Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The End of Pop Culture

There's been an odd sea over change in the last week. I've noticed a lot of people regardless of age, political affiliation, tastes, country of residence, or general interest in pop culture, appear to be arriving at very similar conclusions.

That consensus is that there is something very odd going on right now. If you haven't been paying attention, I'll sum it up as best as I can.

We'll start with comics. The recent San Diego Comic Con, best I can tell, appears to be ground zero for this attitude. The reason? There wasn't anything of value announced, and what was made blatantly clear that the industry is dangerously low on ideas and people are becoming aware of it.

First there was this video by Diversity & Comics on the announcements:


Not only does he mention how the Eisner Awards have become just as worthless as the Hugo Awards, or any other industry award, but he goes into detail on what was shown there. The answer is nothing much at all.

Comic sales are cratering, and insiders are busy giving awards to each other and refusing to acknowledge the problem. Then there's the media refusing to report on any of this and pretending everything is just a-okay. Diversity & Comics has since been assaulted by Marvel writers and editors online telling him that only certain fans are welcome to buy and read their comics. This is not how a functioning business or service is supposed to operate. These people are shrinking the industry deliberately.

But it goes further than comics.

Marvel Studios have been seeing some rough times recently. Spiderman Homecoming tied with Amazing Spiderman 2 as the lowest opening weekend in franchise history. This is bad for several reasons. The first being that Sony made the deal with Marvel to stop Spiderman's popularity from waning. It hasn't worked. Whether you're a fan of Homecoming or not, that's a worrying trend. Pair that with the yawns the new trailers for Inhumans and Thor: Ragnarok got, and the trend is solidifying.

Superhero films are hitting the wall. Not only have there been countless articles hoping for the death of this genre for years now, actual fans have been noticing their interest declining as well. Marvel movies are not pulling in the same amount of praise and bucks they used to. By the time Marvel finally finishes Phase 3 with Avengers: Infinity War and the end of Kevin Feige's contract, we could be looking at the end of superhero movies.

Every genre has its day, and superheroes have already had theirs. The clock is running out.

Razorfist even goes into it here:


He's right. All pop culture fads go through phases, and most have a 10-20 year saturation point. X-Men started the comic book boom in 2000, which is 17 years, or if you want to be recent, Iron Man was in 2008, which is 9 years. Either way, the wall is dead ahead. We're hitting that point.

And this is a bigger problem for Hollywood than you would think. People are going to movies less and less as it is, but now people are growing tired of the one thing they've been going to see in droves.

The last thing I wanted to point out was this blog post by Kestutis Kalvaitis which is a good sum up of everything so far.

"Every major multimedia franchise that's been marketed to Hell and back harder than Dante and Orpheus going on a bus tour is exhausting itself. Let's explore."

He then goes on to describe the state of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Dr. Who, The Walking Dead, Live Action Disney, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter. Go give that a read. I'll wait.

Modern pop culture is running on fumes, and its about to strand its passengers in the desert.

But the final straw for me, and it appears for many others, was the reveal of Ready Player One directed by an over the hill Steven Spielberg.

I think the best sum up of the reaction might have been this one. The pop culture atmosphere the original book was released in is much different than it is now. It's amazing how fast the climate has changed.

What the criticism boils down to is that nerd culture is really, really embarrassing, and that this generation is starting to realize why. It's the realization that we are little more than grown manchildren refusing to be adults. Our grandparents are gone, and no one is willing to step up to bat for them which leaves the Millennials and Gen X to make up for it. This is really about the growing self-awareness that "nerd blackface" (as a friend of mine puts is) has finally hit the wall.

This has little to do with liking geeky things. It was never about that. A lot of men like geeky movies, comics, and games, but those things are not their whole world. They have families, responsibilities, friends, and hopes for the future. Their entire world is not crying into their pillow about how much they miss the 1980s and their long gone youth. While this book might have been relevant to the zeitgeist when it came out, a lot has changed since 2011 and mindless wallowing in pop culture references have finally started to lose their luster.

