Sunday, July 26, 2009

Look Behind the Curtain

One topic I explore occasionally is exactly why I'm fascinated with the Angel TV series. I won't hide the fact that falling in love with a main character played by a sexy actor played a huge part. However, it's not like that's never happened to me before. What is it about Angel that has me hooked and keeps me coming back for more?

DVRPlayground posted a recap of Joss Whedon's Q&A session at San Diego's 2009 Comic-Con, and I came across this intriguing item:

On his fascination with large corporations and government messing with people’s minds.

Have you been in America? I like to consider myself the great documentary film maker of our time. The entire structure is designed to mess with your minds, sell you things, entertain you, keep you in line, make you think you need things they want you to need, keep them in power, share none of it. But there are lights in the darkness, the art we get to create because the powerful patrons let us. But sometimes it’s like running the daycare on the death star. There is power and manipulation controlling almost all of our every thought, that is why I love this show [Dollhouse] so much.

I'm fascinated with peeling back the many layers and finding out what's really going on and who's really in control, which is something I try to convey in my other blog, The Wolfram & Hart Hall of Fame. (One hint: our Republican and Democratic leaders have far more in common with each other than with their electorate.) The real Powers That Be like to keep us clueless and divided by our petty differences while they literally loot the store.

The entertainment industry is useful for two purposes: one, as a way to peddle corporate propaganda, and two, to keep a population distracted from the real issues plaguing our nation. John Guilfoil wrote an intriguing piece for Blast Magazine about how close Dollhouse was to getting cancelled. His article, "Why NOT Dollhouse" could have easily been written about any of Whedon's other shows. Guilfoil wondered why people were shocked when Dollhouse was renewed for a second season since, as he puts it, between the live TV viewing audience and the DVR viewers, the show was "...perhaps one of the top three most-watched television shows last season."

Guilfoil then chronicled how Fox has slashed the show's budget, and how "grittier" and "darker" are code-speak for "fewer expensive special effects". (I disagree with his insinuation that bringing in Alexis Denisof also cheapens the show). He then concluded his article by saying:

Are we to believe that Fox somehow has failed to make a fat enough profit off of this show? Are we to sit here, critics and fans alike, and buy it that, with all the hype, fan sites, forums, promo spots, convention panels and fucking TiVos out there, that the sales team at one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world couldn’t turn a decent profit?

YES! That’s exactly what we have to believe, because otherwise Fox would be pouring resources back into the show to squeeze more milk from the cow.

Someone needs to get fired over this, but it’s not Joss Whedon.

I'll posit that Whedon's shows are doomed to be perpetually on the chopping block because he comes uncomfortably close to showing us the man behind the curtain controlling our thoughts. Some of the biggest conglomerates in the world own TV networks (think General Electric and NBC, and Rupert Murdoch and FOX), and they certainly don't want their viewers to start asking too many questions.

Postscript: In all fairness, I'm sure a lot of it has to do with advertising revenue. If a show attracts viewers who can't be easily manipulated into buying products that they don't need, a network won't be able to command top dollar for commercial air time. Audience size doesn't matter as much as the willingness of the audience to open up their wallets to buy products from companies that have the biggest marketing budgets.

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