We live in an era of abundance in every possible way. And I don’t mean can we consume too much, because the answer to that is always yes. Addiction is a thing, and no matter how much we wish it weren’t true, too much chocolate will have a negative impact on your health.
But can we HAVE too much?
There is so much media to consume out there now, and there are plenty of tools to help people who wouldn’t normally be able to get their content out there. Careers are made on places like Instagram and Youtube. There is such a high volume of content being created and put onto the internet every day that we practically drown in it.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets anxious over being unable to keep up with my social media feed.
But that sort of oversaturation is not what I’m talking about today. If you read the title, you know what I want to discuss is an oversaturation of a different kind.
With the rise of self-publishing and services like Netflix, we are overflowing with new stories. There are book series out there with more than 70 entries, and every successful movie or tv show is going to get a sequel or a spin-off, whether it needs one or not. We live in an era of vast consumption, and we have created a market that not only supports, but thrives on that.
All About the Dollar
This is obviously the biggest criticism around this sort of stuff. Making more means more cash in the bank. If people enjoy it enough, they might be willing to shell out more to continue to spend time in that world.
And the more popular something is, the more FOMO it induces. I’ve heard of people who read summaries of Game of Thrones episodes, simply so they can be part of the conversation. Every time a new season starts there is a rush of excitement and conversation about it both online and off. And unless you’re in the habit of more unethical practices, you have to pay to be a part of it.
The Convoluted Canon
Another issue with an ever-expanding universe is how enormous the canon becomes. The sheer amount of books, tv shows, graphic novels and the like just makes the idea of immersing yourself in that sort of lore a daunting task. The Forgotten Realms, for one thing. Marvel and DC are others. Even after Disney bought Star Wars, it continues to have an extensive canon that is continually added to. New books are released every year to flesh out the events of that universe, and when they announced the new trilogy, it came with its own set of prequels to boot.
It’s like a vortex that sucks you in. They sprinkle in hints, and new characters that pull you in, and you just have to keep up. Because falling behind can make it a chore to catch up if you wait long enough. It makes getting into a series overwhelming, and the more it grows, the more intimidating it becomes.
This is the problem with a popular series – in order to make more money and capitalize on that popularity, they pump out more and more in that universe and the audience can get exhausted. I know there are a lot of people suffering from MCU burnout. Ten years ago when the first Iron Man movie started this enormous franchise, there weren’t superhero movies quite like it. It was new and fresh, and the audience loved it. But the tried and true formula has been done so many times, that people are getting a little, well, bored of it.
It can be hard to see a beloved series decline because it has stuck to what worked and failed to innovate, and slowly loses all the fans it had. It’s not a fun thing to watch.
The Most Die-Hard of Fans
Of course, there are those people that don’t care about the money. They don’t get bored. They enjoy it, regardless of how convoluted it’s canon or repetitive its formula. They will consistently show up to every iteration because of pure love for the world and the characters that they enjoy. And while those impassioned fans can get hardcore, maybe overly so, I think that sort of passion is a good thing. Supernatural is a TV show that has gone on 15 seasons because of it’s small and unbelievably dedicated fanbase. Though many consider that 10 seasons too long.
I’ve sort of ruminated about this era of media we live in, and what some might consider complete exploitation of popular intellectual property. But I haven’t really answered what I consider the burning question:
Is it a bad thing?
And in many ways, it can be, and I definitely understand why it can feel like something has overstayed it’s welcome.
You don’t want to keep rehashing the same ideas, after all. It stunts your creativity if you only explore the same ideas and the same world. If it’s always the same tropes in your toybox.
That’s not to say every series gets stagnant of course. I’m sure there are some out there that attempt to reinvent themselves to keep it fresh. At the same time, business is a strong component. It’s not always about the art, or the story. It’s also about money. And the tried and true is an easy way to get it.
As beloved as something might be, I think it’s also important to explore new ideas and create something completely new. If only to give the audience some breathing room.
That being said, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s great that we live in a world where we are able to create a movie franchise with a story that evolved over 10 years and 22 instalments. And that’s not even mentioning the many TV shows, and of course, the comic books that started it all.
Even if it can sometimes feel like a bid for our cash, it ultimately is servicing the fans, giving them more of what we want. And regardless of what books are promoted by a publisher and what movies are pumped out by Hollywood, it will always be important that we think critically about what we consume, and that we spend our hard-earned coin only on what we wish to support. It’s not a perfect scenario, by any means, but as a die-hard fan of many series, I’m not going to complain.
What is your view on prequels, sequels and spin-offs? Are you tired of watching popular media rehash the same sort of content? Or are you one of the die-hard fans, happy to throw your money at as many books/movies/games/etc as they’re willing to make?