No new shows

Another episode in the continuing series ‘what does green mean?’ Ahem.

And a sub-them of what does the Screen Actors Guild strike have to do with sustainability – in the business sense, everything. Every. Little. Thing.

The issues of the strike might simultaneously seem clear and be difficulty to parse, especially when the sides are show writers, actors, and creators versus the studios. One might think they would be able to work in concert, at least for the sake for of self-preservation. But panning out just a little, the sand in the gears becomes a bit more apparent. From the third link above:

If you read any of the business, publishing or entertainment press you’ll see stories about hard times in streaming world. This means Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Max, Hulu et al. This is undoubtedly true. You’ve likely seen this in the rising prices you pay and the declining offerings your subscription gets you. I don’t write to dispute any of this. But it’s nothing new under the sun. It is more or less exactly what we’ve seen in the digital new industry. The same pattern.

Entrants raise large sums of money (or use cash on hand from other business lines) and then spend substantially more than your subscription merits. They lose money in order to build market share. At some point the industry becomes mature and then they have to convert the business to one that can sustain itself and make a profit. That means substantial retrenchment. Inevitably that means spending less on the product and charging you more.

Another way of looking at this is that the product as you knew it was never viable. You were benefiting from the excess spending that was aimed at building market share. Now the market is saturated. So that era of great stuff for relatively little money is over. At a basic level what many of us enjoyed as a Golden Age of TV was really this period of excess spending. It was based on a drive for market share, funding lots of great shows with investments aimed at building market share.

Very important to realize that, as Josh points out, streaming media is not a viable business. Without transparency and the upfront, continual re-investment in creative, there is no model, because there is no business. The streaming services don’t own anything – they have platforms and partners. One set of partners is now standing up for themselves but pointing out something very important to us and to the tech companies. If we will  listen. World domination or bust is a faulty Silicon Valley idea and a very costly reality. Maybe they’ll make a show about that. Maybe that’s what they’re doing. Don’t touch that dial.

Image: SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, left, takes part in a rally by striking writers and actors outside Netflix studio in Los Angeles in July. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press) via LA Times

You Can Go Green Again

Because you can’t stop being what you are. By way – though like any good thing, just barely – of having a favorite bar, and a favorite poet to meet you there, here’s a snip from Lean Down Your Ear Upon the Earth and Listen: Thomas Wolfe’s Greener Modernism by Robert Taylor Ensign.

As Jonathan Bate pointed out, “Wordsworth wrote poems about how flowers may vitalize the spirit.” Not surprisingly, then, the romantics celebrated life’s inherent and ineluctable movement in all its guises and forms. Wolfe expresses this vitalistic concept in the section of Antaeus, or A Memory of the Earth where the wife of Furman, her home having just been destroyed in a flood, yearns for an existence apart from all rivers, change, and movement: “Oh God! Just let me live where nothin’ moves! Just let me live where things will always be the same!” Nature’s movement and changes, however,  are inescapable and Wolfe underscores this universal and organic reality when Furman’s wife realizes that her consciousness continues to be lapped by the rivers of life:

I know each sound that comin’ from the River! I hear the willows trailin’ int he River! I hear oak-limbs snagged there in the River! Al my thoughts are flowin’ like the River, all my life is movin’ like the River, I think an’ talk an’ dream just like the River, as it flows by me, by me, to the sea.

Based on their notion that nature acts as a vitalizing agent, with the senses serving as the conduit, the romantics valued emotions not only because they are individualistic and subjective responses, but also because they are the signs and expressions of vitality. According to Kroeber, “Wordsworth treats emotions as the psychic manipulation of sensation, the process by which psychic activity, inner impulse, mingles and coordinates with physical sensation, the reception of stimuli from outside.” Wolfe’s writing suggests that he shared this same belief in the external, sensory-drawn origin of human emotions. Based on this belief, the romantics valued pleasurable feelings the most and “joy” in particular. Wolfe himself speaks reverently of joy: “when a person has in him the vitality of joy, it is not a meaningless extravagance to say that ‘nothing else matters.’ He is rich. It is probably the richest resource of the spirit.” The romantics viewed joy as not only being “at its highest… the sign in our consciousness of the free play of all our vital powers”, but also, according to Coleridge, as the pathway to a state of oneness with the physical world.

And so it is.