21 August 2009

Mainstreamin' it!

So this past week I got my hands on a copy of Regina Spektor’s new CD Far (By the way is it a good one so feel free to check it out). And one of the songs on the album got me thinking.

I listened to this and wondered, will true science fiction always have only a relatively niche following due to the fact that mainstream depictions of it seem to be such simple caricature of the genre. Now, this song is not really all that simple in its message; but it seems to me that most mainstream representations of Sci-Fi are very stunted and tell the same story.
Of course this is the nature of the mainstream. As the large river of culture that it is, it is bound to water down everything it touches. And that serves an important function of broadening the experience of the people of our culture, but what about depth? In an age where less people are reading this stream may introduce people without the reading background to have a caricatured view of the genre as a whole.
So is mainstream media a blessing or curse on the real cultures that it tries to reproduce? The answer may be somewhere in the middle I guess, but as less people have the attention and discipline to read great depths of a culture I have a feeling that the mainstream is washing away the banks of culture more than it may be cutting away some depth.


Adam Wykes said...

It's true that, if you'll forgive my pun, the mainstream does tend to streamline whatever subcultures that manage to fall into it. Just look at the modern adaptation of vampirism. Yeah sure, it shares some traits with Bram Stoker's vision and the original European myth, but by and large it has been transformed by the mainstream to include issues of race, to be stereotyped as sexy rather than hideous, to be ultimately desirable rather than undesirable.

The idea is that this kind of vampire will sell better with the kids, so to speak. That's the gamble mainstream media companies are making, and that is the result we get. It seems to have won out in movies like Twilight and shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (it would be interesting to watch the Buffy show from beginning to end in order to determine whether vampires became more or less sexualized over time).

And yeah, this happens to SF, too. In my experience, many SFs that somehow manage to grab the attention of the mainstream audience are immediately relabeled to "drama," "thriller," or "suspense." Just take a look at Signs, The Road, or The Fountain

Chris B. said...

Well then my question is; is there net benifit or harm to the genre and the culture itself as a result of mainstreamin' it?

Adam Wykes said...

Insofar as it is another example of an elite telling the masses what to like, yes it is harmful to the culture because it seems to reduce the chances that someone will be exposed to something that they've never experienced before (thereby enriching their life).

On the flipside of that argument, this is business as usual and cultures are full of these examples of competition. As children raised to believe in a democratic system, you and I are inherently distrustful of any moderation between the desire of the people and the object of desire, but the truth is that this has always been the case - and yet we find that much excellent art has somehow fought its way to the top, despite this circumstance.

The best we can hope for is a Neutral Net where small timers such as you and me can throw our creative process up there to be viewed by millions almost as well as major corporations.