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Remedial Entertainment

Struggling to follow along with various discussions of transmedia entertainment, I’ve come to think of this inevitable trend as “remedial”. 

I was deeply surprised a few years ago to find, while participating in a couple of Firefly forums, that I was  rubbing virtual shoulders with profoundly conservative Browncoats, whose interpretations of the beloved text (we’d all studied scrupulously and thoroughly admired) reflected political views that were diametrically opposed to mine.  I was shocked that I’d never noticed that my unspoken assumptions about government, personal responsibility and junk like that weren’t shared by 100% of the Whedon-loving community.

A little research led to the realization that my reading of Whedon’s liberal intent onto the material was no more valid than the libertarian and reactionary readings of people I’ve always tended to visualize as rednecked mastercriminals.  Define evil.  Nope — try again.

The simple fact that a single property has the power to draw together wildly divergent audiences under a common banner is the primary reason I like to call this stuff remedial; it facilitates healing of the bleeding, hostile chasm that prevents adherents of opposed political agendas from talking to one another with good ol’ indispensible civility.

Remedial also applies, in another sense, to my personal history (in the 80s and 90s) of having dropped the habit of reading, going to movies, watching television, and feeling plugged into contemporary culture.  I was busy failing to teach myself to draw for 15 years, pretty much 16 hours/day.  So when I was loaned the Serenity DVD for a weekend in 2005, I (reluctantly but spontaneously) devoured the film four times that Saturday afternoon before racing out to Tower Records to buy myself a copy and snag the season of Firefly…which blasted open my perceptual doors to a great many unexpectable things and scads of additional “branded” purchases over the past few years.  “Branding” has absolutely nothing to do with the studio (20th) that owns the IP, nor the FOX network that botched&cancelled the 2002 broadcast presentation (my money’s on Sandy Grushow for that unforgivable series of blunders). 

Since 2005, I’ve been engaged in an autodidactic bonehead crash-course in media culture, trying to catch up (to the communal worldview of an audience and writer-director who’ve been paying attention to stuff I stopped watching for a couple of decades) by following some of the vaguest and most ill-concieved treads of association imaginable.  A comprehensive list here is impracticable, but among my most peculiar trains of thought are examples of deranged rumination that led me to see the operative as Paladin (in Have Gun – Will Travel) Season One, and Tom Whedon (father of Joss) has a few things to say in the special features of the DVD re-release of The Dick Cavett Show:  Comic Legends.  Although, looking for Reaver-spoor in Texas Ranch House is more wishful thinking than common sense.  I’d estimate 75 pounds of better choices amassed in the past four years.  I’ve even made a chart of the ideas I wanted to pursue across dozens of properties that have nothing to do with 20th nor FOX, except coincidentally.

The thing is that the casual loan of a DVD four years ago ignited in me a hunger I didn’t know I had, and the hunger still burns fairly brightly.  I didn’t know one could read by the light that hunger gives off.  So…long after “the death of print”, I’m reading more now in a week than I read throughout the 80s (except for three bewildered passes though The Photoshop v2.5 Bible, before I had a computer) and injecting annoyingly irrelevant remarks at Henry Jenkins blog:

http://henryjenkins.org/2009/09/the_aesthetics_of_transmedia_i_2.html

for example.  And even though I usually feel like a Special Ed student at the back of a class designed for the best&brightest pupils, the informality of my remedial education doesn’t seem to prevent me from participating, yet.  Perhaps it’s just a lack of common decency.

Early in Convergence Culture, Professor Jenkins differentiates communication platforms from media.  I suspect that the differences between these two closely-related phenomena are easily and frequently confused, and that that confusion impedes a clear understanding of the role the transmedia movement will play in healing a divided and mistrustful Union.

It’s just preliminary thinking on my part, but I think certain platforms effectively target particular communities. 

  • Radio (now often called audibooks at iTunes) is probably far more appealing to people who don’t see or don’t read than books and graphic novels are. 
  • Radio leaves a lot to be desired by the deaf as a means to communicate nuance. 
  • Silent films (in particular) with their frequent use of intersitial text, but all movies and television that condense exposition with printed verbiage don’t really keep illiterates optimally engaged — likewise, subtitles. 

The point of this (my exercise in transparent stupidity) is to suggest that transmedia (in this example, trans-platform) entertainment presents any one singlularly immersive world of engaging content from as many platforms as is feasible in order to attract to that media property the largest audience possible.  If I knew more than I do about videogames, I’d lump them in here, as well.

From this perspective, perhaps Bob Iger sanctioned Marvel to draw the nuclear family together again.  Pixar attracts everyone in the family to a seat under the Disney entertainment umbrella, except the leather-jacketed, disaffected rebel, who’d rather be out raising hell or clubbing than joining in family night at the multiplex.  Remedial entertainment from a vertically integrated, transnational conglomerate that’s hellbent, Buy’nLarge, on grabbing Up the attention of the entire family with wholesome family entertainment, whether they want the entire Disney-ethos package, or not.

On the subject of enumerating “platforms”, I’ll probably stay fairly fuzzy and confused until I can learn to differentiate traditional classroom education from other forms that strongly resemble it.  Stand-up comedy is often indistinguishable from modes employed by classroom teachers.  So I’ll pull out all the stops and stop blithering entirely, once I’ve suggested that remedial edutainment is desperately needed in the necessary evolution of the dying discipline of journalism, our government’s holiest and most-reviled limb.

…except for one more thing and that’s that X-Men Origins: Wolverine doesn’t just kick ass, it pulverizes it — and Lynn Collins brought all the juice to her role as Kayla Silverfox, Wolverine’s girlfriend, that came with her to Portia in The Merchant of Venice.  We’re talking bout the quality of mercy, here.  Vaporized it.  Jackman, Schreiber, Kitsch and Reynolds! Nobody phoned this one in.

18 Sep 09 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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