I’ve been noticing what everyone else has no doubt noticed by now – that everything is either a reboot, a continuation, or a re-imagining of something else. Even semi-original stuff like Stranger Things exists solely to pander to nostalgia (while omitting the zeitgeist of more problematic period ideologies, much like the benefit of Vic Fontaine’s holosuite lounge in DS9). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make me wonder when this collective millenial Peter Pan complex is going to end.
The nostalgia-whoring isn’t even the worst aspect of art today. In the world of webcomics alone, I’m constantly bombarded with crap on my Facebook feed that wouldn’t merit a passing grade in a middle school Intro to Drawing class – no backgrounds, characters with no personality or effort put into their design, poorly arranged color palettes, and dialogue balloons out of sequence. The subject matter of said comics ranges from nihilistic to overly-positive. Mostly, thought, it’s the wasted potential of a bunch of jokes that could have easily been spread out through an entire story but instead fizzle out at the end of a few measly panels. I’ve seen better work from Ctrl+Alt+Del (to its credit, the “Loss” meme is almost a decade old and still getting laughs), and yet, people eat these new comics up like MDMA in a trick-or-treat bucket.
I can’t blame creators for what’s out on the market, though – that blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the consumers. Whenever an innovative or controversial idea surfaces, it’s immediately dismissed as “pretentious,” “autistic,” or “edgy” in today’s social climate. Even stuff that you supposedly have to have a very high IQ to understand only gets popular for the memeable one-off jokes. Seriously…of all that can be taken away from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, the only things people remember are the Happy Noodle Boy quotes?
I guess I’m probably not the best person to judge the world of entertainment on artistic merit. I mean, about a third of the movies I’ve watched more than once feature Adam Sandler in some capacity, and I once found Aqua Teen Hunger Force funny while I was high. So why does all this death of ideas bother me so much? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I feel that if I come up with something truly amazing, the world won’t be ready for it. Maybe the opposite is true – that the world needs new ideas now more than ever – but do I want the responsibility of going first?
It’s an even bigger deal when you take social politics into account. Take the issue of the female Rick and Morty writers – the problem was less likely that a couple of clams crashed a sausage party than it was people were afraid of the type of women that typically get hired to femme up a screenplay. As messed up as it is, even advanced western societies don’t want to hear from women who write the kind of stuff you’d expect from Trey Parker or Seth MacFarlane. One fine example of this is that Eve “The Vagina Monologues” Ensler had to be hired to enhance the portrayal of female characters in Mad Max: Fury Road. Let that sink in…a cast of mostly women had to have an “expert” hired to tell them how a woman is supposed to act. Did it not occur to anyone to, say, turn to critically-acclaimed actress Charlize Theron and ask, “So…how would you portray a woman like Furiosa?” The one exception I’ve seen is in Asian media imported to the U.S., as most Americans probably can’t distinguish the creators’ sex by names alone, but even newer anime is seeing a decline in quality after catering to the gaijin dollar.
These things have been weighing on my mind for some time now, and are part of the reason I haven’t been as productive as I could be with my own work. I try to motivate myself by seeking out art that I enjoy and like-minded individuals just to remind me that I’m not alone in the search to create something groundbreaking. I want to end this rant on a positive note, but the best I can do is to insist that I will keep trying, because the creation of art is my calling in life. Even though I will probably never see success in my lifetime, I have to do what I was created/evolved to do. Maybe someday, it will touch the masses.
~ Sarah Elaine