Tag Archives: entertainment industry

It’s Official: After Watching “Godzilla Vs. Kong” My Movie Watching Experience Has Changed

Sometimes, an experience you think is life-changing just turns out to be a fluke. You have one remarkable experience and you think it’s the start of a trend. However, it just turns out to be one experience and that’s it. Nothing ultimately changes.

I’ve had more than a few of those in my life. I thought playing “Final Fantasy X” would make me a final fantasy for life after the experience that game gave me. That turned out to be a one-time thing. It’s not out of disappointment. That’s just how things played out.

For that same reason, I wasn’t entirely sure if the experience I had watching Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” was one of those one-time experiences. Last week, I wrote about how it may have changed how I watched new movies. I did so knowing that this was a unique movie fraught with unique circumstances. I didn’t know if it was the start of something more.

To find out, I used this past weekend as a secondary test, of sorts. I knew “Godzilla Vs. Kong” was coming out on HBO Max, just like “Justice League.” I made it a point to approach that movie the same way I approached “Justice League.” By that, I mean I turned my living room into a make-shift movie theater to maximize the experience.

I ordered some pizza.

I got a six-pack of beer.

I closed the blinds, dimmed the lights, and prepared my couch accordingly.

Now, I need to disclose that “Godzilla Vs. Kong” was not a movie I was particularly excited about. Compared to Zack Snyder’s “Justice League,” it’s the kind of movie I wouldn’t see in theaters on opening night. I’d usually wait a couple weeks until the price of a ticket came down and I could pick my own seat.

It still had all the makings of the kind of movie best enjoyed in theaters. It’s a big-time monster movie full of spectacle and explosions. That’s how it’s billed and, without getting too heavily into spoilers, I can confirm that “Godzilla Vs. Kong” delivers that spectacle in abundance.

As a result, I enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as “Justice League,” but I still enjoyed the experience. Beyond the enjoyment, though, I confirmed something else. That experience I had with “Justice League” was not a fluke.

I can now say with relative confidence that my approach to consuming movies has changed. This experience of me turning my living room into my own personal movie theater is something I really enjoy. It’s something I want to make part of my movie-consuming experience.

By that, I don’t mean I’ll never set foot in a movie theater again. I still have every intention of doing that relatively soon, especially after I get a COVID-19 vaccine. I just don’t think I’ll ever do it as often as I once did.

It helps that “Godzilla Vs. Kong” came out on HBO Max. Last year, the powers that be decided they would release their new movies in both the theaters and on HBO Max. It’s a decision that upset quite a few people and organizations, but in terms of the bigger picture for the industry, it’s a real game changer.

Like Netflix joining the fray when Blockbuster was at its zenith, HBO Max may very well change how movies are consumed. Other studios are starting to buy in as well. Recently, Disney announced it would do a similar release with “Black Widow.” However, their release would be different in that streaming it from home will cost extra.

It’s a different approach, but one that’s following the same trend. Now, consumers have a choice in how hey consume new movies. They can either go to a movie theater or try to create their own experience at home. It’s a choice that probably wouldn’t have occurred had it not been for the pandemic that nearly destroyed the whole industry.

Be that as it may, I welcome that choice. Personally, I think the industry needs this to happen. Movie theaters and movie studios alike can’t keep clinging to a model that began before the creation of streaming media, 4K televisions, and Grubhub. At some point, they have to adapt to changing consumer habits. Now, they can’t avoid it.

I’ve already made some plans for how I’ll consume movies this summer. Even if all restrictions are lifted and everything goes back to normal, relatively speaking, I don’t think I’ll revert to my pre-pandemic approach to movies. I’ll start weighing my options.

For a movie like “Mortal Kombat” or “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” I’ll probably watch them at home on HBO Max. If I happen to get a date, I’ll probably take her to the theater. Since I can’t assume that’ll happen, my default will be using HBO Max.

With “Black Widow,” I’m a bit less certain. For now, I’m leaning towards seeing that in theaters. It’s not because of the experience. It’s more a matter of cost. If I want to watch that movie at home like I did with “Justice League,” I’ll have to pay extra. Now, for a movie I really want to see, I’m willing to do that. However, I have my limits.

