The Disney vs Sony Webxit negotiations.
Gramsci, Cultural Fracking and, fans being dispossessed of their stories by private interests
This episode follows directly on from 1914 [Media property name] isn’t your friend.
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Spider-Man’s MCU No Deal Webxit
Last week I neglected to mention that my most listened to show by quite some margin is Episode 1914 – [Media property name] isn’t your friend. If you are new around here and haven’t heard it, well, that episode serves as a foundation from which we build todays precarious scaffold of ideas.
So it with my greatest regrets that I must inform you, that people are mad about something on the internet.
This week amongst many other unimportant things brings us news that two members of the corporate cultural oligarchy are at loggerheads over the licensing of Spiderman.
Squinting from my cave entrance,it appears that 4 years ago Disney and Sony brokered a deal to share the character of Spider-Man (Owned by Sony) that involved Disney co-financing Spidey movies in exchange for a share of profits. So far so good movies apparently. Now. That deal has apparently reached term with negotiations having broken down. Without a deal Spidey has to Webxit from the MCU and people are really mad.
Now, let me be clear: I don’t particularly have a spider in this web at all. I haven’t seen a Spiderman movie since Tobey Maguire battled Willem Dafoe or whoever.
But here’s what the reaction to this news has been like from people that do care.
*Clip of extremely angry nerds*
The key word in that clip is OUR characters.
Previously, I spoke about how deep engagement with fictional worlds should give people agency within them. But when our entire culture is privatised – what can people do when they don’t own it other than fold it into the culture war?
More sinisterly are the headlines that both Sony and Disney are weaponising the collective outrage of fans to further their contract negotiations. There’s petitions and all sorts of madness going on.
On one side: Apparently fans want to quote unquote storm Sony HQ and ‘bring their boy home’ to the MCU.
On the other, you have the literal stan stans siding with Sony as Stan Lee’s Daughter has fallen on that side of the argument.
And then you have an important third actor which is the vast swam of Bots Helping #SaveSpiderMan Trend.
On that front, both sets of fans have speculated that Disney is behind the bots in an attempt to turn public sentiment against Sony. Given the concurrent and ongoing Amazon Brand Ambassador shenanigans it isn’t that far fetched. The contemporary media environment is totally controlled and manipulated.
Perhaps we should be storming Exxon’s HQ and petitioning Brazillian embassies over the destruction of the Amazon. But I digress.
Basically what I’ve just spent the last X mins talking about is people feeling emotionally invested in multinational conglomerates business deals about whether one character gets to appear in someone else’s story. neither of which the folks that consume those stories own.
The solution I offered last time was to roll your own culture and tell your own.
But it is exactly the telling of, and what kind of stories that are currently being told that we need to interrogated today.
Sometimes in my more offhand moments I have a recurring thought that haunts me every freaky friday like the night of the living dead, but I have great expectations that hopefully im wrong.
Maybe Francis Fukuyama was right.
Lots of folks seem to have noticed that in many respects, the mass culture that we share is stuck. Reappropriating Gramchi I would say that: the new cannot be born whilst the corpse of the old is being constantly resuscitated to perform again and again onstage.
Years ago now Laurie Penny wrote something like “on the internet all cultural history is happening concurrently, all at once” – and it’s stuck with me.
If you’re into Cool Jazz and want to iterate but don’t step to Jazz Fusion then go for it, fork the genre at 1955 into 2019. Our nice neat cultural historical timelines of evolution and revival are broken.
This shattering of individual interests has actually caused an excess of creativity. It’s not that all the reboots, remakes and nostalgic mashups like Ready Player One (no i haven’t seen the movie) are unoriginal. It’s that under the logic of a capitalist cultural monopoly, commodity owners have to continually frack the past from a time when a collective cultural grammer still existed to still make money.
They have to return mass culture to a time when their business model still worked
And the culture that is being fracked suffers deeply from what Jeannette Ng (ing) said in her Campbell award speech this week: its Sterile. Male. and White.
This requirement of stable expectation kinda holds true in video games where the idea of east/west forever war is fracked as much as shooting nazis. The Richard and Judy book club probably full stops an era of a shared experience in literature circa 2008.
When I was talking about this with sci fi author Andrew Dana Hudson yesterday he observed that perhaps Marcuse was right, class consciousness IS all about aesthetics.
The use of the word “OUR characters” in that clip is a concrete recognition that the public is being constantly dispossessed of its stories by private interests. Because people recognise themselves in their commodities what we seeing with Webxit is an unarticulated response to alienation.
The only solution is to roll your own culture, it’s hard.
Avoid Imperial Entanglements.
Don’t get mad about other people’s stories.
Tell your own.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.