Ok, I’ll cop to it right out front: this post is mostly schadenfreude. In case you don’t want to click, that’s Ace of Normies crowing about how much money Marvel’s newest superhero movie — Thor vs. Batman VI: Captain Kirk’s Revenge, Except Now Everyone is a Gay Trannie, I think it’s called — losing zillions. Because everyone needs a little bit of good news these days, amirite? Die faster, Hollywood… die faster, and take what’s left of publishing with you.
But it also got me to thinking about one of my favorite hobbyhorses, the fact that this should be an artistic golden age.
To return to my favorite example, Pink Floyd’s album-slash-movie The Wall seemed to be a legit attempt at a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk. I know that’s an awful heavy load for any pop album to bear, not least one whose best-known song asks how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat, but whether or not Roger Waters et al were trying to go Full Wagner, that’s what they did.* Note, please, that it also doesn’t matter if they were successful at it. One is tempted to dismiss the whole thing by saying “Pink Floyd is no Richard Wagner!”, but that’s irrelevant. Salieri was no Mozart, but no one is going to say Salieri wasn’t a “real” composer, now are they?
Not to mention the fact that nobody is Richard Wagner, except Wagner. Even if you don’t particularly like his stuff — I don’t — if you know anything about it, you have to admit that he’s the closest thing to a universal artistic genius the human race has yet produced. Wagner wanted to create the Gesamtkunstwerk largely because he knew himself to be maybe the only guy who was truly capable of pulling it off.
Anyway, whether or not Floyd actually did it, they needed both the massive resources of an already established megastar rock act, and the unique cultural moment of the late 1970s, to even think about giving it a go. Think about it: The Beatles, Lennon and McCartney at least, were fully pretentious enough to give it a shot, but Sixties rock didn’t have the money behind it that the 70s arena rock era did. In the 80s, they had the money, and someone like Prince definitely had the pretentiousness, but the audience wasn’t there — Purple Rain was both a movie and an album, but everyone involved seemed to believe that the movie would succeed as a movie, not as an aspect of the album; and the album was certainly expected to succeed as a standalone product.
But the album version of The Wall, though obviously a standalone commercial success, really doesn’t make sense without the movie, and the movie doesn’t make any sense without the album. Indeed I would argue that the movie doesn’t make sense in any context, but that, too, feeds back into my main point — only in the late 70s would your audience be stoned enough, pretentious enough, and have enough of an arena rock-conditioned attention span to sit through both, while at the same time your stoned, ambitious, pretentious band had the financial resources to give it to them.
But nowadays, you can make professional quality albums literally in your garage, with off-the-shelf software. That off-the-shelf software isn’t super cheap, I imagine, but I’m guessing it doesn’t go for hundreds or thousands of dollars an hour like studio time with professional engineers does. Movie equipment is more expensive than that, of course, but I’ve been told by people who know that you can make a real, full-length, studio-quality movie for about $100K, again using off-the-shelf stuff. Your laptop probably has the processor power to handle it, and if it doesn’t, your desktop can be brought up to speed for a few grand, tops.
In other words, if you want to give a Wagnerian total artwork a shot, go for it! $100K isn’t cheap, I’ll grant you, but I bet if we all chipped in, we could make Rotten Chestnuts: The Movie without too much of a financial commitment for any one individual…
And that’s the most expensive art form we could pick. Take a few minutes, and look up what it takes to put a book out on Kindle Unlimited. It’s pretty much nothing. Want to give writing the Great American Novel a go? You can do it for pennies. And before you say “yeah, but nobody will ever read it!,” a) that’s a problem from the demand side, not the production side, and b) it’s laughably false. Ever seen Fifty Shades of Grey? Ye gods, I hope you haven’t, but I’m sure you’re aware of it. That started out as Twilight fan fic on the internet. Oh, and speaking of Twilight, I’m pretty sure that was originally self-published, too, and both of those ladies could easily finance Rotten Chestnuts: The Movie with change from their couch cushions.
See what I mean? This should be a golden age of the arts. Just as shows like “American Idol” proved how many karaoke singers out there have killer looks and stage presence to go along with their great voices, so YouTube and Kindle Unlimited have revealed the depth and breadth of storytelling talent out there (ok, yeah, I’m sure Twilight sucks, enough hipsters have told me so, but making scads and bricks and piles and metric shitloads of money counts for something, storytelling talent-wise). And yet, there’s nothing….
Why is that?
*Though of course a tedious leftoid in his personal politics, Waters does seem like an intelligent, well-read guy, at least by rock star standards, and guitarist David Gilmour kinda does too, despite ditto, though he seems to take himself marginally less seriously than Waters takes himself (not that that’s a particularly tough hurdle to clear). Note that guitarist Dave is CBE — that’s “Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.” Which is one rank below “Knight Commander” of same, which comes with an honorary knighthood, which, if guitarist Dave ever gets promoted, will make him the other Sir David Gilmour. The OG Sir Dave, the 4th Baronet Gilmour, is a pretty good amateur historian**, and I assure you that I’m not trying to take anything away from either man’s very real accomplishments when I say I’m really rooting for the CBE to get upped, such that guitarist Dave ends up fielding questions from confused academics about Kipling and the Indian Civil Service, while the 4th Baronet gets panties thrown at him in the archives, because that would be hilarious.
**In the sense that he doesn’t hold an academic post. No disrespect to the man’s work, which, again, is first rate.Loading Likes...