I think $30 just to stream the movie from home is a bit excessive. It amounts to more than I would spend on a ticket and snacks at a movie theater. Even if the price was just $20, I’d still probably see it in theaters. Like many Marvel fans, I’ve been anxious to see this movie for over a year and I want to support it. If that means paying extra at a theater, I’ll do that.

Then again, if I could stream it for free on Disney+ the same way I streamed “WandaVision,” then I might have second thoughts. Given that I’m a lifelong Marvel fan, I might still go to the theater, just to show my support for the franchise. Since that’s not an option, I just don’t know.

For now, those are my plans and they’re always subject to change. I just know that, moving forward, my approach to experiencing new movies is very different. I suspect others are going through something similar. Even after this pandemic has passed, I expect certain movie-going habits to change permanently.

What will this mean for the industry, as a whole?

That, I don’t know. All I know now is that what happened last weekend with “Justice League” was not a fluke and “Godzilla Vs. Kong” proved it. Now, I’m contemplating how I’ll continue adapting my movie-watching experience. For that, I may need to invest in a bigger TV. In the meantime, I’d like to know what everyone else thinks. What has been your experience thus far with respect to consuming movies? Has it changed due to the pandemic? Do you expect it to change even more? Let me know in the comments.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Jack Fisher's Insights, movies, television

How Watching Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” (May Have) Changed How I Watch Movies

Throughout the pandemic-fueled horrors of 2020, I speculated on multiple occasions how movie theaters may never fully recover. I don’t doubt for a second the movie industry, as a whole, will adapt to changing markets and trends. However, the movie-going experience, as we know it, was suddenly in doubt.

I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. Many people far smarter than me have expressed concerns and made equally dire predictions. How things ultimately play out remains to be seen. The 2021 summer movie season will be a major test for theaters, as a whole.

However, there are already signs that the industry has changed forever. It started with “Trolls World Tour” last spring, which ditched theaters together and debuted online exclusively, turning a healthy profit in the process. Then, Warner Brothers escalated things even further by saying all their 2021 movies will release simultaneously within theaters and on HBO Max.

On top of that, Disney is also trying their hand in simultaneous release. They announced that they’ll be releasing the long-delayed “Black Widow” both in theaters and on Disney-plus. While you’ll have to pay extra to see it on Disney-plus, the result is the same. Movie theaters are suddenly less relevant in the movie-viewing experience.

It’s hard to overstate just how big a deal this is for the industry.

It’s also hard to overstate just how big an impact the pandemic has had on the movie industry, as we know it.

It may very well be the case that “Avengers Endgame” was the last true blockbuster. We may never see a movie gross that kind of money ever again. That, alone has many implications.

However, I don’t want to focus too much on those just yet. Instead, I want to talk about my own movie-going habits and how they have changed recently. Like so many others, I was very excited to watch Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” on HBO Max. I built my entire Saturday night around watching it.

There’s a lot I can say about this movie. If you want a full review, you can check the YouTube video I made for it right here.

Beyond my excitement and reaction to that movie, I felt an impact beyond the general experience of seeing a movie that so many had fought to get released. This really didn’t come off as just me settling in on a Saturday night and binging a movie from a random streaming service, which I’ve done plenty of times before.

My experience with “Justice League” was different.

I feel like it may affect other movie-going experiences in the future.

To explain why, I also need to explain what I did to prepare to watch that movie. I didn’t treat it like watching any other movie on HBO Max or any other streaming service. Instead, I went out of my way to recreate the movie theater experience.

I closed the blinds to my windows.

I dimmed the lights in my living room.

I even ordered a pizza and got a six pack of beer. That’s not typically what I get when I go to a movie in the theaters, but since this was a four-hour movie and I wasn’t bound by theater rules, I wanted to make the most of it.

After all, this movie wasn’t ever coming out in theaters. If I wanted that experience, I had to recreate it myself. It was not exactly a perfect duplicate. I don’t live in a fancy house that I could turn into a make-shift movie theater. I haven’t sold enough novels yet.

Despite those limited resources, the experience I created for “Justice League” was both effective and personal. It allowed me to basically consume a new blockbuster movie in my own unique way. While I didn’t expect that effort to have too great an impact, I can say not that it definitely changed the experience.

