Alexander Hellene

Starve the Beast

The following is a piece I submitted to American Spectator a few weeks ago. Seeing as how I did not receive a response, I have decided to reproduce it in full here.

In today’s rapidly changing world, the entertainment industry barfs out some new version of an old property to the masses every five minutes. Like the proverbial snake eating its own tail, it seems like creativity is has reached the end of the road. Nothing original may be made, only old things cannibalized and then reconstituted, after a rather nasty process, into something more “suitable for today’s modern audiences.”

Are you aware about what the latest one is? I hope not. Because my point is not to direct your two minutes of hate at the latest cultural abomination. Quite the opposite! The only way to stop these things from proliferating like invasive mushrooms after a rainstorm is to refuse to give them any oxygen. In the case of American pop culture, the life-giving element is your attention. And this includes your rage.

It seems paradoxical, but the things spat out by Hollywood require haters as much as they do fans. In fact, it could be quite credibly argued that fan boy rage drives most of the publicity for every new remix, reboot, rehash, and other desecrations of beloved franchises.

A part of the problem is the fact that we are referring to works of art in such blatantly clinical economic terms like “franchise” and “intellectual property.” I am sure that old masters like Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Rice Burroughs would bristle at people referring to their creations as “IPs.” One can only imagine J.R.R. Tolkien’s reaction at seeing The Lord of the Rings being treated as just another commodity. And I honestly don’t even know if 1970s George Lucas would have appreciated how his Star Wars brand has become so blandly corporate since even before he sold it to Disney. And so on.

Readers of a certain vintage might dismiss these things as simple kids’ stuff, not worthy of their consideration. And they would be correct except for one thing: High culture is dead, and in its absence, pop culture is all we’ve got. Like it or not, the true way to “change the world” these days is not to go into politics or academia, but entertainment.

Fictional creations have entered into the public consciousness, spreading ideas with an effectiveness that even the most well-written, fact-driven, and intellectually sound white paper authored by a man or woman of impeccable integrity from a credible think tank cannot hope to match.

Yes, the politicians and academicians may devise some new philosophy or idea or theory. But these ideas need a delivery mechanism. And that’s where culture comes in.

These “low arts” such as comic books, video games, and even table top role-playing games matter because they all contain the seeds for stories that are later translated into formats acceptable to the King and Queen of the so-called low arts: Movies and television. In order to change hearts and minds, it helps to think visual. And few things are as powerful as moving pictures.

Music is close. It’s astonishing to think about the messages that can be sneaked into catchy songs with a beat that you can dance to. But most music has nowhere near the cultural reach of film and television. One shouldn’t necessarily sleep on or abandon popular music, but other entertainment industries like gaming utterly dwarf both music and film.

But movies and television program the masses. It’s right there in the name: “TV programming.” The Internet is of course included in this calculation. The fact remains that if something happens on a screen, no matter how big or small said screen is, it’s true. Look at what people think are true based on movies or shows supposedly based on true stories. The movie JFK comes to mind. M*A*S*H no doubt colored viewers’ perspectives on the Vietnam war. On the behavioral front, the makers of Will & Grace openly brag that their show had a real-world political impact. All this from the same people who will then turn around and tell us that entertainment media is in no way, shape, or form responsible for people emulating the behavior seen on screen!

They still haven’t explained how refusing to show people smoking on screen led to a reduction in people smoking.

These things seep into the public consciousness whether or not you become a fan, especially if you’re on the Internet. Spend any time using the social media site of your choice and chances are you’ll see people complaining about and praising the newest Hollywood creation. I’ll also bet that the hate outweighs the love by a ratio of two-to-one, though I have not done any statistical research into this assertion.

To the creators and industry types, this reaction is the point. Generally speaking, they’re not in this business for purely economic reasons. Sure, the money is nice, but these are crusaders on a moral mission. And anyway, they’ve already got their money from Netflix or whatever streaming service or studio bankrolled their advance. Joe Fanboy, aged 40, whining online about how the thing he loved as a kid has been totally ruined forever just feeds into the hype machine. Plus, the industry thinks it’s funny.

