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Each of us has our own list of seminal popular works of the 2010s – The Goldfinch; Game of Thrones (seen here); Oslo, August 31st; Art Angels – but what defines our current collective experience of the arts is the manner of its delivery.The Associated Press

As a film director, George Lucas wasn’t much of an auteur.

According to Harrison Ford, Lucas only ever gave two instructions to his Star Wars cast: “Same thing, only better” and “Faster, more intense.”

Turns out Lucas was a futurist. He saw where things were headed. Because those two commands capture how culture unfolded over the past decade.

Everything is now the same, although better (although better often means bigger or louder). It’s also a great deal more rapid and intense.

Most of us remember a time when entertainment came at you in bits. You waited days for the next episode, weeks for the next good show, months for the DVD release and years for the sequel (of whatever sort).

That wasn’t a bad thing, although it often felt that way. You could create a small, mental road map of all the things you were looking forward to. Waiting encouraged you to revisit things you already liked. There was a measured tempo to the way we consumed media.

Over the past ten years, it started coming at you in a great deluge. There has never been more art and less possibility of consuming it all.

I can recall the last time I felt the sweet pain of being denied an entertainment I was expecting to get: June 10, 2007.

That was the day they aired the last episode of The Sopranos. I watched it alone in a hotel room in Los Angeles.

At the very end, the doorbell to the diner rang, Tony looked up and then the screen went black and stayed that way.

I waited a beat, leapt enraged from the bed and, in a stupidly cinematic gesture, began hammering the top of the television with my fist. Then the credits rolled.

Social media wasn’t yet anyone’s go-to for instantaneous information. The iPhone wouldn’t be released for a couple of weeks, so texting was a drag. I called home to ask if the same thing had happened there. No one answered.

I didn’t clue in to the fact the show was meant to end that way until someone told me the next day.

That feels like the last time I waited for anything.

Each of us has our own list of seminal popular works of the 2010s – The Goldfinch; Game of Thrones; Oslo, August 31st; Art Angels – but what defines our current collective experience of the arts is the manner of its delivery. We’re all drowning in it.

When was the last time you listened to a full album? Not sat down and luxuriated in a blast from your own past, but a brand new album.

I’m guessing that, for most people, it’s been a while. Even those who still bother to do so won’t bother often. We have become a singles culture, not because singles are superior to LPs, but because there are so many goddamn singles to plow through and the algorithm keeps insisting you hear them all.

Once you’ve heard them all, you may decide you still like Cliff Burton-era Metallica and the Smiths best. Here is an axiomatic law of artistic consumption – as supply expands exponentially, boredom does so in equal proportion.

When the entertainment supply was limited, you enjoyed what you were given. This is why we all watched The Cosby Show in the eighties. It was always a bad show. Even before ... you know. It was tedious and treacly and the jokes never landed, but it was what was on on Thursday nights. So you watched it.

It did not occur to you to think, “I’ll bet they’re watching something of far greater quality on Norwegian or South Korean TV.”

When you found something you really liked, you went back to it over and over again. You’d forgo new things for a while, confident that you’d be able to catch up.

No matter how feeble, everything had its use.

Now, very little does. If a new show is a 7 out of 10 instead of a 9, you ditch it immediately. Before you’ll take a chance on it, you’ll check a review aggregator. Sixty-eight out of 100? That sounds terrible. Pass.

The other extreme is being so beaten down by choice that you’re left trawling through Netflix on a Tuesday night taking a chance on anything with the words “baking” or “kill” in the title.

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The last time I felt the sweet pain of being denied an entertainment was when the last episode of the Sopranos aired.WILL HART/HBO

Twenty years ago, when you found yourself mindlessly channel surfing, you’d hit the upper limit after a few minutes and have to roll back down the dial. Now you can go on forever. There is always more dreck to replace the current dreck.

This is the final stage of on-demand ennui and we’ve already reached it.

Perhaps this is why, as the decade wraps up, people were so taken by the idea of a banana duct-taped to a wall at Art Miami.

As far as art goes, it is not art. It’s a banana duct-taped to a wall. I’ve been duct-taped to things. I’m not art.

What it is is a tangible object imbued with some sort of meaning that is easily reproducible.

A few weeks ago, I was taking a streetcar to work and someone had duct-taped their own banana to the heritage plaque outside St. Lawrence Hall. Whatever you think of the duct-taped banana, you know it’s managed something when average rubes are recreating it.

