The culture stop

February 21, 2021

Anthony Mackie rants about the movie industry:

There are no movie stars anymore. Anthony Mackie is not a movie star, the Falcon is a movie star. […] The evolution of the superhero has meant the death of the movie star. […] It used to be you went to see the Stallone movie, the Schwarzenegger movie, now you go to see X-Men. […] We are making movies for 16 years olds and China.

Besides the self-deprecating jokes there is a wider trend here. More movies, books and music are produced than ever before, yet the number of original scripts/books is in decline.

Disney’s catalog is a nostalgia-driven compendium of the kind of franchises Mackie complains about, plus some remakes. Netflix and HBO are not much better; A regurgitation of low-cost documentaries, novel-based scripts and one-off projects often produced by Hollywood moguls with deep enough pockets to take the losses. Some of these are very good, don’t take me wrong, they just aren’t particularly inventive nor there are enough of the good ones.

It seems the entertainment industry has optimized for low-cost/high-revenue projects, leaving aside Weird ideas1. Why is that? Is it because streaming has reduced margins? Has the internet created a cultural hivemind where people coalesce around the same fictional universes, all the time?

Much of the same can be said about books, although with some exceptions. And there’s an argument to be made about music stars having suffered the same fate than movie stars.

The only exception, perhaps ironically, is the video game industry, where the indiepocalypse has resulted in more original ideas being published than ever before2. All the biggest publishers have swathes of indie studios dedicated to new projects, alongisde their annualized blockbusters.

Let’s have only original-script movies be eligible to Oscar nominations, please.


  1. This is the opposite of how it used to work; Big mega-franchises are supposed to finance waky money-losing new ideas.

  2. Even if these ideas are harder to monetize.

Hi there 👋, I’m Gerard, I write about thinking tools and big ideas. I also work at Shopify and publish the best I read on Twitter.

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