Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries

Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries

Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries

Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries

Excerpt

To some, media franchising is a bit of a joke. In the 2010 mock educational video “The Science Behind Law & Order,” for example, CollegeHumor.com offers a satirical skewering of the “regenerative properties” that support the ongoing and multiplied industrial reproduction of the NBC television police procedural, spun off four times since 1990. “To understand the future of the Law & Order franchise,” the didactic narrator explains, “you must first explore the complex biological system that has sustained the show for two decades.” What that complex system has produced, it appears, is a cultural monster: “like the mythological beast Hydra, when one Law & Order meets its demise, two more sprout in its place.” The irony of the franchise’s monstrous longevity lies in its “awe-inspiring resilience to harsh predatory factors such as changing tastes, aging actors, much better shows, and Benjamin Bratt. As the mother pod reaches maturity, and begins to sense its impending extinction, its outer membrane sends out a series of rerun seedlings … assimilating the entire ecosystem into one homogeneous blob.” The humor, yet implied cultural tragedy, of media franchising derives here from the dominance of its patterned sameness and the imposition of an unthinking, instinctual biology over any human creativity or social agency within the media industries. A video on The Onion News Network in 2011 similarly skewered the industrial practices of franchising by pointing to the mindless drive toward self-replication animating Hollywood blockbusters like the comic book superhero adaptation Green Lantern: “A Green Lantern sequel is already rumored to be in the works,” the fake newscaster explains despite public indifference to the film, “due to the fact that this franchise has now been created.” As an awkward punchline, franchising explains the creative bankruptcy and foregone economic determination of contemporary media industries. Sometimes, that joke extends to the masculinized juvenility of those industries as well, as in another Onion video that portrays the screenwriter of the 2011 Fast and the Furious sequel Fast Five as a five-year-old boy who “wanted to return to the franchise’s roots of cars driving, going boom.”

This understanding of franchising as monstrously homogenized, selfdetermining, and childish has not merely been the province of humorists.

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