People don't want to hide in their man-caves and be talked down to anymore, and constantly reassured that their childhood is where they should stay. It was a nice, comfortable place to be.

But childhood is over. Star Wars movies ended in 1983. Chris Claremont doesn't write X-Men anymore. Kurt Cobain is dead, and so is radio rock. Dr. Who has been treading water creatively since its reboot. These properties have had their stories and songs written and told. They are done. Now it is time for new franchises and new stories and for the baggage to be left behind. It's time to stop pining for a childhood that is over.

Which brings us to the bigger point. What comes next?

This is where we realize we are standing in muddy waters.

As Razorfist pointed out above, there's always a new trend coming along to replace the old one. It's the way of the beast. But it's different now. The industry has been working overtime to destroy legacy genres and franchises. They've been forcing PC doctrine into every script to make every set of characters interchangeable and every tired plot beat the same. It's not the same as it once was.

If superhero movies do end, then what replaces them? There is no pleasant answer to this, but there's only really one .

The answer, is nothing.

Hollywood has been telling audiences what to like for decades, but there have always been smart folks in the system willing to get around the suits and give the audience what they actually want. Star Wars was Golden Age pulp that bypassed the acceptable Silver Age sci-fi literature at the time. It ignored the grimdark Hollywood movies and gave the audience their good vs evil stories back again. It was a major hit and phenomenon as a result, causing an explosion in genre films throughout the 1980s. All it was was a battle of good and evil with really good guys and really bad guys. It was straightforward and it was honest. But Star Wars isn't that anymore, Rogue One even went out of the way to destroy that aspect of the series, and Disney is milking the nostalgia for all its worth. Something new needs to arise.

The 1980s brought out action movies, and before that were westerns and film noir. All of which brought in audiences and made a killing. But they quickly went out of fashion when their cycle was up. No problem, the creators and audience moved on. We still have those stories, and there was always a chance those genres could make a comeback.

But as has been said over and over, Hollywood currently has nothing at all. They have soppy victim complex dramas, lame comedies, and loud, crude kids movies, and that's pretty much it. Audiences are sick of all three. So what is working, then? John Wick was a hit, but it still hasn't caused any imitators to pop up, which rules out a return of real action movies. Pixar has been hobbled in a never-ending cycle of sequels, for some reason. And as already mentioned, superhero movies are yielding less and less returns. So what else is there?

This post is going off the rails here, so please stick with it. The following is just speculation.

Maybe we have reached the end of pop culture. People are more fragmented than ever before, whether by location, by situation, or by taste, and there are no real universal values that bind them anymore. Radical individualism has caused an untold number of offshoots of taste, and it doesn't look like they are ever to link to the whole again. The last link people had to each other in the (post)modern age, was pop culture. The turnabout on nerd blackface has been a long time coming, and that ancient pop culture youth the bazingas constantly speak of to soothe you and your childhood acquaintances into a soft trance is no longer working. It's wearing off.

Nobody needs to go to the movies anymore. Nobody needs to buy a Big 5 published book anymore. Nobody needs to go to a music store anymore. Nobody needs to buy Marvel comics anymore.Heck, to be pedantic, there are many people who don't buy anything anymore. There's nothing there to bond people anymore. Pop culture as a whole might be over.

That might be an insane proposition, but it isn't that crazy. The world gets more fragmented and divided everyday, and that is not set to change anytime soon. In the past pop culture was a way to help relate and share values among each other and remind the audience that they were a community. It was a way to unite. Pop culture apart from the culture destroys any reason for it to exist. How can there be popular culture if it's not popular and there's no culture to relate to it?

We may be witnessing an unforeseen change in the entertainment world. Things might never be the same again.

Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen. But it doesn't look as if the major studios and companies will be part of this new era. And that is good. Dead weight should always be cut so the survivors aren't left to drown.

42 comments:

  1. Well done. I won't go so far as to call your post prophetic, but I do think you've put a name to something that people have felt in the air for a while now.

    You're wondering how we got here. The answer is really quite simple: commies. It's so simple; so obvious, that pointing it out gets you labeled a conspiracy nut by the same people who've run the culture into the ground.

    My dad was a cop for most of his working life. Want to know how you can tell the innocent from the guilty? When accused of a crime, an innocent man will be shocked. He'll assert his innocence.

    A guilty man will attack the accuser's credibility.

    Frankfurt School disciples started a long march through academia and the media in the early-mid 20th century. Their Communist eschatology had failed, and they'd decided that the Church and the family were the reasons why. If the underpinnings of Western culture could be destroyed, the commies reasoned, the workers' utopia was just around the corner.

    Slowly at first; then quickly, cultural Marxists converged the state, the academy, the seminaries, and Hollywood. Watch a big movie made in 1965 and then another made in 1969. The formerly conservative studios gave in without a fight.

    The commies thought they were ushering in the end of history. But their utopia never came. The wall came down instead.

    Christian moral norms, social trust, shared culture--all were destroyed, and they were destroyed on purpose. The culprits thought that global Communism would replace the culture they'd razed. The punchline is that they've known since the early 90s that there was nothing to replace what they were tearing down, but they just kept tearing it down anyway.

    If you want to know what's next, I'll tell you: helicopter rides.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's just it. There's no peaceful way out of this. One does not get people to join their side by mindlessly calling them all sorts of "ists" and winking and nodding at their own side. That doesn't bring unity, that only brings more discord and strife. And it's not going to just go away.

      The popular saying during GamerGate was "I just wanted to play video games" and it still holds true now. But there's a growing realization that you CAN'T be left alone. They've invaded the present, they've re-written the past, and now they want to mold their future.

      Maybe we should have listened to Solzhenitsyn instead of deliberately memory-holing him.

      Delete
    2. You can't run, You can't hide, You get helicopter ride

      Pinochet is My Copilot.

      Wup wup wup wup wup ...

      Delete
  2. As a casual super hero movie watcher, I have no desire to see PC Spiderman, or even Thor, Cash grab.

    Thor went sour when I heard about the new hero, PC black grrrrrrl. It wasn't so much that the actress is black, it's that the director made such a big deal about a black grrrrrrl hero who was stronger than the men.

    The story doesn't need her. Lady Sif is already there. Where's her story, with unrequieted love for Loki and dedicated service to Thor? That's interesting.

    Besides, with our new grrl hero, what is Thor supposed to do? Stand around looking confused while the new girl swoops in and saves the day?

    Boring. Would rather spend time reading Soul Dancer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are, thankfully, a lot of indie comics springing up to fill the void. Alternacomics is one, and the kickstarter for Patriotika is another: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mountolympuscomics/patriotika-1

      The mainstream is just about out of gas.

      Delete
  3. Hollywood has been working for 75 years to shatter the culture. They've just about succeeded, and are now stunned that there's no common culture any more. So they will withdraw into their safe spaces and keep the circle jerk going.
    If anything does arise to capitalize on the void, it won't be from Hollywood, it won't be from the current comics houses, it won't be a triple-A game project, it won't be from the Big 5 publishers, and it won't be on your television.
    Maybe it will be from the Superversives, or from Castalia house, or some random artists on Vid.me or Gab. Whatever it is, it will be White, it will be hopeful, it will be Christian and it will be amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I notice a lot of enthusiasm from those outside of the dying mainstream markets. Books, comics, and music, are all making headway in producing some truly fantastic stuff while the mainstream fumbles about.

      If there's something to be positive about all of this, it is that there are still plenty of folks still out there and taking the mainstream's lunch.

      Delete
  4. "I've noticed a lot of people regardless of age, political affiliation, tastes, country of residence, or general interest in pop culture, appear to be arriving at very similar conclusions."

    Indeed! Did you catch the NY Times's Emoji Movie timed piece on the upcoming Fruit Ninja movie (with some interesting asides on Hasbro movies and the Lego series)? A pretty good glimpse of the "nothing" future that's already arrived.

    I reached a similar conclusion here: http://screentoscreed.blogspot.com/2017/07/spam-takes-over-menu.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly explains the brainless decision to pass on a Genndy Tartakovsky Popeye film for a piece of crap like the Emoji Movie.

      Good post!

      Delete
  5. Number of reasons 90% of current pop-culture doesn't interest me:

    Refusal to use old stories or parts of old stories in current popculture due to problematic nature.
    the headpost of this blog has the back of Vash the Stampede. Go watch it and tell me the death of Nicholas D Wolfwood isnt seeped in the message of Christ and forgiveness.
    Isn't marvel Civil War nothing more of Brother fighting Brother, a story used since Cain slew Abel
    Impossible to use these days. Christianity is problematic.
    Old stories of old white men should die out anyway.
    So people are left with stories about superheroines making selfies and telling each other how awesome they are on the internet.
    Or maybe stories of the Evil White Man like the Valerian was.

    Sarcasm and cynicism has rotten some people's mind. I have seen people act on twitter in ways that would get me fired from work.
    Don't like a point somebody makes? Just repeat what they said in a whiny voice. Not enough? Just call them racist, sexist, whatever is needed.
    And the worse thing is that this sarcasm has seeped into the actual product.
    Heroes are not allowed actual heroes anymore. Rescuing princesses? problematic and sexist. Slaying a dragon? Impossible.

    Heroines have it even worse. The only thing they are allowed to be these days is a storm of death capable of destroying entire armies without any help from anybody else. Show them crying or having 1 second of fear and she becomes nothing. They of course need to beat at least 2 white males with 1 kick and a sarcastic remark without messing up their hair.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The realization comes to a lot of people went it finally clicks in their heads that there are certain types of stories we're just not allowed to have anymore. They begin to wonder why they are enjoying older things far more than newer ones, including that which they didn't grow up with.

      That's what I think a lot of the recent reactions to geek culture have been pointing towards. Not only have we been corralled in a fence, but we have to be fed only gruel.

      The anime press is just as bad, by the way. Japan can make pro-Christian shows like Blood Blockade Battlefront, or new classics like Ushio & Tora, and they will ignore it for bottom of the barrel perversion and half-baked political commentary. If it came out today, Trigun would have been buried by them.

      Delete
  6. Hello, find my way here from Vox Day.

    This was an intresting read. When it comes to the superhero boom, I never cared about it. Outside Christopher Nolans Batman -trilogy, I have had no interest engaging it whatsoever. To my eyes, they put out these movies like some infernal machine, milking every bit of dollars they can. These are of course the pinnacle of Hollywoods current mode, then there are also the hordes of remakes, reboots, remakes of remakes, endless sequels, prequels and what have you. All the creative fuel has indeed been burned and the machine only keeps rolling with its remaining kinetic energy.

    But I like to think, there is still hope to be seen. This whole retro thing isn't just empty dwelling in the past, but has also ignited new kind of creativity. It can be just endless references in the style of Ready Player One in which the sole point is to be a kind of massive inside joke. But then there is Stranger Things which impulse comes from the same source as Star Wars' did: it's all composed onto existing tropes and materials that were present in the writers childhoods. Now, instead of just aping the stuff, they make a genuine, creative synthesis of it. There are those homages and references but Stranger Things is an actual story with good characters and mythology, just like in Star Wars. There is innocence and charm in it, just like in Star Wars.

    Will Stranger Things be the next big thing? Most propably not, due to cultural fragmentation. But it shows that you can still create wonderful art even in the context of big budget entertainment. You can take the gold of your childhood and forge it into a beautiful artifact which stands on its own merit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stranger Things was the perfect way to do it. The Duffer Bros. took old tropes and trappings they loved but used them in a plot that required them to function without pandering to the audience.

      They didn't need the crutch of an old IP or pop culture references to succeed.

      Delete
    2. I also appreciate the fact that ST is devoid of irony. It takes itself seriously while having a cheerful, adventurous spirit. There is horror and darkness but the prevailing undercurrent is love and friendship. And once again, such was the case with Star Wars.

      For me, Stranger Things is the epitome of superversive fiction. I am looking forward to the next season and pray for God that they wont pc or fuck it up.

      Delete
    3. Regular Show is another good one (my favorite American cartoon of recent years), it had a very 80s atmosphere but integrated into the story rather than just namedropping. But Cartoon Network didn't promote the last few seasons at all; that channel has gone to crap.

      Delete
  7. You don't mention it here, but ComicCon the way you describe it sounds just like E3 this year the way I've heard it described by pretty much everyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. E3 has been awful for a while. I think Razorfist knocked it out of the park with his video on it. There was nothing on the way aside from sequels or new franchises that were just like old ones only with a new coat of paint.

      My most anticipated game this year is Sonic Mania, a game designed to advance the 2D formula for Sonic the Hedgehog which hasn't been used in nearly 25 years. The team behind that game is doing it right.

      Delete
    2. I'm looking forward to Sonic Mania as well. Sega's decision to embrace a fan/crowd driven project and even elevate it to an official release is pretty interesting and could even start a new trend.

      (Sonic Forces is looking like it'll be fun as well. Should be a good season for the ol' hedgehog.)

      Delete
  8. Plenty of studies show that diversity and high trust/united culture are orthogonal trends to one another. Kinda hard to have a shared culture when all your neighbors are from very different cultures than yours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Art and entertainment should be communication between creator and audience. If not then you get whatever it was Ridley Scott is trying to do to the Alien franchise.

      It's like a hodgepodge of ideas thrown about like so much baby food on the walls. It's not meant to connect to anybody.

      Delete
  9. "Kurt Cobain is dead, and so is radio rock."

    Radio boggles my mind. There actually is a lot of good new rock (and funk, and jazz, and...) being made, but you'd never guess it from mainstream radio. I'm lucky to have a couple of listener supported stations in my area that play good stuff.

    I've been an underground dweller since circa 2000 when I discovered the thriving-but-ignored metal scene.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In 1997/1998 there were a lot of bands that were freshly signed to record labels, had hits, and were growing in size.

      Within a few years, all of them were ousted from the major labels and back in the underground again. That was at the same time major labels were pushing rap metal and teen idol/boy band pop.

      Far be it from me to be paranoid, but it was intentional. Now the labels own every artist's image, voice, songs, and interchangeable worldview.

      Most everyone I know went underground in the 00s, because you pretty much had to.

      Delete
  10. When it comes to music, I would like to propagate RetroWave a little bit. Mainstream is killing itself while there is tons of good music being produced in the vein of 80s. Again, it's not about aping or pure pastiches (at least, most of the time), but creative synthesis of old and new. It's a ground where that reverb driven sound and analog synthesizers meet modern production techinques and possibilities.

    There is a channel called NewRetroWave where they collect all kinds of 80s-style retro music. Check it out!

    https://www.youtube.com/user/NewRetroWave/videos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NewRetroWave is amazing.

      Delete
    2. RetroWave is fantastic. It's a perfect example of folks going back and continuing a tradition abandoned when Miami Vice was canceled.

      Personal favorite would be Miami Nights 1984. I'm hoping he finally releases that third album this year.

      Delete
    3. FM Attack for the win! But there's a lot of great acts in that set.

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    5. Check out College - The Teenage color mix. Excellent music in the same style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuZl4Ywpt0Q&index=1&list=RDiuZl4Ywpt0Q

      Delete
  11. Funny that Japan was walking the same path as Western music through the 70s and 80s, but then, when the West started to shit on itself musically, they followed their own path, an alternative musical world based on a different path, divergence, from the 70s and 80s.
    This is the kind of song they decided to preserve, and that had an overlife in Europe:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxBOBHWMNLM

    About the article per se, yeah, Pop-Nerd-Culture is dead, I've been feeling these signs since the "Big Bang Theory" fever and the first Avengers movie.
    People are just tired of this shit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In the Japanese music industry you can still hear ska, rockabilly, metal, punk, and alternative on the radio alongside their pop artists. They haven't deliberately hobbled themselves yet.

      Great song!

      Delete
    2. But the problem is... they're SO Japanese! It's great for their own market, but it will only ever be niche appeal in Western civilization. We need our own alternatives to anime and manga and J-pop or whatever, that are OURS.

      Delete
    3. Now adding Taeko Ohnuki to my ever-growing list of music to check out....

      I'm a big fan of Japanese jazz fusion. T-Square might be my favorite band.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1vwlTZ5EGQ

      If you've played a lot of video games you'll probably recognize their sound.

      Delete
  12. Next up in pop culture is a glam rock revival. Its been brewing behind the scenes and overseas but hasn't quite hit the US as of yet. Hopefully it won't be an LGBT version of Fox On The Run replayed ad infinitum

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glam rock has been threatening to come back for a long time now. Personally, I think it's the only rock style that has a chance of breaking out the way the climate is now.

      Delete
  13. When Michael Jackson died, somebody commented that nothing like him could be possible again because he was the last cultural phenomenon that *everybody* liked. Young, old, black, white, male, female, native, immigrant - everybody loved Michael Jackson. That makes a lot of sense, as his height of popularity - the 80s and early 90s - was the last time we had enough cultural cohesion for a phenomenon like Michaelmania to happen. Now we've culturally balkanized too much, and it's hard to imagine how we'd un-balkanize.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It also helped that Michael Jackson had genuine talent and was able to bridge the genre gap (he had ties to rock and hip hop, and wrote songs to show it) to show everything great about music at the time he was around.

      You're not going to get that without any cultural cohesion and the record labels locking down the industry like they have been for the last 20 years.

      Delete
  14. I'm not particularly sure if the end of "pop culture" is a bad thing. I'm already starting to see dozens of tiny blips of divergence appearing among my circle of friends. Instead of us all hearing the same music on the radio, we find strange outliers of music that we like and tell each other about them. It's resulted in a situation where my iPod is packed with music that my coworkers have never heard of from artists like The Megas, The Protomen and the like.

    Music is found on youtube, bandcamp and artists are spread by word of mouth.

    I'm not saying that in an indie "I like weird stuff" way but more that maybe its a better thing if we all consume what we like, and make discoveries of it through our friends, instead of being brainwashed into thinking that certain musicians 'speak for a generation' or other nonsense.

    That way we end up with not as many "superstars" and "celebrities" and perhaps entertainers and actors go back from a target for our aspirations, to the place they used to occupy in society.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good way of looking at it. It has allowed a lot of smaller artists and producers to make a dent they otherwise wouldn't have.

      Good take.

      Delete
  15. Niemeier: "Want to know how you can tell the innocent from the guilty? When accused of a crime, an innocent man will be shocked. He'll assert his innocence.

    A guilty man will attack the accuser's credibility."

    Well said. Now apply that to every public figure you know, especially our trendsetters, pundits, celebrities, newscasters, and politicians.

    Hmm...

    ReplyDelete
  16. JD
    I think we're slowlyvseeing the replacement culture through pulprev superversive. In Europe the Scanandavian dectective fiction has really impacted European literature especially the detective/crime genre in other European languages. Same goes for Italian detective fiction.
    There's a lot of genre mixing (can't call them mashups yet)
    So there's a lot of dynamism but It's tougher to find because of the fragmentation but It's there.
    xavier

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is definitely a change occurring, Xavier. It's been due for years but it's finally getting around the gatekeepers who have been holding it back.

      In a few years things will be very different.

      Delete
    2. ND

      Agreed and since the field is wide open I look forward to see what comes. I guess I have a mix of optimism and concern but in the end I'll be happily surprised because people want to enjoy themselves and have fun for a short period of time. It's nice to have a beer with an enjoyable book, movie music, video game or fun entertainment :)

      xavier

      Delete