Tuesday, August 07, 2007

All Hail Jane Espenson

The New Republic is in all kinds of trouble, but in the midst of this they've scored a really nifty coup--getting Jane Espenson to write for them:

It's difficult to sell a show with hard sci-fi or fantasy elements. It doesn't matter that the biggest summer movies (Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Transformers, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) and book (Harry Potter again) are sci-fi or fantasy, or even that "Heroes" was the highest-rated new show on TV. Try pitching a purely sci-fi/fantasy show with a spaceship or an elf and see how it goes over. Put an elf on your spaceship and you might never recover. Even the SCI FI Channel seems reluctant, as they look toward a post-"Battlestar Galactica" era, to dive too deeply into Asimovian or Tolkienish waters. Non-cable networks are even more wary. And their reasoning isn't terrible. Networks are still in the business of broadcasting, not nichecasting. You simply cannot make a hit show by attracting only viewers who also attend Comic-Con . . .

It's a nifty little piece and comes with this kicker--Espenson even has a blog. Yay!


Anonymous said...

The problem is TV:

TV execs only want women and don't want men.

Men like Sci-Fi and "hard" subjects, where hero battles villain (does not have sex with him), and wins the girl. This is what Western Culture is essentially founded on. Masses of dead white young men who defended an island of prosperity in a sea of hostile poverty.

What execs want is to chase the ever-smaller group of women watching Grey's Anatomy or Lost. Meanwhile men flock to shows like History Channel's "Dogfights" or "Mail Call."

Espenson is right, but won't say what's driving it: female ad buyers who want stuff that appeals to them (and of course turns off guys). The women are in their mid twenties, inexperienced, and relatively hostile to non A-Lister guys (who hit on them when they only want the A-Lister guys to hit on them). You wonder why even Home Depot commercials show the clueless guy and the eye-rolling wife? That's why. And the shows match them.

Meanwhile, in print Sci-Fi appeals to guys exclusively, and fantasy splits between naked raping vampires (girls) and "kill-the-monster-get-the-girl" guys stuff.

Movies are different: the only ones who will turn out reliably particularly opening weekend (studios keep 75% of the gross that weekend) are young men. Who demand no girly-stuff. But even there the demand for girly-type guys like Tobey Maguire has clearly hurt box office.

What TV has largely become is a hostile-to-guys female and gay ghetto. Which explains the ever declining viewership as TV chases women. I doubt NBC would have taken a chance on Heroes had they not been in ratings melt-down.

[Espenson herself of course clearly cannot write for a male audience. Her favorite Buffy characters were Spike and Jonathon. 'Nuff said.]

Anonymous said...

Let me add -- "Chosen One" is not universal. What Jane is really talking about is sex differences.

Women don't like stories about androids and robots and guys because it bores the hell out of them: they want to be the beautiful princess with the baddest bad boy of them all (Buffy). Guys want to GET the girl by overcoming obstacles.

Peter Parker has to be Spider-Man before he can bang Mary Jane. Cause ordinary Peter Parker can't cut it. Heroism in facing great physical danger is required.

Women don't like Sci-Fi. Cause they're women. They don't like fantasy either unless it feeds the Princess fantasy.

Anonymous said...

Much of what anonymous says seems intuitively right. But, I wonder why anonymous thinks TV is following this trend. Is it that the execs are clueless and not noticing that men are watching "dogfights" or maybe Animal Planet? Or, is it a conscious or unconscious ideologically-driven decision to not promote male-centric values and ethics?

Or, is it simply that, cultural changes notwithstanding, women are still more likely to be *home* - watching TV as opposed to prowling around and so the execs pitch to their largest audience?

However, I don't see why the Chosen One can't have universal appeal. I think Espenson's on to something with that.