As someone who spent his formative years during the 90s, I still find myself feeling a bit of the urge to stick it to ‘The Man’. To avoid the big dogs and find the underdogs that no one really seems to appreciate nearly as much as they should.
Of course, when I was doing this in the 90s, this was things like comic books and the internet. Those things that are now, honestly, pretty common place today are the things that I found as my own special little secrets that no one else seemed to really care about. My babies that I would hold dearly as others walked past disinterested.
And now they are all owned by Disney.
For serious, those weird quirky things that I used to love, they all feel like they have corporate ownership. Even Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a musical which thrived on being the outcast, has a film version now which was distributed by New Line Cinema (owned by Warner Bros.).
In fact, the only things that I still have which feel like they are truly still on the outskirts of what people are willing to pay money for nowadays are independent authors, possibly because there are just so dang many of them and it’s hard to find the good ones amidst the giant pile of meh.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that these things that I thought were their own little thing, hidden from the world of the mega-corps, were actually still a part of those same exact corporations. Kevin Smith’s Clerks, which was a love-letter to counter culture, was distributed by Miramax, which was not only run by ‘good’ old Harvey Weinstein, but also was owned by The Walt Disney Corporation. DC Comics has been part of the Warner family since 1989. Nirvana signed on with DGC (part of Universal) in 1991. The reality is that although I may have felt like I was part of some cool club that very few people knew about, the mega-corps knew about this need for the young folks to feel like they had their inside information, and already had their hands in my pockets.
Now, sure, this doesn’t mean that the folks at DC or Kevin Smith or Nirvana weren’t doing something truly special, but by the time that I was actually giving my money over to them, those same mega-corporations involved in giving us the latest Disney Channel movie, or Reba McIntyre album, or Scooby Doo cartoon were getting the money either way.
Of course, that tends to be somewhat true about my favorite independent authors today, as many of them only get money after Amazon takes their cut.
And I don’t know what to do about that.
It feels like no matter what we do to support the arts, there’s still some huge corporation profiting off of it, meaning the artist themselves get far less of the money than they should.
And that’s mighty disappointing. Especially considering they’re already getting far less than they should to begin with.
Support your artists. However you can. And whether or not they are truly a part of the counter-culture. Art is what makes the world worth living.