With writer strikes, actors strikes and box office bombs, the scene is perfectly set for burning down the current generation of Hollywood. And thank Godney for that.
The past decade or two, Hollywood has been largely spewing out expensive capeshit movies, sequels, and reboots. It’s like a toddler getting positive attention for some dumb shit, and then decides to crank it to 11. I was never a big fan of the Marvel movies – in fact, I just binged them during a weekend of
hangovers being sick. But other people liked them, and that was fine. There was a crescendo building up to a grand finale where everything the franchise had built up to for almost a decade would come together. It worked well and if you had seen some of the movies, you’d likely have to see the others too, so Marvel and later Disney increased the frequency, because each movie was a ticket to print money. And then they continued after the finale. Heck, they even increased the output with bad-mediocre Disney+ shows. To keep up, it became almost a chore and people just checked out.
Disney did the same with Star Wars: after they took over Lucasfilm, they immediately announced a new trilogy and other money-printers in-between. The sequel trilogy started off fine, threw it all away in the second installment, and then just opened up the entire franchise and took an enormous dump into it with the third. In-between, audiences got side stories investigating the most irrelevant minutiae of various characters. Only one story was remotely new, the one about a baby merchandizing opportunity that was on Disney+. Everything was just rethreading old stuff. It’s easy to make fun of George “JarJar” Lucas, but he was a brilliant storyteller not afraid to try new things. He desperately needed an editor as the prequel trilogy shows, but at least he didn’t just retell the same story again and again with callbacks as a substitute for soul.
That’s not to mention the sequel disease plaguing the industry. There is really no need to remake the Disney cartoons in live action. We do not need another Indiana Jones movie. Futurama did not need to get rebooted again. As the price of movies has gone up, so has the risk aversion, and studies just shit out sequels and reboots instead of taking a chance on something new.
This has happened in the past: some genre of movie becomes extremely popular and everybody makes the same kind of movies until the public grows tired of it. Take for example romcoms, spoofs, westerns, musicals, disaster movies, etc. All big during their heyday and largely unseen today. That’s fine and natural and desperately needs to happen now. Box-office flops like Indy 5, The Little Mermaid, or Flash demonstrates we’re just about done with remakes, sequels, and capeshit.
Outside of cinemas, things are not much better. Streaming services are in a war for original content, and improved analytics means that they aim for thing to keep people watching, rather than entertained. Movies or shows need to be good enough to attract and retain viewers, not to make a statement or to delight. There is nothing wrong with that, but then you no longer get to claim to be art.
And I realize, most of these examples largely are Disney properties, but that’s part of the problem: Disney IS Hollywood these days. They own damn near all the properties and studios, and they have found a formula and are sticking to it. They have all the money and can outspend most others on familiar faces and fancy effects.
Add to this the strike of the writers and actors. I think this may be good for the movie industry, not Hollywood, but I also think both writers and actors are shooting themselves in their feet. With a canon. When the writers went on strike in 2007, studios discovered that reality shows were wildly profitable. It caused a paradigm shift away from scripted shows towards Big Brother, cooking shows, and shows where Simon Cowell could tell people they couldn’t sing. No writing, lower cost, total shift in paradigm. After the strike, it may seem like the writers won, but in the end, there were fewer writers on shows and they’d be around for shorter. And the industry suffered for it.
This has happened before. Last time the writers and actors went on strike together, in 1960, old genres like westerns and musicals were getting stale, and the strike revolutionized the industry with new names like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg breathing new life into the industry.
The current situation is not sustainable for Hollywood. Streaming is eating their lunch, and there are just too many streaming services. They all charge too little to sustain the industry, and people are unlikely to go back to paying more for less.
But the writers and actors are wildly overestimating their value in today’s market. They are basically striking to protect themselves against AI taking over their jobs. But this will only work if you have leverage against your counterpart. With the largest genres being capeshit written after the one successful formula (Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool, where all serious moments are undermined by a dumb joke), wildly formulaic sequels where none are needed, and remakes. These are all written by committee without any artistic influence. The writers do not produce art and they do not have names. They are entirely replaceable by a chatbot, and there a damn good chance that the shakeup that will happen this strike is that writers get cut even further and just become editors for the scripts made by a generative language model. There is some argument that these models are trained on scripts written by humans, but humans are also inspired by what came before, and there is very little artistic creativity in capeshit reboot sequel 47.
Something similar I think is true for the actors. They at least have their faces in movies and have a personal brand. It is genuinely disgusting to have actors “revived” in a sentimental sequel just because familiarity is a substitute for quality. But them going on a strike also suggests a new way out for Hollywood: why pay for actors if you can just make your own. Sure, rigging a 3D model is expensive to replicate an actor, but you can also just make your own. The actors are afraid of the Terminator human-robot hybrid, where they should fear S1m0ne 100% artificial actor. Why pay for deaging Harrison Ford if you can make your own actor where the age is just a slider? Sure, it may hurt the studios a bit to lose the big names, but if they are on strike anyway, you can just accelerate the switch to virtual actors. Purely virtual celebrities have existed in Japan for over a decade, and v-tubers with much lower effort riggings are a hugh hit.
Capeshit and reboots is of course not all that has come out, but interesting stuff is far between. I did enjoy La Belle Époque, Promising Young Woman, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Annihilation, and Severance, but take away the weird French films or Sundance releases, and not much is left. Lately, I’ve taken to watch Youtube shows making fun of movies rather than the movies themselves. It too is becoming a bit tired, but at least it’s a newer trend than what Hollywood has. There are also actually independent works with actual interesting stories. I like how the Youtube channel Omeleto shares a new short film from independent directors every day. These have an actual story and are made on a shoestring budget relying on creativity instead of callbacks and famous faces.
We are on the brink of a paradigm shift in Hollywood and both writers and actors are replaceable by cheaper alternatives. The writers and actors have written and acted themselves out of the equation for the reshaping. And that’s fine, because while the studios may be the roots of the problem, the writers and actors surely are the branches and leaves. There are lower budget alternatives that are forced to use creativity instead of spectacle and nostalgia, and the result is so much better.
For that reason, I say let Hollywood burn. We don’t need or want it anymore. All of Epstein’s friends should just retire themselves; that goes for studios that refuse to come up with new ideas, but also the writers that write the same scripts again and again in focus groups or actors that rely on their famous faces can to take a long walk off a short movie. The famous ones can get jobs as prompt writers for SpielbergGPT or mocappers for Tom Hanksbot, the large majority can enjoy new more productive and fulfilling careers as waiting staff, and few the good ones can help rebuild the industry from the ruins. Let a new generation take over and the old one die off. We do not want their content and their reliance on nostalgia and safe bet blockbusters devoid of creativity. If I want to see fights and fire in the streets, I’d just go to Paris. For creative content, I prefer to take my business elsewhere.
Time person of the year 2006, Nobel Peace Prize winner 2012.