On Fandom Hope/Hype

Today has been officially labeled as “Back to the Future Day” as it is the actual day in which Mary McFly actually traveled through time. Ignore all the shitty memes. It really is today. So, of course, social media has been inundated with people posting Back to the Future related posts. It’s kind of cool, a bit odd, and at times just weirdly confusing.

Honestly, though, I am just content that there is a method and manner of nerds, geeks, and dorks to communicate and congregate, even when distance is a factor. I like that so much of the media and totems of goofy and dorky media has become mainstream, but I wonder if we are reaching critical mass. Is the hype and bubble about to burst and explode a massive blow-back onto the nerds and geeks of the world?

I mean just look at all the media (both old and new) around the upcoming Star Wars movie. There are toys, books, videos, commerce tie-ins, etc. Hell, the latest trailer premiered during a Monday night football game. It was pretty awesome though.

So, is geekery and nerddom reaching a tipping point? Truthfully, I have no clue. I know that nothing, at least nothing I have seen thus far, can grow exponentially without loss and consequences. And most likely the mass saturation of comics, films, television, etc. will probably reach a level in which it can no longer sustain itself.

However, I can enjoy all the amazing and astonishing creations, both new and old, being given life and deal with the fallout, if and, when it happens. i can’t control the media being produced or it’s eventuality, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy the ride as it happens. Thus, I suppose that is what I, and maybe all of us, should do.

Besides, have you seen that trailer? I know the movie might end up being shit, but the hope and expectation for the possibility of the movie is more than enough for now.

On Inspiration and Goals

So I have been in a bit of a spiral lately, and a lot of my creative output has suffered because of it. I have posted less on here than I would like or normally do. I haven’t touched the novel I have been working on for two months. The short stories have stalled. Even my interest in and consumption of reading has slowed down considerably from this time last year.

I don’t know the exact reason or reasons why I am in this funk. I can hazard a few guesses, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What does is actually changing something, getting over it, and moving forward. Unfortunately, it is hardly ever that simple. However, this week I was listening to a few podcasts and videos on the way to work and was struck by a few notable things.

While listening to this week’s episode of Indoor Kids, I had the pleasure of hearing Kumail Nanjiani speak about his appearance on the upcoming reboot season of the X-Files television series. As well, I listened to Chris Hardwick discuss his past experience of moderating the Star Wars panel at SDCC. To top off the trifecta, I watched Felicia Day read an excerpt from her book that basically describes her rise from being on the sidewalk outside of SDCC to sharing an entire stadium of fans and followers.

What do the previous three stories have to do with each other? Well, they are all tales of setbacks, insecurities, lack of clarity and/or direction leading to eventual, massive success. Now, I don’t know how any of them did it and I have no clue how I can begin to replicate a fraction of what they have accomplished. Oddly though, it is slightly encouraging to see others actually manage to achieve something similar to what I want.

I know I will have to make some tough decisions very soon and that there will be an immense amount of challenges before hand, but if others were able to do it with not much more than I have (and in one mentioned case even less) maybe my dumb dreams are not so far fetched. Maybe that blind optimism will be enough to make the next step.

On Selling Out

I won’t go into too much more on this topic since Anna speaks on the more poignant points. Frankly, I never understood the notion of “selling out” when lauded at artists, creatives, or artists. Making money off one’s work isn’t selling out; it’s basic commerce and the basis of the capitalist system.

You make something that people enjoy. You try to monetize it. If your audience is unwilling to pay you for what you make then you have to find other revenue streams like advertisements, product placements, etc. There is this expectation of free content available to the masses, particularly through online channels and sources, but people get that making videos, music, art, etc. isn’t cheap, right?

All those pieces of media that you love took someone to make. It probably required at least a few hours for them to make that particular song, artwork, video. Add to that the cost of supplies and ability to upload and host the content somewhere. Then, add the years of practice and study that it probably took that individual to get to a point in their craft that they were comfortable showing their work to the public.

After all that, are you going to really chastise someone for wanting to eat, pay rent and bills, make money for more ongoing and future projects, or simply make some extra cash for the occasional expense and luxury like a movie or something?

Selling out is not trying to make money off your work. Selling out is compromising your ideals and morals and ethics to make money. If that didn’t happen, the artist just wants to be able to make a living off doing what they love and to have enough to keep doing it.

Really, having the occasional fifteen second blurb or ad at the end of a video or the occasional social media post about something that interests the artist that they think their audience might also enjoy is little price to pay for your “free” content that you enjoy.

On Pedestals (It Will Make Sense, I Swear)

I love media. Whether it is movies, television, books, comics, video games, music, or anything outside of the known spectrum, I will probably consume and engage with it. Seriously, my Netflix queue never seems to dwindle. The same can be said of my Hulu and Amazon Prime accounts. I am constantly begging friends and random strangers for music recommendations. My phone and iPod also apparently have an ever growing list of podcasts that I must hear. Basically, if it is entertainment, I will check it out.

