Actor, writer, musician, and rare social media user Donald Glover tweeted on May 11 about how the fear of getting canceled has resulted in a lack of risk-taking in storytelling and therefore a lot of boring TV shows and movies.
No, knee-jerk quote-tweeters, Glover is not the latest comedian to rail against cancel culture... he meant the very real fear of a television show getting canceled.
This isn't about Glover's desire to punch down with offensive material. It's about how creativity is stifled by—well, money. The tweets simply weren't threaded, and therefore easy to take out of context.
"Saw people on here havin a discussion about how tired they were of reviewing boring stuff (tv & film). We're getting boring stuff and not even experimental mistakes(?) because people are afraid of getting cancelled so they feel like they can only experiment w/ aesthetic.
(Also because some of em know theyre not that good)"
He's right! Far too many shows are greenlit solely because of existing IP/the promise of a built-in audience these days.
Television especially is inundated with adaptations of books (Normal People, The Baby-Sitter's Club), films (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp), old cartoons (Fate: The Winx Saga, The Power Puff Girls), comics (Resident Alien, Jupiter's Legacy), video games (The Witcher, The Last of Us), previous TV shows... you name it!
Even shows with original premises seemingly have to fit that "X meets Y" formula in order to piggyback off of something that's proven to be successful—which is why after Lost ended, there was a stampede of shows that utilized flashbacks, time travel, or some other science fiction philosophy hook.
If your adaptation or IP mash-up has a distinct point of view and raison d'etre—think Clueless or HBO's Watchmen, for example—that's all well and good. Theoretically, there's nothing wrong with the concept of adaptation in storytelling.
Heck, we as a culture have been performing Shakespeare for centuries and retelling fairy tales and folklore even longer than that. But an overreliance on bankable IP from networks and studios does lend to creators feeling like aesthetics, as Glover notes in his tweets, is the only thing they can mess with safely and without upsetting investors.
That's how we end up with Riverdale's "what if Archie Comics, but sexy" aesthetic, or "grimdark" shows like Arrow. What's the biggest creative difference between WandaVision and Marvel movies? The aesthetic!
Glover knows this better than anybody. After being a part of the perpetually-on-the-cancellation-bubble series Community, which took a lot of creative risks and wasn't afraid to make mistakes, he went on to create Atlanta for FX, a surreal comedy that blends genre to create some of the highest art in television.
Ideally, more networks should invest in people with intellect and talent, like Glover, and not intellectual property on paper. And to paraphrase the series finale of Community, television should be allowed to have a bad day.