This wasn’t just me re-watching a favorite movie of mine.

This wasn’t me watching a movie that I saw in theaters.

This was me creating my own experience for a new release.

When all was said and done, I found myself planning to do it again. I may ultimately do it with all HBO Max movies that come out this year. That doesn’t mean I won’t see some in theaters, but watching Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” showed me what a more personal movie-watching experience could be.

It also left me somewhat conflicted on how I’ll see “Black Widow” when it comes out. Before I saw “Justice League,” I had every intention of watching it in the theaters, like I’ve done with every Marvel movie since “Iron Man.” Now, I’m not so sure.

Do I go to a movie theater, buy my favorite refreshments, and watch it like I used to watch all new movies?

Do I try to recreate what I did with “Justice League” and consume movies that way?

I’m honestly torn. I still enjoy going to theaters. I don’t exactly have a big screen TV that comes close to matching the screens at a movie theater. I also don’t have a 3-D TV that can take advantage of that feature. However, I can’t sneak a six-pack of beer into a theater or pause the movie when I need to take a bathroom break.

There are positives and negatives for both. I’ll certainly attempt to refine my movie-seeing experience at home with future HBO releases. In doing so, that may ultimately make watching a movie from home more preferable to watching it in a theater. As a result, me going to a movie theater might become a rarity.

It may be the case that Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” was a one-time thing that I’ll never recreate. If not, then I’m very curious to see if others had a similar experience. I’m also curious to see how this will play out as the world emerges from this pandemic and the movie industry seeks to rebuild. If you had a similar experience Zack Snyder’s “Justice League,” or something similar, please share it in the comments. I have a feeling the way people consume movies and media is bound to change considerably in the coming years and not just because of the pandemic.

1 Comment

Filed under DC Comics, movies, real stories, superhero movies, television

Deep Fake Technology Can Now Make Tom Cruise Iron Man: Signs And Implications

Certain technology advances slowly and steadily. It’s why we’re still waiting for a cure for the common cold. Other technological breakthroughs advance at such a fast rate it’s hard to keep up with. Anyone who doesn’t regularly upgrade their cell phone understands that.

That brings me to the technology of deep fakes. I’ve talked about them before and the implications this technology has for the entertainment industry. Well, I’m here to report that this technology might be advancing faster than I thought.

Recently, a new deep fake video hit the web. It’s nothing overly nefarious. It’s actually a play on a real story from the mid-2000s. Before Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark in the first “Iron Man” movie, Tom Cruise was in the running for that role.

He has since claimed he was never close to getting that role, but it’s still an interesting idea. For most Marvel fans, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than RDJ donning that now-iconic armor. However, there’s no denying that Tom Cruise being Iron Man would’ve changed a franchise, as well as cinematic history.

Well, thanks to deep fake technology, we don’t have to imagine anymore. We can now see for ourselves what it would look like if Tom Cruise had been cast as Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. See for yourself.

Watching this, I have to say it was more than a little jarring. It’s not just that seeing someone other than RDJ as Iron Man is strange. I was genuinely impressed by how real it looked.

Yes, it did become a bit obvious at times that there was some digital trickery at work. I’ve seen enough Tom Cruise movies to know what he looks like. I could tell that the body just did not match the iconic face at times.

However, I’m still impressed at just how seamless it appeared, especially when he was in the Iron Man costume. It really did look like Cruise had embraced the role as much as RDJ had. Even though the voice had to come courtesy of a skilled voice actor, the graphics technology is definitely on pace to cross the uncanny valley sooner rather than later.

The implications here are profound. If the technology is already at this point, then it’s a given that Hollywood and propaganda pushers will start embracing it sooner. For Hollywood, who is reeling in wake of a historic pandemic, they may have more incentives to embrace it than most.

Beyond actors and actresses who get “cancelled” for their behavior, it may start as a cost cutting measure. If it costs too much to put Hugh Jackman or Tom Cruise on a movie set, why not just put a cheaper actor in their place and just deep fake the more iconic figure over it? If the technology is that good and nobody can tell the difference, it almost makes too much sense.

