As anyone who knows me, or knows my work can tell you, I’m something of a pop culture nut. I love movies and comic books and television…okay, not so much television these days…but you get my point. I’m eagerly awaiting the new Captain America movie, I go to the comic book store at least once a month and pick up a variety of titles, and I still buy movies on DVD (because I’m not going to invest in a Blu-Ray player). And with all the things that I consume as a middle-age geek, I tend to keep an eye open on any number of websites for news and updates about this thing and that thing that will no doubt take some of my disposable income because, let’s face it, I’m a sucker. And just like so many other geeks—or, if you prefer, nerds—I have a tendency to post about the things I read, either on Twitter or Facebook, or both. That bit of news a few weeks ago about John Boyenga of Attack the Block possibly being in the new Star Wars movie? I posted about it. The new trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past? I posted it. The preview of some new comic from DC that looks terrible? I posted it. Like so many other people with the unfortunate habit of spending too much time on the Internet and engaging in the insidious time-suck known as social media, I post a ton of stuff.
Here’s the thing that I’ve begun to realize, and it is becoming a problem for me…I am essentially doing public relations work for major corporations, not getting paid for it, and then turning around and giving my hard-earned dollars to those same corporations that I’ve been publicizing for free. This is what I do on a daily basis. And a ton of other people do it too. That’s what Facebook and Twitter, and all those other social media sites thrive on. Just today, the new trailer for the most recent version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuted. People are going nuts. They’re blogging about it (as I am guilty of doing right now), and they’re sharing links to it on their various social media sites, and Paramount, which is the studio that made the movie, is sitting back and enjoying what amounts to millions of free dollars worth of publicity.
Now I know that I’ve stepped on to a slippery slope, and I’m going to get some people upset with where I’m going with all of this, but upsetting people is not something new to me. So, here goes…
Too many of us have become pawns in our own corporate exploitation. Gone are the days of word-of-mouth recommendations, when we tell our friends to check out this movie, or pick up this comic. Each and everyone of us—myself included—has become a stand-alone public relations firm that does a ridiculous amount of work for mega-billion dollar corporations, and we do it for free. We get nothing in return, accept the honor of then giving those same corporations our money.
Now, I’m not calling for a boycott of big corporations, because hell, I still love reading Ultimate Spider-Man, and I’m going to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and when Sons of Anarchy kicks off in the fall, I’ll be watching. But I need to think twice before I give the corporations behind these works any more free publicity. It’s time for me to be honest with myself, and at least attempt to draw a line in the sand somewhere—and I encourage you all to do the same. As much as I enjoy Marvel comic books, Marvel is owned by Disney, a massive corporation. The same is true with DC, which is owned by Warner Brothers. Every time I post something about Marvel or DC, I’m actually doing PR work for Disney and Warner Brothers. I need to stop doing this. Or, at the very least, I need to find some semblance of balance. Which leads me to my next topic…
I recently read an article in The Atlantic, Star Wars and the 4 Ways Science Fiction Handles Race. As the title implies, the article dealt with race in science fiction—a subject near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, it was a typically predictable piece, that said all the things that have been said time and time again about Star Wars and Star Trek and X-Men, and what each of these properties has done right or done wrong. Buried within this article were passing mentions of author Octavia Butler, and her work around race and gender in science fiction. The meat and potatoes of this piece was about Star Wars and other multi-billion dollar franchises that, quite frankly, having been handing race all wrong. Octavia Butler was merely a garnish in this otherwise poorly prepared meal, and strikes at the heart of the second point I’m trying to make with this long-winded diatribe. Star Wars, which is owned by Disney, does not need any more publicity, and certainly not within the context of what science fiction can do better in terms of dealing with race—not when Octavia Butler deserves more than a few sentences. With all due respect to the writer of this article, more attention needed to be paid to what was being done properly (Octavia Butler’s work), than giving more space to Disney and its properties.
I don’t have a problem with geeks/nerds/fans sharing the things they feel passionately about. But we all need to start taking a closer look at what we share, and how we share it. I have very strong feelings about race in science fiction, which is why I shared that piece about John Boyega possibly being cast in the new Star Wars, but I myself am guilty of not writing anything of merit about Octavia Butler. Not once. Not ever. I will engage in ridiculous arguments over stupid topics related to Marvel/Disney—which is giving them free publicity—and not give nearly as much time and attention to the work of indie creators who are actually creating works that mean more to me than the big corporate products.
None of this is to say that I’m going to stop posting and sharing about things tied to giant corporations, but I am going to give it much more thought before I do publicity work for free. Along those same lines, I’m going to work to do more to publicize the work of indie creators and companies that are constantly getting buried in the barrage of posts that make us all pawns of heartless corporations with their eyes trained on our wallets, and little concern for us as human beings. That’s to say that I may post something about Kelly-Sue DeConnick’s work on Captain Marvel (which is great), but I will always try to post about her creator-owned Image book Pretty Deadly first (which is even better). I may get excited and tweet about Greg Rucka writing something for Marvel, but I’m really going to work to sing the praises of his Image book Lazarus, which is amazing, and is the property of Rucka and his creative partners, not another toy in the chest of Disney or Paramount or Fox. Instead of complaining that Star Wars needs to be more diverse, I’m going to find properties that are already diverse, and push those.
We all live in a day and age where we must begin to recognize ourselves as individual public relations firms. Every post, tweet, and share that we do has the potential to be a form of publicity and advertising, which then translates to dollars earned for someone else. If we are more careful in what we post and share, we can begin to see the changes we want to see in the entertainment that we are already supporting with our dollars.