One could say that the last bastion of free thought and free speech is the Internet. It is here that we have the opportunity to say whatever the f*ck we like, whenever the f*ck we like, at whatever the f*ck speed we like. However, there is growing concern that this may one day draw to a close – and sooner rather than later.
Some of you reading this are already saying, great another article on net neutrality and are now opening up another browser to read a different website. While others might be thinking, great, here comes another political Chicken Little claiming the great big corporate machine is going to consume us all. Before you tune out and jump ship to another website (or perhaps to a more prominent horror website that currently sits idle with its logo staring you as blankly in the face as you stare at it), hear me out and consider the consequences of ignoring this issue.
For those of you unaware of what this net neutrality is all about, it’s as basic as the phrase itself but can also be as complicated and confusing as the valid versus invalid itemized deductions on Schedule A of your 1040.
The reason for the former is because those of us pushing for net neutrality are looking to keep things simple. That is, allow everyone equal access to the tools the internet provides. Meaning an indie website like HorrorNews.Net where everyone busts their ass for free to make a cool website for horror fans to obtain their news about horror ought to have the same ability to get information out to users at the same speed and with the same broadband as another website financially backed by a multinational corporation who, by the way, might not take a liking to their writers using phrases like, “Eat my ass you corporate motherf*ckers.”
The reason that a discussion on net neutrality can become complicated is because our government comes with the bureaucratic potentiality to bend to the desires of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who love to splice hairs and play games with a perfectly simple system. For example, some broadband services will block the average website from having access to faster speeds and larger space unless said “average website” upgrades to a business account.
For a more in-depth explanation on net neutrality, check out the usually correct but not always Wikipedia:
I know, I know. We live in a free market society, so I should just suck it up and take it up the ass because the free market system will always provide me with that less-than-satisfying reach-around if I just relax and go with the flow.
However, in recent years, I’ve been watching our own industry go down the sh*tter. So it’s about time I not only bitch about it from as public of a forum as I can possibly land at this point in my career, but it’s also about time that we, as horror fans, begin to defend our turf.
The best analogy I can give when it comes to what net neutrality can become is to look at what has occurred to the horror film industry over the past two decades. Leaps and bounds in technological innovation has led to a flooding of the market in original, creative ideas. However, this grassroots, groundfloor innovation has also led to a stagnation of creativity at the big-budget level of filmmaking.
For example, with the advent of digital cameras and the innovation of software programs that any individual can get their hands on, there are more horror films being made than ever before. Films cost drastically less to make than they did in the past and with this lowering of costs, daydreamers who didn’t have access to the equipment or education can now hack away at film after film with the hope that one of their films will serve as their lotto ticket to Hollywood. On the one hand, creative pieces such as Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity have sprouted up. On the other, the market’s been flooded by horror films bordering on snuff and softcore p*rn.
The parallel to the Internet in this case would be awesome websites (like the one you’re currently looking at) that allows access to fans and up-and-coming writers to a medium that allows them to express themselves and to communicate their opinions with a wider audience. One of the downfalls is that there’s also a flood of websites and blogs by fans that offer incoherent thoughts and opinions on films and filmmaking. Moreover, large, corporate websites push only films and products that they know are “safe bets” restricting the spread of language and ideas to a watered-down conformity of what won’t piss off the general public.
Any horror fan can see the immediate problem with this. Horror is meant to f*cking terrify. It’s meant to address the topics in society that no one wants to otherwise discuss. That’s why it’s called “horror” in the first place.
In the past, I originally supported the film industry’s infrastructure. I viewed re-makes and sequels as a means to let developing talent cut their teeth on work that was guaranteed to bring in money. Let James Cameron work on Piranha II and Aliens and refine his directing skills so that one day, he’ll make something completely kickass like Terminator. Let David Fincher work on Aliens 3, so that he can get used to working on a massive budget and with big name stars so that one day he will make something so unbelievably unique as Se7en and Fight Club.
