Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Understanding Exclusion

If, as the UC Santa Barbara team of Professors Bielby and Bielby have asserted, "All Hits are Flukes: institutionalized decision making and the rhetoric of network prime-time program development", (American Journal of Sociology), and I have to say their study is pretty convincing on the subject. If all hits are flukes, then it becomes imperative for "institutions" (studios) to create rhetoric in support of their predictions of future success, for their own survival.

The study goes on to tell us that much of the rhetoric created, or the assumptions used to measure future success, are predicated on the concepts of 'imitation', 'repetition', and 'reputation' as the hallmarks of predictable success. Hm... so if you weren't there, haven't done it before, or don't pretend to be what went before, you are considered a 'high risk'. Though in fact, the 'new' idea has as much chance out of the gate as the old. Interesting, the subtle equation of exclusion.

Women and minorities are excluded from the cultural conversation by these assumptions, which are, in essence, speculations, trotted out as fact, when a film or television show is scrutinized for its success potential in the market place.

'Speculation' then is wielded as a tool of fact by which others are excluded.

If all hits are flukes, then there is no one sure model. And every time someone champions a past success in relation to my dreams, that 'valued' opinion' needs to be leveraged against the truth. The truth is that I have as much chance of predicting success as the thirty year old studio white guy. Maybe more, as I live among the people, not in the land of holly and wood, and my tastes are directly influenced by the people I meet at ball games and the library, etc. The problem; I have to greenlight and finance my own projects in order to change the conversation to something which interests me.

And soon, if my flukes hit, I too will be the one imitated, repeated and reputed. And as long as I remain outside of the 'institutions' I can continue to move forward, creating worlds anew without having to reflect exclusively on what went before.

So, the lesson I take away from this is that I no longer look to the paradigm to affirm or negate what I do. I give myself permission to create and dream worlds not readily available on my screens. Onward!

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