It may get to a point where nobody outside the studio knows whether the figure we see on screen was actually “there” to give that moment life. They may just be a digital scan mixed with digitally audio, which is also advancing.

This has even larger implications with propaganda. If the technology gets to a point where we can make any public figure say or do anything we want, no matter how deplorable, then how can we trust any media image? Would “cancel culture” even be feasible at that point? If people can just claim an embarrassing moment was a deep fake, how would we know?

It’s a distressing thought, but it’s something we’ll have to account for. We may end up having to contemplate it sooner than we thought. This technology can already show us a world in which Tom Cruise was cast as Iron Man. What other worlds will it reveal?

We’ll find out soon enough.

Leave a comment

Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, media issues, superhero comics, superhero movies, technology, YouTube

Mia Kalifa, The Porn Industry, And Why Her (Lack Of) Earnings Matter

mia-khalifa

Imagine that you’re young, low on money, and in need of a quick buck. You do a few side-gigs, like drive a taxi or do some yard work. You make some money up front. You’re grateful for it. You wish you didn’t have to do it, but you still did and you’re ready to move forward with your life.

Now, imagine that same work you did ended up making someone else a boatload of money that continues to flow in, even though you’ve long since finished your part. Maybe while mowing the lawn, you discovered a priceless artifact under a tree stump. Maybe while driving a taxi, your car became the site of an infamous crime. Anyone with a white 1993 Ford Bronco SUV can attest to that.

With those ideas in mind, let’s talk about Mia Kalifa. If you don’t know who that is, just ask any straight man with an internet connection and a suspiciously large supply of tissue boxes. You might not get an honest answer, but rest assured, she’s a known public figure and not just because she has over 15 million followers on Instagram.

One of the reasons why she has so many.

She’s worth talking about, but not because she’s a former porn star who still garners a great deal of popularity, despite having not worked in the industry for years. Recently, she made the news after revealing that, even though she was one of the most popular porn stars in the world for a time, she made a total of $12,000 for her entire career.

For someone who was that successful in an industry that’s already exceedingly crowded by an abundance of content, that just doesn’t seem to add up. Most working people make more than $12,000 in a year, even if they’re paid minimum wage. They even get to keep their clothes on. What’s going on here?

There is a context to that story. By her own admission, she was in the industry for about three months. She only got paid a flat rate of about $1,000 for each scene she did and, given how few she ended up doing, it’s still more than minimum wage. She basically made $12,000 for approximately two weeks of work. Ignoring, for the moment, that the work involved making porn, it’s not a terrible rate.

However, what stands out most about her story is that she continues to generate money for the companies that initially paid her. To this day, those scenes she shot still generate traffic for popular sites like PornHub and that traffic still makes its parent company, MindGeek, some additional profit.

Most people don’t know, or want to know for that matter, that the most popular porn sites and studios are owned by MindGeek. Think of any site your significant other won’t admit to visiting. Chances are, they own it. They’re basically the Amazon of porn. They’re so big that there really isn’t a close second.

It’s because they’re so big that Ms. Kalifa’s story isn’t unique. Most people who enter the porn industry, be they male or female, have to go through MindGeek in some form or another. They’re basically a monopoly and because of that, they can get away with shady practices, such as underpaying workers or short-changing them with fine print.

Listed above are sites few will admit to knowing.

Most porn performers, including Ms. Kalifa, only get paid a flat rate per scene. They basically function as independent contractors, which means they’re not salaried employees who get benefits. They’re basically Uber drivers, but with sex. Unlike Uber drivers, though, the top performers can actually make a lot more, but they’re the exception and not the norm. Most performers are in Ms. Kalifa’s situation.

It’s not a situation unique to porn. Other elements of the entertainment industry have used similar practices for years. The music industry has plenty of examples of successful artists who sell millions of albums, but still go bankrupt because most of that money went to the companies they worked for rather than the artists themselves.

It even happens in the comic book industry. Few individuals have created and drawn more iconic character than Jack Kirby, but because he was a work-for-hire, he didn’t technically own his creations. The companies he worked for, both Marvel and DC Comics, owned them. As a result of this, there were some lengthy legal battles with Kirby’s estate. Not surprisingly, the companies won.

