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Space for Rent: The Space Between the Creator and the Audience


Tweet of the Day: The Pinnacle of Fanservice. A Citadel DLC Review.

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Let us, yes you and I, engage in a simple exercise.

Take a pamphlet or flyer, like the ones the hand out at the mall or stick under your car windshield. Then take a book from your collection, preferably a hard bound with thick strong spine. Try to stand them both up vertically.

The book stands, the pamphlet falls.

And that book is what stands between the Creator and the Audience. Not simply as a physical object, for both are things you can touch, grasp and read. Both have words on them and if you bind enough flyers together you could do the same.

But what is in the flyer? Pretty pictures, a few words, simple appeals to emotion (fear, joy, love) and….

Nothing else.

The book? It has words, and meanings, and plot, and subplots, and memorable moments and on and on.

The first one is a transparent appeal to emotion, the second stands on its own. It does not stand by itself. Any good narrative exists in a continuum between the writer and the reader. It does not, as the strict structuralist would want us to think, exist in a vacuum,  devoid of any biographical, cultural, personal or political context.  But it does stand on its own two feet. Whatever strange alchemical brew exists between the covers, it is a substance all of its own. The same with movies, plays, albums or any other artistic endeavor.

Now, I’ll kick off the next phase of my argument by asking a question that breeds a comparison that is sure to infuriate a few people:

What is the difference between erotica and pornography?

Both use and are about sex, sexual imagery and sexual gratification. Both appeal to our sexual fantasies and desires. Pornography does only that, and nothing else. It is marketed as a collection of images that appeal directly to a wide assortment of fantasies/fetishes based on race, ethnicity, sexual positions/acts, number of partners, sexual identity of the participants or any combination there in. Erotica, no matter how graphic it may be, presents a narrative. Pornography makes a direct appeal to the audience: the audience wants X, and the producers give them exactly that and nothing else. A creator of erotica creates a narrative which may be about sex, but it has enough substance to stand on its own.

Another example of media where the space in-between the creator and the audience is empty is the soap opera. Soaps are nothing more than a collection of moments:

  • The moment a lover suspects or is suspected of cheating
  • The moment a child confronts  a parent
  • A love/sex scene
  • A murder or accusation of murder

Brief scenes that are repeated over and over again to create tension and appeal directly to the audience. It doesn’t really matter who the characters are, their situation or their relation with others, it all about the moments. But when you step back, there is no overarching narrative, no story is being told, nothing is being said.

The space in between lies empty. There is something there. Something that is immensely popular and therefore profitable but at most it is a glass pane that has no value except as a divider between the two groups.

This is one of the reasons why authors are cautioned against following trends. The same phenomenon occurs in movies and television. You have your early adopters who do not hit it big but influence others. The kick off the incoming trend. Like a wave, the trend picks up momentum and a few ride it to the top, becoming household names in the process. Then everyone else wants to join in, but by that time the wave begins to crash. Why? Because these imitators are not producing original content. Instead they are simply painting by numbers. The audience wants zombies/pirates/vampires teenagers in outer space, then they will give them that. But the audience already read that story, they want something new, which the following material is not.

Again and again we seen it movies, television and video games.  Producers run down franchises simply by feeding the audience what they think the audience wants and nothing else. Feed a kid too much chocolate, and it will end up in the hospital with a belly ache. The original “Jump the Shark” moment was exactly that. Happy Days had its best ratings when The Fonz jumped over some parked cars. So, when the producers wanted to kick up the ratings again they up the ante by having the character jump over the Santa Monica Peer.

And over a shark.

The audience saw right through it and the show’s ratings collapsed.

If you do not deliver a product that stands on its own, sooner or latter the audience will walk away.

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