by Heath Holland
This past weekend, London hosted the latest Star Wars Celebration convention, a now-annual event dedicated to the fandom of all things related to the Wars. Thanks to the live stream from StarWars.com, I was able to sit in the comfort of my house for most of the weekend and enjoy the myriad panels and interviews with the people who are shaping the future of this thing that I love so much. But somewhere along the line I was struck at how much I was playing into the Disney-Lucasfilm hype machine. The fact is, there wasn’t that much revealed as far as news and hard facts are concerned. What we seemed to get more than anything were some tidbits and a few spoilery rumors that were quickly picked up on by various new media outlets and spread around social media. There was a new trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that Lucasfilm-head Kathleen Kennedy promised would not be released to the internet, a three minute sizzle reel of behind-the-scenes footage, but outside of this and the Rogue One panel, it was a three day event consisting mostly of a bunch of like-minded people sharing their love of something.
Raiders of the Lost Ark. There will be joy and tears of gladness, no doubt, but there is bound to be tons and tons of nerd rage. May God have mercy on us all.
With all this happening, I’ve been thinking a lot about hype and how it plays such a huge part of how we experience movies these days. Hype is nothing new. I remember using dial-up internet and downloading the trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, a process that took all night long in the early days of the internet, years before YouTube. That’s right, kids, get off my lawn! My point is that I had to have that trailer on my computer so I could watch it over and over and dissect each image. I needed to study that trailer. There’s been a natural progression from those early days of promotion as studios learned how to target their audience and speak directly to them. Hype is a good thing. Without hype, how would we know what movies were headed to the theater? How would we get excited about them? It’s a necessary part of our entertainment, and the people that do it have gotten so good at it that we now live in a golden age of publicity and promotion.
new Ghostbusters movie, everyone had a pretty solid opinion based on hype. They say no publicity is bad publicity, but I’m not so sure. Then again, I’m not sure if bad publicity really affects box office the way that good publicity can. It’s just a weird place that we find our current publicity in. We have TV shows that exist to talk about TV shows. This is a strange, circular dance (doing the bull dance, feeling the flow…working it), and sometimes I feel like the hype around the movies we watch ends up overshadowing the movies themselves. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing because I honestly don’t know. I do know that hype has definitely changed in the last couple of years, though.
San Diego Comic-Con used to be about—get this—comic books. Now it’s media central for genre movie and TV show news, which is undeniably awesome. My generation of geek took a ton of crap for liking the stuff that makes major headlines these days, so OF COURSE I think it’s awesome that this is all so widely accepted (I’m not being sarcastic). Anyone who complains about the mainstream nature of modern genre properties is just bitter about how rough we had it back then. Sure, if I’m being honest, having geek culture in our faces all the time takes a little getting used to because it’s so different from how things used to be, but this is a wonderful time to be a fan of superheroes, comic books, science fiction, and fantasy. There has NEVER been hype for all of these things like there is now. When a Captain America comic book makes national news because of a storyline cliffhanger (and causes mass outrage), you know the way we consume entertainment news has seriously changed. Part of that’s on us for being so reactionary, but part of it is due to hype and the way things are presented to us for the biggest reaction possible. They know how to get a rise out of us.
So rather than me sit here and type 5,000 words about hype, I’m really curious to see how YOU feel about it. This is the golden age of hype. There’s a classic film from 1957 called The Sweet Smell of Success which is basically about a very powerful newspaper columnist and his ability to shape public opinion with his writing. I think it’s time for a new version of this story that focuses on how a single movie trailer made by one guy at an editing station can now break the internet in half and incite riot in the streets. This is the double-edged nature of HYPE, gang. The floor is yours.