Geekonomics | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City Weekly


It's getting more expensive all the time to be a pop-culture fan.

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  • Derek Carlisle

At the risk of sounding older than I am, I'd like to say that things were much different when I was a kid. Being a geek in the '90s was an exercise in both patience and disappointment. You'd get one or two flagship geek movies a year back then, if you were lucky. Superheroes weren't making their way to the big screen with regularity, and comics were only mildly difficult to keep up with. Star Trek was a constant on television, but Star Wars had been relegated to the world of books. It was easy to keep up with everything, because there just wasn't a lot of it.

Today, it's a different story.

We've seen our peers take over the entertainment landscape. Geekdom has gone mainstream because the mainstream entertainers are geeks. That means there's so much to keep up with that it's now almost impossible. It gets harder and harder to be a well-rounded fan, because there are so many options. Fandoms are splitting away from each other, and then are sub-splintering within themselves.

I think part of this fragmentation has everything to do with the economics of being a geek, and the overwhelming number of choices we have. For example, if you want to keep up with Star Wars alone, you'll soon need to subscribe to at least two different services (Disney+ and Marvel Unlimited), plus pay for movie tickets, comic books and make regular trips to the bookstore to get the prose novels. This year will see new seasons of three different Star Wars television shows, a feature film and countless books and comics. That's not even mentioning the storytelling being done at Disneyland's Galaxy's Edge.

It's a lot. And Star Wars is hardly the only example.

CBS has been using Star Trek Discovery as a flagship title to hook people into their streaming service, yet they found people were cancelling as soon as each season of Discovery was over—which is why there are now at least four different Star Trek shows in development. And they're pulling out all the stops: Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon has been brought in to run the new Picard show reprising Patrick Stewart's Star Trek: The Next Generation character, automatically making it appointment television—so long as you subscribe.

DC Comics, meanwhile, has poured their comics into a new app called DC Universe, but that app is also the gateway to all the new TV shows they've been producing, including Titans, Doom Patrol and the short-lived Swamp Thing. That doesn't even get you access to The CW's broadcast TV world of DC shows that include everything from Arrow and The Flash to the upcoming Batwoman series. All of this is on top of their steady stream of animated films and live-action features. Marvel Comics has an app, too, plus their three or four blockbuster films a year, and they're also creating a whole host of new shows for Disney+.

HBO has made a mint on subscriptions thanks to Game of Thrones, but they, too, found that membership took a nosedive as soon as the show ended. Guess what we have in development now? A new Game of Thrones prequel.

I mean, say I want to subscribe to Netflix to make sure I don't missStranger Things, the DC Universe app so I won't missSwamp Thing,I snag CBS forStar TrekandThe Twilight Zone, and then I want to read Marvel comics on an app, I'm looking at spending about $40 a month. That doesn't count the comics I'm getting every month ($50 or so), the novels I need (another $50 a month) or the movie tickets ($50 a month if it's just me; forget the rest of my family.) Then, when Disney launches its app, that'll probably add another $7-10 to this price. That's $200 a month, just to be a geek. And let's not even talk about my action figure habit ...

As geeks, we're hard wired to have what's called FOMO—Fear of Missing Out. We want to be in the room at a convention when our favorite property has an announcement. We want to participate in the process of the property and know everything there is to know about it. We need to see every new bit of content right when it comes out, because if we don't, social media spoils it for us. There's no time to rest, take a breather and just enjoy the things we love.

Like I said, things were different when I was a kid. Today, we're spoiled. Our geek landscape of entertainment is an embarrassment of riches that we could have never imagined having 20 years ago. So yes, we're spoiled. But we're also paying the price.

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