Oh No, No Posts This Year So Far!

Look, if you quit my blog when I went five months without any new stuff, come back. Because I've assembled an evaluative list of something I started thinking about roughly a month ago: Major Causes of a Work of Media Being Better Remembered for Something Else Besides its Actual Content.

Meaning, when people remember a work of media, or they hear its name, they remember it solely, or at least primarily, for something other than what was genuinely written into it as its content. When this happens, it is usually one of eight things that are remembered over the content.

1. Controversial casting choices. This usually comes in one of two forms: casting a white actor as a non-white character, and casting a non-LGBTQ actor as an LGBTQ character. Ghost in the Shell, the 2016 movie, is a recent example of this, when a white actor, who I will protect the privacy of by referring to as Garnett Johnston, played an explicitly Japanese character. Sometimes it happens the other way around, and controversy has erupted (though in admittedly smaller form) over LGBTQ actors playing non-LGBTQ characters...but of course, non-white actors playing white characters is apparently creative genius because it helped us all go crazy over Hamilton.

2. Positively unexpected and/or groundbreaking casting choices. Like I said two lines above, Hamilton. And the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot as well. Promotional news appearances and talk show appearances by the cast of the Ghostbusters reboot, as well as most news coverages of the reboot, were clearly more interested in the fact that it was a blockbuster action movie with a primarily female cast than the fact that it was rebooting a blockbuster franchise. This overshadowing reached almost insane levels. Any work of media (stage, movies, TV) that makes a positively unexpected and/or groundbreaking casting choice can count on these casting choices getting anywhere from 50% to 400% of the coverage and attention its actual content gets.

3. A tragedy strikes the work and/or someone involved with it, or a tragedy somehow connected with the work strikes after the work's release. The fatal helicopter crash on the set of The Twilight Zone Movie (1983) is probably the best-known example of the former. I have never seen any person or book mention The Twilight Zone Movie outside the context of the helicopter crash. The latter is best codified by the movie Batman: The Dark Knight Rises (2012), which, though it was an enormously successful summer blockbuster movie, is still best remembered for playing on the big screen as fatal gunshots sounded in an Aurora, CO theater.

4. Someone strongly involved with the work is the perpetrator of a serious and/or violent crime. As long as it's not the actual horror movie actors, this will persist. Very few productions have ever hired convicted criminals, and the reason we haven't heard of this as much as it happens could be because people will boycott works in which convicted criminals were involved. Like TV-Land, and the Cosby Show.

5. Someone strongly involved with the work holds an anti-progressive or otherwise socially taboo opinion, or makes a comment that is unintentionally interpreted as support for such an opinion. This one makes me a bit worried, and I could talk for quite some time - for several pages, in fact - about how worried I am that people will get fired from production teams just because they're Republicans. (And I've read NPR reports saying it's been done.) Of course, I agree with the motives of those who caused this effect to become what people think of when they hear the titles Roseanne or Megyn Kelly Today.

6. Love triangles and other romantic events come into play during production. Nobody ever mentions the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2003) except to talk about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie falling in love on the set. Nobody ever mentions The Huntsman: Winter's War (2015) except to talk about Kristen Stewart's cheating scandal that coincided with that film, in which she starred, being released. And don't even get me started on Marilyn Monroe's Seven Year Itch print ads.

7. The work surprisingly wins or surprisingly loses an award. There are movies that are only remembered nowadays because they won Best Picture when no one expected it. There are movies that are only remembered nowadays because they didn't win Best Picture when everyone expected it. This even extends beyond movies - Stop the World, I Want to Get Off was a 1963 Broadway musical written by Leslie Bricusse, and everyone thought it was going to win the Best Musical Tony. It lost to the less heavily promoted and less attended Hello, Dolly by Jerry Herman. Now, Hello, Dolly is running a national tour starring Betty Buckley, and even Broadway legends don't remember Stop the World, I Want to Get Off as anything other than "that show that Hello, Dolly upset for the Tony in 1964."

8. The work is an attempt to revive a lost or dwindling genre. This was a publicity point for the Clive Donner-directed, Paul Zindel-written, Leslie Bricusse-songed, and Leo Finelli-plagiarized Babes in Toyland made-for-TV movie that aired on NBC in 1987. NBC placed an ad in TV Guide promoting the movie as "Finally, An Original Musical for the Whole Family Comes to Television Once Again!" Critics failed to give the movie a pass for its cheap-looking bear suits, patched-together stock costumes, and other inexplicable content, and the thing disappeared until Kimani Wilson-Hunte, God bless him, posted his parents' tape of the special on YouTube. Perhaps if this thing didn't have cheap-looking bear suits, patched-together...you get it, and everything about it was as high-quality as Paul Zindel's writing (well, most of it) and Leslie Bricusse's score of eight ear worms, NBC would have gotten what they wanted. Whenever TV Guide mentioned the movie in subsequent issues, it was usually as "the special they thought would bring the family musical back but didn't."

I could be a part of this effect myself, considering that if I ever write something for network TV, the Guide might use the exact same headline. Proof that the medium is dead. At least I have a calling...

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