It has been pretty common to throw the terms â€œthe American peopleâ€ and â€œAmericaâ€ around as if the American people are some sort of monolith. Of course, that is not true. And in some cases, â€œthe Americanâ€ people turns out to be a fairly small minority. I would like to look at a few examples of this, mostly within pop culture consumerism.
The Presidential Election of 2012
This one is, well, not really pop culture, but I wanted to bring it up anyways and get it out of the way. Barak Obama won a second presidential term in 2012. Had the American people spoken? Well, he won with nearly 66 million votes to Mitt Romneyâ€™s nearly 61 million, and just over 51% of all 129 million votes. There were, however, around 314 million Americans in 2012. This means that Obama got into office with around 21% of the votes from the American people. Granted, a lot of those 314 million were ineligible to vote due to being felons orâ€¦children. Still, if they are American people and voting is considered speech, then they were legally barred from speaking. In any case, taking them out of the equation, the voter turnout was said to be 58%, meaning that there were almost 222 million eligible voters over all. Obama still got less than 30% of all eligible voters, Romney got less than 28%, and nearly 42% did not vote for whatever reason. If we are going by simple percentages, not voting won by a clear margin.
This is, of course, nothing new. Other presidents have been elected without the popular vote either thanks to the Electoral College or simply due to there being many candidates. Still, I give a side-eye to whenever American politicians talk about what â€œthe American peopleâ€ want or say. Then again, that is hardly the only thing a politician says that one should doubt.
As a side note, there had been a lot of talk about the 2014 midterm election, but I just want to focus on the 36.4% voter turnout. That is pathetic. Apparently, that is the lowest voter turnout since 1942. I guess that the American people had indeed spoken: â€œWhy bother?”
Full disclosure: I am a New Englander, born and raised. While I would like for the New England Patriots to win, I donâ€™t really care about sports in general and the advertisements have lost their novelty for me. I would not really be interested even without the whole scandal with the allegedly deflated footballs. If they get disqualified for that, then so be it.
The SuperbowlÂ is next Sunday. The culmination of a year’s worth of American football games has led to this moment. I talk about it not because I care, but because so many other Americans do. Nevermind American Idol, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, NCIS, and The Big Bang Theory. This is the big television show of America.The past several Superbowl broadcasts have gotten around 100 million American viewers. Last year, there were 111.5 million American viewers, plus another 55.5 million watching elsewhere. Whether â€œDeflategateâ€ will affect viewership this year, I would imagine that viewership will still be at least a hundred million.
Yes, more people voted in the 2012 elections, but it does not really matter in terms of ratings who the viewers are supporting, as long as they are watching. The viewers may be split, but it more people are watching The Superbowl than voted for either candidate. This is probably the piece of pop culture that comes closest to being something that America watches. And that is still only 34% of the American populace. Who knows? Maybe the numbers this time will be even higher.
American Sniper was released to a few theaters on Christmas, but had its wide release on January the 16th. Given that that was the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr., I went to see Selma. Now both movies were sort of about racist White Southern men killing non-Whites, but I guess that American Sniper did better. As of January the 25th, American Sniper has made $200 million in America. What does that say about Americans? Well, if we are going by mere numbers, it does not necessarily mean that much.
According to a website called Nation Master, the average (or whatever) ticket price in the United States is $10.00. Whether that figure is accurate or not, I am using it anyways. That means thatÂ 20 million Americans have gone to see American Sniper in the past week or so. Remember, in 2012, there were approximately 222 million eligible voters in America. So, around 9% of adult Americans have seen the movie. Maybe that number willÂ be double that after three months, but I will be surprised if does.
