Short email this time... Just a bunch of links to articles on Endgame, mostly, and then I'm outta here.
Since I'm bringing up Marvel in this one, here's this article on how film and TV are both merging into "content," an episodic, high-production-value approach to storytelling that values the brand feel above any single unit that composes it. The basic argument has been said many times/ways, but this one's a particularly well put-together piece, imo.
Avengers, MCU, Game of Thrones, and the Content Endgame
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
Whether what's truly being aped here is television, the theatrical cliffhangers of the 1940s and '50s, the serialized fiction of Charles Dickens and other 19th century magazine writers, or comic books and comic strips is ultimately a distinction without a difference. They're all manifestations of the same commercial/artistic impulse, to keep audiences on the hook, constantly craving dopamine rush that comes with narrative closure, even when it proves to be temporary, just a setup for the next cliffhanger. The takeaway here should be that television and cinema have merged into the endless, insatiable content stream, and the biggest, baddest examples of image-driven entertainment—the works that have the power to unite large sections of an otherwise fragmented society—are the ones that are more reminiscent of television as we've always known it.
Speaking from my experience as a lowly Forbes contributor on the business of storytelling, I can confirm that this feels accurate for books as well as film/TV. Even the outliers mentioned in the article, Stephen King's IT and Jordan Peele's films, aren't actually outliers in my view; they're just examples of the brand recognition coming from the author and director, respectively, rather than the IP. (Well, okay, Peele's first film is what gave him the brand recognition, but still)
It's easy to decry all this as the death of nuanced storytelling, but I'm very interested in seeing what unexpected benefits this kind of storytelling landscape might hold. Creators with enough brand recognition can jump from one format to another more easily and expect their audience to follow them, for example, which definitely seems like a positive development.
Character growth is going to be a lot harder, since brands thrive on familiarity, but archetypal characters have been a perfectly valid option since Dracula and Sherlock Holmes were in diapers, which they never were because that's not how archetypal characters work.
Wait. Actually, I'd love to see a "Baby Muppets" style take on the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Someone go do that.
Ok, now for the link dump.
This is all a lot less curated than my normal email roundup, as this is literally the only time I will ever send you articles that I explicitly didn't read before picking. The only deciding factor here is the amount of FOMO I felt while reading the headlines. Honestly, the amount this reveals about my media diet is a little embarrassing, but I'm committing to radical honesty here. Enjoy(?):
Next Time on Maddd Science: Gen Z and Existentialism
Header image: “mixup,” by Daniel Williams.
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