The Beast We Created

Sometimes it’s hard to blame a system for the cage we ourselves made. Sure, there are always people we can blame, faceless suits we can point a finger at and declare that THEY did this to us and that we are free of guilt but the fact is that in many instances we allowed them to easily corral us together so they could more easily do the lazy things that make them money. 

We are all lazy, not in the sense that we don’t want to work, but that we want the path of least resistance. We cling to remakes and reboots and sequels and cover bands and all of that because it’s familiar and comfortable. We seek out that which is most readily available. We want what we can find without any trouble, can watch for free if it’s there, and which won’t make us scratch our heads after we’ve experienced it. 

This isn’t new but it has gotten worse since Covid hit us. 

The problem though is that, as with the job market magically shrinking as we’re told that there are jobs everywhere (sure, low paying or high skill), we were also told that entertainment was costing too much. 

UP rose the prices for everything. 

With more people streaming, that meant that there needed to be more content, so more was created, not BETTER necessarily, just more. Not stuff that made us happy we had that service but just more. 

With the lack of movies in theaters it became necessary to draw people back so it became the burden of the blockbuster to do it. Nothing new there, most of us like some manner of blockbuster or another. Pure popcorn fun. Loud, and bright, and roaring with life. 

We needed that. 

We forgot though that we need those smaller, more intimate films too. 

We need those movies that are different and that show us things in the human condition, the human heart, and the human psyche which we don’t always get in a big budget blockbuster. 

With the new acts that DID tour the prices skyrocketed so that if you want to go see your favorite performers then you are gonna pay for it. And how. 

It’s the old guy in me that looks back to when I went to concerts often and thought $50 was high for a show. 

And while I think much of this falls on the management of the performers and the ticketing company, and the venues, some of it falls on the performers too. 

They want to get paid and many of them feel the need to do huge, elaborate, expensive shows for their fans. 

While I appreciate the desire for showmanship, when it adds to the cost of tickets I start to question it. 

At its heart, a live concert is about the music, and everything else is secondary. 

Or should be. 

It’s great if you have big sets and dancers and backing vocals and all that but if you and yourself or your band on stage can’t bring the sort of passion to your live show then the rest of it is just to distract from your lack of…whatever. 

Which is all to say, the world got a lot more expensive and as it did, things didn’t get more expansive, but more constricted with bigger budgets. 

Streaming shows are cut after one season or even a few episodes. Some established shows are pulled from their platforms to save money from royalties, disappearing into the ether or maybe to another platform with commercials or some such. 

So we still pay the same for these streaming services, which invested heavily into their content when everyone had to watch them, but now that there are more options there are less things to watch and higher rates to pay. 

On this it’s our fault because we relied so heavily on these services but it’s the leadership that invested poorly that are to blame and we are paying the price. 

Canceled shows to canceled movies, if  you can write it off then that work doesn’t need to exist. 

And right now, it’s all about write offs because these people will sure as heck not take pay cuts to get help the cause. 

No. 

Way. 

With the theaters we are punished because we just don’t all go out as much as we once did before the pandemic. We CAN, but we don’t. But what we go out to see is the big blockbuster stuff, the things we can’t get at home and that reminds us of the grandeur of going to the movies. 

We are in an era where not every movie needs a big screen. 

Where we can get pretty good sized televisions and surround sound systems and recreate some of that ‘wow’ we get at the movies and for more intimate films we don’t need a huge theater. 

But with more of us going out just to see those big films we’re apt to only get the films like AVATAR 2 and the Marvel movies in theaters and at a higher cost to subsidize films that are just exorbitantly expensive. I am all in on blockbusters and love films that create a whole world for us to inhabit but there’s a point where you have to ask if it’s necessary. 

A filmmaker can WANT whatever they want, and they even get it, but should they?

If it takes half a billion dollars to recoup the initial investment, is it a wise one?

And again, I love big movies, but at the cost of the rest of the slate of films we used to get?

No way. 

It’s madness. 

And it’s selfish. 

I don’t care what your vision is but if it’s making it so the entire industry is chasing that big money that happens so rarely that it’s seen as miraculous when it does happen (yet they still chase it like a great, white whale) then maybe we need to start spending smarter as economists like to advise. 

Big movies are great but as is done with SO many other projects someone needs to ask – but does it need X, Y, and Z? 

Guillermo Del Toro had a dream of a big budgeted At The Mountains of Madness adaptation, one I was desperate to see, but it was too costly for what it was and, honestly, I get it. 

A $200 million monster movie just doesn’t make sense because it’s probably not going to make that money back, not if it’s also a horror film. 

