I was going to write something else today but as squeecore arguments are still raging on my social media I wanted to pull out some of my own views on where the discussion is, partly because there’s a lot of directions the arguments are going.
- Is there’s a dominant style in SFF in the sense of the works that critical buzz and award nominations? Yes, so long as we a generous with both “dominant” and “style” but it is fairly nebulous (as was New Wave for example.
- Is there a dominant style in SFF (in the sense above) that is so ubiquotous that is pushes out nearly everything else? No unless you define “style” so expansively that it can’t not to be true i.e. the claim becomes tautological.
- Is there a dominant style in SFF in terms of big budget TV and movies and mainstream popular culture. Yes, again and there’s a better argument for ubiquity here because of the dominance of the Disney corporation. Now here there is a historically unprecedented aspect in that SFF (especialy superheroes) is now such a big part of major movie output. It’s a trend that started in the 70’s with Lucas & Spielberg.
- Point 1 and point 3 are connected. Yeah, sort of and to a degree. There’s a lot of discussion on that from a media critical perspective that varies from fascinating to trite going on. However, we have a handy-dandy way of tracking that in terms of a whole Hugo category where we can see how a subset of 1. is voting on issues around 3. The Avenger’s 2013 win wasn’t the first time superheroes were finalists in Best Dramatic Presentation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award_for_Best_Dramatic_Presentation) but a Marvel or DC superhero film has been a finalist every year since & has won 3 times. So yes, people are influenced by popular media.
- Point 3 also takes us into a different discussion about diversity and representation. A corporation like Disney includes representation of people by gender, ethnicity, sexuality and (less often) disability for cynical commercial reasons. I could unpack that but I think I can just state it as a fact. I also think it is a net good that they do so even if it is shallow. Popular culture is a tool of a neoliberal capitalist consensus!
- Point 5 is often argued fallaciously though. Disney’s motives in letting a movie like the recent Marvel superhero flick Eternals have a diverse cast are cynical. However, that doesn’t mean the director’s or the screenwriter’s or the actor’s motives are cynical.
- A different argument connected with 3, 5 & 6 is the extent to which a product of popular culture put out by a major corporation MUST be neoliberal propaganda. I think that is a fascinating area of discussion but here I’ll confess to thinking people overstate the effectiveness of art and propaganda to influence people’s thinking.
- The current discussion on squeecore as a term conflates multiple aspects of each of these things.