There’s also a pretty serious bitch-and-moan ecosystem out there. Entire YouTube careers have built upon whining about pop culture, let alone the editorials in respectable right-leaning newspapers and magazines. Looking at the cultural landscape, one has to wonder if any of this kvetching has made an impact in the direction the critics claim to want to see, and if change is really what the whiners want in the first place. Rage gets eyeballs, after all, and eyeballs see ads and generate clicks. I suspect that a lot of people who earn their living by complaining about things really don’t want things to get better, because then they’d be out of a job. Sounds like a lot of what goes on in American politics as a whole, but I digress.

So if this stuff matters, but the thing to do is not whine about or call attention to it, what then? That’s a great question!

Boycotts are one obvious potential course of action. After all, the best way to reclaim your dignity and self-respect, as well as ease the burden on your wallet, is to stop giving money to people who hate you. There’s a disconnect here, however, with how people think boycotts impact corporate entertainment and what purpose they actually serve in the twenty-first century. Remember: the studios, corporations, and production companies aren’t in it for the money! “Get woke, go broke” sounds nice and it rolls of the tongue, but it’s a coping mechanism that is yet to come true. No, the purpose of such boycotts isn’t to hurt the system but to keep the system from hurting you. This can be done in conjunction with supporting alternatives made by people who don’t hate you.

Where I would add to the decision to disconnect from the system is to be discreet about it to the point of not telling anyone, at least not online or in any other form of media. Your silence is actually one of the most potent weapons against the system. We are told in the Bible that fasting is a potent weapon against demons. Thinking about the increasingly bizarre and perverted content made by those in the entertainment industry, it’s hard not to detect a whiff of the diabolical about them.

So starve the beast of your attention. Fast from your outrage.

We can fight back by organizing a boycott of silence. When some new desecration of an old favorite is plopped in front of us, some new race- and gender-swapped version character of a character you remembered as a kid fighting for truth and justice who now espouses the need to fight against those gosh-darned white supremacist Christian MAGA people or whatever, just ignore it. Let it land into the public consciousness with all the impact in gravitas of a wet fart. Because that’s all it is.

Hollywood weirdos exist to piss you off. They’ve won the culture war and are now parading the corpses of their enemies around in a victory lap to rub it in your face. It’s like Achilles dragging Hector’s lifeless body around the city of Troy, if Achilles had stabbed his enemy to death while he was sleeping instead of besting him in honorable combat. The best way to fight back against this is not by making some 20-minute YouTube rant, but by being completely indifferent. As a bonus, it drives them nuts.

– Alexander

11 thoughts on “Starve the Beast”

      1. Alexander,

        Good post. We need to follow Rawle’s Brand zero policy: utter silence reinforced by utter apathy. the we-just-don’t-care/we’re-just-not-into-you will act as very powerful dissolvants to death cult culture. We need to be utterly unsentimental and ruthless in ensuring the death spiral.

        Next talk up the alternatives in any sector: comics, games, movies, books, etc. Those who entertain us and make an effort to let us escape from our daily travails must be rewarded.

        So word of mouth.

        1. Right on. It’s a two-pronged approach: ignore Brand X, and support alternatives.

          A small percentage will walk away from Brand X. That’s who we need to focus on. It’s a small number, but that’s all we need.

          1. Alexander

            For music I’d reccomend Bandcamp

            There are a lot of independent artists in a wide array of musical styles.

            KKR just posted a recent article how the pandemic has made it easier for authours/content creators to sell direct.

            xavier

                    1. Alexander
                      I imagine so. The major takeaways
                      1) gotta have your own platform
                      2) sell merchandise related to your content
                      3) have contact info and respond diligently to customer query.

                      #3 is really important. Yesterday I visited a group’s website and wanted to find out when the CD would be restocked and if a digital version was also available. But there’s no contact info which really put me off.

                      xavier

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