It just doesn’t make sense. 

Especially when the thought is to push resources towards this ‘big’ movies and to either not make the smaller fare, to overspend on THOSE films, or to relegate them to streaming with no fanfare. 

And ah, streaming. 

Streaming is fascinating because with so many streamers you’d think both the vaults and the minds would be open. 

Many projects from the past would be dusted off and put out on streaming platforms to draw in new eyes with little investment to do it. 

You’d also have opportunities for more varied projects and voices since there is such an insatiable need for content. 

The problem is that this isn’t really happening. 

Sure, Tubi gets OCEANS of found footage and low budget horror but the bigger streamers stick to the easy stuff – over budgeted action films or murder docs or pseudo-reality television. 

Once in a while something different slips by but not often. 

They are just as guilty as the movie studios with opening their wallets too wide and pouring money out for what they assume will be huge hits but which are never fully promoted and not deeply promoted and which become just another listing after two weeks. 

We are to blame in that we chase whatever is hot and don’t dig into the back catalog. 

We don’t look for older films. 

We don’t want older shows. 

We want what’s new, what’s hot, and what everyone is talking about. 

We are content with that. 

It doesn’t matter what we’re missing out on. 

We don’t consider the many movies and television shows of the past that are just…gone. 

Some made it to home release. 

Some didn’t. 

Some are just…gone. 

We don’t think about all of that art, all of that entertainment that was never brought forward because it was too much trouble, too much work, and too much cost. 

They don’t think about what might happen if an older show or film caught fire and hit. 

Because it can happen. 

Especially in an age of social media where if the right person with the right reach advocates for these properties it could take off. 

Naw, we just go with what’s in front of us and don’t demand more or better. 

My concern with music is that we’ll ONLY get these overpriced super shows and not the more intimate ones. Oh, you’ll be able to go to clubs to see smaller sized acts, or performers and groups that are not as popular, but we’re muscling out the midrange acts. 

It’s either BIG or SMALL. 

It’s either a club show or an arena show. 

That stinks. 

I used to love going to concerts and when they were priced for people who worked and had to pay bills too that was fantastic. 

Now though, as with sports, it’s a luxury that you almost have to go into debt to afford. 

Fans that support these acts shouldn’t be punished because they are not rich. 

Big shows are great, and are fun, but they don’t have to be the norm. 

They shouldn’t be. 

Festival shows, those make sense. 

The performer that doesn’t tour much, they should at least offer more acts that are draws too. 

Make it worth the money. 

Do something. 

It’s not enough to say – HEY! I’m ‘X’ and you wanna see me, make sure to wait online and hope you get tickets that sell out immediately at high prices or buy from a scalper BYE!’

That’s ridiculous and selfish. 

There is a point though where a LOT of this is selfish. 

We are punished for having lived through a pandemic and are being forced to foot the bill for overspending, poor investment, and issues caused because of the pandemic. 

I get it, prices rise, that’s how it is. 

But they are out of hand. 

I don’t want any of these entertainment options to go away but if this is how it is then I don’t need to go to the movies or to concerts or need to stream from some folks. 

It just isn’t worth it. 

I LOATHE that we are losing so many films that never get made, groups and performers that can’t afford to tour because of costs, and shows and movies that get lost or forgotten because it’s cheaper to do that. 

I hate it. 

Just as I hate that there are OCEANS of records, literal records, that were never brought to CD or digital and are essentially lost. 

Records once integral to people’s lives and to that moment in time. 

Forgotten. 

We are willfully shoveling so much art and entertainment into a vast hole because we are letting someone who cares more about money and their salary and their third house than they do about art make the decisions that affect hundreds of people and more. 

We are letting boards decide things. 

It’s disgusting but typical because this is sadly who we have become. 

I offer this – What If – 

Big budget movies were brought back down to earth and that freed money for moderately made films that weren’t part of an established IP or weren’t as well known?

Streamers opened the vaults and celebrated and honored the past and used those marketing departments to excite people about things that many haven’t seen. Have you seen SUMMER SCHOOL? It’s GREAT! I bet most of you never heard of it though. 

Performers remembered what it was like to be working class and worked to change the system, as Pearl Jam once tried to do. Worked to find a way for everyone to make money but for average fans to see shows too. 

What if WE were the bottom line and serving us and thus gaining our trust and money and not serving a board or a bottom line so that everything was about money alone?

Sigh. 

There is a monster roaming our entertainment world and it’s one we fed and nurtured and it’s now out of our control. 

…c…

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