At the end of season four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the BigBad has been vanquished and The Initiative is not only broken but obliterated, scattered and denied as though it had never happened beneath the plausible deniablility of “scorched earth” and governmental scoffing. The season-long arc has climaxed in episode twenty-one, which leaves Restless as an aftermath of summing and evaluating the work the show had done — for four years. And it’s written in ancient iambic Sumerian, Buffy Summerian, that is; swimmin’ pools, movie stars…
It’s an anthology of dreams of the four principle characters who joined together (even more completely than of-yore) to defeat the BigBad by invoking the soul of the power of the slayer, which just happens to annoy the hell out of the entire tradition of slayers, which manifests in each of their four more-or-less fragmentary dreams to threaten their waking lives for having the temerity to flout the chain-of-command (slayer tradition) by going directly to the source that’s personified in the original slayer, a solitary misanthrope, the victim of frightened old men.
And the writer’s/director’s commentary for that episode reflects his intentional, insistent break with tradition to write an hour of only-vaguely-linear, subtexual exposition about the sandbox in which four characters met to create a television show; the writer’s sandbox.
Buffy’s success as a programming victory for an insignificant market reached more people than were targeted in an age-appropriate demographic by breaking with tradition, remixing staid conventions and going directly to the source of the power that unites writers and audiences; by making something new from stuff that had already been done to death. And Restless departs from the customary path that defines the rise and fall of television shows. It specifically and particularly defies its own traditions by (among other things) previously portraying Spike in The Yoko Factor as the maniplative influence of network/studio executive notes and messageboard remarks from fans. Everybody meddles, well-wishers, censors, sponsors, fans…even artists meddle with their own work.
Call it classic or cheesy television, if you must. I’ll just describe it as art. Like fashions, cultish devotion and popcultural references, obsession with novelties wax and wane, but Mutant Enemy produces work that continues to delight me as I age, finding rich new layers of meaningful content embedded in each successive assay; not unlike Casablanca — it never seems to get stale. I don’t see Dollhouse in the same light, but it’s loaded with ideas that deserve (and will receive) plenty of additional scrutiny.
Restless is a remarkably transparent statement about nourishing the writer/artist/content-creator by flouting the interests of significant others by engaging with the source of pleasure in writing stuff people will eventually come to realize they need because it keeps the saga alive in the souls of the writers/artists/content-creators who refuse to work on their knees, pandering to past success; pandering to pandering. It also does that for the audience.
I believe that the factor that killed the Beatles was their unqualified success, the overwhelming public adoration for what they’d already made together acted as a profound deterrent to whatever hadn’t happened yet. It wasn’t/isn’t Yoko, but public inertia; popular yearning for more-of-the-same that kills artists (by rewarding copyists and meddlers).
The most singularly valuable thing I’ve leaned while following the blog of The Ad Contrarian came from a guy named Guy who said that discovery and invention are very different processes; that academics invent categories, classifications, comparisons and contrasts, while fortunate and talented scientists and artists discover things that really can’t be vivisected without significant loss. And the death of social media happens when reputation acts as an impediment to stepping out of character and discovering something new.
Having spent the past couple of hours reading and thinking here:
it seemed especially appropriate to consider carefully Jeff Gomez’ opening statement,
“I’m the first to admit that there are far too many diverse definitions of transmedia and even transmedia narrative, but even the mavericks in our crowd will agree that the term is distinguished by the fact that story becomes paramount in the dispersal of content across various media platforms and formats.”
I’d like to suggest that story is probably paramount to storytellers and central to all interested content creators, but angels seem to fixate on ROI.
I like longform-story-that-incentivizes-audience-archaeology kind of a lot! And with only the sketchiest understanding of the contingencies involved in the metrics of franchise-success, the intricacies of narrative structure, the byzantine complexities of product distribution and predictive business models…I see the transmedia movement as prone to several practical hazzards. Firefly is my shining example of a deeply-engaging IP that was brutally murdered by its angels.