Think of any industry that involves performing or creating some kind of art. There’s a good chance that there are cases where someone creates something that becomes successful, but the creators themselves don’t profit from it. Only the companies profit.

Again, there’s a context to that. In industries like music, the top one percent of performers earn over three-quarters of the revenue. Most creative endeavors fail to turn a profit. As someone trying hard to break into the publishing industry, I can attest to how common failure and rejection are. These industries, as shady as their practices might be, need to make a profit and that often requires enduring many losses.

That’s exactly why Mia Kalifa’s story matters. It doesn’t just shed light on the less glamorous aspects of the porn industry. It highlights how the actual people behind popular media don’t reap as much of the benefits as we think. For porn stars, current and former, that’s made even harder by the stigma and taboos surrounding the industry. Ms. Kalifa endured those unpleasant elements more than most.

It’s a system that’s only getting worse. There was a time when porn stars could make considerably more money and even earn some residual income from the booming DVD market. Thanks to the advent of streaming media and excessive piracy, that’s no longer the case. It’s why many porn stars are turning to escorting or licensing products.

Given the dirty nature of the business, few politicians or advocates will loudly proclaim they want to help the people in the porn industry. The last few years have been very difficult for anyone in the sex industry. Laws are making sex work more restrictive and more dangerous to everyone involved. Performers will end up with the stigma, but the companies will get most of the profits.

To some extent, what happened to Mia Kalifa’s career is a microcosm of what’s happening to entertainment in general. We’re currently in an era where big companies are acquiring as much intellectual property as possible. Companies, be they major movie studios or porn producers, have a vested interest in controlling the content at the cost of the performers.

Since so few entertainment products turn a profit, these companies have too much incentive to short-change performers and creators. There’s no law that requires companies to give performers a small percentage of future earnings. There’s no law that stops them from exploiting the content created by performers, even if those same performers don’t want to be associated with the work anymore.

Given the money and influence of these companies, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. However, Mia Kalifa did us all a service by making people aware of this very flawed system. The fact that she did this while fully clothed and being brutally honest in a world that lives in alternative facts might be her best performance to date.

1 Comment

Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, human nature, media issues, outrage culture, political correctness, prostitution, sex in media, sex in society, women's issues

How And Why It Became Trendy To Hate “The Big Bang Theory”

1488462637_058409_1488464865_noticia_normal

There was once a time in the mid-90s when Hootie and the Blowfish was the hottest band in the world. They’re music was everywhere. You couldn’t listen to the radio for more than five minutes without hearing one of their songs. I didn’t consider myself a huge fan, but I found plenty of their songs catchy and fun. I still have “Hold My Hand” on my phone.

Then, for reasons I still don’t quite understand, it became cool to hate them. Suddenly, admitting that you enjoyed your music was akin to admitting that you did shots of paint thinner to win a five-dollar bet. It got to the point when even “The Simpsonsmade a joke about them in an episode.

The same thing happened to Nickelback in the 2000s. They went through an early period of intense success. Their fourth album, “The Long Road,” sold over five million copies. That’s success that most artists only ever dream of. I even admit I have that album and I love it. Their song, “Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good,” is on my workout playlist.

Then, for reasons that I’d rather not speculate on, it became cool to hate them too. While that hasn’t stopped them from selling over 50 million albums and becoming one of the most successful acts of a decade, it’s still trendy to despise them as everything wrong with music. It doesn’t seem to matter how successful they are. For some strange, esoteric reason, they embody everything wrong with the world.

If I would write that with more sarcasm, I would. However, this piece isn’t about Hootie and the Blowfish or Nickelback. I reference them because they’ve already gone through what’s happening to “The Big Bang Theory” seems to be enduring right now. They’ve risen to the top, defying the odds to achieve a level of success that most can only dream of. Then, it becomes cool to hate them for any number of reasons.

Now, I know I’ve criticized “The Big Bang Theory” before. I’ve cited it as the show that contains one of the worst romances in all of fiction. I don’t deny that it’s brand of humor and reliance on nerdy, socially inept men can be dry at times. That said, I do consider myself a fan of the show.

