Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

Against Franchise

I will not be going to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

I will not be going despite the good reviews, despite the praise, despite the promise that it is, actually, a good film.

I am not going because I do not wish to support a franchise, and because I believe that franchises in general, represent the decline of artistic integrity that is happening around us, in both terms of respect and commercial viability.

I have long had the belief that franchise--work for hire, company owned property, call it what you will--is at complete odds with artistic creation, being it literature, film, music, opera, dance, or anything else that you wish to place into the basket. Now, it sounds, when I say that, like I'm a particularly pleasant kill joy who is ruining your fun, and the truth is, I do aim to do so. I like to hassle Dr Who. I'm that person who points out that Robert Ludlum is a trademark. I make bad noises when I hear of perfectly good authors writing hack novels (which sometimes they write for very good reasons). But, y'know, I am also a person who dug the first two Transformer films, enjoys a good Star Wars parody, and has a weak spot for the greatest gay love film of our time, Predator. But, regardless of this, I am still of the opinion that franchise work is the antithesis of creativity, and while I have previously liked and engaged in the purchase and consumption of it, I am actually making a conscious decision to not spend money or time on these works for very simple reasons.

It is a thought that has been turning in the back of my head for a while and is connected, if I were to be honest, to other aspects of my life. I try, for example, to direct my purchases to individual owned businesses and products. For example, when I buy clothing, I try to buy in a way that supports both small businesses and a healthy environment. I may not succeed all the time, but the drive to support a non-company producer is there, directing me. Now, that same drive is not so easily applied to art. Leaving film for a moment and looking at literature, both large and small publishers are responsible for very creative works, and both provide avenues for an artist to reach their audience and make a living from what they do. Though I do believe it is important to support the independent press for the very valuable and diverse output that it has, I cannot tell you that it is more important to support them over a major publisher. The water for success and failure is a lot more shallow for an independent press, and thus they and I feel your presence as a consumer moreso, but I would not begin to tell you that an author such as myself was more important than, say, the releases of Haruki Murakami, Umberto Eco and Lydia Millet at the end of the year.

But, of course, there exists, within the artistic field in general, a machine that rolls out product, aimed at keeping a franchise alive. The success of these franchises, in my mind, is akin to the success of big business over small, of the company and the family owned store in your neighbourhood. It is, however, on a level on intellectual creativity that the line is drawn, and it is my belief that the success of the franchise, and its dominance in artistic mediums of late, represents an attack on the individual artist's creative vision and the ability for that to be made viable. The success of franchise is done at the expense of creativity, at the creation of the new, and the stunted growth of artists, who when looking at both how they should make a living, and what they should strive for, witness the proliferation of these works that are nothing but company owned products, once fresh creations now hollowed out and turned into masks, to be placed over story lines that may or may not have a touch of creativity in it.

It may be, for the majority of people out there, that is not a concern, or even something that they think about, though I would hope that some people give it consideration. It seems to me that as a society who create art, we no longer value the spark of originality that we once did, that gave us (ironically) the franchises that have become so popular, and so dominating. Instead, we are a society that wants our art to be known, safe, and with a built in audience that we can sell to, and the message of this, if we are not careful, will be one that grows until, like a large corporate business that moves into a new area, franchise work begins to strangle original creations, to make being an artist with your own ideas a commercially difficult prospect, and one that makes any art not done for a company, under a company logo, a risk that other artists cannot understand.

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