In my lifelong quest to view as much media as possible, I have come across example and pieces that resonated with me on an emotional and spiritual level that I have trouble expressing my love and attachment to them in words. As well, I have seen, heard, read, and interacted (yeah media can sometimes be weird) with art pieces that I would love to be able to lobotomize from my brain and never mention again.

During my mass consumption of media, I have noticed a disturbing trend in criticism of television and film. There seems to be an unfortunate and annoying  desire to place certain pieces of media on a pedestal and protect them from any disparaging critique. Now, this has always happened to some extent because people will glomp onto things they love and strike out in anger at anyone who would dare speak against their beloved show or movie. However, actual critics and artists/creators now do the same. To some degree this is understandable, particularly for shows and films that have more, or better, minority representation both on and off screen. Diversity in our media is a good thing, but should examples that attempt to bridge that gap be saved from legitimate criticism?

For example, examine the HBO program Girls. It is critically acclaimed and considered a darling of the network, but why? Before continuing on and in the interest of full fairness, Girls has received some criticism but that has been mostly on the lack of non-white characters (a fairly valid critique) and not on the quality of the show itself. Now, the program is not really bad, but it is not as good as one would think considering the amount of acclaim and attention it has received.

I had a long conversation with a friend about this program after having seen the entire first season. (Admittedly, the show does pick up a bit in the second season, but not by much). Basically, I compared the first aired episode of Girls to the first episode of Mad Men. Both critically acclaimed shows centered on broken, unlikeable characters, so they should in theory be comparable in quality. Yet, objectively and subjectively one is very much arguably better than the other. At least, I was able to argue why one was better than the other and it was all about the actual writing and narrative.

In one (Mad Men) every character is well developed through action and characterization. By the end of the first episode, the audience was keenly aware of who each major character was and what some of the major conflict was going to be throughout the series simply through seeing a few days in the lives of these ‘people’. They continued to develop and grow throughout the season. In the other (Girls) characters were literally narrating the personalities of other major character during the first episode. As in, the audience was actually straight up told how and what to think of the people and story they were watching. Really, this is the one show we want to protect and uphold above all criticism?

I get that people want more diversity and better representation in media, but shouldn’t we still desire quality? There are so many better shows and films with, and created by, women, POC, and minorities that deserve attention and the eyes and words of critiques. Frankly, I am going to take my own word and advice and go see some right now. You should too.

On Timeliness

Earlier this week I blogged about a video and how there appeared to be a level of timing around said media. The full post can be found here but the topic was only partially discussed. Obviously, it is still bugging me to an uncertain extent.

Basically the root of my problem or question is simply what makes a piece of art, in whatever medium, a timeless classic instead of a work of its time? I am not referring to what differentiates between a “good” or “bad” piece of media. That is far too subjective that there is disagreement among the experts whose profession it is to decide such things. No, I mean what is the difference between a song like “Hey Jude” and “La Macarena”? After all, one is considered a timeless piece that many still look to test themselves and enjoy and the other was a flash in the pan that was immensely popular for a brief moment in time.

Same thing for paintings, portraits, movies, television, an so on and so forth. So why are some going to stand the test of time and others relegated to the status of one hit wonders? Is it the quality? Popularity? Personal choice? Are there current pieces of art that we think people will engage with 5, 10, 20, 50 years from now?

I don’t really have any answers for this. I was kind of hoping y’all might. So denizens of the Internet/Wordpress what makes a work of art a potential timeless classic? Please, post below; I want to read what you think.

On Allowances

No, I am not going to speak about the small sum of money you were given as a child for doing basic household chores or not being a total screw up as a kid. Frankly, I never got such a thing because it was expected of me to do shit around the house. I also, kind of, secretly hated all the kids in my school and neighborhood that got an allowance, especially since they seemed to be the terrible ones.

No, I mean allowances in the original sense of permitting something in a regulated and specified manner. Sort of like what Dave Grohl meant in one of  his more colorful quotes:

      You listen to this man!

You listen to this man!

Now, to be fair, I slightly disagree with him on the topic of The Voice because I unabashedly love that show. However, I completely understand the point he is trying to make. All artists should allow themselves to suck for a bit.

No one, except for those truly rare talents, is good, much less great, at their beginning. I even doubt those exceptional individuals who claim that their first works were good. Every creative person, regardless of your medium or level, needs a few allowances. We need those quiet moments of reflection and work to see our creations in a new light and discover things about them and ourselves to put into the next project.

I think this is why I like the idea of NaNoWriMo so much. Very few scribes in history have ever written a tome in so few days, but that’s the essential point. You are not writing a masterpiece in November; you are simply writing down the story you want to tell. It is a permission slip to suck at writing along with thousands of others across the country.

This is good. You are supposed to be bad. Even the organizers of NaNoWriMo know and expect this which is why they have Revision commitments for January and February. So, take the challenge and do something just because you love it. Let yourself be unimaginably terrible at it content in the knowledge that you are supposed to be and in time will improve. And even if you don’t, you still probably had some fun on the ride.

I’ll leave this with a pep talk of sorts on the subject by the ineffable John Green: