Content is the Death of Creativity

Content is the Death of Creativity

I can’t believe I’m looking forward to the return of commercials.

So why am I not reviewing Shang Chi? Because I’ve already seen it. Oh, maybe not with this particular window dressing but I’ve definitely seen it. So have you. It’s a Marvel movie, and at this point, they are all the same.

This week there was a stink about the Russo Brothers not returning to Marvel because of the ScarJo lawsuit.  Oh, noes! Disney has suddenly stopped honoring its contracts!  How can we ever work for them again? 

Disney has been evil for a while and the Russo Brothers know it.  The truth is they didn’t really want anything more to do with Marvel because their contributions are best minimal.  If you are a Marvel director, you can make your presence felt in the editing room but you have no real say in the final product.

Your script is rewritten for you to make it better.  You don’t have to worry about the fight scenes because there is a unit that takes care of all that. The same for supervising the special effects.  Marvel will accept your suggestions about old songs but not the soundtrack. And in the end, your film will look like all of the others.

Because there is a long checklist of things that will be included in any Marvel movie.

1. Daddy issues.  Almost all of the Marvel characters have that; Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Thor, Gamora, Nebula, Quill, Ultron, Ant-Man, Thor, Loki, Black Panther, and now Shang Chi.

2. There will be a double-cross.

3. Someone will be kicked out of something or leave it out of principle.

4. A hero will get captured.

5. Multiple villains.

6. Avenger cameo (used to be SHIELD cameo).

7. Flashback scene.

8. Stan Lee cameo (he filmed several before his death and it’s not like his daughter will object to the use of his CGI likeness so long as the check clears).

9. After Credit Scene.

10. The boss villain wants the MacGuffin of ULTIMATE POWER!!!

11. Use of humor to curtail dramatic tension.

12. Overblown special effects fight. 

14. Male hero will take his shirt off.

15. The three-point landing.  Although even Marvel has noticed that one is tired.

Marvel films are the pinnacle of disposable entertainment.  Honestly, the only two that I’ve watched more than once are Ironman and Captain America.

This isn’t filmmaking.  This is content farming.

Content is the buzzword that the American entertainment industry bows today.  A Netflix series can be as bad as Kevin Smith’s He-Man or as good as The Order.  And in the end, it doesn’t matter because you get two seasons and that’s it.  Could be great, could be shit, Netflix doesn’t care either way.  So long as the content is ground out like Oscar Meyer sausages their business model is maintained.

Recently, I mentioned that life-hack videos used to be things that people put some thought into.  Look up the old ones and there is stuff in there that is genuinely clever.  But they gradually discovered that it was so much easier just to make crap content farm, and it didn’t affect the number of clicks they got in the least.

Content farming is an easy trap to get caught in because we have never had the kind of  “data-driven audience feedback.”  You can tell at what moment the audience starts to squirm.  At what moment, you have people quit watching a show.  It’s just too easy to measure all of these things.  I’m guilty of it too.  At my old blog, I was always looking over the numbers trying to divine what type of post got the most views.  I’ve poured over kindle unlimited data, trying to determine why and at what point readers stopped reading a story (despite the fact that Kindle is not that helpful to authors).

But the truth at the end of the day is, you aren’t ever going to create anything really memorable this way because you are tailoring your efforts for an audience that is only maximized for one brief period of time.  That audience of August 10th at 11:00 am is going to be literally as big as it is scientifically possible to make it, but you’ve manufactured something so trite they will never remember it on Aug 11th.  You will have created a fart in a windstorm and nothing else.

However, believe it or not.  There is just a little hope on the horizon. Not much but a little. Everyone in Hollywood has tried to be the new Netflix and everyone is failing at being Netflix.  Including Netflix.  As I predicted, the big red N has lost half a million subscribers in the all-important North American market, (they charge more here than in other countries).  Disney Plus is still growing BUT it’s in the countries where they charge lower prices, so the money they make per viewer is actually going down.

The only possible way to make money is either: Slash content production, which means they will have to go with the stuff that brings in the most people on a consistent basis.  Or they have to start selling commercial sponsorships. And sponsors don’t want a series for two lousy seasons, they want a show with legs and a reliable viewership.

The Great Content Farming Crash is coming.

Okay, I’m done here.

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