Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Midnight's Edge Groks the Malaise: Mythology

The crew got together and put down another episode of the After Dark podcast for Midnight's Edge on the 11th, talking about all of the news out of Hollywood.

There is one matter of note in this podcast that comes up when they discuss the upcoming Spider-Man animated film, and that's how the superhero movie market is saturated. It turns out that the conceptual space for superhero movies is smaller than that for comics, such that attempts to make both in-franchise and out-of-franchise films for a character (as this aforementioned animated film does) are doomed to fail. (Hint: Peter Parker IS Spider-Man, and Marvel's finding out the hard way that they can't undo that fact.)

Saturation for intellectual property is perception-based more than anything else. Again pointing to the comics industry in the US, the fact is that both Marvel and DC--for decades--have tried to work around the saturation problem by ignoring it. Multiple books about the same damned character(s) or group(s) can and does lead to brand confusion, and therefore IP confusion, that becomes a barrier to entry for new readers (and customers) that cuts off growth over time.

And, in a repeat of history, it seems that film and TV executives are trying to do the same thing and expect different results- and have been for a little while now. (It's not for nothing that the Kids TV show versions are significantly different from both comics and the adult TV/Film offerings, to date, and only succeeded partially in avoiding the problem.)

Allow me to put my Religious Studies hat on.

Fundamentally, the problem is incompetence. The incompetence stems from failure to comprehend what they are working with. The IP holders think they need to tell stories in order to get the audience to buy the merchandise that is the real money-maker. They're not correct because they fail to comprehend that "telling stories" isn't the whole job; a few get that this is mythology, but even that is not sufficient comprehension as shown in their actions, because they don't get what mythology is either.

Mythology is the narrative that a nation tells itself to itself about itself and the world it dwells within. It is the heart of religion, and therefore inherently religious, because religion cannot fulfill its lawful function within a nation without it.

And religion, therefore, has at its heart the duty of performance because of the need for narrative. I'm not talking about everyday living, ethical codes, etc.; I'm talking about ritual. Mythology has power because it serves a real human need; it allows individuals to re-experience the formative experiences of generations past, in a controlled form, and thereby re-create the circumstances that put forth the revelations of past generations and bring them back to life--to immediacy in individual perspectives--so celebrants may be transformed by those revelatory experiences in turn (and, therefore, arrive at the same conclusions).

Everything about secular entertainment and related areas that relies on Narrative stems from religion and its Sacred Drama ritual function. And I do mean everything: theater, poetry, music, prose, public speaking, journalism, advertising, marketing, public relations, film, television, etc. are all derivative from (and can trace its power and roots from) Sacred Drama.

If you do not understand performance as ritual, then you do not understand mythology and narrative, and any attempt to succeed in such thing as commercial endeavors is going to fail- it's just a matter of how and why.

And if you do understand this, then you can tell the difference between incompetence and malevolence. The latter is Narrative Warfare. The former is what Midnight's Edge often complains about. (And I expect I will have plenty to say about the warfare this weekend.)

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