Magicians love to complain about the state of magic today. Everything it seems, is going downhill. The new generation of magicians are ruining magic as an art. But is that really the case? Maybe this is the greatest time in history for magic:
But now everyone is doing magic tricks.
Years ago it was harder to find, and learn a magic tricks secrets. Only the committed were encouraged or had the drive to learn the ‘inner secrets’. Now that magic has developed into a more mainstream activity, all those people with drive STILL find magic today. The difference is that they are not slowed down by gatekeepers, or lack of access to knowledge.
Does price and availability matter?
The availability and price of magic doesn’t impact the quality of magicians. In just the same way that the quality of professional singers isn’t damaged by the fact that songs are free to sing. It’s talent that’s important, the increased popularity of magic increases the number of talented magicians that can emerge. The poor quality acts also increase but don’t gain an audience.
But terrible magicians on Youtube are putting people off magic.
There have been terrible magicians all through history. There have also been terrible singers, artists, authors and actors. Amateur dramatics is not killing cinema, just like karaoke isn’t hurting the music industry. We are not put off by the terrible audition acts when we watch Britains got talent or x-factor. We love the show more because of it. There’s a saying: The sour makes the sweet taste sweet.
Badly presented magic on youtube is low quality, and just like anything else, there’s always going to be lots of it. It makes us appreciate the real talent that ‘shines through the rough’. There’s a huge amount of excellent magic on YouTube in amongst the poor stuff. There’s just as much bad comedy, art, dance too, but the good stuff is filtered through and shared.
Awful Youtube magic videos need to exist. They have a purpose. It’s the modern version of the uncle who bores you to death with his shambolic magic tricks. You can judge good magic against it.
It wasn’t any better.
We view the past through rose tinted glasses. Were the magicians props and tricks over the last 100 years any better than those today? More expensive and harder to order, yes, but quality? Browse through any magic shop website and pick out all the items you think are terrible and you wouldn’t ever be seen using. What percentage of them have been around for decades?
The stereotypical magician is not new.
Magic had a negative stereotype far before the Internet came along. The magicians that are mocked are dressed and use props from the time before magic became so commercial. We mocked unpracticed magicians then, and we still do now. Nothing’s changed. What we are really mocking is lack of practice, presentation and skill. Those shortcomings have been ridiculed all through history.
Tommy Copper used magic for the sake of comedy. He did it with love, but its clear he understood completely how magicians were mocked by the public in the 1970’s and he based his persona on the popular stereotype of the clumsy magician who’s tricks go wrong. People tuned in to be made to laugh as much as to enjoy his magic tricks. His persona allowed the audience to laugh AT him knowing they were also laughing WITH him.
TV Magic has gone downhill.
The 1960’s 1980’s and 1970’s were not filled with amazing magic TV shows any more than today. Yes, we can name some great shows, but magic on TV was still rare, compared to any other type of program. There were great magicians on TV then and there are great magicians inspiring and amazing viewers today. TV shows have had to change their format over the years as TV magicians have to deal with a different way that the audience watches their shows. We can now record, rewind and repeat shows as much as we want, this isn’t a reflection on the quality of magic presented, but more an adaption to the way audiences interact with it.
The shows are different, but magic is still loved, hated and ignored as much as ever. Many of the changes we see in the way TV presents magic, are happening across all forms on entertainment. Chat with entertainers in any form and you get the same concerns over the format and presentation. It’s not magic that’s changed, it’s TV and audience tastes in general.
The golden age of magic VS. Selective recall.
Every generation feels that things have gone downhill, and that things were better in the past. This has more to do with growing older than historical fact. People don’t like or trust change and hark back to a “simpler, better time”. Psychologists have demonstrated that human memory is hard wired to remember positive events more than negative. It’s just the same with magic. The magicians in the 19th Century probably longed for a return to the golden age of magic, just as we are drawn to do so today.
Despite how it may seem, magic has never been more popular at any time in history. There are an incredible number of creative people passionate about magic.
Right now, as you read this, magic shows are being broadcast on TV channels all over the world. Thousands of people are watching magic and searching for it online.
Our ability to learn and develop our skills and to push the boundaries of what is possible for magicians had never been greater.
The huge number of amateur magicians learning and exploring magic isn’t its undoing, it’s a signal that magic is alive and well, staying current and perhaps in a new golden age.