The corporate ownership of intellectual property is where mainstream media starts, right this minute, here&now. Corporations exist to limit personal liability while maximizing profit. The fundamental purposes corporations serve are radically different (maybe antithetical) to the purposes of art. And without defining art, consider the state of the art of the contemporary corporation:
Composed of competing divisions, the modern corporation is representative of a culture rife/riddled with proprietary secrets, flexible alliegences, and a remunerative structure that’s most beneficial to
- persons at the tippy-top of its hierarchical strucure and
- shareholders whose contribution to the creation of product could not be more intangible.
I see the transmedia movement as capable of branding the template of corporate culture deep into the living flesh of independent content creation. That’s totally anti-progressive for the evolution of art and prevents the growth and facilitation of the collaboration of independent artists.
Whether narrative or profit is paramount to modelmakers, animators, actionfigure assembly-line-workers… isn’t the point I’m trying to make. It’s that the art of collaboration is more important than the quality or quantity of the end product, to me. I suspect that the inevitable ubiquity of now-developing transmedia modalities in content creation will be very greatly influenced by corporate culture; the only pockets deep enough to fund widely-popular experiments, with an eagle-eye on ROI, and platitudes about the primacy of story.
I do not mean to impugn Jeff Gomez’ word nor his integrity, but I’m fundamentally curious about entertainment projects owned by the widening diversity of artists who made them — for the benefit of culture, rather than funding agencies and angels. Transmedia entertainment might become the exemplary beacon of participatory democracy, but an environment ruled by
- governmental mandates,
- corporate ownership/interference, and
- audiences geared to behave like inattentive herd animals
doesn’t bode well for the vitality of liberty, the emancipation of the arts, nor artists, nor people. That’s all.
Rhymes with “solace” as the antimatter reboot episode of Angel 4.11 in which Angelus is tactically invoked to replace Angel for the specific purpose of putting an end to The Beast (that blotted out the sun and would probably devour Cleveland). And that’s quite enough about that.
I’d like to take this opportunity to bitch about Connor and Cordelia. The two of them are written in a way that makes this fourth season a very difficult passage to the series final year. I’ve now seen Vincent Kartheiser in only two roles, but both of the characters he’s portrayed are disgustingly ambiguous. In Mad Men, Kartheiser’s acknowledged talents elicit moments of tremendous sympathy that rise high above my accustomed contempt for his character’s slippery, self-serving values and tendency toward treasonous toadying…but Pete’s been there since the beginning of that series; integral to its success. In Angel, Connor is a climactic insert, an add-on, an appendix that never seems to go away, adding a bottomless suck-hole of selfpity, sexual perversity and quasi-religious fixated venom that borders on insanity.
Mutant Enemy’s fondness for Charisma Carpenter has never seemed less justifed than in the course of this season of Angel, in which Cordelia’s everpresent influence thwarts everything I enjoyed in the show. As a foil, Cordelia was invaluable, but as a scold and a pillar of reason, she’s utterly superflous…and I say these things about the characters who were written by the most admirable brand I know. Cordelia and Connor stink, while Kartheiser’s brilliant portrayal of a crap-hole sings with an actor’s sensitive and intelligent choices, the character just sucks ass. The thing is that I blame the writers for driving an incredibly complex, multiseason plot-arc through the incestuous liaison between Connor and Cordelia that’s foreshadowed by Angel’s implausible fixation on the wellbeing of his dearly beloved but mostly-evil son.
Sidebar: I’ve known admirable individuals who marry admirable individuals and reproduce in order to become horrid parents who make contemptible choices, persistently, whenever they’re obliged to choose between sane behavior and actions that might possibly infringe upon the wellbeing of their little ones. These choices extend to barring the use of profanity within fifty yards of their kids, smoking most anything, the display of affection between unmarried adults…It’s the kind of drastically-altered, hypocrital mindset that murders longstanding friendships, and results in horrid kids who sometimes become admirable individuals, especially if they estrange themselves from their parents early.
