It is no big secret that I am a counter-culture kid. I’ve often hated mainstream media and all the trash that goes in it-not to say that all mainstream media is bad. No, some mainstream media is alright, and even good. And some of the best are the ones that have subcultures existing within them, like Doctor Who, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and the Nier/Drakengard series. However, there are some…some that are so abhorrently mind numbing and boring, that they would surely give most people brain damage after a while, but we’ll get back to that in a bit.
For me, subcultures, countercultures, and things that often depart from the mainstream have a level of depth that only the intellectual, curious or a combination of the two, can really enjoy. To put it into perspective, let us for a moment examine the Hobbit movies, as well as the Percy Jackson movies, and their respective literary counterparts. The Hobbit was an entertaining movie, but an undeniable cash grab, consisting of irrelevant characters, two sequels, and misinterpreted scenes when compared to the phenomenal books. Contrast it to the LOTR movies, which were incredibly accurate, and in my opinion, some of the best fantasy movies of all time, filled with an amazing cast and amazing battles. In tuning the movie to the mainstream, they dumbed it down, removed crucial information, added things like female warrior elves who love dwarves, (nothing wrong with that, it happened in other Tolkien works, it’s just irrelevant to the Hobbit itself), and fucking Legolas.
Moving onto Percy Jackson. All. Fucking. Hells. It was a disgrace to the original books, which were filled with witty dialogue, strong and well fleshed out characters, and a plot that kept me hooked to my seat. The directors were obviously more interested in making money than actual delivering a riveting experience for a new and old demographic. And this tends to happen when people are too afraid to take risks, receive criticism and improve their creations. Can you imagine if they made a Star Wars short with hipster versions of our favourite characters doing mundane things like heading to Starbucks and gossiping about how fucked up the Skywalker family is. Cringe. My point is that mainstream media has this way of poisoning great things and creating media that has no value. I absolutely hate Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Jersey Shore and and most other reality shows. To be honest, I do enjoy a few, such as Catfish and Doomsday Preppers, but the number is small. That’s because to cater to the mainstream audience, to create products that will be viewed by as many people as possible, producers need to create things that will be absorbed by the masses without real question. Something that, at first resembles real drama, but is later exposed to be fake, horrible acting. Pimp my Ride is one of those shows, later revealed to be an absolute farce. Many people find excitement in watching seemingly “normal” people, if any celebrities could be called that, do both day to day things as well as extravagant things. This creates a superficial connect between the viewer and the character. In younger viewers, it makes them want to achieve it, and in older viewers, it gives them a sense of excitement, especially in their mundane day-to-day lives. That someone, somewhere has achieved this level of fame while they are living a life, not as lavish, that could have been achieved. After all, these celebrities which we have little in common with are meant to be portrayed as commoners, which is something that they definitely are not.
Despite this, however, it is an effective tactic, especially if you look at how many people watch these type of things. In the end, however, it is purely up to you as to what to watch, however, it is important to note just how poisonous mainstream media is. Feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, hating one’s own image and unrealistic expectations for one’s own life are some byproducts, and the majority of reality TV and mainstream media and pop culture achieves this easily. Breed internalized fear and inadequacy, and they’ll buy our products, watch more shows, and fall into the net more easily. Even games, cartoons, anime, manga are subjected to the thumb of mainstream media. Simply omitting popular trends from your creations might prove detrimental to your future success. Some of the worst pop culture trends of 2016 such as over-excessive use of memes, dabbing, Harambe and uninspired pop songs slither way into mainstream media because they are, as the name implies, popular. But too much of mindless TV can turn the brain to mush, and before you know it, your speech patterns will consist of memes, dabbing, pop culture references, and reminding everyone of that one episode of that one reality show.
Now, where subcultures and non mainstream media stuff diverges, is the fact that it is tailored for its target audience. It knows what type of audience will love it, and so, it’s not afraid to take risks, whether it be by being offensive, poking fun at sensitive topics, or shining through with some highly intellectual shit from time to time. Rick and Morty is one such example of a show that does all of these things, and has now become so popular that it’s popularity has shined outside of its loyal fan base and is able to attract even more fans. Some of which may become extremely loyal die hard fans like Whovians and Trekkies, or may simply be the casual watchers. Either way, this is a win-win situation for both producers and fans. And don’t think that the best non-mainstream media does not include pop culture references. They do, undoubtedly, but in a subtle, and rather impressive ways rather than seemingly revolving the shows around these things. Furthermore. they will almost always find something thought provoking to add to the mix. I have come to expect topics of existential crisis in Doctor Who, I have pondered the reality of causality in Berserk, and even dabbled in a little spiritualism during the odd Adventure Time episode.
This is because more often than not, the obscure things tend to appeal to the intellectual, and the morbidly curious. Those who are not afraid to go against conventional ideas of entertainment in search of things that perhaps raise more questions than answers. Which is why its so important to get out of comfort zones and pursue things that are not filtered by 50 other sources to make it so easy to digest. It may be a little disheartening, but in the end, an open mind is a powerful mind. Get out of your comfort zone occasionally, and explore different things. You never know, because at the end of the day, the hidden things are usually the most interesting.