However, with technological advancements, this set-up is quickly deteriorating into something banal and unbelievably boring. With so many original concepts being developed on the low-budget or no-budget level, production studios have adapted their infrastructure. Now, instead of funding a Terminator for a few million bucks, they’re letting the small indie films serve as a bush league where they can mine it for talent and ideas. (Or as they may call it, “outsourcing R&D”)
For awhile, I even supported this setup. Let James Wan produce as many Saw films as he wants. This way he can make money as a producer and hopefully get behind the camera on a project he wants to pursue that has the same originality as the first Saw film. Hell, I rather see Eli Roth make nine or ten sequels to Hostel so that he can line his pockets to one day make something as kickass as the first two Hostels rather than have to endure a major production studio’s crapfest of rom-coms or kids movies.
But this sh*tty economy and the ability to download movies has made the situation even worse. It seems as though studios have completely abandoned original ideas and ALL they’re making are re-makes and sequels. Even a big horror name like Rob Zombie has to turn to the story of The Blob in order to land funding (and then endure criticism that he’s “out of ideas”). Eli Roth has to look to making yet another Hostel film or make Thanksgiving – a grindhouse spinoff. In the meantime, the indie horror scene has been choked of funding, and originality has become limited to vampire, zombie, or gross-out torture flicks.
Now imagine an Internet where whatever website you turn to is only pushing sequels and remakes. No longer is a single Troma film advertised because Lloyd can’t afford the webspace that Paramount Pictures can afford. No longer are original films like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Prince of Darkness, Hellraiser, Escape from New York, The Re-Animator, BasketCase,are being pitched, greenlit, and ultimately promoted. Instead, all you can have access to or read about are the remakes and/or sequels of these films.
If fans don’t take action and begin to reclaim the genre for themselves, ten years down the road (probably sooner), this hypothetical will become reality.
How does one take action? Fortunately, I have a few ideas.
1. Become politically aware.
Horror fans are among the brightest and most literate of fan bases out there. So read up on Net Neutrality. Follow literature in the news that involves any threats against Net Neutrality. You don’t even have to pick up a paper. Go to Google News. Keep tabs on the issue with: http://www.savetheinternet.com/
2. Become politically involved.
The Chairman of the FCC is the dude (or dudette) primarily responsible for whether or not the Internet will remain a place where ideas can be exchanged freely. Right now, that position is occupied by Julius Genachowski. Currently, he says he supports net neutrality. But…he’s in the world of politics. So stay on top of him. Michael Powell said he was in favor of net neutrality then slammed the networks for showing Janet Jackson flash-nipple and notoriously gave Howard Stern a hard time for…well…for being Howard Stern.
3. Join social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.
And then befriend whatever celebrities you can find. Not so that you can just be friends with them, but so that when sh*t hits the fan, your voice can be heard. Facebook notoriously had to revamp their terms of service after their users raised hell. So raise hell. Using media as a tool rather than as just a source of info or as a place to get email from friends is incredibly beneficial to society.
4. Spread the word about indie horror websites and indie horror films.
This is paramount. If you spread the word about a HorrorNews.net and people are keeping up with indie horror films, then the studios will start to get wind of the sorts of horror that fans really want to see. Post links to stories you find interesting, hit the “like” button or “retweet” stories you think are important to the horror community and to the cause of net neutrality.
5. Buy indie horror film DVDs and save the big-budget DVDs for Netflix.
The DVD market is slowly dying, but fans have had their approach backwards for far too long. More often than not, whenever they see a low-budget indie horror flick, they’ll say, “Oh, I’ll wait until it comes on NetFlix.” Well that’s great because it promotes the film, but it’s not nearly as helpful as buying the DVD. Instead, fans will buy three or four special editions or limited edition versions of films put out by the big studios. This message that fans are sending to big studios is that big budget remakes and sequels sell and low budget, creative original works are not as enticing to fans. Invert your spending habits folks!