The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Defending Mediocrity

So, in my journeys through the internet for the past few months, I have picked up on a disturbing trend that is getting stronger by the day, it seems. For once, I am not just talking about Joann and Cletus, the average moviegoer, I am talking about the fanboys and fangirls. What people seem to want isn't passion and vision, it's bland mediocrity. It's what's safe and familiar. Granted, I've said such things before and elsewhere, and I tend to get the "you're an elitist" reply every single time.

For an example from two different mediums; look at the crap Christopher Nolan is getting these days, when you can't say the man isn't a gifted visionary. Look at the praise that new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" TV show is getting when it is by far the blandest animated series I've seen in years, trying to combine the "best" traits from the 1987 and 2003 shows and ending up with no identity of its own in the process.

I go out there, and I see Greg Weisman criticized for "shooting too high" and not playing it safe; and his preference for open ended closure is really getting the brunt of it. J. Michael Straczynski created the greatest science fiction series television has ever seen, and hardly anyone talks about it anymore, while Ron Moore's "Battlestar Galactica" (which is a good series itself) gets credit for inovating TV science fiction in ways that B5 had already done a decade before BSG even got started.

Hell, Quentin Tarantino has just as many haters as he does fans and has had his backlash from Day One.

I've always believed it was best to aim to create the best story you possibly can. To be a visionary. To go that extra mile. But it seems what people want is to strive for mediocrity and settle for adequacy. Or, as Homer Simpson might say...

22 comments:

  1. "Hehehehehe, right in the butt." :p

    I don't think everyone is knocking being ambitious, but I don't think that makes a person infallible to criticism when they do something we might not like.

    I might criticize someones work, but if it's blatantly obvious that effort was put into it, I never knock them for trying.

    Example the new Batman cartoon coming out doesn't sound like something I'm going to be interested in. BUT just from what I've heard about it and them not using the joker, penguin, catwoman, two face; they are at least TRYING to distinguish themselves right away.

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    1. That's really not what I said. And I know not everyone is doing that. But a lot are, and that's who I'm talking about.

      Hell, look how critical I am, even of the things I enjoy.

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  2. Bland is safe. People know what they're going to enjoy and stick with it rather than going with something that looks different since there's a possibility they might not like it.

    I've seen far too many "shooting too high" criticized of Weisman whenever his shows get cancelled. Whereas at the start of a series it's always "He has such rich plans that can carry the series on forever!" but once it ends that all changes. I still laugh at comments like "He should've just planned for two seasons not unrealistically expected 65 episodes" because TV is a crapshoot and planning for the worst means you’re a bit screwed if the worst doesn't happen. Look at JLU season 5 to see where getting an unexpected extra season can lead.

    And not that it's much comfort but in my circle of friends (who sometimes seem to perpetually exist in the "new things? why would we try that" spectrum) we talk about Babylon 5 a lot more than BSG, especially now that BSG has ended. Then again we talk about Star Trek and Dragonball Z (much to my constant loathing) more than B5.

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    1. "Look at JLU season 5 to see where getting an unexpected extra season can lead."

      And, a lot of people liked that shit. Plot? What plot? Just give them Superman and Darkseid punching each other for twenty minutes straight, while Lex Luthor does something that makes no sense but looks cool and has an illusion of deepness and people are happy. But, at the same time, were it any other show, people would have been outraged at Lois and the Daily Planet crew being casually murdered.

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    2. "Lois and the Daily Planet crew being casually murdered."

      Objection, prosecutor has no proof they were murdered, and didn't just happen to get out of the building alive. :p

      "And, a lot of people liked that shit. Plot? What plot? Just give them Superman and Darkseid punching each other for twenty minutes straight, while Lex Luthor does something that makes no sense but looks cool and has an illusion of deepness and people are happy"

      Modern day comics in a nutshell. Especially the fourth world/source wall stuff.

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    3. "Objection, prosecutor has no proof they were murdered, and didn't just happen to get out of the building alive. :p"

      I saw the Twin Towers come down with my own two eyes. Where Lois and co were in that building, and what happened to it, and no heroes saving them... yeah.

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    4. Real life =/= fiction.

      Besides the building wasn't completely destroyed. Just in REALLY poor shape. Though I doubt they'd ever use it again. :p

      Besides, just because you didn't see them being saved, doesn't mean it didn't happen. :p

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    5. Then they should have set the fight elsewhere, or established that they survived. I'm sorry, there is no logical way any of them survived that. None.

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  3. "For once, I am not just talking about Joann and Cletus, the average moviegoer, I am talking about the fanboys and fangirls."

    Are they not one and the same? Fandom and geek culture have become so much more mainstream in the last 5-10 years, and as when anything becomes more mainstream, the bar is lowered.

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  4. Firstly, I think the greater sophistication and intelligence of geek culture is largely an illusion, one that I've been guilty of having before--that we are out of the "norm" because we have risen above the common rabble, not just because we have esoteric interests.

    So I am never ever surprised when I see other nerds seeming to champion mediocrity. Lord knows I'm not perfect, either.