Angel leans quite deeply in that revolting direction. He prevents Cordelia from joining in the search for The Beast stating that she’s far too precious to him to risk her life and safety needlessly, then he tells Fred to get a move on (as though Fred were labelled BEASTFODDER). The wizards at Mutant Enemy pointedly drew the distinction between Fred and Cordelia to highlight Angel’s Cordelia-related compulsion that would require several more episodes of tedious semi-credible explanation, but the special place for Connor and Cordelia in Angel’s theoretical heart casts piles of unloving disregard on every other character for a very long time…and that’s why season 4 seems a great deal longer than all of the others. The moment in Orpheus when Angel rescues a small dog from the path of an oncoming car in the 1920s reminds me of the Shatner-meets-Collins temporal paradox that’s pivotal in The City at the Edge of Forever. Just sayin’. Thirteen bucks to download nearly 29 hours of Star Trek season one from iTunes. Such a deal! I ought to be able to check the ostensible parallel/quote/homage and make a report in about 48 hours.
Paraphrasing Angel: The purpose of a champion is to behave as though the world were a better place, and thereby set an example for the rest of us. When Angel behaves like a parent/knave, his show might as well be Ozzie and Harriet. And I’ve better things to do than that.
A little more bitching: Interstital transitions are very unlike act breaks. They don’t adhere to the narrative structure that makes their occurence predictable. An abrupt change of scene or timeframe on Angel is often accompanied by instantaneous flashes of lightning and attendant bursts of thunder. These instantaneous overstimulations of the audience sensory instrumentality contrast markedly with several mumbling actors and signature dark cinematography and really piss me off. They’re all so unpredictable, painfully bright and disconcerting that they also serve as foreshadowing intimations of the arrivial of Jasmine, who, as Skip explains, in Inside Out, is the all-powerful unknown force that’s been nudging, manipulating and influencing important events since long before the start of season one. I love Skip. I loathe Jasmine’s bargain that equates world peace with theocratic world domination — and I also loathe blinding interstitial transitions, even when they’re deeply integrated, innovative and intentional enhancements of story. They fucking HURT.
There are a couple of notable parallels that won’t bear up under serious scrutiny, but I’d be remiss in failing to mention Jasmine’s blatant and subtle resemblance(s) to Oprah, beauty queens and Michelle Obama. I think that in the moment of her ascension to First Lady, the media reduced our collective perception of her intelligence and personal dynamism by 75%, and has been feeding the world a steady diet of her private sleeve-lengths, child-rearing advice and bits of traditional role debris. It’s as though media artisans are tirelessly revising Michelle Obama’s breathtaking native identity into the mandatory First Lady’s graven image that generates adoringly-favorable global impressions far more like Oprah’s, Elizabeth II’s, or June Cleaver’s than Hillary’s. If so, we’re too dumb to pity.
Gwen Raiden is introduced in Ground State (4.02). Portrayed by the remarkably attractive and adept Alexa Davalos, Gwen appears twice in a couple of later episodes in the middle of that season and never shows up again. Why? Rogue didn’t have some of the finest writers in the television industry fabricating snappy banter for her to deliver, though the nature of her superpower made Gwen Raiden almost exactly as incapable of physical intimacy as the X-Men character, Rogue. Mutant Enemy failed to service the Raiden character adequately, yet they made her emotional isolation chamber infinitely more empathically recognizable in fragments of three episodes than the X-Men franchise managed in three excessively expensive films to make Rogue matter, meaningful, memorable. See Players for the soul of a spin-off pilot that unfortunately didn’t extend the domain of the slayers beyond Players.
Their commentaries indicate that Mutant Enemy was constantly formulating work-arounds for practical, financial and logistical difficulties, many of which were imposed by their dinky networks or the studio. I’ve always suspected that the season arcs were exquisitely designed to tell the audience more about the obstacles besetting the production process than all the cumulative speculation in print by academics, fans and critics. Whistler was replaced by Doyle. Corruption was replaced by Lonely Hearts. Angel almost never tasted of human blood, but would have done so in Corruption…it’s the notes and meddling of network and studio executives that lead me to speculate that an angel in theatrical production is a soulless wad-of-money with legs that makes a television show like Angel possible. The trick of turning angels into Angel involves making the best possible compromise with hosts of variable-sized demons. Most production companies don’t entertain by itemizing the cost (in souls) of creating products that give solace.
