In 2012, when Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4bn, I said to myself, bitterly: even Star Wars has been incorporated. This was after Disney had engulfed Pixar in 2006, to “punish” it for producing Ice Age. My reaction followed the observation that companies stop having new ideas once they become corporations, and rather buy out others, who still have, to make them idea-less, too. I saw that not only in Disney’s acquisitions, but also in Microsoft’s. It seems a rule observed throughout history: capitalists become socialists as they expand and consolidate their business.
Well, I once wrote a column titled “Music Became Incorporated Alongside the Society”, where I mentioned how good was the sound of Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction’” or Led Zeppelin’s “Whloe Lotta Love”, or Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, to point out that today’s music leaves a persistent taste of artificial, inauthentic, overdone, too “industrial” and excessively aseptic. About the same goes for films, unfortunately. Special effects are better, so is the cinematography, because this industry also fully benefited from the technological development, but in terms of ideas, it’s nowhere better than three or four decades ago. Watch Cinemax, TNT, TV 1000, Paramount or MGM to see for yourself.
The key is that instead of manufacturing salable goods, and succeed on buyers’ votes from the market, companies replace the good merchandise with marketing discourse. We know for a long time that advertising is the soul of business. It’s only natural for merchants to promote and advertise their stuff, exalt it, underline its qualities and positive differences to the competitors’. But nowadays, advertising got to be not just the soul, but the very object of business.
Globalization - Made in USA, via China
We’re actually talking about the “merits” of globalization when it comes to selling products similar to the point of identity, but with different marketing. The earlier philosophy supported the division of labor, because the buyers of products Made in USA also produced merchandise needed on the market. Nowadays, in the age of substitute products Made in China, politics and marketing try to fool the clients.
Politicians use taxes to take the consumers’ resources, channel these to their clients made up of big companies, who on their turn take on sublease the services of the Chinese market, the source of products who no longer observe the principle of “being too poor to buy cheap.” Enters marketing, telling the client the merch is good, even if it’s crap. Anyhow, the buyer no longer knows how a good product looks, since they’re all the same. The more an economy is choked by taxes, regulations and restrictions, the weaker is the competition among businesses within it. This is to the detriment of consumers, who are thus deprived of quality and affordable products and services. Instead, marketing grows monstrously, and words are sold instead of products. Thus the economy looks more and more like the politics who dominate it in the current status quo. And the consumers are reduced, from an economic standpoint, to voters and taxpayers: they buy from those with the most seductive (i.e. Populist) discourse, while completely unaware of what they pay for.
But let’s get back to Star Wars. Hypermarket scenery reveal the intention of inducing a frenzy that exceeds the product’s value. When the merchandise hits the market, it is exactly as called - a franchise, a sort of remake of the 40-year-old “A New Hope”. From six films over four decades, the production stepped up to four in two and a half years. Obviously, as Disney paid a lot for Lucasfilm, the corporation used a verified “recipe”. What once proved a success stands better chances to succeed again. Why risk, like in capitalism, like Lucas in 1977 (A New Hope), 1980 (The Empire Strikes Back) an 1983 (Return of the Jedi), why come up with original stories? We’d better cobble up something and leave the merchandise with the same pattern to marketing and sales. So the discourse replaces product consistency almost entirely. Until Disney realizes it produced “Star Wars” on the assembly line, much like in Chaplin’s movie “Modern Times” and it should slow down. The last production tar Wars: Episode IX, launched before Christmas, is called “The Rise of Skywalker”.
Systematic Devolution to Help the Privileged
But to be honest, it’s hard to make up ideas like in the 1970s. No industry, not even the film, can be different from the society that generates it. And from this point of view, the society has devolved, just like freedom. The problem is systemic and pervasive. The whole world economy system seems built to protect extant privileges. This goes both for corrupt, semi-criminal states ruled by clans and for countries that proclaim the “rule of law” and replace the corruption and open cronyism by legal systems and regulations meant to hinder new entries on the market and to protect the established businesses and companies against competition.
George Lucas said he tried to preserve his independence, in order to make the films he wanted. He also tried somehow to fight the corporate system he disliked and was bothered by the corporations ruling the film industry. He admitted that, ironically, he ended up heading a corporation himself. And he concluded: “All those Star Wars films… I loved them, I created them, I’m very intimately involved in them, and I sold them to the white slavers.”
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