“I miss the old days,” Sam said.

“Why’s that?” his friend Mark asked as they sat on a bench in a park, watching people do what people in public parks do.

“Because everything is so commercialised these days. Everything is about money and profits and returns.”

“What do you mean everything is about money and profits? Did charities become extinct?”

“That’s not what I mean,” Sam said with a laugh. “I mean in the artistic space. Like everything is about making money these days, not actually coming up with crazy artistic stuff.”

An orange football rolled under the bench Sam and Mark were sitting on. A little boy, maybe nine or ten years old, ran up and stopped in front of Sam and Mark. Sam picked up the ball and handed it to the boy, who smiled and ran off in the direction of a group of similarly-aged boys and girls.

“Are you saying that Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers was not artistic?” asked Mark.

“Of course not. Everything Kendrick does is art of the highest order. But some of the other stuff we’ve been subjected to the last few years is trash.”

“Like what?”

“Well, I don’t want to name fingers and point names–”

“So what’s the point of saying something was trash if you won’t justify that claim?”

“–but I wasn’t a big fan of the last Thor movie.”

“Maybe it wasn’t as good as the one that came before it, but calling it trash is a bit extreme.”

“Maybe, but do you disagree that the quality of movies has gone down over the last few years?”

“I’m not sure I can say that man. I haven’t watched every movie that came out over the last few years. And I sure as hell haven’t watched all the movies that came out before then.”

“Yes, but you’ve watched the blockbusters, the popular movies.”
“Some of them,” Mark said.

“And compared to popular movies from way back, are they better or worse?”

“That depends. I think in general the quality of filmmaking has gone up with technology and the internet and all that. I think the standards are higher now than they were before.”

“What about the storytelling?”

“I think there’s still some good stories in films these days. There’s some very creative shit being done man, and not just in film.”

“That’s true, but don’t you feel that the storytelling has got a little mediocre? Like it’s kinda shallow?”

“Is it?”

“Yeah, I’d say so. I agree with you that the standards for quality are higher these days, but I think the standard for mediocrity is also lower.”

“That sounds like a contradiction.”

“Just hear me out for a second. Getting into the arts is much easier and more accessible than it used to be. Like, anyone could be an artist these days. Some guy could buy a DSLR camera, go on YouTube and call himself a professional photographer after watching a 15-minute video. But you can’t compare that guy’s work to a guy who’s been studying the craft and working at it for years. But because they’re probably both on Instagram people have the same access to them and their work.”

The ball rolled under the bench again, followed by the same boy from before. He stopped again in front of the bench, an expectant look on his face. Sam picked the ball up from under the bench and handed it to the boy, who ran off again with a smile on his face.

“So you’re saying artists need to meet some sort of benchmark to publish or display their art?”

“Not exactly.”

“You’re saying artists just starting out, even though they may be crazy talented or produce fantastic art in the future, should not be allowed to share their art with the public?”

“That’s not what I’m saying, stop putting words in my mouth.”

“What are you saying then?”

“Back in the day, to succeed as an artist, in any art, you had to be good and your art had to be fire as well.”
“You could be controversial and use that to your advantage.”

“Yeah but being controversial just for the sake of it or for clout isn’t art. And anyway, people still do that today. What I’m saying is I think we hype things up that shouldn’t be hyped up. Like, don’t gas me up for a trash song I did with my cousin who can’t sing. Give me constructive criticism so I can get better.”

“That’s easier said than done man. Artists can be sensitive,” Mark said.

“Yeah I know, and I get it. I’m not saying talk shit about whatever I’ve done, but don’t lie to me either. Tell me if you didn’t like it or if there’s anything better that could be done about it. Even if what you say hurts and bruises my ego, if I want to get better I’ll get over it and try to be better next time.”


“And I’m not saying please everyone either,” Sam said quickly before Mark could accuse him of something else. “Do what you do for the people you do it for and do it well. And don’t keep flogging a dead horse. I think that’s the big problem these days. There definitely isn’t a shortage of talent, but the big companies and the people in charge of them seem to be focused on making money more than they are on doing fresh, groundbreaking things in the arts. There’s always a remake of something being released, or a franchise being revived, or someone copying the success model of someone else hoping that they’ll make money too.”

“And what’s wrong with all that?”

“Nothing, but the problem is I feel that sometimes those remakes and revivals and copies are done not to do justice to a story, to retell it from a different or fresher perspective or even to do it better, but they’re done because the originals made money and it’s almost a guarantee that their successors or copies will make money too. At the very least nostalgia will make me go watch a remake of The Chronicles of Narnia, but it doesn’t need to be remade just because fantasy is popular right now. I mean I’d love for it to be remade, but no one needs to rush to get it made and give us a mediocre product just to capitalise on the fantasy craze.”

“You have to remember that making money is important, Sam. At the end of the day, these people are running businesses and need to make a profit. Making art can be expensive too.”

“Well-done art will make money regardless, Mark, as long as people know about it.”

“Okay, so what’s the solution?”

“I don’t know man. Maybe giving more support to younger, newer artists and getting their art out there. People are hungry for fresh content. I don’t want to be going back to rewatch, relisten, reread, or rewear stuff from years ago every three months because the current content is repetitive. That’s boring.”

“You could start something yourself too, you know. You love to write, don’t you? Write a play. Or a screenplay. Or a book.”

“That’s a lot of work. I have to get serious with life now that I’m done with school and everything,” Sam said sheepishly.

“So get serious and ‘joke around’ a little on the side as well,” Mark retorted. “Stop being a coward.”

“Yeah maybe I will,” Sam said, as the orange football landed squarely on Mark’s lap.