Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Missing the Point and Loving It!

The entertainment world is basically dead. I'm sure deep down in your heart you also know it's true.

This post is a culmination of several factors, so please bear with me. I don't want this to become a cluttered mess and yet it probably will be. I'm going to link to more than a few things in this post that are NSFW so please keep that in mind before clicking on anything. That said, there is an overarching theme to touch on.

My thesis is simple; we've lost the plot.

Not only have we lost the plot, we're proud of having done so. We're proud of action movies with worse choreography than films thirty years old. We're proud of horror movies without any rules or sense of good to fight evil. We're proud of companies catering to everyone but their target audience. We're proud of no one buying books anymore because the audience isn't worth catering to! And in the same breath we wonder why all those things are failing.

This has more than a bit of relationship with my last similar post on the subject, but this is a bit more specific than that one. This is about an overarching attitude of unearned pride that is tearing apart the things we all enjoy. Within mere decades, many entertainment industries are already on their deathbeds.

Take the video game industry. You can't go one day without some wonk screaming about "antiquated arcade design" that should be scrapped, or being unable to play or understand the simple mechanics of a game in a genre that is essential to the industry they are in. Not only that, but you have members of said industry lining up behind said ignorance as if it is a hill to die on equivalent to Watergate. Pride goes before the fall, and there is a reason no one trusts video game journalists anymore.

Oh, that and their obvious disdain for their audience.

The gaming industry, especially game journalists, have been a downward spiral since the end of the 90s, but they just keep getting worse at their jobs. And they're proud of it!

Here's a good explanation of the silliness I'm talking about here:

Then there's the writing world. Sweet merciful Mike this place is a clusterfudge of ego, bitterness, and high school drama. I am not claiming to be above petty and sinful behavior, but there is so much hatred for the past that it is palpable. No one wants to understand their roots; no one wants to know that Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, are all really the same genre. No one wants to talk about anything older than they are except to complain about behaviors they don't even know the author had-- or if said author had them if it even affects the story in question. And even if it does, who cares? You can still learn from the past and grow from it. But they're too prideful to even try. They are better than their ancestors simply due to the date on the calendar.

There is nothing new under the sun, but you sure can pretend that the sun is a new creation if everyday is the first sunrise. It sure massages to ego to think that you are superior to those who created what you love and enjoy.

And they are proud of it! How do you expect a genre to "progress" if you cut off a little more of its legs every year until there's nothing left? You can't learn or grow from the past if you shun it.

Check out this post by JimFear138 to see what I mean. The treatment of H.P. Lovecraft is a good example of this rotten behavior. Read the post to see how denigrated what he created has become. No respect for source material, no respect for the past, and no respect for the genre. And yes, his post helped inspire this one.

Next up is the anime world.

Now, I can go on and on about how Japan has been missing the point, but I already posted about this many times. Some of what has been happening isn't even wanted by those in the industry and yet is being pursued as a misguided business plan. It isn't spite or pride that guides it. Moe is a whole other problem that I won't even mention. Instead, let's talk about the Western fanbase.

Since anime fell off a cliff back in the mid-'00s most of the old fanbase left. You can't blame them, even with random bones tossed to them like Blood Blockade Battlefront, My Hero Academia, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Dragon Ball Super, and Ushio & Tora, there isn't much to pull them in and keep them there. The anime produced in the industry's heyday is simply not the focus as to what it is putting out now. So part of the audience left. But a few that stuck around decided to try their own hand at anime.

There are those who grew up in that era of anime tropes, faux anime Western shows, and the occasional episode of Dragon Ball and have missed the point. Those that have seen anime and have only a surface level understanding of it have begun making their own material with it as a base. Sure there are those like myself, Rawle Nyanzi, and Brian Niemeier, and many of those in the Pulp Revolution who are influenced by anime, but know there is more to it than big eyes, bright hair, and exaggerated cartoon expressions. That wasn't why we watched it, or why we were fans, nor was it why it took off in a big way.

But there were those who took the wrong example from it. Sure you can find much bad anime art on Tumblr and DeviantArt, but that's an entirely different thing, and some of those artists nail the style perfectly. I'm speaking of a different group of people. This is the type who use anime tropes and packaging to sell their own half-baked ideas. This is what those types put out:

This is not a joke. This is real.

This was made by someone who saw anime as cartoony character designs, big eyes, bright hair, flashy powers, high school cliches, and random psychic stuff. It's not made by someone who saw the influence of Western pulp and early comics and manga to build explosive stories of adventure, romance, good vs evil, and wonder. It's not made with the same heart and understanding that built Japan's entertainment industry in the first place. There's no attempt by this show to connect with anything.

All this thing is is surface level anime tropes from 2003 in a story that could have come straight out of a bad Totally Spies fanfic.

There's no love or understanding of the roots of where these things they're taking from originate. There's no attempt to understand the audience those shows were catering to. They don't care. Sure there will probably be references, as that is what Millennials love to indulge in, but references are not understanding the source. References are cheap and lazy; they are simple ego stroking to show what they've heard of. It's shallow and meaningless.

