Variety Is The Spice of Life, But It Doesn’t Need To Be THAT Different

Let’s follow up the latest review by expanding on a topic that I think deserves clarification.

I’m always on the lookout for something new. That was something I was wary of when I watched Luke Cage the weekend it came out, and I also had similar feelings when the second season of Daredevil arrived as well. This is a common thing for people who write about a specific medium to feel since they generally read or watch more than the average person, but I can’t stand staying in a comfort zone, seeing the same thing or playing the same game over and over again. I’ve been around long enough to understand the importance of when something has to end, and I also understand that entertainment generally has a lifespan shorter than your average firefly. Plus, as I think was established when I had to combine 91 Days and Kuromukuro into one review just to get a decent length out of it, along with my refusal to review the new Macross, it’s not fun to write about something if its’ only pros and cons are copying other products. You’d have to be one of those “objective” reviewers who talk about the execution and technicals and stuff to get much material out of that, and fuck me if I’m joining in that boring bandwagon.

Now don’t get me wrong. Even if Luke Cage was the first of these products to come out, its’ individual failings from its inability to make the lead character interesting and that fucking awful final climax would have still been too much to handle. And even if I liked its freshness then, I would have eventually turned on it once I saw how much more the other superhero products accomplish by comparison, the same way I eventually stopped liking several of what came from the MCU or Kingdom Hearts. Evolution in taste is all about throwing away the past whilst simultaneously learning from it, the same way most men have to throw away memories of their old girlfriends when they choose to settle down (or past wives if this isn’t their first attempt). Sure it’s okay to reminisce about the good times once in a while, and unlike old girlfriends, you can easily go back to it whenever you want to with no repercussions. But at the same time, you can’t get tied down by it or else you’ll never move forward, missing out on a lot of good things in life. I mean just today, how many new original new ideas just missed our eyesight because we’re too chickenshit to demand it from creators?

For the record, I could see this Netflix Marvel deal keeping things fresh the same way stuff like The Wire can go on for five seasons without losing its spark, it was kind of doomed once the creators announced that they were going to be making more seasons of the individual shows – as well as spinoffs like The Punisher, who I didn’t even think was all that great a character – due to fan demand rather than because they had more story to tell. I can think of very few products that succeed when the primary motivation for making them is more money, which is incidentally the main problem I have with light novel adaptations. As far as I’m concerned, the only time an obvious cash-in works is when the producers have money on their mind, but the writer/director don’t quite have the same opinion, so while the cliches still exist, there’s different substance underneath it. But that’s almost impossible to execute when you’re trying to make everything connected like with these Marvel shows and anime stuff like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, plus given how long these shows actually are (a Marvel show is thirteen hour-long episodes, which is about the same length as Diamond is Unbreakable), the fatigue can set in even quicker.

Now, I’m not planning to give up on this project until after I’ve seen The Defenders, and even then I might stick with it a little more given how superheroes are almost universally loved amongst my big Asian family. After all, there’s a certain catharsis to criticizing ongoing installments that started with something you still really like to this day, which is incidentally why I still watch every Key adaptation even though I’m fully aware they’ll never make anything on the level of the Clannad movie ever again, as well as why a lot of people still buy Sonic games willingly. However, I wouldn’t be writing about anime if I didn’t like it, and I would be watching those DC shows on CW if writing about superhero-ism is all it took to get me interested in something. Basically, I want to have fun with these shows at the end of the day, and while I don’t know a thing about Iron Fist aside from how his narrative sounds like a Chinese martial arts film, I’m not going to like it if it’s just going to give me the same stock cliches and storytelling methods as the other Marvel shows without any unique ideas of its own. And before people bring up the black history metaphors in Luke Cage, I mean unique ideas that actually affect the story. I mean Christ, Jessica Jones was about a superpowered being trying to refuse the call after she fucked up majorly. Are we ever going to get a unique spin like that again? And moreover, is the second season of that show going to realize that that spin won’t work a second time, especially now that the main villain who caused it in the first place is dead?

There’s nothing wrong with using the same plot elements as long as your core is unique, but obviously the opposite is not true unless your taste is shallow (hi there Keijo!!!!!!!! fans). It’s a tricky thing to put into words, but it’s basically how I can like a movie like Whisper of the Heart despite my distaste for the slice-of-life genre in general. Opinions aren’t binary, and anyone who tries to make it seem like they are badly deserves to have a rabies-infected dog chase them around the park (don’t bite them though. I’m not that cruel). Just because I desire something new in life on a constant basis from whatever medium I decide I’m in the mood for doesn’t mean I’m demanding complete originality. Everyone with a brain knows that originality is overrated and practically impossible by this point anyways.

I just want something I didn’t expect, and hopefully I like said unexpected thing. For example, I didn’t know I wanted a one boy + ten girls show that was executed more like Modern Family/Malcolm in the Middle than..well…any anime with that premise ever to the point that I’m not even going to bother linking examples. And when I found out that I did, I wanted the shit out of it. This obviously isn’t limited to these Marvel shows, as I’m just using my recent review of Luke Cage as a jumping off point to talk about my desire for variety. But at the same time, Marvel stuff is one of the more formulaic products around, so what I have to say applies to it more than most things. You’d have to get really general to be more cut-and-paste than them, like the entirety of anime or most of what comes out of Hollywood (especially these days).

Speaking of Hollywood, as I write this post, I’m looking at the upcoming movie schedule to end out 2016. Particularly Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Moana, and Rogue One due to them belonging to franchises I’ve grown up with. Of those three, the one I’m most curious about is Fantastic Beasts because although it takes place in the Harry Potter universe, it has none of the same characters and even the story looks very different, what with its political angles and how there’s a Muggle faction who hunts witches and wizards (not to mention that we actually have machine guns in the universe now). While I have yet to see how the movie will turn out or whether it has enough to justify Rowling and Yates making five of these, already this is the kind of variety I support wholeheartedly: using an established setting/formula for something new. Even if it turns out bad, at least it’ll be interesting to talk about. Moana doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t seem to do anything different from every Disney Princess movie ever, which won’t be fun to discuss even if it does turn out better than Fantastic Beasts. And I’ve already gone over my feelings on Rogue One, although to be fair the only “returning” character in it seems to be Darth Vader, so maybe it’ll work out for the best.

Oh yeah, and there’s this John Hughes-esque movie called The Edge of Seventeen that also looks kind of interesting. But I’d rather not dwell on it until it actually comes out.

I’ll probably talk more about this topic in the future, especially when it comes time to discuss the upcoming and creatively bankrupt-looking Winter anime season, but what I’m trying to get at is that I don’t want to watch more of the same, regardless of whether I like it or not. You don’t need to change that much to make something new, but you do have to change important things. And while these Marvel shows started out with said important changes when they first came out, they’re losing them with each subsequent installment because it’s hard to keep things fresh when you desire to go as long as they do, especially given the handicaps they have compared to the normal live-action show that goes on for multiple seasons. It needs some new changes if it really wants to keep things going, especially since fan demand seems to be the only reason why we’re getting new seasons of these individual shows in the first place. Yes, they will be risky, but so what?

Do you want your audience to burn out into dispassion with a constant string of mediocrity/adequacy? Sounds like a worse fate than having your risk fail and being forced to cancel your show outright so they can move onto something new to me.

8 responses to “Variety Is The Spice of Life, But It Doesn’t Need To Be THAT Different

  1. Look, Flawfinder, I’m sorry if you’re annoyed by my constant asking of “Daria”. I didn’t mean to waste your time like that; I was just curious of some of your thoughts on that show.

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