They Don’t Care, I Don’t Care

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

The modern media sphere is a strange space. We’re overwhelmed with some great stuff on way-too-many streaming services. Potential hits like “Coyote Vs. ACME” are being killed by tax purposes. AI art controversies are everywhere, to the point where “bad AI” is an insult.” Some once-beloved figures are revealed on social media to be complete numpties (my new favorite insult). When you just want to watch something for fun, it all seems a bit weird.

What I find is that, more and more, I feel like I care less about media.

There’s so much B.S. that it feels like all media executives and no small amount of other people just don’t give a damn about making neat stuff. It’s tax writeoffs and script changes to extend a season and sudden cancellations and number tweaking. Look, I’m not going to act like a lot of media has been high art, but it feels like the amount of people in media who don’t care is high or has always been higher than we’d like.

Then it makes me hard to care either.

This feels weird. My fiancee recently watched Resident Alien which, though I didn’t get into, was a delightful mix of Northern Exposure and My Favorite Martian – if the Martian was really sort of a jerk. She also started Ripley, which has a compelling film-noir-meets-Bergman vibe that surprised and delighted me. This is just the last few weeks, there’s great things out there in the media.

But any of these wonders could vanish in a moment because of some bad executive decision. They could be archived because of obscure tax codes. Someone might get recast with an “edgy” actor who will then drown in scandal like everyone predicts. Without things on hard media, good things can disappear.

It’s just hard to care when so many people with power and money don’t, or even seem actively hostile to what they’re supposedly doing (Warner Brothers). Why care when they don’t and might destroy something to get a stock bump?

At the same time, I look at zines I read, obscure films and up-and-coming mad geniuses like Mike Cheslik. These are made by people who care and that leads me to care, because there is something about enjoying media that requires both parties to give a damn. I think one reason people will enjoy even sleazy exploitation flicks and bad b-movies is the people behind them cared in some relatable way.

Someone who wants to pay the bills and slam out a film with the proper percent of explosions and dinosaurs I can at least get, you know?

So here I am, surrounded by truly great things I take time for – Dune II, Delicious In Dungeon – but I wonder how many other people care less now, or who’s interests have changed. Reach out to me and let me know your experiences.

Steven Savage

Experience And Exploration

As often is the case, Serdar and I were discussing media and creativity, centered around exploring media properties. I was discussing how I enjoyed “Lower Decks” and how it explored elements of the Star Trek universe that needed it. He noted missed opportunities. This got me thinking (which obviously, as usual, turns into something like blog posts).

I began thinking about “universe” projects, projects that involved a deep exploration of the setting and often via multiple books, movies, etc. When you have a big setting to play in, there’s a lot one can do. What one choses to do on the other hand can vary.

First, the universe one creates can be explored. You can understand the repercussions of the world(s), track cause and effect, dive into possibilities and results, and so on. A setting can be a huge playground that lets you do all sorts of things – often to your own surprise. It’s a place to ask “what if” and see where you go.

Secondly, a universe can deliver experiences. Settings with a given flavor allow you to have certain feelings, scenes, and so on that are desirable to you and the audience. Settings have certain emotional, cultural, and psychological resonances that some will want to experience. They can deliver the “hits” people want.

In any media franchise, big-universe project, single-setting series, creators can deliver both. Now I am biased towards exploration but the experience is important because sometimes that “feel” is what helps you get the exploration.

However I think we see that big, corporate-owned franchises tend towards the experience part of the equation. The big universes create certain feelings and people want that. Companies want to make money, so they deliver said experiences If you explore too much, you risk changing things and not delivering the experiences people want.

We’ve probably all seen cases of series, series endings, books, etc. that explored a bit too much for people’s expectations because they were used to things hitting certain emotional resonances. I could point to recent examples, but it would A) date this column, and B) probably make some people I know mad at me.

But you set some expectations, don’t allow too much change, and that happens.

On the other hand, we’ve also assuredly seen cases of big, moribund media franchises getting a chance to explore and going hog wild. I’ve sung the praises of Star Trek: Lower Decks because it “went there” on so many occasions I really felt things – and it somehow delivered the Trek experiences I’d come to expect. I feel the positivity towards The Mandalorian was well deserved – especially as it’s thematics of a slow-moving character drama seemed at odds with much of Star Wars media.

I mean I didn’t care about Star Trek and still don’t care about Star Wars anymore and I’m praising these works.

The Exploration and Experience labels give me a better way to understand media and creation. I consider Exploration to be valuable – it’s what I’m inclined to do and if part of the value of fiction. I consider a focus on Experience I can be a trap – but also that you need a certain “feel” to communicate the Exploration part I love. I’m not saying they’re equal or opposites, but useful tools.

Now I wonder how I’ll see various media differently.

Steven Savage

The Past Is Raw Material

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

Last column I wrote about my love for Star Trek: Lower Decks, considering it a capstone to Star Trek. I felt there was no where for Star Trek to go after this, as it was both parody, home, and extrapolation – somewhat like a more serious Venture Brothers. The announcement of yet another Trek series set at an the (in)famous Starfleet Academy didn’t interest me unless, as I joked, it was more in the vein of college comedies like Animal House.

That statement led to some friends and I to an actual serious discussion about how yet another Star Trek show (which, again, I should note I’m usually tired of) might work out. We started asking what it would be like to see more focus different species and cultures in the Academy, really digging into the meandering if interesting Trek lore. In short, we did what Star Trek: Lower Decks had done, just in a different part of the setting.

Also, it will surprise absolutely no one who knows me that it made me further analyze the state of media.

I looked at our brainstorming and at Lower Decks, both taking established ideas and digging deep into them. Both involved mining current material I would consider stale and often overdone, and finding new takes. Both in a way treated something beloved – and rightfully so even if I have felt it’s overdone – and using it as raw material.

As much as I love original media and want to see new things, perhaps there is some virtue in treating creative works that might be stale, stagnant, or that have lost attention and reusing them. Treat them not as something to be devoted to, nor sit on a shelf, nor make endless sequels about – with all the rampant continuity modification. Treat it as something to be recycled.

I’ve written before about the shockingly good He-Man CGI reboot at Netflix which did exactly this to fantastic effect. We’ve seen the same thing with She-Ra– which perhaps suggests that many a toyetic cartoon is worthy of recycling. Something can be beloved and reused.

(Now I don’t expect an actual Star Trek total reboot, Paramount more seems to be trying to rewrite it incrementally. But I digress).

I think this “recycling” works because by taking something you love, analyzing it, and breaking it down you find what’s really good about it. Once you find that core, you can then build it back up again into something amazing – and perhaps better than the original, or at least more relevant.

Perhaps such thoughts are less relevant in the current media environment, of cinematic universes and suddenly-canceled brilliance. It’s also less relevant in an age of political and climate chaos. But perhaps if we can find the heart of something forgotten or overdone, maybe we’ll find something out about ourselves as well.

Steven Savage