The Art and the Money to Show it
Compromise in art can be maddening. Art can be many things, many mediums. It can be the fine art hanging on the wall of the museum, or even what’s on the front of a cereal box. It can be a play or a movie or a TV show. But all of these things are compromised by the very basic need of funds to create.
Even in the olden days, the famous artists like Da Vinci and Michaelangelo needed patrons. That meant the patron could influence and command what art they were able to concentrate on. Wars stole supplies that would have been used for art and magnificent potential pieces like Da Vinci’s horse waited long after his death to come to life.
Changing demands mean right now photographic manipulation has largely replaced illustration on movie posters and book covers. And once again the artist must choose between money for supplies or changing what they would do. Already one had to fit their creations onto certain products, now they had to alter technique.
Compromise in Storytelling – TV and Movies.
As for TV – oh dear. Television in and of itself has changed. HD is obvious and recent. But what’s more, so has the need for commercials. Those in charge add little pop ups to the bottom or the side, a rather shocking distraction from the main action. Apparently whoever invented them for web browsing decided to take them somewhere without a pop up blocker. Sometimes clever product placements appear in the show – like White Collar’s Ford Taurus and Apple ads or even the fact that HP computers are all thru the FBI office. Some aren’t so clever. But ultimately, commercial time is extended. And it chops into the show, cutting off bits and pieces.
As for movies on TV, that’ s even more of a compromise, because sometimes they just aren’t designed with commercials in mind. They were meant for the big screen of a theater. The end result of adding commercials sometimes seems like they took the old fashioned film reel, put it on the wall like a dart board and threw the darts at it. Then they spliced in commercials where ever they pleased and chopped out however much they needed too.
Changing the Message of the Story
The problem with these compromises is that sometimes it changes the entire message of the art. Take Disney’s Miracle of the White Stallions. As a child, I never understood why it was called ‘Flight of the White Stallions’ on TV but listed as ‘Miracle of the White Stallions’ elsewhere. Then I got the DVD. The message was immediately obvious. For on TV the flight of the lippizans and the Spanish Riding School from Vienna was just that. A run to where they were found by General Patton and offered protection. But the ‘Miracle’ part had been left on the cutting room floor to make room for commercials. The miracle was the many people who braved the Nazi’s wrath to help smuggle them out in spite of orders to keep them there. I had a similar shock with one of my favorite incarnations of a Christmas Carol: called “Scrooge” and starring Albert Finney and Alec Guinness. It was a musical. The TV version chopped off a whole section where he wakes up in hell. I had no clue it existed until I bought the DVD.
Sometimes these actions seem downright sacrilegious. I loved ‘A Night Before Christmas’ by Rankin Bass (who also animated Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer and the Hobbit) as a child. But when I came back as an adult I was horrified to find that the whole thing was chopped to bits. The whole message of hope and faith was whittled to nearly nothing by commercials. One whole song was wiped out completely. As for Rudolph, I no longer know which is more accurate: the one I saw as a child or the one with the music changed but obviously part of the original show. I prefer either to the whittled down version. I find it rather amusing as well. The rather sexist message of the reindeer refusing his mate’s desire to help search for her son, for instance. “This is man’s work.” Hah. Apparently he failed to realize that disqualified him too, he was a reindeer, not a man!
Who makes these decisions to alter someone else’s story? At least with something like Star Wars and it’s infamous ‘Han shot first’ debate, the change, however controversial, was made by the creator. But who decides it’s okay to shred a children’s classic? Or remove a TV show’s funniest moments to cram in one more commercial? It doesn’t seem to involve planning to work around the original story line or message and leaving it intact. It apparently does not take into account the work of the artists involved, actors, directors or creators. Nor does it take into account the fans. And if it doesn’t take into account these, than surely it does a disservice. For by altering the story, they are diminishing the chance to make new fans. New fans, who would buy those DVDs, or collectibles or in turn support shows like it in the future.
I don’t claim to have a solution. It takes creativity, perhaps, to even work with the commercials, to interweave them into the program without breaking it’s momentum or damaging the story. Perhaps it takes training though if anyone is trained for this (beyond the ‘we need more money’ end) I don’t know.
But if they aren’t, maybe they should be. For television, movies and streaming media are our modern storytellers. They help us know the monsters can be defeated and challenges overcome. They let us escape our own problems to find a new point of view and things to get excited or laugh about. But only if the overcoming and escaping doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor and replaced with another ad for kitchen cleaner. Speaking for myself: I don’t find it inspiring to see one more commercial to ‘buy more.’ I already know how to do that. I really think we all do.