    However, it's disturbing how much certain groups blame Weisman for his constant stream of cancellations, implying that Weisman has reached too far and must learn to "play the game" in a world of specialized networks and shrinking schedules.

    That's a terrible way to think, because it suggests that we should never try to reach for anything higher than what we currently have or we currently see.

    The Nick TMNT show's problem is, to me, that it does the barest minimum to stay afloat as a serialized series, as episodes go by with nothing happening, and the actions of both main villain groups remain weak and vague. It reminds me a lot of the downward spiral of the new ThunderCats show, though this show is wildly successful with kids and the geek crowd.

    I don't want to begrudge the many many many people who love this show, but I don't.

    Speaking of TMNT, I've seen this phenomenon in action when Peter Laird opened made some of his e-mails with the 4Kids series writing staff public.

    They showed how Laird's strong editorial hand and blunt replies might have helped shape the series' first four seasons into being as good as they were, but the response from some was that Laird was "too mean" or "rude" when he responded to ridiculous ideas.

    To me, Laird seemed totally civil, and it all demonstrated how striving, pushing the material can make something work better.

    The ending of BSG killed the series for me, and it's a shame that it is remembered over Babylon 5 as a whole.

    The last season of JLU was also pointless, and I wish they had tried more.

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    1. "However, it's disturbing how much certain groups blame Weisman for his constant stream of cancellations, implying that Weisman has reached too far and must learn to "play the game" in a world of specialized networks and shrinking schedules."

      Not like "playing the game" is a guarantee of success either. There have been plenty of shows that got cancelled due to the same reasons as YJ/GLTAS and there was no big out cry because the shows were crap anyway. MOA's Generator Rex certainly crashed and burned when corporate realised it wasn't the next Ben 10. Or hell just look at Thundercats to see crushing mediocrity doesn't always win out.

      The best hope for a show nowadays is getting the network executives to love it. Worked for Avatar and USM is still going because Quesada and Loeb love it. Or just make something good that your proud of and hope it sells 'cause there's no guarantee anything's going to sell so why not do something your happy with.

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  5. The hate on christopher nolan has always confused me. It just popped up over night. Or perhaps the night DKR premiered. People were pissed at the open ended conclusion of the film and because of that Nolan is now and idiot. I remember reading that he wanted to kill off batman but warner bros straight up vetoed it. He did the best with what he could do.

    I just don't get the hate. The man is talented and its because of batman begins that batman regained his popularity.

    And I seriously feel bad for weisman. That man has the worst fucking luck ever. RIP YJ

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  6. I don't think you've grasped what fans are feeling on YJ. Fan sentiment is along the lines of what is described here by Mike DiMartino, in reference to the Avatar fanbase and its interest in the search for Zuko's mother:

    mikedimartinostory.com/2013/03/20/you-really-want-to-know-what-happened-to-zukos-mom/

    "In The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall writes, “The storytelling mind is allergic to uncertainty, randomness, and coincidence. It is addicted to meaning.” Leaving Zuko’s mom as an uncertainty created some anxiety in people who were looking for certainty and closure. We have a need to find meaning in our stories, and this dangling thread was like an itch that couldn’t be scratched."

    Similarly, people have unanswered questions about their characters of choice or wish they could find out what will happen with Vandal Savage's alliance with Darkseid, which is a far bigger deal than this "itch" the Avatar fanbase has been wanting scratched. It's also not nearly as bad as it would have been if YJ had gotten only one season, but it's not nothing either. It's debatable whether it's resolved to the extent that Babylon 5 is too. Personally I think it is, if you look at YJ as the story of "the team" coming into its own. But one's mileage may vary, and I accept that.

    Open-endedness isn't really the issue. People just have a sense that the show clearly ended before its time, and that's never a fun feeling to have.

    As for TMNT, it blends action and comedy and is legitimately funny, unlike Ultimate Spider-Man and 1987 TMNT. I have no quarrel with what it's doing, and if it stays on track it'll be a more consistent series than the 2K3 series was. And who knows that happens in seasons 2 and 3.

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    1. "People just have a sense that the show clearly ended before its time, and that's never a fun feeling to have."

      It definitely did, no argument on that. But the series was about the team coming into it's own. So yes, we had open ended closure. There was definitely room for more, hell we had a huge tease for more. But the people bitching that he shouldn't have tried are what's getting me.

      I mean, one of my favorite finales of all time is "Hunter's Moon" which, for about a decade, I considered the real finale for "Gargoyles" and that was very open-ended as well, and ended with the clan exposed to the world and Demona still at large.

      But, well, I guess my mind works a little differently than some other vocal fans. I'm used to bittersweet ends, in fact, I prefer them.

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    2. I think that's just it, people love those characters so much that they want to know the next chapter.

      If people are so in love with the characters and the story to see what happens next, that means Greg Weisman is doing something right. He trusts his audience.

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    3. That's really not what's being discussed, Movie-Brat.

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    4. Sorry, just upon reading that guy's comments, I thought back to the recent episode of the Beyond the Black Rims podcast.

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  7. http://i.qkme.me/3oozew.jpg

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  8. ^ I know. And with the title of "Defending Medocrity" bringing to mind "Absolving Mediocrity", how could I resist? XD

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