Did you think that the addition of two Chinese actors in Star Wars: Rogue One was the product of cultural diversity i.e. the enlightened outreach of the Disney film industry to cultures beyond the West? Maybe it was, but there was an angle to it, and it had to do with tapping the gargantuan Chinese market.
Ditto for many other Hollywood / Western movies involving Chinese talent and/or locations and/or products. They do what they do to up their sales power.
And now you know how it works. Diversity, plot devices, collaborations, even shoddy scripts (bear with me, I’ll explain), they all serve their purpose, in this case, they keep costs down and/or drive profits up. It’s the only way big movies are made, because big movies, as well as smaller ones, are made with money, not good intentions.
A cynical point of view, but true. Watch the video below and see how it works, and don’t let the funny music fool you. The phenomenon it depicts is real, dressed up as something cute so as to catch the audience’s attention.
My job is to circumvent the cute part and emphasize the bite behind this phenomenon. Draw attention to its implications.
Food for thought, if you will.
This video is a gem, a wake-up call for the romantics among us, the ideologically pure and political — a reminder that even though cinema is the seventh art, taking over every aspect of life, it is a compromised art. It is money-driven entertainment, riddled with pros and cons. It gives us extraordinary extravaganza, the likes of which we could only dream of, but it first and foremost serves the money that gives it shape, then everything else.
In other words, the movies are a business, just like publishing is, or art exhibitions, only far more expensive and complicated, therefore much more beholden to funding, investors, markets, sales teams, you name it, they run the motion picture industry, driving and bending and manhandling the artistic visions associated with it. A myriad things to juggle before you get to the end product.
If you want a story that pays tribute to the strongest aspects of its narrative, offering great narration, hitting its strongest parts, not pandering to anyone etc, read a book, or write one — and even then you’re subject to a thousand extraneous factors, although a thousand factors are less than a million.
And if you’re in the movies, you have to tick a million boxes just to get things started, let alone executed, and that often involves selling out to whatever factors will raise your investment money and/or bring home the box office.
Sad, but true.
Then again truth is not sad. It’s the truth. Make of it what you will — we all do, to each our own.
Fact is, the art of movies is gradually turning into a business turning into a science. There’s still a huge artistic component involved, but it’s becoming more and more dependent on extraneous factors that have less to do with artistic vision and more to do with promotional reach.
In fact, sometimes the story of the making of a movie and its subsequent sales and distribution deals are far more interesting than the movie itself.
The story of how Warcraft, for example, that lug of a film, was intentionally designed to breach the Chinese market. Genial! Amazeballs!
Or how the early DC Extended Universe with its shoddy scripts and its choppy story lines became a success story despite their obvious mess because of China’s huge market, which doesn’t hold story line to the same standards as you or I, and which gobbled up the DCEU stuff like it was something out of this world.
If it sells, guess what? They ain’t fixing it, not even when the product makes no sense in terms of narrative. They’re simply repeating the process, making a model out of it, see how far they can take it.
Hence the infamous claim by Bret Easton Ellis that the big studio execs he’d dined with couldn’t have given two shits about the quality of Ben Affleck’s Batman because it wasn’t a problem they had to fix. It would cost less not to address the issue. They had international sales in mind, and the bad script was not going to affect them as much.
(For this and much more, click here: https://theringer.com/movie-industry-shifts-peak-tv-arrival-moonlight-f0a5ddd85384)
A gentle reminder that democracy and the will of the market are not always a force for quality. Too often the lowest common denominator wins out. We’re talking a) the least cost possible, b) elevated returns, and c) who cares about standards! It’s a business model, and it’s prevalent, the kind of model that has over the decades rendered car metal sheeting thinner and thinner — more people will buy paper-metal cars, so they become the norm — and food into junk, since the majority of people will give in to junk food drenched in all kinds of flavor enhancers and additives, so it spreads everywhere and becomes the norm. We used to have statesmen and stateswomen, now we have charlatans and con artists because bullshit and rhetoric get more online clicks and higher media ratings. The movies used to be about story and character development, but slowly the mass market has shifted them pap-wise. It has rendered story lines into bland explosive regurgitated porridge. Audiences everywhere seem to respond better in their multitudes to easy no-brainer love stories, or to action stories with big boom boom scenes and the odd reference to local culture. Europeans, Americans, Chinese, they all do it, to each their own.
You get the picture.
It goes on and on.
My apologies. Too cynical and abrupt today. There was a more spherical and reserved way to write this piece, but sometimes you can’t hold back. You have to call a spade a spade and a deteriorating set of standards a deteriorating set of standards, pointing out the ways in which these standards systematically plummet, taking everything with them. It’s happening all around us in plain sight.
The best way to keep something secret, they say . . .
Still, like it or not, my previous point holds. There is something outstanding about the progression of the motion picture business, despite its questionable course. The stories behind the making of so many unlikely movies and their marketing and distribution deals, which have led to them being turned into success stories, are Oscar worthy, if not Pulitzer worthy. Fucking genius!
Stay tuned for more. It’s going to get a lot more interactive, with the advent of MR — Mixed Reality entertainment. That’s VR and AR put together for a real-world fantasy experience that can be switched on and off at any time, and taken with you at any place, and I have just the right information channels to keep myself updated on this model as it makes its moves.
I assure you, it’s going to captivate audiences all over the globe.
I hope you’ve spotted the gently sinister undertone in the sentence above, especially in the word ‘captivate.’
Remember, the term ‘entertainment’ has its roots in the word ‘entretenir’ i.e. hold together; to ‘entertain’ originally meant ‘to keep up, maintain, to keep (someone) in a certain frame of mind,’ which is very akin to ‘holding someone captive.’
Hence the term ‘captivating,’ a term so often associated with motion pictures.
Hold on to your seats, ladies and gentlemen.
From your delectably conflicted and well-maintained and at times slightly meta Spin Doctor,
Eyes open, mind sharp.