(Update 2: Turns out it was mind control and they flipped only a month later. The point in the article still stands, but that’s one of the fastest reversals I’ve seen in years.)
One of the things I’ve long known as a member of the geek community is that generally things happening within it aren’t that important. The ongoings of any given comic book, fantasy series, or sci-fi show is going to be overlooked by the rest of world more often than not. Even today, as superheroes and genre shows have hit mainstream success, other corners of the same culture will get overlooked. Few people knew who Miles Morales was, but he’s going to have an animated movie soon. Most people reading this likely won’t know that in the comics Superman just died… again. But once in a while something happens that’s big enough to change that: like a character speaking two words.
I’m not going to spend this post complaining about why this is a bad idea, plenty of people have addressed that since it happened. There have been so many posts out there talking about why this is not only a betrayal of the character’s history but of his creators. People have made eloquent arguments for why this would have run completely counter from what Cap’s creators would have wanted when they created him generations ago. Hell, there was even a solid argument that you should never have your hero do something considered too far for the Joker.
So there’s little I can add to that conversation, it’s been handled. We, as a community, know this was a really bad idea. Those of us who have been in the community for a long time know it’s temporary and that it’s going to be excused down the line. We also know that this is just the kind of gimmick that happens from time to time. But even if we’re curious where it’s going to go, we know it was a bad idea and we know that it’s going to leave a bad impression on those watching from the mainstream. They won’t read the comics and catch up on Steve eventually returning to normal after a while, and you can be sure that it won’t be as newsworthy when it does. So what you have is a gimmick that will leave a lot of people outside of the standard comic reader thinking that Marvel turned Steve Rogers into a Nazi.
I’ve long been a supporter of women getting more respect in the media. Though I don’t feel that every property needs to have a strong female protagonist, I do think that there should be women in the cast of characters who are there to leave an impact on the plot and not just be window dressing. So when I see a property that is actually giving us those kind of female characters, I tend to enjoy it. I’m rather fond of Jessica Jones and I look forward to another season. I respect the hell out of the Hunger Games series (if that hasn’t been clear previously). I just got done defending Rey and Jyn Erso from irrational fans. And I’m currently dismayed that the Ghost in the Shell movie is having problems around its casting because I love The Major and I really want to see her fight a tank in a big budget blockbuster.
So when Supergirl hit the air on CBS, I was one of the people who watched it and stuck it out through to the end. Together with my friend, I caught it every week – something the ratings tell me was not very common. For 20 episodes we kept up with Kara Zor-El and her supporting cast and agreed that the series had its highs and lows. But when that series ended, both of us had come away with generally the same impression: Supergirl had a lot more lows than we would have wanted, and if it was going to get another season, it needed to do something different. And, looking around, we’re not alone in that opinion.
How could an IP with such promise stumble so hard?
The truth is, Supergirl’s failings had a lot to do with why it was made to begin with. In the days where independent authors and web series are viable options, it’s easy to forget that a lot of the choices being made in entertainment are still coming from a cynical place. Despite my support of Rey and Jyn, I was a bit wary once Disney said that these characters were female “purposefully”. It’s not that I don’t want more female Star Wars characters, clearly, but rather it’s because it means Disney’s executives have a mission statement.
And the problem with that is that when an executive has a mission, they’re doing that because they see it as a trend to capitalize on. This is a bad thing because trends die and generally studios and publishers will throw the baby out with the bathwater the minute a trend stops giving optimal returns. But another reason why I’m not so keen on executives having mission statements is that it often means that bad decisions will be made with good intentions. And how does that impact Supergirl?
Reboots and remakes – a pair of concepts so familiar now that they themselves have been rebooted into being “reimaginations” on more than one occasion. In an age where everything seems to be a nostalgia property or a sequel, it’s easy to understand why people would think there was no such thing as creativity anymore. I’ve never exactly subscribed to the idea, being in the creative field myself, and I’ve objected to it more than once. In my view, people are quick to say there are no new ideas as we paradoxically find ourselves getting closer and closer to a future we wouldn’t recognize.
Still, given the fact they’re rebooting Rush Hour as a TV show, it’s hard for me to protest the concept right now.
I’ve argued in the past that there are always new ideas coming out or new takes on old concepts. Sometimes a similar idea may still have something new to offer. But it’s hard to stick to this argument when something comes out which has little reason to be made except for the name recognition of the intellectual property.
