Putting pressure on a channel of content normally gives you filtered, bitter and normally undesirable results. Like everything that came previously is recycled and polished to appear new. At least, this has been my own experience in the last several years. This is the case for modern commercial content creation and mainstream consumers as a whole being fixated in that particular direction. The pressure on that channel is profit quotas, marketing excess, and – as seen in the contemporary film industry, god forbid – reboots of another overdone franchise in some new light because the previous cow has been milked dry. Its a tragic, in-your-face assertion of what we’ve become. It goes beyond annoyance of lack of originality, its an insult to those who love the crafts and want to see progress in them rather than it being a means of vain money-making.
We’re making music, movies and TV shows to make money. For no other reason whatsoever, and we will feign ingenuity and a desire to build upon something to get you in the theaters and to get revenue from Netflix or Hulu or Spotify, and then we’re going to expand our profits in merchandise in other fields and run this ship into the rocks and start all over again when its exhausted.
This is the case for when I recently saw the latest Batman v. Superman film on a goof one night. The entire film may as well have been a single, stagnant image containing text, reading “We’re making a franchise to compete with Marvel’s Avengers and you’ll be seeing the same crap from us similar to theirs”. It felt like all the essentials of storytelling, character development (as well as contrast, Superman and Batman were both basically the anti-heroes) and a concise plot were the last burdens of the writers and producers to fit in there among the monuments of branding which they initially constructed, among other shortcomings that comic book fans more versed in the universe than I were especially disappointed to see, letting alone that the entire superhero film subgenre has seemingly become the center of this phenomenon.
It seems the entire wasteland of creativity has made an impact on the amount and scope of content elsewhere as well by making any independent creator a no-name with no chance unless they conform to the insidious system which they’re likely avoiding. Everyone in the usual atmosphere of content are conditioned to enjoy new media solely from artists or outlets thoroughly directed by money-dominated interests, which constitutes the more desirable means of delivering that content, e.g., streaming services (YouTube Red, Netflix). The whole network of money inflow creates a border which the consumers contribute to building around the actual content. The vicious circle is that average people dig the grave of sincerity in culture as the industry overlooks them and rakes in the cash. Its equal parts consumers’ fault as well as the enterprises’ for all of this.
Right about here is where you’ll begin hearing the groans of people who don’t care about this aspect. “If its a good movie or song or TV show, and people like it, who cares?”. I wonder if people’s tastes have degraded along with the standards of mainstream content. Like they’re linked; like the quality of content determines the consensus of “good” nowadays. More often than not, it seems I’m right. Nikki Minaj is terrible. Taylor Swift is garbage. Beyonce is over-hyped garbage because of name recognition alone. All these artists are shit. No, that isn’t me simply making a jaded, subjective proclamation. Of course art is subjective, but compare any of these artists to the likes of Vivaldi or Bob Dylan in terms of dedication to the craft, passion in the actual work and the disparity between how much money was behind them and I think it becomes easy to understand why I declare this so easily. The glaring vanity is what kills any right to call it art. Michael Bay’s films are perhaps the shining mecca of this phenomenon in regard to cinema. Again, compare his work to Scorsese’s or Welles’ in the same ways, how one set of creators employ genuine themes of humanity, internal struggle and social commentary, and the other literally only uses product placement, atrocious cinematography methods and something resembling a plot or humor.
Something happened progressively in time at which the demands of commercialization outweighed the demand of innovative original content; and at the current time, I think, we’re at its highest point and the masses are totally pacified to it. I’d like to think this became an early recognizable spike on a hypothetical graph around the Reagan era when TV, Film and Music were experiencing a renaissance and outside companies jumped on that action quickly and saturated media with product placement and merchandise in different areas, not to mention the political and social atmosphere which rendered every man, woman and child a cheerleader for the free market.
For me and likely others, this concept goes beyond the entertainment industry being lazy and desperate and bleeds into the more broader issue of capitalism. It exhausts and wares everything it touches for the benefit of the few who own its means of development and delivery, keeping the consumers satisfied just enough to ensure the system working and the masters happy. The outputs in mainstream media we’re seeing now are the dwindling supply of the bourgeoisie which exploits the submissive cultural proletariat who has accepted the same origin story after origin story with a few tweaks here and there to not anger people too much with the same old. They’ve accepted yet another fucking break-up/love song or celebrity drama ballad from Taylor Swift or whatever other trophy for record labels and the RIAA. Yet another insufferable season of that one series we enjoyed in the beginning, which is now past death. In leftist circles we often talk about private forces ravaging the ecosystem for profit until collapse; I think we’ve seen a perfect application of that in entertainment media. The quality thereof is far beyond disrepair. Palpably lazy and annoyed. Just waiting to die… after one more Spider-Man reboot.
For creators, it comes down to one of two choices: Attach yourself to a foundation of corporate income for your content (a good half going to shareholders) and demands to revise the original nature of your work, or pursue a medium in a way which people will adore untouched by incredible profit influence, thus retaining the integrity and honesty of the content. Moreover, we should abandon this notion of intellectual property and copyright which suggests that ideas are material objects able to be kept as commercial property, and that copying and sharing are the same as theft. In the time before the industrialization of media, content circulated in common was not only prevalent, but the default state of culture and ideas. Renaissance scholars read Aristotle freely, musicians played without need of permission or purchase from the original song’s creator, visual art was open to all across the world. Centralized, individual ownership of a work wasn’t conceived because the work was rightly considered in the minds of all and thus the shared ownership of all. I can’t fathom any other reason this changed so radically other than money having come into it all. “Starving artists”, a snarky defender responds. Eliminate money and a dominant market economy, and nobody will depend on arbitrary dollars and cents.
Normally we hear about this subject around a cafe table of insufferable Tarantino-idolizing twenty-somethings who listen to vaporwave and don’t do anything about it. I think this should be among the headlines of major news outlets and not simply a matter of comment by no-names like myself, to be perfectly honest. Its a tragedy when greed has blinded the continuation of sincere art – a universal concept which replenishes and refreshes emotions and outlooks on life and society through narratives, moving us forward with a sense of meaning and inspiration. That being replaced by “Explosions! Brand-name mindlessness! Coming soon to DVD and Blu-Ray! Streaming now on Hulu! ALL THIS FUCKING MERCHANDISE! BUY. BUY. BUY.” makes me physically ill. Industry is a cancer. Money is a plague. Underlying material incentive that exploits a medium is among the unspoken horrors of our modern times.
My faith rests in those who create content and make the material gains the last thing expected. Those who still believe in some lost noble essence in giving an unconditional instance of pleasure or entertainment to the world, as the bards and minstrels of our time. Who toiled for quality merriment and music, not for a carbon copy of the thousandth pop song and 5 dollars upfront. This basic concept being expanded and dominating corporate distribution of entertainment is what will truly unleash creators and consumers as the masters of their crafts.