Emma Thompson is right: the word “content” is rude | ET REALITY


In fact, Variety itself had published, just a few days before, a direct rebuke to the term from no less an authority than Oscar-winning actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson. “Listening to people talk about ‘content’ makes me feel like the stuffing inside a sofa cushion,” she said at the Royal Television Society conference in Britain last week.

“It’s just a dirty word for creative people,” he added. “I know there are students in the audience: you don’t want to hear your stories described as ‘content’ or your performance or your production described as ‘content.’ That’s like coffee grounds in the sink or something.”

Thompson is not only right about the implications of the phrase. He is right about the real-world impact of what is, make no mistake, a devaluation of the creative process. Those who defend its use will insist that we need some kind of catch-all phrase for the things we see, as previously clear lines have blurred between film and television, between home and theatrical exhibition, and between legacy and social media.

But these paradigm shifts require more clarity in our language, not less. A phrase like “streaming movie” or “theatrical release” or “documentary podcast” communicates what, where, and why much more precisely than gibberish like “content,” and if you want to put it all under one umbrella, “entertainment.” is just there. But studio and streaming executives, who are perhaps the biggest users and abusers of the term, love to talk about “content” because it is so diminutive. It’s a quick and easy way to minimize what writers, directors and actors do, to act as if entertainment (or, dare I say, art) is simply mass-produced, and could be produced by anyone, sentient or not. . It’s just content, it’s just widgets, it’s all grist for the mill. Talking about “entertainment” is dangerous because it takes talent to entertain; no such demands are made on “content,” and the industry’s growing interest in the possibilities of writing using artificial intelligence (one of the sticking points of the writers’ strike) makes this abundantly clear.

Perhaps the best example of this school of thought can be seen at Warner Bros. Discovery, where David Zaslav ascended to the CEO throne by overseeing Discovery Channel’s transition from nature documentaries to reality. The “contentization” of that conglomerate’s holdings is the only reasonable explanation for the decision to rebrand HBO Max simply as Max, eliminating the prestigious legacy media brand that most clear-headed and marginally intelligent people would assume is a asset. He lost 1.8 million subscribers in the process, but that is simply the battle; won the war, because when you visit Max now, the cover carousel is a mix of scripted series, HBO documentaries, true crime, and reality competition shows. Everything is on equal terms; everything is content. But “Casablanca,” “Succession” and “Dr. Pimple Popper” are not the same, and the programmers of a service that claims otherwise are abdicating their responsibility as curators.

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