Some day the final departure of the Groosalug from Angel will make even more poignant sense than Mark Lutz’ last line — if I can grab somebody who knows more than I do (about the Sandy Grushow relationship with Mutant Enemy) by the lapels and torture them until they confirm/contextualize my irrational suspicions regarding Firefly, Buffy and Angel. No, probably not an opportunity I’ll ever have (to learn a thing or two).
And that passage of The Teddybear’s Picnic that introduces a caged Angelus as the teaser closes in Soulless really should have been overdubbed by a superb vocalist with perfect pitch, to contrast with Angel’s off-key, arhythmic Manilow covers; Anthony Stewart Head, maybe: Audience notices the markedly-improved voice with surprised satisfaction, then recognizes the singer and with keen curiousity attributes a wealth of deceitful talents to Angelus that make him a more formidable antagonist than Angel. That’s the note that prompted this post. Show the viewer someone new, don’t just always tell us.
I guess it’s just one of life’s little ironies that an actor bearing a phenomenal resemblance to Anthony Stewart Head makes his singular appearance in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd about 38 minutes into the film. Moments after Todd’s tonsorial contest with Pirelli concludes, the actor I’m talking about congratulates the victor with a couple of lines that indicate the inquisitive gentleman fully intends to become one of Todd’s regular customers.
This moment is oddly ironic simply because Anthony Stewart Head’s appearance is
- uncredited, and
- Head (unless I’m entirely mistaken) was probably the most accomplished professional singer who ever came near the set (exluding coaches and extras).
The one-and-only special feature on the DVD, I just cruised through, makes much of the good fortune and pluck surrounding Tim Burton’s, Helena Bonham Carter’s, Johnny Depp’s and Richard D. Zanuck’s very first musical, ever. There’s even mention of Burton’s disinterest in the theatrical form of the muscial; Carter’s longstanding passion for the play; and Depp’s having come to Hollywood originally, not as an actor, but as a musician (who never sang)…and yet…movie-magic doesn’t translate this rendition of Sweeney Todd into a hands-down masterpiece of dark cinematic genius. It’s a fine, engaging, very-visual and well-acted movie that’s 70% singing with reasonably good vocal performances by people who are famously marketed for doing other things. They classed it up with Alan Rickman, yet gave him very little to do.
I’m probably making strident note of a subtle aftertaste of commerical arrogance that drips like running riulvets of blood from this remarkably entertaining film that might have been something ? more rewarding? inspiring? influential?…supm brilliant.
It was really very good, just more like Alien Resurrection than Amelie; they were last night. I gotta say that an esteemed auteur’s name on the cover says very little about end-product-value, nor is an auteur’s interaction with collaborators central to promotion. Maybe it should be. And what might a filmmaker learn from a film of audiences watching her film?
A summary Rickmanism:
“You can act truthfully or you can lie. You can reveal things about yourself or you can hide.
Therefore, the audience recognises something about themselves or they don’t —
You hope they don’t leave the theatre thinking ‘that was nice…now where’s the cab?'”
“[Head] was originally to have a role in Sweeney Todd, as a ballad soloist and one of Todd’s murder victims, but, due to the ailing of Johnny Depp’s daughter, the schedule became tight and Head’s character, as well as the characters of 13 other actors, were dropped from the film. Instead, Head made a short cameo appearance as a character who asks whether Sweeney Todd has an establishment of his own. — Wikipedia
That’s my tale of Weenie Todd; hotdog box office appeal, but don’t question the ingredients.
The commentary track of Lullaby (Angel 3.09) is provided by Tim Minear, who co-wrote and directed the episode, and Mere Smith, writer and script coordinator. It’s the funniest and most insightful 43 minutes of focussed conversation since Lem Dobbs and Steven Soderbergh argued their way through The Limey.
