A Few Thoughts on Being a Genre Fan I or The Oscar Goes to Not You, Buddy.

You know I am a horror fan. I am not even going to insult you by mentioning it in the opening statement of this blog.1 I’m sure that I have mentioned some of the difficulties in being a fan of the horrific, but quite honestly, it’s been a while. Besides, this may be something I’ll be called to speak on in the next few months. Please excuse me if I use this rant as a dry run.

In the previous post I hinted at one of the difficulties in being a person who enjoys reading horror novels, short stories, etc. Before I get to that, I want to mention the whole genre v literature thing.

A lot has been written about this. To be fair, I don’t even know if it is still a “thing.” I suspect it is. This becomes especially relevant during awards season, which according to the number of programs dedicated to red carpets which have aired lately, we must be entering.
2 As an easily relatable example, let’s look at the Oscars, specifically, the award for Best Picture.

Ah, you see where I am going with this. Pull up a list of the top grossing movies of last year and you will see quite a number of films which could be considered genre films. Superheroes fill the top ten sharing spaces with spies, children's films, and a certain supernatural romance thingy which shall not be named. None of these have been nominated for Best Picture. In fact, most of the films nominated for Best Picture did rather poorly in 2012. Part of this is due to that weird thing where they only release the Oscar contenders in three theaters (two in LA and one in NYC) at the very end of the year so they can qualify for the ballot.

However, the fact that the studios have already decided what their Oscar contenders are going to be
before the films are released just goes to show that when it comes to awards there is a specific kind of film that is going to be looked at.

Brother, it ain’t genre.

This is replicated in the world of words as well. There are bestsellers and there are books which win awards and seldom shall the twain meet.

So what does that mean? If the masses like something it must necessarily suck? The only things worth reading (or watching) are those which only a select few high-brow types can enjoy?

Well, I’m going to have to call bullshit on that one. Honest truth, there are a number of works of “literature” that I have read and enjoyed. There are also quite a few that are poorly written piles of…ahem. Sorry. It is certainly the case that books which sell millions of copies (which may then get made into movies sell millions of tickets) which are poorly written, poorly plotted, have cardboard cutouts for characters, or are just plain bad.
3 I like to think that these are the exceptions to the rule, however.

As I noted earlier, I really don’t care about the awards. What bothers me is the attitude. The “Oh, you watch Science Fiction?” accompanied by a look down the nose. It is all well and good to point out the brilliant writing of something like
Fringe or Battlestar Galactica, problem is, someone with that attitude is not going to believe you.

Granted, I have run into this a lot less lately. I think that the long awaited thaw relating to speculative fiction may actually be happening. For one thing, the movies are being made. There seems to be a certain acceptance among those in the television world as well. There are a number of networks who seem to want to put out the next
Fringe or Lost. The problem with that kind of thinking is two-fold. The first is obvious: anything which seeks to be the next iteration of something which already exists is doomed to fail due to a lack of originality. The Hollywood mindset seems to center around the idea that if doing something once is successful, doing it four more times will be four times as successful. That’s not how a genre whose very nature is to create new worlds works.

The second problem is that it takes a while for a high concept show to build up a fan base. There are going to be people like me who get excited
4 when they see a commercial for a new show. We set our TiVos and watch a few episodes. Maybe we get hooked, maybe we don’t. Television is driven by advertising which relies on getting the commercial out to as many people as possible. They can’t wait for a show to build its audience. They need to sell their products now. It’s a lot easier to back a sit-com (which probably costs a lot less to make since there are no special effects) and hit those viewers right now.

Hopefully we will continue to see a change. Although the phrase makes me cringe, can the “Thinking Man’s Superhero” or the “Superhero for the Ivory Brothers Set” be far off?

Well, I was going to talk quite a bit more about the Horror genre specifically, but this is running a bit long so I’ll save that for the next time around. Pardon me while I go change the title of this.

1 Damn it!

2 I don’t watch award shows. I find them incredibly boring. Part of this is because I would rather hear people talk about how something was made, the story behind the story, or something like that than to just thank a bunch of people. The other part is that I honestly don’t know most of the people nominated. We rarely go to the movies, I almost never listen to popular music, and the things I do go see or listen to are not the kind of things which get nominated for awards. For me an award show is a bunch of people I don’t know thanking other people I don’t know. Yawn.

Twilight DaVinci Code

4 Or at least cautiously optimistic.