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The Lure of Meta Media

I enjoy a wide variety of entertainment media. You’d think I would take advantage of the unprecedented access the Internet grants me to all media ever made. Instead, I split my time watching content about content I know and love.

Now I’m worried this meta media might be spoiling media for me.

What Is Meta Media?

Entertainment that’s entirely dependent on other media to exist.

In high school, when my grades hit a new low, my parents blamed comics for distracting me from my studies. They limited me to one comic purchase a month. Every month, I chose the latest issue of Wizard magazine.

Disregard whether Wizard should count against my one comic limit. Buying a magazine about comics instead of a comic is the earliest example I can recall of choosing meta media over original media. By blurring the line between news and entertainment, Wizard won me over.

Modern Meta Media

Most of the YouTube channels I subscribe to are meta media. Highlights include:

How It Should Have Ended: Animated shorts that lovingly tease scenes in famous movies. The early ones were exactly what the title suggests: alternate endings. As the channel evolved, they started covering more scenes. They establishing running gags, like Batman and Superman hanging out at a café commenting on the film. HISHE uses Batman and Superman so much, I’m not sure how they’ve avoided Warner Brothers litigation.

Honest Trailers: Movie footage recut into trailer-like short films satirizing the very movies the trailers would be advertising.  A pitch perfect voiceover brings both the gravitas and the humour to the movie descriptions. Occasionally the voiceover voices his confusion about the plot. The formula hasn’t changed much since the early Honest Trailers, and yet the humour still lands.

Pitch Meetings: Comedian Ryan George plays a writer pitching movies to a producer, played by comedian Ryan George. Writer guy deals with producer guy’s weird studio demands, love of money, and creepy behaviour. Producer guy deals with writer guy’s laziness, failure to pay off setups, and confusion about how the real world works. Honestly, after binging a bunch of Pitch Meetings, I asked myself “Are these… good?” I like them so much, and yet I can’t explain why. They’re basically Honest Trailers in another format, right down to sharing jokes. Ryan George is just that charming, and the writing that clever.

Diving Too Deep

Recently I flew too close to the meta media sun. Nando v Movies breaks down elements of geek media, from as small as a single scene to as large as a series of movies or season of a show.

Usually the analysis highlights why something worked or didn’t work. I don’t always agree with him, but more than one video has turned my opinion around with convincing arguments.

After discussing my issues with Marvel’s The Defenders, I found out Nando did a series on fixing the Netflix series. His first video breaks down his issues with the series. I appreciated how he found the roots of a lot of why I disliked the series. Over the next seven videos, he outlined an alternate version of how the series could have played out.

An alternate, superior version. Far, far superior.

Too Superior

To Nando’s credit, he prefaces every video by saying he’s writing his version with the benefits of hindsight, and without budgetary, scheduling, and character access restrictions. However, he doesn’t exploit those benefits. Iron Man doesn’t make the save in the last episode. The Defenders don’t fight Galactus. He uses the same elements setup by the Marvel Netflix series leading into The Defenders. His version works so well because it feels like the series Marvel and Netflix could and should have produced.

I enjoyed Nando’s rewrite of The Defenders too much. I want it to be real so badly, I can’t compartmentalize this alternate take as a thought experiment. It’s like the empty feeling I get when it remember that Muppets aren’t real.

Nando recently started a series on rewriting The Rise of Skywalker. In terms of elements I loved combining into something I didn’t, the last Star Wars movie is up there with The Defenders. And in spite of knowing better, I’ve started watching it.

There may be no going back for me.