Does Gen-Z prefer original content versus 'fan-services' and callbacks?

When something new does emerge, it is either killed or abandoned despite a popular concept

By Sam Jabri-Pickett

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Published: Thu 4 Jul 2024, 7:53 PM

Right now is a time where streaming services, once hailed as the next big thing, have begun to morph back into TV packages. Prime has commercials now, Netflix won't let you share passwords, and Disney+ makes you subscribe for a few new episodes each week. Fifteen years ago, you could expect three new episodes of TV every weeknight, plus Sundays if you had HBO.

Yet, it seems now that, in addition to this typical capitalistic mistreatment of the consumer, media has started to feel flat and anaemic, as if people have just stopped drawing from the well or trying to make something new. Everything now is not made by lovers of art trying to do something revolutionary, but the same properties now being made by fans of those properties, Gen-X and millennials.

I came across a tweet where a person singled out that The Simpsons were written by nerds who were influenced by a diverse array of original media. “The early seasons of The Simpsons were written by eclectic nerds who had marinated in all sorts of weird old media. The newer seasons are written by people who grew up watching The Simpsons.”

I believe that this point sums up the issue; so-called creatives making only a copy of a copy of a copy. I'm year one Gen-Z, so I still remember owning a printer and scanner; when you photocopy an image, over time the image will be degraded. It's still obvious what it is to the naked eye, but the details and nuances have been lost. Time to print something new, and just like with climate change and dating, Gen-Z needs to course correct.

For starters, take Star Wars, which George Lucas created as a distillation of his love of old pulp sci-fi like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, the work of legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, and epic fiction like Dune and Lord of the Rings. Lucas has stated that he based the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO on both Tahei and Matashichi from Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, and Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings.

“[Lucas] mixed that all together to get something truly unique,” said Jason Pargin in a recent post on TikTok. Former editor of and New York Times bestselling author of John Dies at the End, Pargin delved into modern Star Wars; made by people who are self-admitted super fans of Star Wars but often avoid from doing something new. "[Star Wars] was so weird that the studio was scared they were going to lose their money... They had to force [cinemas] to show it by bundling it with a different, bigger movie."

That is an utter reversal of the filmmaking process. If I wanted to make a gritty sci-fi noir western with space wizards and laser swords, it would only be made with Star Wars stamped on it. “Instead of taking all of your old influences and remixing it into something new, you're forced to take your current idea and reduce it down to something old.”

So what? So, Hollywood's shallow and cares more about the payday of a sequel or remake, not the struggle of supporting a new property. Everything I see just feels like fan service and callbacks and, when something new does emerge, it is either killed or abandoned despite a popular concept. I was burned on this front as a kid, by Disney, with Treasure Planet and Atlantis, but I digress.

To be continued...


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