I watch it regularly. I even laugh at it. It has flaws, but I think the things it does well do plenty to overshadow those flaws. Sheldon is eccentric, but funny. Amy is quirky, but endearing. Howard, while creepy in the early seasons, has really grown up in all the right ways over the years. I would even go so far as to say that the show is worth watching just for Raj Koothrappali.

It’s not the best show on television, but like Nickelback and Hootie and the Blowfish, there’s no denying its success. It’s been syndicated and regularly ranks as one of the highest rated prime-time shows. Then, somewhere along the way, it became cool to hate the show as much as Nickelback.

You don’t have to look far to find articles of people whining about the show. Even Cracked, a site I often reference, once wrote a scathing article that flat out insulted anyone who dared enjoy the show. This is a direct quote.

Who are you people? The people watching The Big Bang Theory, I mean. Show yourselves. The world demands explanation. I mean that, too. In every way, shape, and form, this is the Justin Bieber of television shows.

I know the internet is full of this kind of trolling, but we’re not talking about snuff films and public crucifixion here. It’s a goddamn TV sitcom. It tries to be funny and entertaining. It doesn’t always work for everyone, but it still works for some. Are those people, which I guess includes me, somehow damaged just for liking this show?

I could probably ask the same of those who enjoy music from Nickelback and Hootie and the Blowfish. I could even offer a partial answer if I only use the basis of personal taste. That is, after all, what the consumption of all media is, be it music, movies, or TV. You tend to consume what you like. It’s that simple.

However, for an issue like this, there are added complications when something becomes cool to hate. Suddenly, it’s no longer a matter of just liking something different. It’s a matter of having some inherent personal flaw for liking something that has a vocal contingent of critics.

Call those critics whatever you want. Call them hipsters, trolls, or any number of other names that would warrant fines from the FCC. They’re still driven by the same focused outrage that dominates politics, religious disputes, and Overwatch tournaments. The only real question is why a show like “The Big Bang Theory” gets singled out.

It’s a hard question to answer and I’m not qualified to answer it completely. However, I do think something strange happens to movie, TV show, or band when they get so successful and so acclaimed that those who don’t like the show just can’t stop at not watching it.

It’s rare for any show to achieve the kind of success “The Big Bang Theory” has garnered. Success makes a show a bigger target. If shows like “South Park” or “The Simpsons” weren’t so successful, nobody would care how bad some of their jokes were or how controversial a certain character might be.

Some of that might be out of envy. There’s only so much success to go around. The fact “The Big Bang Theory” is so successful means, in the eyes of those who hate it, that it’s robbing success from shows that might be funnier or more worthy of it. Never mind the fact that the humor and worthiness of a show is completely subjective. Fans of that show will see “The Big Bang Theory” as a thief and a fraud.

Like it or not, envy can be a pretty powerful source of emotion. It’s underrated compared to outrage and hate, but still potent in its own right. However, I don’t think that’s the sole reason why “The Big Bang Theory” gets more hate than most prime-time shows that don’t involve CSI spin-offs.

I suspect there’s a deeper reason driving the hatred towards “The Big Bang Theory” that even Nickelback doesn’t have to deal with. I think part of that reason has to do with the archetypes the show uses. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the combination of nerdy, socially awkward young men and a cute ditzy blonde conjures some heated emotional reactions, to say the least.

There’s no doubt that combination is contrived and relies heavily on old stereotypes. Then again, you could say that about a lot of other shows. The fact this one uses nerds and cute blondes, though, just makes it seem more overt. It makes every joke, every plot, and every gag seem cheap or forced.

It makes some of the resentment to the show understandable, but I think that resentment is even more compounded by trends in political correctness. Chief among those trends is a growing aversion to stereotypes. Characters and archetypes once considered inoffensive are now controversial. Jokes that were once just in poor taste are now the source of intense outrage.

Since its inception, “The Big Bang Theory” has relied a lot on stereotypes for its characters and its humor. Like all shows, it exaggerates certain personas. Sheldon Cooper, alone, is a testament to a character whose quirks are taken to a ridiculous extreme.

By relying on these stereotypes, though, it makes itself an even bigger target. Laughing at the show, in the eyes of some, means accepting some of these stereotypes and having the audacity to find them funny. That appears to be the undertone of the Cracked article I cited earlier. It seems to be the undertone of a lot of the hatred the show gets.