And I'm sure they're proud of it.

The last thing I'm going to mention is something I'm not going to link to. I'm not going to link to it because it is the worst thing Netflix has ever produced and they deserve no views for it. You can look it up on your own. It is a series called Big Mouth, and it completes the downward spiral of adult cartoons since The Simpsons first took off near thirty years ago to this date.

Imagine a Saturday morning cartoon where all the kid characters talk about sex, swear constantly, and talk to their private parts while showing them off to the audience. Imagine Family Guy only even less subtle. Imagine writers that think mindless sex jokes are still funny after a near onslaught of 30 years of the same tired gags. Now you probably have an idea of what this show is.

Yes, there were good adult cartoons, most of which came in wake of the first wave of The Simpsons' success, and are remembered for actually having staff from said show. There are some that have aged well such as Duckman, King of the Hill, pre-revival Futurama, and Home Movies. These shows could be dark and dangerous, sometimes touching, and over the top with their comedy. But what they all had in common was that they knew there was more to adult humor than constantly talking about penises and vaginas in every episode. It's like another Amy Schumer special no one wants to watch.

But ever since Seth MacFarlane's rise, the genre has been stripped of everything that first attracted audiences. Lazy pop culture references, over the top violence and swearing, hollow humanity, and blatant sex jokes and political propaganda shoved into the audience's faces are all they indulge in now. There is no attempt to understand that Matt Groening's early attempts at his show were to try and be honest with the audience about family life. He was trying to connect with the audience.

That doesn't exist anymore, not even in his own show. Now adult comedy is about upper class trust-fund babies giggling about their life observations in one insignificant city that the majority of the audience cannot connect to. And they are very proud of this.

This loss of empathy and idea of connecting is at the heart of a lot of this. You have a "creative class" that feels they are "artists" and above criticism and the audience must either like what they put out or get lost. Places like Marvel Comics hire those that use the reach of social media to promote their political agendas instead of talking about their work or accepting any feedback aside from blind praise. This is an industry that is currently falling apart with rock bottom sales as the new talent is so egocentric and full of themselves that they truly believe they have no one to answer to: especially not their audience.

That is how you get messes like a comic book writer trying to lecture his audience on who can mourn 9/11.

And that is only one example of many.

I suspect the problem is the total lack of empathy those in charge of the entertainment industry have. They have no love of anything but themselves and their small present world that they can't possibly know what it's like to connect with someone entirely unlike them with different beliefs or life experiences. Watch or read anything coming out from them and it is easy to see that not only can they no longer can't connect with the average Joe, they are exceptionally proud that they cannot.

We've lost the plot, and we've missed the point as to what art and entertainment is. It's not about titillating one's ego or getting in tight with a tiny clique. It's about forming bonds with the audience in a relationship that benefits both and allows each to grow in subtle ways. It's that relationship that is key to everything stories are about. What else are stories about other than people?

No one writes in a vacuum, whether they realize it or not. You write for your audience-- they do not owe you anything. Until the current denizens of the entertainment industry realize this, things will not get better. You will continue to wonder why you are enjoying less and less entertainment every year until there is eventually nothing left that you like. And do you think those in charge will care?

This reality is nothing to be proud of, but you can bet that they are exceptionally self-satisfied about their failures. And that is where we are.


  1. Family Guy is possibly the worst thing to happen to animation, or at least a strong contender.

  2. The Simpsons' original guiding theme was the idea of wasted potential. I find that kind of ironic given what happened to the series.

    Family Guy, and Adult Swim's Third Street stuff all seem to the same to me. Horrible people have horrible, stupid adventures and we're supposed to go along with it.

    I've had this discussion with friends in real life, that a major problem with series like this (and comics) is that they're afraid of moving. They want the illusion of THINGS HAPPEN but don't want to actually have to deal with development or engagement because then characters will modulate, they won't have their freedom to be episodic and so on.

    If Homer really starts learning from his mistakes you can't just use the same jokes. If Peter Griffin was a character and not an easily marketable caricature, you can't use him for every 'joke' the writer comes up with.

    1. That was the exact issue King of the Hill ran into. Up to season 6 they allowed time to pass and characters to change. But Fox didn't like it so they were forced to lock things in place for about three seasons. It was only until around season 11 until the end of the show that they were allowed to do so again which lead to a lot of character arcs closing off by the end of the show.

      Suffice to say I feel season 7-11 are the weakest seasons of the show specifically for that reason.

      It's easy to milk the same jokes for 10+ years which is why so many of these shows get tiring fast.

    2. Season eight of King of the Hill wasn't that bad. Seven, nine, ten, and eleven are a mixed bag, but they're still better than their raunchy counterparts, post-Golden Age The Simpsons and Family Guy.

    3. Season 8 was definitely the best of that era. 7 was a disappointment after 6, but 8 was a total improvement even if it was toned down a little.

      Nonetheless, even at its worst, King of the Hill is still better than most other adult cartoons. The show never actually got bad at any point.