Saturday, April 20, 2024

On Entertainment and Content Creation

 One of things I have been following in the background over the last year or so are the ongoing content wars in entertainment.

It is not something I talk about per se here as it somewhat counter to the idea of creating a space for actual conversation (rather than polemics).  Suffice it to say that currently there is ongoing struggle within the entertainment world - films, streaming, comics, games (gaming, of course, now having outstripped films as a major money maker) to reflect the current society of today  - arguably at what is the cost of good story telling and good entertainment.

The point of today's thought is less about that battle, and more about the possible solution.


One of the realities of a capitalist society (versus a socialist society) is that the consumer gets a say. 

In Totalitarian and Authoritarian  societies, this is not nearly the case.  The government determines what gets made and how it gets made.  Most always such things are designed to serve the needs and the interests of the power structure (secondarily, of course, to spread the acceptable message).

Ah, TB (I hear you say), such societies can enforce attendance and engagement.  True, but they cannot "make" people like it or maintain it.  It becomes a state supported form art, perhaps publicly celebrated but ignored by the individual who does not engage in them personally.

But in the capitalist model the consumer gets a direct say.

The capitalist consumer can support or not support something by 1) Buying it; and 2) Talking about it.  Buying creates income and income pays the company and increases its value; talking about it maintains it in the public consciousness, perhaps encouraging more sales and creating sub-populations that are engaged (read "fanatic") about the item in question.

Which, of course, allows funding for the next thing.  Do this long enough and one has a series or a franchise or a universe.


Both industry and consumers are making a mistake.

Industry is making a mistake by dictating what will be in the entertainment based on what they desire to be there, not recognizing who their paying audience is and what they want.  Over time, this has resulted in declining revenues and layoffs.  Industry remains (publicly at least) befuddled by this.

Consumers are making a mistake because they continue to buy the things they say they do not like - and just complaining about it, even as they continue to buy it.

Is it right to complain if a treasured and favored character or franchise becomes distorted in ways the creator never intended or dreamed of to serve modern sensibilities?  Of course it is.  But continuing to engage with company financially on the subject is futile.  That work has already been paid for and executed.

The only way to change things is to simply 1) Stop buying and 2) Stop engaging.


I have written - here, and in other places I frequent - that the future belongs to the independent content creator.

The best work now is happening overall in the independent space - because the independent space is where there are no rules, no checklists, no "things must be precisely what we say" - the old totalitarian model of anything.  

And the independent space is audience responsive because it is audience supported.  Content creators that make such things and are supporting themselves are directly responsible for making things that their audience enjoys and likes.  Stray from that and the content creator will swiftly be looking for another line of work.

But in order for that to truly take root and flourish, it is necessary that the consumer simply walk away the alternative:  the corporatized, politicized, modern entertainment industry.


There are a lot of things that we as consumers have limited choices about.  There are limited number of chains I can buy most foods from, or places I can get my fuel from, or my utilities from.  But there are other things - like the industries I am speaking of - that are 100% within the control of the consumer to cause to succeed or fail.

Entertainment is a human desire.  What such companies have forgotten is that while it is a desire, it is also something that we can learn to do by ourselves or with those who are like minded.

Long live the Content Creators.


  1. Passing Peanut7:41 AM

    Though I can't speak for the side of the industrial entities, the consumer problem may be explained by the same mindset of those that stay in an abusive relationship.
    To someone who has spent years, if not decades, dedicating their idle hours to a medium, or formed a great many interpersonal relations through the fandom surrounding these mediums and their properties, these are not simply hobbies; they are investments, not only to the steward company and the medium, but to the IP itself and those they have interacted with on that path. The thought of cutting one's self off from that sense of community and camaraderie, however loose it may be, is just as difficult as trying to purge your mind of a parasitic relation - grappling with the crushing idea that all of those years spent leaves you nothing to show for the effort. Doubly so for those (myself included) who have been engaging with a property, or perhaps an entire medium, since their spring or summer days, now staring down the approaching barrel of an uncertain autumn.
    In less grandiose terms, it's something that lets one have a measure of control, while the world around you threatens to come apart at the seams... and for many, it's a very old habit at this point. Hard to break, and all that.

    For the industry, I can only speculate. My own guess is that their driving scale, that of engagement, is positively measured. The ultimate result of disengagement - that is to say, apathy and abandonment - cannot be interpreted by these means; it is seen only at large, and passes quietly without understanding beyond "Hey, where'd all the money go?".
    Others have speculated that certain companies' self-ruinous behaviors are not an end goal of themselves, but a self-reinforcing reaction to customer abandonment and falling profits; the panicked flailing of a drowning man reaching for flotsam (made from lucre, of course), if you will.

    So, I suppose walking away from the known corporate entertainment fiefdoms and trying to find your path in the wealds of independent content creation is... frightening, for lack of better term, especially for those of us who never quite learned how. It's a divestment from everything you once poured your attention into, and with no guarantee you'll come across anything worthwhile. It also dampers your ability to make small talk about The Latest Thing among others - it's difficult to really get into the meat of that sort of conversation when you've adamantly refused to learn anything about it, and what little you have learned leaves a foul taste in your brain.
    But, when the alternative is Endless Sludge, well... I guess one has to figure out something, even if it means embarking into the unknown and hoping you run into someone that isn't going to pillory you for existing.

    1. Passing_Peanut - All valid comments. As a consumer, I have (in the past anyway) invested time and energy into particular media or entertainment franchises and they can indeed become extensions of ourselves and our world in ways that are hard to quantify (even now, I still find myself occasionally fighting down the urge to re-invest in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Version 1 materials). And if one becomes a content creator for love of the thing, it becomes even harder. Add in those relationships that will build, and it almost has the elements of an abusive relationship: "Well, maybe this time they will make something better".

      Industry - realistically - seems to dwell in a bubble at this point in the matter. I suspect it is a combination of meeting current social perceptions (and being praised for them) as well as the theory of sunk costs: to change course now would not only be financially costly, but would require moving away from the dominant paradigm which is never easy.

      And yet, as financial results continue to fall and layoffs roll across the industry, they seem embedded in their ways, dinosaurs willing to die rather than adapt.

      It is hard to walk away. And frankly, going through the incredible array of things out there, it is hard to know what if anything is worth our time - and given the high risk of things immediately going badly (not everything new is good), it makes it harder. So we branch out, perhaps tentatively, but always hopefully.

      A interesting post-script to the dinosaur entertainment complex is that trust abused never comes back. There is nothing that can redeem such things at this point; I have no interest in going back and reinvesting the time and energy.

  2. I guess in my mind, the entertainment industry is no different than just about every other industry out there. All industries at some point start as small independent places with no rules or restrictions on how to operate. Most will die off unknown and uncared about but a few will make the transition and become popular enough. Then the industries expand and start become less nimble as more rules and restrictions are put in place to help guide the masses who now work there. Eventually they are so slow in adopting to new realities, they fade off into the sunset. Off the top of my head, I am thinking of Walmart, Amazon and recently Apple which has been replaced by Samsung as the top selling phone manufacturer in the world.

    It is sort of a circle of life for the industrial world.

    1. Ed, I do not disagree with your analysis. What surprises me is that in these cases, there is a direct cause and effect relationship in the companies' financial returns - and thus, their ability to operate into the future. Bad decisions are one thing; effective corporate suicide via franchise death is something else.


Comments are welcome (and necessary, for good conversation). If you could take the time to be kind and not practice profanity, it would be appreciated. Thanks for posting!