Now most movies will be happy to have made a few hundred million dollars, but what about one that made a huge amount? Of course, I am talking about Avatar. That movie made nearly $750 million domestically, with a domestic lifetime gross of over $760 million. I am not exactly sure what a domestic lifetime gross means, but I am using it anyways. That is a lot of money, even before adding the over $2 billion that it made internationally. Still, if one says that the American ticket prices for the movie were $10, then that means that only 76 million Americans watched the movie. That is a lot of Americans, but not more than the number who watched The Superbowl. And, since I highly doubt that the average ticket price for Avatar was $10, that 76 million figure is probably too high. Regardless, even if the number is 45 million, that is nothing to sneeze at. Definitely not Superbowl numbers, though.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
I would like to take a little side trip and talk just about America, but also the international marketâ€¦specifically China. Whatever may be going on politically between the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China and the United States of America, Hollywood appears to be doing all sorts of things to attract the Chinese market and get their films approved for viewing in that country. And, for some movies, it really does pay off. One such movie is Transformers: Age of Extinction. The movie made $245 million in America, which is significantly lower than its three predecessors, which made $319 million, $402 million, and $352 million. The overseas box office, however, was significantly higher this time, which allowed it to be the second-highest grossing film of the franchise. Quite a bit of this was due to $301 million from China. Now, just for a little bit of context, the previous movies made $37 million, $66 million, and $165 million in China. Sure, setting part of the movie in Chinese-claimed territory and featuring a few well-known Chinese actors may have been a draw for Chinese viewers, but it does not quite explain the previous jumps in viewership. I guess that the Chinese are simply developing a taste for big robots.
The $301 million stood out not just due to it being large, but also due to it simply standing out. To contrast, Avatar made $205 million in China, but it made over $150 million in four other countries each, not including the United States. With Age of Extinction, it was not even close. Aside from in the United States, the movie did not even crack $50 million anywhere else. So, with China being the #1 market for that movie, that allowed for a few jokes to set in that this is Chinaâ€™s fault forâ€¦whatever.
What does this say about the Chinese? Well, theÂ Nation Master site says that ticket prices in China are $12.23. That means that around 24.6 million Chinese saw the movie. Now, one could say that that would be only slightly more than the number of Americans who saw the movie if American ticket prices were $10 across the board. They are not, but I doubt that they are $12.23 across the board in China either. In any case, though, even if 246 million Chinese did see the movie, that is 24.6 million out of approximately 1.35 billion Chinese, or 1.8%. Soâ€¦what does the success of the fourth Transformers movie in China say about China? NOTHING!!!
Gone with the Wind
So, here we go. The big one. People talk about how Gone with the Wind would still trump Avatar in terms of how much money it made if one adjusts for inflation. I am not concerned with that at the moment. I am focusing purely on the number of tickets sold. In the United States, Gone with the Wind grossed almost $190 million, with a domestic lifetime gross of nearly $199 million. Again, that may not seem like much, but this was late 1939 and there was the Great Depression and all of that. Back then, tickets for a first-run features cost 50 cents. 50 cents. To be fair, though, there were special screenings of this movie where tickets cost an entire dollar. Still, even if one says that all of the tickets cost a dollar, that means that 190 million tickets were sold in America. And, how many Americans actually existed in 1939? Slightly more than 130 million.
There were almost 50% more tickets sold to this movie in America at the time than there were actual Americans. Now, granted, not every American saw this, of course. The portrayal of non-Whites and race relations was a subject of criticism even back then; thank goodness that we are over that now, RIGHT!!!? It could very well be that only 12% of Americans saw this movie 12 times during its three-year run. And there may not have been as many things to watch, sure. But this was a 3 Â½ hour-long movie, and inched its way to 4 hours if the overture and intermission and other stuff were included. That is a big commitment to make multiple times if the sole reason for doing so is that there was nothing else to do. At the very least, I have trouble believing that the percentage of Americans who saw this movie was lower than the percentage of Americans who watch The Superbowl. I am not sure what the success of Gone with the Wind said about the American people at the time, but it certainly said something.
Sgt. Pepperâ€™s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles sold 2.5 million copies in the first three months. I donâ€™t know if this was just in the United States, but I will assume that it was. 1989 by Taylor Swift sold over 2 million copies in its first ten weeks. Again, I have no idea if that is just US numbers, but I will assume that it is. The population grew around 63% between 1967 and 2014. What does that say about sales in popular music? I have no idea.
I have no conclusion.