Lullaby is a pivotal episode in the development of the saga that brings a final end to Darla and introduces Connor, but Minear and Smith somehow manage to kill (one another and me) in the course of a stand-up/sit-down, microscopic leer behind the scenes of the making of M.E. product. (I really believe that Darla became the soul of the franchise [and Connor was the stake in its heart]). Plymouth Cock landed on Darla in a way that permitted her backstory to drop dimensional shadow on the whole whore of American history. Mutant Enemy barely utilized that exquisitely beautiful teaching aid.
Late in the lively frivolity, derisive mention is made of That Old Gang of Mine (3.03) in which Gunn’s loyalties are divided between his old crew and his new one, while black characters perpetrate violent acts of indiscrimate racial intolerance against a local minority population (of dangerous and harmless demons). I mentioned the rarity of media insight into black racism in an earlier post on Lakeview Terrace, which leads me to marvel at Tim Minear’s (and Mutant Enemy’s) courage in exploring that special brand of darkness that doesn’t seem to win awards or even lift many eyebrows. (District 9 tried to go there too, but it overdosed on Stupid and Brutal before it succumbed to Moronic.)
I wonder that a white guy from Whittier (Nixon Country — 43.2% white, 1.2% black, 1.3% Indian in 2000) even took a sympathetic shot at addressing the black experience, let alone an intriguingly clear, equivocal one. Apart from the unambiguously negative regard with which Tim remarked on That Old Gang of Mine, I’d really like to know how it was meant to fit in the M.E. product line, and how it failed to make the more satisfying statement he obviously intended.
The purpose of this post, however, is to mention a kind of alternative interpretive overlay in which I see significant similarities between Charles Gunn and Malcolm Reynolds.
Gunn’s pickup truck is introduced in War Zone (1.20), bristling with a stake-throwing, bed-mounted machine gun, and Reaver-style Wash-stickers, strongly resembling “the boat”, late in the BigDamnMovie. I see another similarity in the gradual raising of Gunn from the heartbroken leader of a streetgang (“muscle”) to the stature of a diplomat in the struggle against overpowering and nearly-immortal sanctioned corruption…which (to my mind [vampire/empire]) resembles the evolution of Malcolm Reynolds from the ungenteel son of an independent rancher to heroic soldier, outlaw, bearer of bad news for the established Allied government, and (ultimately) a leader and diplomat in a subsequent war for interplanetary independence. I even wonder whether J. August Richards was eyeballed to play the role that was given to Nathan Fillion. No telling, but there’s room for speculation.
One of many latent conflicts deeply embedded in Firefly is the distinct possibility that slavery and indentured servitude remained to be explored in later episodes/seasons, foreshadowed by Badger’s inspection of the teeth of a woman as Mal enters Badger’s office all the way back in the pilot episode, and Badger’s insistence, in that scene, on the importance of his elevated place (above Reynolds) in the wider social hierarchy in which a businessman on a border planet like Persephone ranks significantly higher than the captain of a Ford F-100. I think the poignancy of a black Capt. Reynolds, veteran of a war of independence against a culture dependent upon the institution of slavery, would have provided the writers additional leverage in telling tales of biting contemporary relevance by means of the microscope of American history and the telescope of speculative, character-driven fiction. Tag Glory, buzz Ali, circle The Hurricane and honor The Killer Angels by citing George Pickett’s parable of a gentlemen’s club from the point of view of someone who would not or could not belong to a society that would love to have him as a member; choice/no-choice; states’ rights versus federal obligation (to obliterate slavery). We just can’t seem to put that pesky slavery thing to bed.
Sexual and racial imperfections in the American character were masterfully massaged in the course of the first two series, and what’s coming from the brand I most admire (Mutant Enemy) remains to be seen repeatedly and reinterpreted to death…the overdue death of obscene and obsolete institutions.
Can entertainment production companies teach, change unquestioned practices? Can television teach? Where’s Murrow?
