Saturday, November 3, 2012

More than Wires and Lights

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.”
-Edward R. Murrow

Two things happened this week that have converged in my mind.

Disney bought Lucasfilm.

I watched the film, "Good Night and Good Luck."

In "Good Night and Good Luck," broadcast journalist Ed Murrow takes on Senator McCarthy at the height of the Commie-Terrorist-Witch hunts in the 1950's, much to the dismay of Mr. Murrow's boss at CBS. "People want entertainment, not a civics lesson," CBS executive Mr. Paley says. "You're losing your sponsors. Keep this up and one is going to buy advertising time on your show." But Mr. Murrow believes that television should be more than flickering lights in a box. It can educate. It can inform. There are people out there who really want to know what's going on, not some sugar-coated, totally-balanced, everybody's right version. There is evil in the world, and if people don't stand up to it then others will suffer.

Mr. Murrow's boss never censored the content of Mr. Murrow's show. A whole generation of Americans that were being terrorized by the same sort of fear that kept citizens in Communist regimes in check, the fear of being turned in by your neighbors, of being falsely accused with no recourse, are grateful that some prominent figure in broadcast media like Murrow took a stand against McCarthy's unconstitutional actions, and that CBS let Murrow do it, in spite of the fact that some other content would have brought in more money.

So what's this got to do with Leia and Padme acquiring the status of "Disney Princess" this week?

A USA Today article quotes Disney CEO Robert Iger: "We actually determined that we'd be better off as a company releasing a sequel to Star Wars than probably most other, I'll call them 'not yet determined' films," Iger said. "So we love the fact that this will take its place in our live-action strategy as an already-branded, already-known quantity."

Did that send a chill down your spine? As the hopeful creator of several "not yet determined" intellectual properties, I want to bring my babies into a world where executives in book, television, and film are willing to take risks on new ideas. Sure, most new ideas won't be smash hits. Hardly any of them will be. I know everyone's going to go see Star Wars sequels, no matter how horrid they are. If Joss Whedon writes and directs them they'll probably be pretty good. But in the end, an entertainment company who's greatest priority is to make the most money possible is going to deliver nothing but the same old, familiar, sugar-cereal, already-branded, already-known, flickering lights and wires that Murrow refused to conform to.

“We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late. ”-Ed Murrow

The surpluses are gone now, and so is television the way Murrow knew it. Now we have the internet to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate ourselves. With so much freedom of choice on the consumer's end, we have no excuses. Are we going to forever imitate each other, endlessly re-posting the same memes, or are we going to seek for new directions?

Support some independent media today.


  1. Wonderfully said Rebecca, hear, hear! Let us create anew!

  2. That's the beauty of free speech. It's good when others besides the 'loud few' stand up and share their thoughts - and now we have so many forums to choose from. Thanks for another interesting post, Rebecca.

  3. Amen! Of course I think of "independent media" as being indie books, but it's even more true for indie film and indie music. That's where the exciting things are happening.

    I groaned for a different reason about the SW/DISNEY merger - building upon a franchise that I dearly loved is fraught with creative disaster. Turning gold into pablum is a finely honed skill in Hollywood.

  4. Yeah, watch out for "The Courtship of Princess Leia" direct to DVD release... or is it Blue-ray this season?


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