Now, I don’t deny that “The Big Bang Theory” can go overboard with cliches and stereotypes. There are a number of episodes in “The Big Bang Theory” that even I find bland. However, for the most part, I still laugh. I still find myself enjoying the story. Even when I can apply some of those stereotypes to myself, I still laugh.

At the end of the day, “The Big Bang Theory” is still just a TV show in the same way Nickelback is just a band. Nobody forces anyone to watch it. It’s easy to just change the channel and watch something else. However, when a show becomes so successful while relying on a premise that is getting more politically incorrect with each passing year, it’s bound to attract criticism and not just from the hipster crowd.

I still enjoy the show and I intend to keep watching it. I also intend to keep all the songs by Nickelback and Hootie and the Blowfish on my phone for the foreseeable future. If that makes me uncool in the eyes of some, then so be it. To me, it doesn’t matter if something is cool to hate. Petty hate is still petty hate.

I also expect to see plenty more hatred directed at the show for how it treats nerds, women, minorities, and humor. It’s just too successful and too big a target to avoid that kind of scrutiny. In that situation though, as with Nickelback and Hootie and the Blowfish, sometimes the best you can do is just laugh and enjoy it on your own terms. Bazinga!

2 Comments

Filed under human nature, media issues

Second Chances, Learning From Past Mistakes, And The Return Of The XFL

America likes to claim that it’s the land of second chances. People, in general, are often willing to grant second chances to those who have made mistakes, failed, or were just the victim of bad luck. Some end up needing more than second chances, but we’re willing to give them to those who prove they have a vision.

We do it in our personal lives as well, giving second chances to those we love. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. However, the first step, and arguably the most important, is giving that chance to someone, even when you haven’t forgotten the extent of their mistake.

That brings me to the XFL. I’m sorry, but there’s just no way to effectively transition to this topic. I know the title alone sounded like a jumbled compilation of random thoughts from someone who talks about everything from sex robots to superhero movies. I promise I’m going somewhere with this. I also promise it’s both relevant and applicable.

To those who haven’t heard the big news, the XFL is back. A full 17 years after this eccentric, over-the-top league that inspired the likes of “He Hate Me” and glorified brutal hits is making a comeback. Vince McMahon, the colorful personality who turned wrestling into a billion-dollar entertainment juggernaut, is taking another shot at creating a new football league to compete with the towering Goliath that is the NFL.

As a self-professed football fan whose picks for this past season were dead wrong, I’m genuinely intrigued by this news. I won’t let myself get too excited about it just yet, given how badly the XFL failed the first time, but I am willing to give it my attention, as well as a second chance.

The story of the first incarnation of the XFL is an amazing story. The fact that it also involves exceedingly sexy cheerleaders doesn’t hurt it’s appeal either. Just last year, ESPN did a documentary on that story called “30 For 30: This Was The XFL.” If you want a comprehensive take on what happened to this over-the-top league, this I highly recommend you check this out.

By the end, you’ll appreciate why giving McMahon and the XFL a second chance is such a big deal. It may even give you a better appreciation of why second chances are so hard to give at times. In a sense, this second incarnation of the XFL may end up being a case study on the underlying merit of second chances or the lack thereof.

Whether it’s to a professional athlete, an ex-lover, or an employee, second chances are hard because our brains are wired to remember failures more vividly than successes. The whole notion of “once bitten, twice shy” has actual biology and evolutionary forces behind it. Failure in nature can sometimes mean failure to survive.

The last time the XFL failed, it cost both McMahon and NBC $35 million each. The greatly inflates the price of a second chance, to say the least. Why, in that context, should we still give it one?

Well, I can only speak for myself. I’m not a sports expert any more than I’m a brain surgeon. However, in the spirit of second chances and learning from past mistakes, there are a few I think are worth considering with both the XFL and life in general.


A Second Chance Can Prove You’ve Learned From Failure (And Are Able To Learn In General)

This is as valuable a skill in helping the new XFL succeed as it is for anyone who has ever screwed up in life, which covers pretty much everybody. This is probably the most important aspect of second chances. It gives an opportunity for someone to do more than just claim they’ve learned. Now, they can show it.

