(Originally posted on About Men Radio, written by Chris Mele) When I first heard …
“Nerd culture is the product of a late capitalist conspiracy, designed to infantalize the consumer as a means of non-aggressive control.”
If you want to read his full response to the push back can be found on his blog. Although the Star Trek 3 writer and actor did flesh out his frustrations over movie producer desires for the great pop culture money grab, there are a few things I think he has failed to realize in respect to the popularity of the genre and how society has evolved with it.
Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode 3), the first film to launch the entire franchise was released in 1977. In that same year, (based on IMDB) these were the US Box Office ticket sales for the 10 top grossing movies:
- Star Wars – $461M*
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind – $128M*
- Smokey and the Bandit – $127M
- Saturday Night Fever – $94.2M*
- A Bridge Too Far – $50.8M
- The Spy Who Loved Me – $46.8M*
- Annie Hall – $39.2M*
- Slap Shot – $28M
- For the Love of Benji – $17.7M
- Kingdom of the Spiders – $17M
Within that top 10 list, only 5 of them have either remained cult classics or became full fledged classics, (all marked with *) regardless of franchise association. If you noticed, the top two are science fiction based. The year prior, Rocky (1976) was the top grossing film at $117M with another science fiction film Logan’s Run in the #3 spot with $25M, and for 1978, Richard Donner’s Superman was released, earning $134M, becoming the 2nd biggest grossing film of that year.
I point these films out to note that science fiction has always been a strong draw in the box office and the interest in the mythology of such characters on the big screen is nothing new. Art films that he spoke of: The French Connection, Taxi Driver, Bonnie And Clyde, (for the exception of The Godfather, which he included), had not grossed within the top 10 in the years of their release.
Comic books and science fiction are only partially about escapism, but are more associated with the mythology, like those that our great ancestors passed through generations, retelling stories of heroism, acts of super human feats, strength, and courage. The history of the modern comic book can find it’s roots in pictorial bibles, utilized when the majority of society were illiterate. Fast forward to present day psychology, where we understand that men are visual creatures, add to that the same tales of heroism, in a new form, and voila, comic books! They are our new Aesops Fables, the retelling of Viking lore, the battles of good and evil, once pegged as childish tales because of their colorful pictures, were written by adults with mature topics as child abuse (Daredevil, by Frank Miller, 1980’s), alcoholism (The Incredible Iron Man, by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, 1979), extreme violence due to psychosis (Damian Wayne, Batman and Son, by Grant Morrison, 2006), drug addiction and impotence (Arsenal, Justice League of America: Rise of Arsenal, by J.T. Krul, 2010). Let’s not forget mutant exclusion akin to racism that runs throughout the X-Men story line. Not topics that would give anyone the warm and fuzzies.
Those that were born or grew up in the Star Wars generation are now parents. Many of them have passed along their love of the genre to their children, so there’s a passing of the torch to the following generation. These are also the same adults who now run the film and television industry (if not, fund them), who understand the deep rooted love of these iconic figures and have reproduced them for another generation. It’s less about the “infantizing” of society as much as it is the retelling of the myths that they grew up with, as our parents did for us, and our children will do long after.
If you want to talk about dollars and cents, getting down to brass tacks, there is a reason why most large, successful entertainment companies are run by accountants and lawyers. At the end of the day, it’s about revenue. Most look at dollars and cents rather than the social cause and effect that support it. Film producers want to know why Star Trek was $1B short than The Avengers, but forget that Marvel has a constant flow of content and The Avengers is only one piece of that massive universe that includes a franchise of current television shows, comic books, video games, that continually lay the foundation for a worldwide fanbase to sustain $1.5B in the box office. Diluting the content will only anger the hard core fan base, which is what Marvel and Disney steered clear from, and what the industry is taking to account, especially after the recent success of the Deadpool film going from dead in the water to shooting and now getting a definitive release date. Star Trek, as popular as it is, does not have the franchise foundation diverse and current enough to sustain those numbers.
And finally, if you want to talk about the state of the world and why the rest of society isn’t paying attention, you need to focus on the news outlets that are either not putting any emphasis on these issues or aren’t reporting on them at all. Popular opinion is generally driven by where the news media is driving, and without exposure, no one will care because no one will know, regardless of how gruesome or indigent it is. It’s less about what the population would rather focus on, but what they are exposed to. Would capitalism have something to do with it? I don’t doubt it, but if you make a loud enough noise, people will see you.
It worked for the protests in Baltimore and New York.