Monday, May 23, 2011

Good Stories Outlast Bad Times

Cosmetic surgeries are down these days. It's no wonder. Who can justify botox injections when their 401k is circling the drain? Nothing like an economic meltdown to reveal the real worth of something. But if that's the case, then storytellers oughta be pretty jazzed.

During one of our previous financial downturns, from an article entitled Recession Ripples, comes this:

Hollywood honchos love to reassure themselves by noting that people kept going to movies during the Depression because they wanted to escape from their financial problems. And movie-ticket sales climbed steadily in the last two recessions — from $1.9 billion in 1974 to $2.1 billion in 1975, and from $3 billion in '81 to $3.5 billion in '82.

In troubled economic times, one of the few sectors that remain recession proof is the entertainment industry. Bars, Movies. Music – all stay in business. Call it escapism, diversion, or whatever you want, but entertainment companies seem to prosper when the economy falters. (emphasis mine)

This is somewhat encouraging for those of us who labor in the realm of story. Apparently, when things go south, people tend to dream. We want to escape the worry, be swept away into another time where stock markets never crash and the only bailouts are those enacted by wily wizards or harlequin hunks. It's why comedians thrive during tough times, and why some of the best comic book characters were forged during global conflict (the 1930's and 40's were called the Golden Age of comic books).

So is story-telling recession-proof?

No. The last several years have seen a significant scaling back in the publishing industry. Downsizing. Layoffs. And more scrutiny brought upon acquisitions. During recessions, publishers are forced to be more picky. Not only do they publish less books, they look for sure-sellers, bigger name authors who're more likely to entice consumer spending. Economic downturns also result in more affordable paperbacks, and reprints tend to resurface as readers wax nostalgic for the good old days.

And then there's discounts on liposuction.

So, while story-telling isn't completely recession-proof, Americans still want to be swept away. Which is why studio estimates are that Pirates of the Caribbean 4 made over $90 million in its opening weekend. Don't we know we're in a recession? Hmm. I guess crumbling economies have a way of making pirate epics even more alluring.

So take heart. If it all collapses and we're thrust back into the proverbial Stone Age, we would still huddle around the fire with our tribe and tell tales. The Good Samaritan, Jack and the Beanstalk, Peter Pan and Hazel Motes have weathered many hard times. Sure, by this time next year I may be out of a job. But Gandhalf will always be there...

1 comment:

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar said...

Great post, Mike. You're right. Story telling is as old as the ages and will live on as long as humans populate the earth and exercise their imaginations.