Hello Interwebs! My favourite franchises are growing so big I no longer have time to watch everything– nor do I want to anymore. Discover why I developed franchise fatigue…
I’ve wanted to write an article on franchise fatigue for a while, but the release of Marvel’s Hawkeye brought about strong feelings which compelled me to do it now. And that’s because Marvel has all but burnt me out this year… The MCU released a whopping 5 Disney+ series and 3 movies in 2021 (with Spider-Man set to release in a few weeks)! Maybe that wouldn’t feel so overwhelming if most of them had been good. But this is arguably the MCU’s most mediocre year on record. Though there’s frankly still a problem, even if the content was solid!
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a HUGE fan of Marvel, and of superheroes in general. Yet even this superfan is growing tired of the whole genre, and I hate that! Still: the MCU is but the greatest offender in an ever-worsening film industry practice: the over-saturation of popular franchises. So what are companies doing to make me (and maybe you) lose interest in their properties? And what might the consequences for us and them be?
NOTE: All my case studies are Marvel, Star Wars and Star Trek because those are the worlds I know best (both on screen and behind-the-scenes).
Stop You From Seeing Stuff Outside Your Favourite Franchise
Firstly: I hate feeling like entertainment companies are forcing me into “sides” like politics or professional sports. Every giant media company wants exclusive rights to my free time. On that note– I’ve already complained about Disney once in this article (again), so let’s pile on: they release ALL these Marvel shows, with countless more on the way– and soon there’ll be as many Star Wars series. I dunno about you, but I’m struggling to keep up as it is! And as much as I love Marvel and Star Wars, I’ve got other things I’d like to watch.
Disney would love it if Disney+ was my one-stop-shop for entertainment, or I only saw their movies in theatres (including subsidiaries like Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar). And this is already a reality for many lovers of pop-culture! This seems great for fans of properties like Marvel or Star Wars, but this practice is terrible for the majority of people.
Culture is bigger than a couple of famous fictional universes and, if ALL our free-time is spent consuming our favourites, how are we ever going to find the time for something new? I dunno about you, but that sounds like a dystopian universe to me: where, if you want to “escape” the real world you must choose one or two fictional worlds to immerse in and consume those stories exclusively.
Sound far fetched? I think not. Studies (mine included) show your average movie-goer only sees 5-6 movies per year on average (probably less during Covid). Every franchise wants a monopoly on those limited outings. Let’s say you’re a hardcore Marvel fan; then half those movie-slots are booked right away. And if you only like superhero movies, you may see two DC pictures for the rest. Where is every other theatrical release left? Most are out of luck unless they’re a straight-to-streaming release…
And TV/ streaming series? I don’t know how much time you’ve got in a day for that stuff, but probably less than me. I dedicate a lot of my evenings to catching up on TV, and I’m still behind. So it does me no favours when Marvel releases new and “important” installments to their mythology every single week, all year long!
Stop You From Seeing Other Stuff Within the Franchise Itself
I’m coping with all this content for now because it’s reasonably spread itself out. Most franchises with multiple installments (on the big and small screens) are good for releasing their content one project at a time. But Disney (among other companies) will inevitably get greedy and start releasing things concurrently– especially their original shows. And that’s when I’ll really feel the strain.
History has proven this strategy a recipe for failure in the past. Star Trek overlapped with itself in the late 90’s with Deep Space 9 and Voyager airing together, alongside Next Generation and Original Series films. People burnt out and it killed the franchise for mainstream audiences through the better part of 10 years.
You’d think they’d have learned their lesson, but it’s slowly happening again (with Discovery, Prodigy, Picard, Lower Decks and Strange New Worlds) filling up the year. Prodigy and Discovery may be playing to completely different audiences, but they still overlapped for a few weeks and that’s a bad sign of things to come.
All this coexisted in one decade and it was way too much!
