Gather ’round the fire, childrens, and old Token Tom will tell you a story. It’s not technically a scary story, nor is it a story with a happy ending. But it is riddled with harsh realities and a little bit of the most frightening things ever: numbers and acceptance. Some folks are up in arms over an announced Wizard of Oz remake.
Yes, another Wizard of Oz remake.
Yes, I’m aware, there’s been dozens of remakes, retakes, and reimaginings of L. Frank Baum’s beloved children’s fantasy. How one more is going to hurt, I don’t know. But I see these angry fans as a mob of Munchkins carrying pitchforks and torches, storming the witch’s castle, chanting “NO MORE REMAKES!” All in that squeaky, diminutive, Munchkin voice, of course.
Now, the scariest thing about all of this will be a bitter pill to swallow for some of us. You see, much like when you train a dog, the first thing they tell you is: YOU ENABLE A DOG’S BAD BEHAVIOR. And guess what? Uber Entertainment Fans like us? We are a contributing factor to the never ending cycle of #Sequels&Prequels&RemakesOhMy. I’ll get to that later, because, you see, we’re not alone in this mess.
Here comes the math part. You know those people who, um, believed a certain conspiracy theory the last couple years? Well, those people are dumb. And they make up a large demographic of America. Like 1/3 of it. And then there are people who didn’t believe in that particular conspiracy, but still think vaccines are bad. They are also dumb. Well, those people also make up a large demographic in America. How many of us know someone who doesn’t have a favorite movie, band or song – but they can tell you who sang what on American Idol? We all know one or two of those heathens. They aren’t necessarily dumb, but they are bad at music trivia in a bar (unless it’s about American Idol, of course). This disparate collection of people makes up about half of the remaining 2/3. These dumbasses (as Red would say on That 70s Show) are called MIDDLE AMERICA. They are the main consumer of casual entertainment in this country. And movie studios and television networks and book publishers and video game manufacturers want THEIR money.
They don’t want YOUR money. They already have it. In order to get Middle America’s money, they have to draw these dumbasses in. They do that by keeping movie plots simple, for example. Another way is through familiarity – ie: #SequelsAndPrequelsAndRemakesOhMy.
But… and this is a big but that doesn’t lie – the ONLY way they can make movies or TV shows or Video Games… is through a loan from an investor. Banks and those elite with deep pockets want a return on their investment. The bottom line is they want to make money. Most films barely break even. But many are successful. And those that do are ripe fodder for sequels, prequels, modernizations, reinterpretations, and remakes in the eyes of an investor.
Why? Cos the chosen #Sequels&Prequels&RemakesOhMy have a proven track record of a return, and familiarity with Middle America. And whose money did I say they want? Those dumb assholes. James Cameron figured out how to reel in Middle America and take their money. The Planet of the Apes and Star Wars franchises started the modern tradition of merchandising. Marvel Studios mastered all of it with the theatrical MCU, a success they are carrying over to the small screen on Disney+. And don’t get me started on Disney and branding.
This is no different than you or I getting a bank loan. The bank wants a return on their investment, too (it’s called interest). But before you can take the loan out, you have to prove you have the capability to pay back the money. And that’s what this is. Instead of your paystubs and tax returns, these investors look at how much money this entertainment property made, and how much it can make again. It’s intellectual collateral.
Now, the wonderful thing about #SequelsAndPrequelsAndRemakesOhMy is the original films still exist. AND WE CAN STILL WATCH THEM! And when we do so through a hardcopy purchase, streaming service, or rental… guess what.
We add to the problem.
Now here’s the hard part you have to come to accept. We – the fans of genre properties – do indeed justify the studios in their decision making. Repeat theatrical viewing or binge watching supports this by proving said property has that guarantee of a return. You see, we enable the studios by giving them a constant stream of data with numbers to crunch. It’s us, the superfans of entertainment, who have created this beast.
When we bitch on social media or in a podcast about a new entry into the annals of #SequelsAndPrequelsAndRemakesOhMy, guess what it does. It feeds the machine by creating buzz for the new incarnation. This also happens to be free advertising for the studios, free advertising they are counting on, no less.
We must accept this truth. We have no one to blame but ourselves for #SequelsAndPrequelsAndRemakesOhMy. They will remain a constant irritant to some, and a refreshing vision to others. This isn’t a bad thing. Because it’s these stories told over and over today that will become the myths of tomorrow.