By Caleb Bollenbacher
Wow, five years!
I haven’t been aboard for the entire five years, but I have been a reader since the beginning. It’s so fun seeing how something like this magazine evolves over the course of years. In some ways that doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but in other ways it seems like a whole lifetime.
It’s weird how much things can change in five years.
Looking back to 2011, a lot of major movie franchises were winding down. We were saying goodbye – temporarily – to Harry Potter on the big screen. Twilight was winding down (and not a moment too soon) and Captain Jack Sparrow was losing steam. Hollywood was looking for something else after tasting such major successes, and it now looks vastly different as a result. Needing to one-up some of the biggest franchises in history, the powers that be quickly moved towards a new kind of franchise, the story ‘universe’ that has become so commonplace. You can see the seeds of it back when BLEEP was in its infancy. Studios were already trying to hold onto something that was escaping: that’s why you have multi-part finales to Harry Potter and Twilight, a tool that is becoming a more and more common device (looking at you, bloated mess masquerading as a trilogy adaptation of my beloved The Hobbit). That’s not good enough anymore. The new normal is to have endless spinoffs, shared story, and a whole mess of television and comic book companion products. Would most people have believed back in 2011 that Marvel would turn into such a juggernaut as a result of pioneering this sort of franchise life support? Probably not, but now it’s commonplace. Other comic book franchises are doing it. Star Wars is doing it. Harry Potter is about to jump on board and get back in the game as well. The list goes on, and it just speaks to a fascinating platform sharing that spreads throughout the creative world. Media is so much more connected than it used to be.
Five year into BLEEP’s tenure, stories are taking on new life. I don’t know about you, but I find that exciting. Sometimes it can be hit and miss, but the collaborative nature of storytelling is reaching new heights as everyone seeks to stretch stories in ways they haven’t been stretched before. You have to really pay attention to get the full picture. Or you don’t. But you have options. You want Star Wars as you’ve always had it, with just a bucket of popcorn in your lap and endless imaginary light saber fights after you’ve left the theater? Fine by me, that can be it for you. But, man, those options. If you want more (and who doesn’t?), there’s a couple TV shows waiting for you to help you fill in the gaps between movies. There’s some comics, or maybe just an old school novel for you if you’re feeling really risky. And because this is 2015 and the fanboys (and girls) are in charge, you can look forward to theatrical releases of spinoff films.
It’s fine, I’ll wait while you compose yourself.
Star Wars is far from the only example from this (and they’ve been moving this direction for a while, though in the wake of their acquisition by Disney this has been a much more smoothly regulated, concentrated effort, in keeping with the times). The moral of the story is, if there’s something you like, you can probably find more of it. The world is engaging with art in new ways, and yeah, that might lead to some over-stretching, like butter spread over too much bread (COUGH! PETER JACKSON, I SWEAR!), but on the whole it’s exciting. But there’s another side to the story, and isn’t that kind of the point?
It’s weird how much things stay the same.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, in large part because of the impending new Star Wars release, but there’s plenty of other evidence to drive the point home. It’s 2015, and in a lot of ways things aren’t that different. You look at the list of highest grossing films from five years back and it’s not that unfamiliar. We’re still looking forward to more Harry Potter. There’s more Transformers on the way. We just got another Mission Impossible. The show goes on, same as it has been this whole time.
And that’s neat too.
We’re waiting for Star Wars, just like our parents waited for Star Wars. Last week, I saw a new James Bond film, just like people have been doing for decades now. Everything’s changing, and yet there’s nothing new under the sun. Things are familiar, and that’s what makes stories so great: we get to be a part of them. I don’t doubt that in a couple decades we’ll be hearing our kids get excited about new Star Wars. There’s probably going to be crowds lined up for more superheroes and Bond, and plenty of kids young and old dressing up as wizards while they wait to see Harry Potter, whether it’s a remake or another spinoff.
And I’ll be right there with them, telling them about all the times I saw those movies years back, how I dressed up in costumes and waited in line. Wow. Stories about stories. That’s what I love about culture: the fact that we experience it together and make it our own. We share it.