Participation in This Multi-Billion-Dollar Marketing Orgy is Mandatory

A friend on social media posed the question: What are your pop cultural red flags? and among the many replies was one—well, I’m quoting it, which is probably immoral, but I’m anonymizing the whole thing, because I’m not so very bad:

“…I’m going to say ‘men who dislike The Last Jedi.’ Like, I’m sure that 10-20% of them dislike that film in good faith, but I’m fine with that many false positives in order to weed out the stealthy shitlords.”

[Edited for length.]

This reply is hardly surprising. I mean, Star Wars has been one of the world’s most popular franchises since 1977, and for any normal person under the age of 50, liking the Star Wars films is standard issue. Distrusting someone who doesn’t consume popular media is a tried-and-true touchstone, especially among junior-high students. Imagine if you met someone who didn’t listen to top-40 music or watch Friends reruns? You know, like a freak??!?one!

Of course, the (white, male, in his 30s) Respondent who posted this answer doesn’t give a sweet Fanny Adams whether you watch Friends reruns. The idea that Star Wars is a product-tie-in juggernaut with some good and some mediocre films dangling from its belt like hunting trophies has never entered his mind. Not liking the latest SW installment is short hand for being racist and sexist—in a word, a “shitlord.” The margin of error is 10–20%. Let’s average that out, for simplicity, to 15%. In the Respondent’s world, 85% of decent or sincere people like The Last Jedi.

I guess I like The Last Jedi fine, if you compare it to The Force Awakens. I don’t like it very much if you compare it to a real movie; but if you asked me context-free I’d probably say it was fine. Of course, perhaps one reason I’d say that is because I know—and obviously I knew long before this Respondent posted his answer—that not liking TLJ was shorthand for saying, “I am a shitlord (so-called).”

Is this weird to anyone else? Is it weird that the default opinion of my demographic is: “I stand up for the underdog. I champion the marginalized. Participation in this multi-billion-dollar marketing orgy is mandatory”?

“Aha!” replies the Respondent (hypothetically). “But you forget that 85% of people who didn’t like this marketing orgy are just subhuman trashcans.” But is this admittedly unscientific estimate really true? Do 85% of people like anything? If a presidential candidate got 85% of the vote, we’d throw him in jail for ballot fraud. Is it remotely plausible that a work of art could have such a broad esthetic appeal that 85% of people who aren’t straight-up bigots must automatically like it? And if that were true for some work of art somewhere, what are the odds that it would be true of a two-and-a-half-hour toy commercial? Does 85% of the world like the Mona Lisa? Does 85% of the world like Empire Strikes Back?

According to Rotten Tomatoes, the answer is yes, but I don’t think that’s a good cross section.

I didn’t like the new (female) Ghostbusters that much. I don’t even like the original Ghostbusters that much, although I liked it when I was twelve. I’m not twelve anymore, but I guess I can conjure up a nostalgic fondness for the first movie. Is this such an unusual opinion, growing old and no longer liking reboots of your childhood? Is this taboo? Is it really true that the only reason not to like a movie like this is sexism?

Just kidding, it was okay. I’m a good person, actually.

I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t like reboots or toy commercials—some of my favorite commercials are toy commercials—or that you shouldn’t use personal taste to decide your friendships. I’m probably not going to become besties with fans of The Celestine Prophecies, I’ll admit it. But we—I don’t just mean my demographic here, but everyone—should be careful about what we select as signifiers of morality. Probably neither Walt Disney nor Lucasfilm came up with the idea (in a smoke-filled basement) that supporting their product was a precondition for being a decent person, but they’re not going to put a lot of effort into persuading you otherwise. If the cherry franchise of one of the world’s largest media conglomerates is our ultimate arbiter of morality—well, this is far from a coincidence.

“I’m a member of the Rebellion; I watch Star Wars.”

Not that it really matters. Respondent never actually judges people on the Last Jedi Test. He’s just trying to signal he’s one of us. How else would I have known?

2 comments

  1. This is all excellent and perhaps I’ll have more to say later but I just want to point out that you have a math error.

    “In the Respondent’s world, 85% of decent or sincere people like The Last Jedi.”

    This is not correct, in his world 85% of the people who don’t like The Last Jedi are bad, 15% are good. We have no knowledge of how many people actually like it, not what the ratio of good to bad people is (either thegood/bad ratio for who likes it, or the good/bad ratio for everyone in the world).

    None of that matters because it isn’t like the person saying this spent more than a minute thinking about this.

    Perhaps the world would be a better place if people would just openly hate their out group without trying to rationalize some nonsense morality to try to justify it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, and I knew I was pulling shenanigans for rhetorical effect.

      Perhaps, if it makes you feel better you can assume we live in a Randian universe where A or not A. Since “I don’t like you” and “I dislike you” are approximate synonyms, perhaps simply not liking TLJ in the indifference category is equivalent to hating it. “Whose side are you on, man?”

      And I know that clearly the sample set of People Who Intentionally Went to See the Last Jedi isn’t random, so we can’t legit scale it to everyone in the world. I assume the Respondent would accept that a bunch of non-English speakers could have found TLJ too confusing to enjoy without projecting political motive to them. But most studies, AFAICT, are so sloppy in their methodology that their random samples are no more random, so this extrapolation, while fallacious, is no more fallacious than the average study.

      No? No?

      Like

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