In the 2010s, we moved away from the concept of the art object. Where once you had to buy your entertainment and put it somewhere in your home – albums, videotapes, books, photos, magazines et al – now you may virtually store it.

Your jacket pocket currently contains more art than existed in all of the world a century ago. You will never bother watching, reading or listening to any more than the minutest fraction of it. The amount is so staggering that you may leave it up to an algorithm to select what little of it you should see. Since the algorithm chooses things based on what you have liked before, you get more of the same. We have entered the time of cultural cannibalism. We are consuming ourselves.

How long did it take you to throw out your CDs? Years, I’ll bet.

Even long after all the CDs you owned were available in digital format – meaning you could replace the entire collection immediately and make enough room in your basement for a treadmill you’ll never use – you hung on to them.

Because you had collected them. You’d thought about each purchase. Even the ones you regretted.

When people came to your home for the first time, they’d spend a moment lingering over your CDs. That’s why you displayed them in a common room. Because they represented you in some way – a totality of your taste.

Over the past decade, we’ve lost that part of our cultural lives. We imbibe more entertainment than ever, but we no longer collect it. The gathering up of the tools of our amusement is not a curated practice any more. It’s a trash dump.

It’s getting harder to tell the good stuff from the bad stuff because there is so much of it and impossible to tell which of it helps define who you, the watcher, are.

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Every single person alive saw The Avengers, whether they wanted to or not.Jay Maidment

This is how you get to Lucas’s second rule of acting (“Same thing, only better”) and The Avengers.

Iron Man – a good film – birthed the Marvel universe and its eventual result was The Avengers – a series of increasingly insipid special-effects highlight reels.

Did you see The Avengers? I’ll bet you did. Every single person alive did, whether they wanted to or not. To have not seen The Avengers series during the 2010s was an admission you were terminally out of the loop. That’s all the zeitgeist was any more – live sports, something Beyoncé said and The Avengers.

I saw the last of them during an afternoon showing on a Tuesday. I expected the place to be empty. That’s why I went. It was rammed.

The movie is an interminable spin of things blowing up and the plot turning back in on itself. When Iron Man dies at the end and his maudlin passing is stretched out for 40 or 400 minutes, I had just about had enough.

I looked over at a couple of middle-aged guys sitting to one side of me. They were both weeping.

One supposes this is the power of a shared cultural experience – something that is vanishing from our lives.

Beyond financial caution, that must be the key to the endless run of sequels, spin-offs and remakes that now populate the entertainment landscape. People are wary of new things because they can’t be sure everyone else will like them. If everyone else doesn’t like them, then there’s nothing to share.

So you go back to the well over and over again trying to recreate the community that sprang up around Breaking Bad or The L Word.

But people don’t want to wait for it too long. Increasingly, a sequel fails when too many months or years have lapsed between it and the original.

You’d think the passing of time would increase the longing for more, but it can have the opposite effect.

We want our entertainment delivered with new regularity to suit our narrowing attention spans. The product must come in large tranches, rather than doled out over time. If we’re going to eat a TV meal, we don’t want to wait a week between appetizer and main course.

What comes next? Something different. Something different always happens.

Now that Netflix has turned itself from a noun into a verb, everyone wants in on the action. A centre which was built up, entrenched and made hegemonic only in the past ten years is already starting to break apart.

Netflix used the Cheesecake Factory model. The idea wasn’t to curate a few things some people might like. It was to serve everything everybody likes. It was handing you a menu the thickness of a phone book and saying, “You ready?”

Everybody likes the Cheesecake Factory (or should), but no one loves the Cheesecake Factory. It’s process-driven and corporate. Dining there says nothing about the person you imagine yourself to be.

However much things have changed, people still want the things they like to be a reflection of the person they are.

What sort of person is The Simpsons plus Vivaldi plus White Teeth? A very different one than The Great British Bake-Off plus XXXtentacion plus My Brilliant Friend.

This is why you once wanted a chance to go over a person’s CDs, DVDs or books. Seeing what they liked told you who they are.

That pull is to identify is too strong to disappear, despite where the free market wanted to take it this last little while.

Moving forward, things will be probably get faster. Now we have to decide through our consumption habits if we want those things to become less banal and more intense.

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