I not blind to the financial sense in constant content. If something is lucrative, you want to make sure people have access to it year-round. But breaks helped entertainment feel more special and built up hype! A great example: when Star Wars released every 3-15 years it mattered. The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens broke crazy records because they were more than movies; they were full-on events! But Disney made a box office bomb by their 4th SW movie by releasing one per year. They learned the hard way that Star Wars’ fanbase wasn’t going to watch everything just ’cause it had “Star Wars” in the title.
There’s gonna come a time, and soon, where I’ll be forced to pick and choose which parts of a franchise I consume– if I even want to see anything. ‘Cause each new series feels more daunting. I used to be gleeful when Marvel released a new show. Now I push off watching them. It’s no longer special, and there’s too much for me to consume at one time.
Lack of Creative Diversity in Franchses
Do you ever feel like many shows and movies in a franchise are basically the same? They maintain a visual/ writing style and similar tones. And that’s no accident. Many of the major franchises draw from a small pool of creative individuals who work on multiple projects. For example: modern Star Wars is made primarily by Dave Filoni, John Favreau, JJ Abrams, Deborah Chow and their respective teams (with a few straggling novelists, filmmakers and Respawn Entertainment gaining acclaim alongside them).
It would be one thing if influx of content was proportional to diversity of voices behind the scenes– but it’s not. The sandboxes of big entertainment companies are small, and they don’t like to share the space. So guys like Dave Filoni get to play with THREE expensive toys at leisure, while creators like Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Colin Trevorrow are kicked out of the box before playing with one!
I’m not arguing guys like Dave Filoni (or the Russo Brothers or Zack Snyder or other franchise visionaries) shouldn’t get to do their shows/ movies. But they can’t do EVERYTHING. That’s not sustainable and it turns franchises stale. Going back to Dave Filoni in his sandbox: the man creates great adventures with his toys, but he’s gonna run out of ideas eventually. What then? My guess: they’ll keep letting him play until his stories are no longer profitable– which is LONG past when they’ll stop being good. Of course that’s assuming he doesn’t burn out from carrying the entire Star Wars franchise on his back.
To incorporate my previous argument into this one: the lack of creative diversity wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t so much content to go around. Franchises were more special when a small group of dedicated people who CARED about the work got to make something special. Now, things once hand-crafted with love are churned out on an assembly line. And those dedicated workers are forced to fill quotas instead of focusing on one endeavour at a time.
I’m a lifelong fan of many franchises. But I’m more likely than ever to give up on my favourite story worlds– not altogether– but on most of their content. Not to sound too conceited here, but corporations NEED nerds like me if they want to succeed on a grand scale. Let’s take Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk and Moon Knight shows, for example: Casual MCU fans don’t care when Marvel adapts some C and D-list characters like them! It’s guys like me who salivate over that stuff and tell those casual fans why they should be excited.
Has Marvel earned a lot of clout? Definitely. But their brand name alone isn’t a reason to care about all their shows– especially when they’re releasing sub-par products, like they have been of late. It’s the hardcore fans who were into Marvel before the movies (or who started with the movies but have since deep-dived into greater lore) that help keep the MCU relevant. And I’m worried Marvel’s forcing its core base of fans to pick and choose what they’ll support. I’ll be here as long as I can, but my devotion is already slipping.
I doubt I’m the only one losing investment (in Marvel, and superheroes, and other big fictional universes). Entertainment executives are milking people’s interest dry. They’re squeezing our favourite stuff for all its worth, even if it hurts us and them in the long term.
But, hey. Maybe there’s a few positive consequences to all this as well. Like if all the good old stuff we love holds little mainstream interest anymore, executives will begin adapting lesser-known works or– God forbid– make ORIGINAL CONTENT.
Maybe I’ll even be thankful we had this gluttony of content once it slows down in 20 years (because it can’t last forever). Then I can find the time to go back and catch up on all the stuff I missed. By then there’ll be milking new franchises which I care less about (like when they’re making a million series and movies set in Middle Earth or Dune or whatever).
What to Do
I’m not saying mainstream entertainment need to stop making things. They just need to slow the heck down! That’s all.
Have you ever dropped a franchise for any of the above reasons? Were there any reasons I might have missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments. If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,