I was 8 when a physician diagnosed my condition as the result of a perforated kidney. I was hospitalized with an IV drip for a few days, then released with the stern advice to drink plenty of water more frequently to prevent clouds of blood in my urine and a tendency to pass out. In the narrow behavioral confines of my elementary school environment, racing all the other boys and girls in my class across the schoolyard to the water-fountain/trough struck me as profoundly undignified, and so I knocked my participation in that particular indiginity off, and generalized the reflective mindset into a little bit of kidney pathology.
Since then, I’ve taken to drinking water frequently and in moderation, but that early lesson in 50s elementary school behavior modification showed me the value (for teachers) of depriving kids of basic needs to afford their teachers a few moment’s respite from the incessant, annoying vagaries of largely-undisciplined children. It was a fairly shrewd and subtle farmer’s trick that blew up in Mrs. Christopherson’s face when my mother tore into her verbally for depriving her students of face time at the drinking fountain, as a tactic of kid-control. The fact is that I was silently on Mrs. Christopherson’s side of that argument. Us kids were awful. 1958.
I’d probably just turned 18 when I bought Lance Raynor’s 1964 Honda 305cc SuperHawk, cheap. I somehow drove it the 10 miles home (with no previous motorcycle experience) via the freeway and parked it in my parents’ garage. The next morning, I set myself, prudently, to start safety-training by idling the engine in the driveway, then literally popping the clutch at high idle.
I flew from sidewalk to sidewalk in the blink of an eye, hit the far curb and bounced (like the bike) high into the sky, and landed on our neighbor’s lawn not far from the stalled engine and the tire that spun like an Indian massacre in a dramatic 20-mule-team wagon-disaster. There was no traffic anywhere in sight, and apart from any neighbors who might be peeking out their windows at the novel engine noise-then-silence, my dignity and life might both survive this brush with their profound fragility.
So I raised, righted and started the bike, pointing it in a reasonable direction. And I was off!!! on an irresistible adventure in the explosively seductive, intoxicating universe of motorcycling! How I survived the first 40 miles of that journey, no one knows.
Suddenly, I was rapidly approaching the T-intersection a bit west of Mill Valley, where a lazy right turn would take me up to Mt. Tamalpais, and going straight would lead toward Muir Woods and Stinson Beach. Ah, but the road on the way to the intersection, and the right turn that I fully intended to make, required a significant reduction in speed. Alarm was clearly reflected on the face of the driver who watched me apprehensively from his place alongside the stop sign. Neither of us should have survived that turn, but evidence suggests that we did. 1968.
About 15 years later I spent the night with my girlfriend who was housesitting for an extremely rich client at their ranch. We’d spent the evening cavorting in their opulent surroundings, and in the morning, before Karen awoke, I elected to hang out with their horses. One thing led to another, and I tossed a blanket and saddle on a dark Palomino, exercising all the virtual horsemanship I’d learned from a youth pretty thoroughly invested in the works of Walter Farley and Anna Sewell, among others.
The horse must have read better books. The blanket went on easy as pie. Adding the saddle was only slightly more difficult. Cranking the cinch was a bitch, and in only a couple of sidelong steps, the blanket and saddle were off the horse and strewn about the corral. Undismayed, I hefted the blanket and saddle, and ran at the gelding from behind. Again with the sidelong eyeball, and a playful acceleration placed a more/less random hoof, quite squarely, in the heart of my big, brass seashell-shaped beltbuckle.
It’s a very odd sensation to run forward in a brilliant burst of youthful speed and willful determination as the single hoof of a half-ton horse flings you backward with amazing ease. I’m talking ten to fifteen feet. Somehow that hoof found the beltbuckle. There were significantly easier (and more vulnerable) targets. Sweaty and shaken I called it quits. The last laugh went to the horse, but the dumb-luck award for beltbuckle selection went directly to me. 1983.
