Does anyone else find it troubling that almost every commenter online and media pundit refers to a movie series, book series, or comic series as a “Property” or “Franchise”? Star Wars is spoken of as a franchise as if every joe-blo-entrepreneur is starting up a Star Wars fast-food joint in their town complete with Wookies hunched over the fryer, Stormtroopers taking orders, and Jawas on bathroom clean-up.
Star Wars is huge. It’s definitely a brand. The Star Wars brand sells products across countless markets but is it a “franchise.” The definition of a franchise is to sell a right to use a business model. Star Wars is a story with characters and lore. The word “property” might be a little better but it sounds wrong. Star Wars is fun, imaginative, entertaining but it’s surely not a business model.
But regardless of using a word like “franchise” incorrectly, what worries me much more is the immediate relating of an entertainment or art piece to being a “product.”
The Nature of Art
It’s a question asked by artists for hundreds of years:
Can art and product exist as the same thing? Does something cease to be art when it is mass produced? Is a piece of media art like a book, film, song, or comic less artistic when it becomes popular and a best seller?
There does seem to be an element of uniqueness in the way we perceive something as truly artistic. In human nature, the more of something there is, the less special, less meaningful we see it. The truth is that art by definition is completely subjective. Art is whatever you say it is. Simple as that.
We’ve taken all the fun out of art. Everything is a business now. A sequel comes out to a successful movie and suddenly its a franchise. “With Zack Snyder at the helm, the Batman franchise appears to be in good hands.” How is Batman a business model? Why would we want our favorite character to be associated with a staple of consumerism like franchises?
Someone writes a great book or maybe just an awesome blog post and instead of talking about the work itself and its intrinsic artistic value, we say “that is quality content.”
Everyone is so consumer-focused that our entire entertainment system is about monetization and business value. Every Marvel movie is talked about as a “franchise.” Every successful comic series is a “property.” Every piece of writing is “content.”
I’d love to see those clinical words dumped in favor of more passionate, art-driven analysis that doesn’t just focus on the monetary value of a piece of entertainment. Money has its place in art but that doesn’t mean it should be the all-encompassing focus.