When Your Audience Is Stupid

If you create (or have ever created) entertainment products for mass consumption, you have very probably come across the refrain:

"They will not get it."

What this invariably entails is some kind of alteration in what you are creating. This alteration, for the most part, takes one of two forms. You either dumb it down to suit the perceived inability of your audience to "get it". Or you keep what you have in hopes that your audience will either understand it or will be interested enough to raise their standards.

Most people go for the first option. They give their audience what they think they want — a below par product, a sub-standard work of art, something that does not demand much from them. I will argue that this is disrespectful towards the people who like your work and that an artist’s true responsibility is doing everything in her power to give the audience what they do not know they want.

At the end of the day, your choices are these:

  • Drop standards to cater to a larger mass of people, or;

  • Maintain standards of quality and force your audience to raise their standards.

Of course, what goes without saying is that the second choice, where you choose not to go for the mass market, practically ensures that you will only ever have a small base of followers. But these followers will be people who respect you. And what's more important, these followers will be people you can respect.