Thursday, March 14, 2013

Veronica Mars Wants to Steal Your Money and Soul!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Or maybe not.

I'll be honest, I have only watched one episode of Veronica Mars.  My thoughts on it were:  "It's okay."

Now, mind you, it could be brain scaldingly brilliant and I wouldn't notice if I'm not in the mood to watch something--which I was not.  I was being forced to watch it and Doctor Who around the same time by a person that I did not like very much but tolerated because we had a mutual friend.

Anyway, that's beside the point.

My ambivalence about Veronica Mars does not mean that when the Kickstarter for a VM movie came up, I didn't understand why people were so excited.  1) It features a Whedon-ish kick-ass heroine (and who doesn't love that?), and 2) it was canceled before its time after a third (by all accounts, pretty terrible) season.  Sound familiar?  Sound an awful lot like Firefly?  Then you can probably relate to the fans of this show, too.

I was really happy--both for the cast and crew that got the chance to make this passion project of theirs, and for the fans that have been petitioning for more VM for years--and it seems that many people were pretty excited about the movie.  It raised its $2 million goal in the first day.  Which is incredible, and awesome.

But it didn't take long for naysayers to come along and start pissing in other people's Cheerios.

"That money would have been better spent on charities."

"That money should have gone to some indie project, not to a corporation."

"Ugh, these people are just paying for something that they'll have to pay for again."

These are all legitimate arguments that I saw pop up by various people, so I want to talk about each of them.

1) That money should have gone to charity.

While it's true that the $2 million would have done a lot of good at a charity, I would like to point out that Veronica Mars is a piece of entertainment.  Entertainment--the entertainment industry--is huge in this country (and always has been).  So, when you go out and spend $7.99 on a book to support your favorite author, that's money that you aren't spending on charity.  Making that argument that we shouldn't donate money to movies and other projects but instead to charities is a bit of a slippery argument.  Not to succumb to the slippery slope project, but where do you draw the line?  I mean, think about how much money Warner Brothers makes from Harry Potter merchandise.  How many people do you think would be willing to give up all of their Harry Potter shit, and instead donate that money to charity?  I'm betting few.

Unless you want to make the argument that we should shun all physical possessions and live the hermit-like lifestyle that Jesus intended, perhaps you could hold back from throwing stones, lest you shatter your own glass house.

That said, if you're feeling particularly guilty, donate to a charity, too.  No one says you can't do both.  Its your money.  Do whatever the fuck you want with it.

2)  Shouda funded indie projects instead.

People that make this argument make me curious...would they be making this argument if Firefly were being Kickstarted?

The people making this argument are more than likely not fans of the show--whether they actually dislike it or have just never seen it is irrelevant.  They don't have any emotional detachment to this project, so they want to tell you why their cause is so much better.

Projects like the Veronica Mars movie are always going to get more publicity.  It's the way of things.  Because it has a built in audience already.  And indie projects usually get funded when some celebrity that has an audience begins spreading the word.  Very few projects are viral enough to gain steam on their own.

As Seanan McGuire put it in her blog post:
So let's say that I've paid for my necessities, my survival is assured, and I have a dollar to give to a super-deserving project. Obviously, if I give it to one person, I can't give it to anyone else (although I could give both people fifty cents, but I digress). And you know what? That experimental retelling of The Crucible with sock puppets probably needs my dollar more than the Veronica Mars movie. But I'm paying for my luxuries here. I'm paying for what I want. And what I want is to see Logan, and Veronica, and my fictional friends again. I miss them. 
The Veronica Mars movie did not take my dollars away from "more deserving" projects, because no one gets to measure that but the person who holds the dollars. Me. And Sunil, and Chris, and Rae, and every other Veronica Mars fan I know.
You don't get to tell people how to spend their money.  If you want to shake your head and scoff at the sheeple spending their money on some shitty TV show that only got three seasons while you spend your money on the avant garde documentary about the post refrigerator life of bologna mold, you go right ahead.  But you can't force someone to like the same shit you like.  I might get frustrated that the Transformers movies keep getting made, but do you know what I do about it?  I don't go see them.  I don't give them my money.  I go see movies like Paranorman because I feel they deserve it, and I try to spread the word about projects that spike my interest.  I don't stand outside of the Transformers movies and make snide comments to the audience as they leave the theater.

3) Blah blah blah corporations are evil blah blah blah

Look, I have no love of corporations.  They're too powerful in this country, and I feel we need a new Teddy Roosevelt to come in and bust 'em up a bit--get them back to a controllable level.  But we live in the society we live in right now, and corporations run Hollywood.  So let me ask you this:  did you bitch this much when you went to go see The Avengers?  Zero Dark Thirty?  Lincoln?  No?  Then shut the fuck up.

People vote with their dollar in this society.  If a project is going to succeed, it has to generate enough interest to be monetarily feasible to continue to produce or the businesses that create them won't bother to keep wasting money on them.

Let's put it in a practical perspective: Let's pretend you're paying a neighborhood kid $20 a week to come over and mow your lawn.  However, the kid's scheduling is really sporatic--you can never tell when he'll show up, or if he'll show up at all.  Some weeks he just doesn't come, other weeks, he shows up late, forgets his equipment, and invites himself over for dinner.  He's sweet, charming, funny, and you like him as a person, but he's not earning his money. Do you keep paying him just because he's nice?

Of course you don't.  You fire his ass and hire someone who will cut your goddamned grass.

The business worlds works in the same way, but until recently with the advent of the internet and social media, it was more difficult to gain data on these things.  The Neilson ratings (and the box office performance of movies) demonstrate what people think about movies and TV shows.  So, crowdfunding--people donating money to projects the corporations aren't willing to take the risk on--gives people even more say in what they're consuming.

Let Kameron Hurley speak to yer hearts:

If someone is paying for the movie anyway, might as well be us, eh?

And to those complaining that people are pouring money into something that they'll just have to pay for again...first, see my previous point about whether or not you can dictate how other people spend their money (spoilers: you can't), and second...

That looks an awful lot like I get to enjoy the movie, and possibly get some other swag for a relatively low price, and they get to fund a movie--in fact, it looks like I'm buying the movie, a t-shirt, and the shooting script for $35, yes?  So...what would I have to buy over again?  And if I donate even higher (the $50 range), I get all of the above and a DVD copy of the movie.  Now, if a donor chooses to go see the movie in theaters as well?  Seanan McGuire again:
Yes, I'll have to pay if I want to see the movie in the theater, but that's paying the theater, which has its own bills to take care of (and will feed me delicious popcorn).
In summation:  the people who have been complaining about this are perhaps looking at things in the wrong light.  We're getting the choice to pick what the corporations make.  We're voting with out dollar.  There's nothing that's keeping you from supporting an indie project, too.  Mostly, the complaints sound like sour grapes.  Let people enjoy what they enjoy.  If you don't like it?  Don't buy it.  But don't not buy it and then spend all your time telling people how much better you are for not buying it.  Just...don't buy it.  Don't be a tool.

If you're interested in donating to the movie so they have more of a budget to work with (because God knows $2 million is a pretty modest film budget these days), you can donate here.  Or donate to an indie project.  Or donate to a charity.  Or bury your money in a tin box in your backyard by the light of a full moon.  Whatever works for you.