The point of these pointless stories (to which I’ll add further incendents, in subsequent edits, as they arise in my recollection) is that it’s really hard to practice devout agnosticism in the face of subjective evidence of divine intervention. I’m not inclined to point to a guardian angel or some higher destiny or the nebulous construct of Luck, but stuff that actually happened, stuff that really should have resulted in mutilation &/or death…hasn’t yet. I’ve learned to approach certain phenomena with greater respect; the south end of a northbound horse, motorcycle transport, educators…but that kind of trepidation is minimal protection against the history I’ve clearly demonstrated of bringing loads of stupid into dangerous situations. I’m not the only one.
As though to punctuate that final sentence, the room just quivered with a minor earthquake. I’d estimate a 2.7.
If all gentlemen are created equal, who governs?
Comfortably-fixed, propertied, white males with influential connections (if the historic record is entered into evidence) have ruled an independent American nation since long before it existed.
Gentlemen govern, but the definition of Gentlemen (which is only properly understood by Gentlemen) is an incindiary semantic discrimination that’s especially provocative when tucked into a justification for rebellion, or a constitution of rules of governanace limiting the power of government to infringe upon the rights of Gentlemen. Far better to leave the Gentle out and concentrate on Men…better still, People…when the fundamental proposition is that The People will lend indispensible support to the Gentlemanly representatives of choice.
So how in the world can Gentlemen persuade the rest of us to vote for them? Pretend that government of/by/for Gentlemen is of/by/for People; that voters know at least enough to vote prudently…but secret matters of national security, ruinous scandals, and the partially-revealed intrigues of special interests continually demonstrate the fact that we do not, cannot, must not know facts that are best left to be sifted by the greater intelligence, experience and know-how of the Gentlemen who lead us.
So, disinformed, misinformed and led, we vote for comfortably-fixed, propertied, white males with influential connections.
Now that Journalism, The Fourth Estate, the Megaphone of Freedom is in desperate financial difficulty, I’ve begun to wonder that it was ever allowed to become a commercial institution; IF the necessary function The Press performs is the punctual distribution of valid information about the factual state of the nation to an informed constituency…why have they always charged for printed newspapers?
“Free” news depends upon advertising, which turns the voter’s (guarded and reluctant) attention over to the special interests of the advertiser. And the information provided by anchorpersons is usually less informative than it is diverting, persuasive or incomplete; bent on serving the interests of the commercial entities that broadcast less information than the People generally need to make informed decisions.
When the Writers Guild of America struck, about 27 months ago, they stopped working for networks, studios and production companies that constitute mainstream media; and by a Gentlemen’s agreement chose to restrict presentation of their side of the collective bargaining disageement to weblogs and various forms of alternative media…so there was practically no broadcast news of the strike until it was over; officially proclaimed by networks, studios and mainstream media. Consequently, much of The Public still believes that the tantrum of pampered, overpayed screenwriters ruined the 2008 television season, damaged movie production and played a small but detrimental part in this ongoing recession — particularly in L.A.
If the screenwriters are presently engaged in educating The Public to the meagre trickles of compensation afforded the creative comunity by transnational conglomerates that own their intellectual property and dabble in mainstream media, I’m not seeing it. I think the architects of our entertainment squander their primary weapon (which ought to be brought to the rapidly-approaching next round of negotiations) by failing to educate Us.
A strike wreaks havoc across the board, but a strategic, global boycott of studio product strikes terror in the hearts of corporate giants. And the threat of the call for a global boycott doesn’t exist without the voluntary support of People who buy DVDs, watch television, go to movies. The WGA and the wider creative community cannot get that voluntary support by leaving mainstream media to tell us all about the next catastrophic writers’ strike. Nikki Finke, United Hollywood and independent cinema didn’t win the They Get Paid, We Get Paid fight last time, either.
So, disinformed, misinformed and cruelly led, we’ll vote for comfortably-fixed, propertied, white males with influential connections…again.
(I still don’t know how much of every dollar I donated to the Obama campaign was instantly given to Rupert, Sumner, Les, Bob and Jeff for my candidate’s spots in broadcast media. And I probably never will know.)