Transmedia (or how massive media companies want you so engrossed in a bullshit story, you willingly buy more and more of their tripe)
It’s 9 in the morning on a Sunday. I don’t know why I’m awake, but I figured this was as good a time as any to sit down and knock this blog out.
Transmedia is (despite its fancy buzzword name) essentially this: Telling a story across various media formats. Hollywood has been doing this, or variations thereof, for years. Originally, they didn’t gild it with buzzwords, they just called it what it was: merchandising a franchise. Let me give you an example.
George Lucas and Star Wars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a director came up with about four different stories that all sucked. Then he found one called The Hidden Fortress that had already been created by a guy named Akira Kurosawa. Then he ripped it off .
He named it Star Wars.
(cue symphony score)
(In all honesty, the above story is apocryphal. There are hints at it all over the place, but George Lucas has never admitted to anything)
So, Star Wars is a hit. A gigantic slap-your-momma-on-the-butt-and-call-her-grandma hit.
Along comes action figures. And two more movies. And video games. And books. And comic books. And t-shirts.
And three more movies and a computer generated animation show for Saturday mornings.
And fan made movies.
Did I mention the video games? Or t-shirts?
So, here’s the point of why I bring this up.
All of these various media products are official canon. This means that all the events in all those different stories told through those different medias really did happen in the Star Wars universe. Some snot nosed kid could say something at a convention about there having never been a powerful enough Jedi to pull an Imperial Star Destroyer out of orbit, and I could pull out my trusty recreation blaster pistol and whip him across his acne covered mouth, and scream, “NO! NO! YOU’RE WRONG! I PLAYED FORCE UNLEASHED! IT WAS REAL, DAMN YOU! REAL!”
Because it’s official canon if it has the Star Wars logo on it.
That’s transmedia in a nutshell.
Franchising’s new clothes
Here’s one of the official definitions, with a hint of why media companies want to start creating them (like the Star Wars Empire O’ Money isn’t a big enough hint on its own):
A new sector in entertainment has been developing over time, capitalizing on the abundance of platforms from which consumers can be reached. “Transmedia storytelling” engages consumers through different means, shifting from the traditional linear story, to a more complex, multi-dimensional “story world.” These characters and “story worlds” can exist and develop outside of their initial film timeline, and this integration will allow consumers to enjoy the entertainment on a number of levels. Rather than simply watch a movie, viewers can interact with characters on websites, experience the world in games, follow leads on Twitter, as well as participate in a vast array of other opportunities on various platforms. Additionally, transmedia will aggregate formerly fragmented audiences by uniting them in one “story world.”
Then entire point of these “story worlds” (franchises) are to reign in customers. Sorry… consumers. Even you guys get a fancy name.
But it’s not like Star Wars, where somebody threw bundles of money at Lucas till he cried and made the first sets of toys. Where there were countless numbers of creators telling somewhat compelling stories within a world that had a pre-established set of rules and guidelines.
No, no. This is designed from the get-go to be a sprawling world with money-making at its center. Rather than a collaboration of hundreds of creative people telling their own stories, a “Transmedia Producer” is sitting behind the scenes.
Why I think Transmedia is douchey
So, here are the problems I have.
1. “Story worlds” are organic things. They don’t just happen because you create them and invest a lot of money. This is basically what they did with The Matrix. And it sort of worked (the video games integrated into the story, so did the comics and Animatrix films) till the Wachowski brothers fucked it up with the two follow up movies. They should have waited 30 years like Lucas before they got their hands dirty again.
3. With publishers sinking money into these huge endeavors, you’re going to see EVEN MORE of the hollywoodization of book publishing. It’s bad enough that a lot of really great stories won’t get published because you can’t make a movie out of them. Think about when they’re not looking for authors anymore because they’ve commissioned someone to write a story for them that fits into a “story world” model?
4. It sounds like “movie writing by committee,” which generally means, crap hollywood movie writing.
5. Finally, this really don’t sound like a very compelling story model to me. It actually sounds kind of lame and overly time consuming. I can appreciate the whole aspect of “falling down the rabbit hole” and spending hours and hours researching various angles about a story world. Believe me, I’ve done it with the occult, star wars, conspiracy theories, and all sorts of other crap. Sometimes it’s actually kind of cool. But being led down there? So I can follow up on leads from fucking twitter? Or HAVE to play a facebook flash game so I can tell how a character reacts within the world? Can’t you just sell me a fucking book instead? Please? Because, you see, the key to “falling down the rabbit hole” is that it implies you got hooked by accident.
Final heading… er… thought
I really only put that last heading in because I really like using these. Look for more headings in the future. They make me feel professional.
But, seriously, my final thought is this: If those corporate goons want to move away from the idea of an author creating a singular outlook on the world (fantasy, scifi, literary, whatever) and move towards outrageously expensive transmedia platforms where stories must be all-consuming of the audience’s time and pocketbook… go right the fuck ahead, guys. Because Twit Publishing will be here to pick up the slack and continue publishing stories that are told through one media at a time.