jonas Brothers are exactly that.
In the end, I can appreciate that Hewitt is prepared to cut the Jonas Brothers a little slack, willing to admit their finely calibrated, super wholesome showbiz product actually has a little melodic dazzle to it. But Boca's (more cynical?) assessment seems more honest. Hewitt's is a nice piece of workmanship, a template review shot through with the kind of pragmatic acknowledgement of and pandering to its audience that this line of cultural writing encourages. It's safe--he's not some film critic who wants to watch subtitled films and discuss mise-en-scène. Boca, however, is far more willing to own up to the fact that the Jonas Brothers is a piece of cultural detritus , so trifling as to be of no greater consequence then the cash it so advantageously rakes in. It's another in a long line of boy band franchises, culturally fascinating to be sure, but ultimately inspired by the muse of commerce.