It’s not uncommon practice for a television show to be made to tie into a film franchise. Robocop had a series, The Crow managed to extend Eric Draven’s story into a couple seasons, and Highlander’s television series actually became so popular they rewrote the movies to make Duncan the winner. But Rush Hour has the distinction of being one of the first of these kinds of series to have “reboot” right in the ads.
There are some things that happen to exist in a perpetual state of rumor and possibility. Ghostbusters 3 was rumored to be happening for 20 years before a reboot came down the pipeline. A sequel to Independence Day was whispered about for almost as long. The possibility of a Star Wars Episode 7 has been rumored for as long as there’s been an episode 6. And as of the last couple years, Men and Black was supposedly going to cross over with 21 Jump Street.
For the longest time I thought it was a joke, especially since rumors of it always happen around April. No one in the industry would be so bankrupt of common sense as to shove these two franchises together, force them to hold, and then fuse them in some freakish science experiment. Hollywood defies all reason and logic but they usually have to have a reason to do something like this. Freddie vs Jason was a no-brainer that people were wanting to happen since the 80s. Alien vs. Predator was also just something that made sense and had a successful series of video games. And Batman vs Superman? That’s been something every kid’s been doing with their action figures since action figures were a thing!
But 21 Jump Street and Men In Black? Who asked for this? What fevered dream did this thing emerge from? Were people just throwing darts at a board and picking franchises at random while dressed in a Captain America costume? This can’t be real! This is one of the most ridiculous concepts to have come out of the rumor mill ever and it has to have been an April Fools joke. Why does it keep getting repeated? Why do people keep citing insiders in the rumors of it? Why is there a writer? Why does this thing have a director now?!
Not very long ago, as part of my Alternative Mythologies series, I talked about how Egyptian lore was actually a fairly good resource to be used for the fantasy genre. Lo and behold, not long after I posted it, there were suddenly multiple projects being set in Egypt and a lot of them turned out to be… horrible. A lot of reasons have been suggested over time but what I’ve started to realize is that there’s a reason overlooked heavily by most people because most people just don’t know the source material very well. By knowing the source material, you start to realize that people aren’t catching the real reason why these projects suck, and the most recent attempt really drove it home for me.
Gods of Egypt, to almost no one’s surprise, turned out to be a critical failure and a box office bomb. The trailers were poorly received, the promotional material was left wanting, the casting drew criticism from almost square one, and nothing they really did from then on out really made it any better. In the several months since this movie’s promotion started I have yet to see a single positive article about the thing. But even there, I don’t think any of them actually noticed the reason why this thing was doomed to fail.
Most people quickly jumped on the skin-tone of the actors (and quite rightly, given the majority of the cast looked more pseudo-Greek than anything). But I’ve already covered the white washing of Egypt in the past and the fact that Egyptians could have, in part, featured a diverse range of skin-tones (…though clearly not the North European ones that apparently dominate casting calls). Others jumped on the fact that it didn’t seem to fit the mythology, what with Ra having a ship in space that flew over the planet during the daytime. Just, one problem for those guys, Ra totally did.
So while these are valid concerns to be had, they weren’t the thing that immediately jumped out at me as the reason this thing was doomed from the start. No, the thing that jumped out at me and started to make me really question whether I was right to recommend Horus’ story as a great source of fantasy adaptations, was the fact that I came to realize that this:
Was pretty much built on the same model as this:
And that’s kind of the root of all their problems…
A common complaint thrown at the media in general is that they never seem to have any new ideas. Often this is whipped around in the comments section under various reboots. Comic books repeatedly get a brand new #1 since the rise of the speculator market in the late 80s. The X-Files got a miniature 10th season green-lit because nostalgia marketing trumps all. Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon, and countless other Disney movies are all getting remade as live action, “serious” versions of their old form. Hell, I just talked about the fact they were working on a live-action Dumbo movie not that long ago.