Say what you will about Vince McMahon and a lot has been said. He’s an entertainer and a businessman. He wants to make money and, if his net worth is any indication, he’s pretty damn good at it. You do not get that rich by never learning from your mistakes.

It’s hard to say for certain what McMahon will do differently at this point. However, if the content of his announcement is any indication, he’s very much aware of why the XFL failed the first time. He’s ready to take those hard, not to mention expensive, lessons and try again.

Given the breadth of McMahon’s success, he’s someone who can make more out of second chances than most. That’s why I’m going to give him this one, even if I find his persona annoying.


Second Chances Reveals Opportunities Otherwise Not Seen

It’s a common theme in business, romance, and everything in between. Both failure and success create opportunities. The failure of “Batman and Robin” paved the way for “Batman Begins.” The success of the iPhone paved the way for the booming smartphone business.

One failed relationship can also strengthen another. The many failures of other football leagues have only served to strengthen the dominance of the NFL. However, sometimes success can have pitfalls. The past few years have not been kind to the NFL, to say the least. Given the sheer size of this entertainment behemoth, it’s an easy target.

In that respect, the XFL’s timing couldn’t be better. It’s coming along at a time when fans are somewhat disillusioned with the NFL, but have little alternatives beyond the hopelessly corrupt NCAA. The XFL could finally give the NFL the kind of competition that is necessary for any product, service, or art to innovate.

Let’s face it. We humans are a competitive species. If someone is doing something better than us, be it football or underwater basket weaving, we want to match and exceed them. It drives us to be better. It helps make us better people.

Football needs that right now. The NFL needs that. The XFL has the perfect opportunity to achieve this. Combined with the lessons of their first failure, they have much more going for them now than they did in 2001.


Greater Risks Bring Greater Rewards (And Greater Lessons)

This is probably the most important aspect of second chances for both the XFL and for life, in general. Everything that’s worth doing, whether it’s creating a new football league or finding the love of your life, requires a certain degree of risk. Some aren’t willing to risk that much, but those who are have a chance to achieve much more.

I say this as someone who avoided taking major risks until much later in life. Looking back on how I carried myself in my youth, I regret not taking more risks. Hindsight has revealed that I missed out on some pretty big rewards, both material and personal. Sometimes, you really have to do what your brain says is insanely risky to get those kinds of rewards.

What Vince McMahon is doing qualifies as exceedingly risky. He’s putting up $100 million of his own money to make the second incarnation of the XFL happen. He’s also taking on an organization in the NFL with obscene levels of influence, both economically and culturally.

At the moment, most people probably think he’s crazy and bound to fail. Those people aren’t willing to take the risk, but none of them have a shot at the big reward that McMahon is seeking. Even if the chances of the XFL succeeding are less than one percent, it’s still greater than zero and that’s all the chance you need with a second chance.


A Second Chance Can Also Help Fix Broken Or Flawed Systems

This is the part of the new XFL that has me the most intrigued, as a football fan. That’s because, as it stands, the system for developing players for the NFL is basically a cartel wrapped in a monopoly. The NCAA is the cartel. The NFL is the monopoly. If you want to make a living playing football, these are the sole gatekeepers.

It’s a system with many flaws, which have been documented on more than one occasion. The problem is there’s no incentives to fix those flaws. Neither the NCAA nor the NFL have any pressure to do so. They wield total power over all things football and can be as unjust as they want.

The XFL can change that. They can shake up a system that does plenty to screw over college players and professionals if they fail to make it in the NFL. They can provide a new path, bring new ideas to the table, and take chances that a cartel and a monopoly don’t even think to take.

It wouldn’t be the first time a monopoly got broken up. In most peoples’ lives, they either avoid situations where someone has all the leverage or work to subvert it. We do that with the people we work with and the people we love. Again, it often requires that we take risks and chances. However, it only has to work once to affect change.


It’s still not clear just what the new XFL will bring to the table or if it will succeed. For now, it has many forces working against it. However, as both a football fan and someone who sees the merit of second chances, I’m willing to give it one.

1 Comment

Filed under Current Events, Reasons and Excuses, sports