An unfortunate aspect of current entertainment writing is the tendency to rush to judgment on new artists, ranking them against their predecessors before they have even had the chance to go to rehab or give their child a stupid name.
This month The Vine devoted more than 1000 words to explore the notion that Girls is the new Seinfeld.
I’ve never seen an episode of Girls so I couldn’t possibly comment on the quality of the writing but I will make this observation: Girls only debuted last year and has just finished its second season. Seinfeld ran for nine years and has been of the air since 1998. Since that time we have more than a decade to properly understand the impact the show about nothing has had on the sitcom genre.
Given time Girls – and its creator Lena Dunham – may leave a similar legacy to Seinfeld but to make the comparison now seems presumptuous.
Another example of this premature acclamation is the news Taylor Swift has been named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “Immortals” along side Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin.
Again, I am not snobbishly dismissing Swift’s work, but surely someone needs to have worked in an industry for at least 10 year before we declare them an everlasting genius.
Girls consists of 21 30 minute episodes, less than 11 hours in total. Swift is only 23. Both she and Dunham have the majority of their careers ahead of them.
In 2023 either of them could indeed be the “voice of a generation” that Hannah aspires to. Or they could both quickly fade in to obscurity and become the 2010s equivalent of Ally McBeal and Billy Ray Cyrus. It is simply too early to tell.
This rush to judgement says more about the media organisations lavishing the praise than those receiving it.
As the public becomes more fragmented and attention spans shrink, it becomes harder to hold an audience long enough to generate advertising revenue.
So instead of cultural commentators providing thoughtful critiques of modern music, film and TV, we get hyperbolic hagiographies of any artist who briefly trends on Twitter because that’s the best way to sell issues and drive traffic.
Has a suitably gorgeous starlet topped the iTunes charts this week? Obviously the new Madonna. Can a twentysomething hunk display both genuine onscreen emotion and a killer set of abs? Well move over Brando we need the room on that pedestal for the actor du jour.
In the long run this attitude risks hampering the next generation of entertainers. Being labelled the Next Insert-Cultural-Collossus-Here is a heavy burden, even for someone precociously talented as Dunham.
Let today’s bright young things, the Gotyes and the Jennifer Lawrences as well the Dunhams and Swifts, create to the best of their abilities without comparing them to more experienced artists whose legacies are assured.