But I’ve never been a supporter of the idea that there are “no new ideas”. New ideas happen all the time, people come up with something unexpected or unique almost every day. You may not always see it, and it may not always work, but those ideas exist. So when I hear someone say that the reason these things happen is because there’s some sort of creative deficit in the industry, I strongly disagree. Hell, I figure next week I’ll even talk about why these reboots and remakes happen and why it has very little to do with a lack of creativity. But then last night I saw something that made me stop and reconsider my position…
One of the things I like to remind people is that, in most cases, bad press is still good press. You don’t want to be caught doing something particularly heinous, but if someone gets angry at you for something that most people are going to be okay with – they just handed you free advertising. In almost all forms of media this holds true and the more aggressively you try to squash something, the more people will hear about it. It’s related to the “Streisand Effect” where trying to censor, hide, or refute information will ultimately amplify it. Your efforts to put a stop to something will, in turn, make people look that direction.
J.K. Rowling found this out personally when she went from a successful but niche author to a worldwide sensation when evangelicals decided that Harry Potter needed to be used as kindling. Overnight, people screaming about witchcraft made her a household name that crossed generations. For a children’s author, it’s pretty good to get kids reading your books around the world, but a good little bonfire managed to get their parents to read it too. In trying to silence this author, they managed to light the fire behind her career.
Similarly, on television, Married… with Children saw middling success through most of its early run on the fledgling Fox Network before being boycotted rather publicly. People who hadn’t watched this show suddenly tuned in to find out what had happened, resulting in the next 6 seasons having more than double the ratings of the first two seasons of the series . Years later, Married… with Children came to an end with 11 Seasons under its belt and ratings never dropping to the level the first two seasons experienced. The boycott backfired.
Today, the organization most familiar with this fact is the always offended One Million Moms. In fact, you could say they’re masters at…
Ah, 2015, the year of the goat, but also the year of the bullshit. It’s not that it was particularly worse than any other year, but no year’s been the same since 1999. That was the one and only time Prince got to party like it was the correct year and we’re really just hoping to run out the clock now. That’s why people got so amped up about Y2K. That’s why everyone was wondering if the Mayans got 2012 right or forgot to carry the snake monster. And that’s why religious nutjobs keep trying to predict the end of the world with the same sort of zeal as Hollywood’s trend of teaser trailers to advertise the coming of trailers.
But have we traded up? Do we have a crystal ball to tell us if we should just try to sleep through this year and hope for 2017? Was 2015 really all that bad? Did anyone get a flying car?
When I relaunched this blog about 11 months ago, I came up with a very strict set of topics to be found every week so that you’d always have a feel for what to find here. Mondays are about either my personal opinions, mythology, fantasy topics, or reader requests. Fridays are either fictional things, sci-fi, or where I see the future going. And Wednesday? I reserved Wednesday for writing tips, answering a writer’s questions, or things that make me go “WTF”.
You’d think this would make Wednesday the easiest, but you’d be wrong. Sometimes I don’t have anything really insightful to tell people about the art of writing, at least nothing that jumps to mind. Sometimes I also have a hard time thinking of anything to have a WTF reaction to. And, strangely, while this is usually the hardest day for me to fill out on the calendar I make every month, it’s also the one I tend to hit the most often. Why? Because even if I feel uninspired, someone’s going to do something stupid somewhere.
And like manna from heaven, Stephenie Meyer heard my cries and celebrated the 10th anniversary of Twilight by releasing a “new” book…
Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter – there’s a damn good chance you have no idea who that is. And you couldn’t be blamed for that. Despite being a major businessman since the late 80s and worth 3.8 billion dollars, no one really knows Ike. Even Steve Jobs gave more interviews and appearances. And, as far as we know, Ike could be a brain in a jar considering the last photo anyone seems to have of him is from 1985.
So you can be excused for having no idea who he is and assuming his business decisions are being relayed from a screen with his face on it like Arnim Zola in Winter Soldier. But, as they like to say it, “you will know him by his deeds”, and Ike’s been pretty active on that front. Even if you have no idea who he is, you’re familiar with his work and it looks something like this.
So when news broke not long ago that Marvel Studios was going to cut Ike and the “Creative Committee” out of decisions from here on and report only to Disney, some people were surprised. After all, Ike is a pretty damn good business man. Having come to the US with practically nothing, including no formal education, Ike managed to rise through the business world to eventually own Toy Biz. Before long, he leveraged that to become the largest shareholder of Marvel and, now, the largest private shareholder of Disney. This is a man who literally had nothing and somehow ended up with everything. Yet they’re deciding he needs to be cut out of the equation. It’d be a mystery to most, but a very simple answer lies behind it all…