Has Hollywood Lost its Global Edge?
The MoMA goes full 'NFT degen', and could A.I. and web3 help offset the acceleration of fast-fashion created by the TikTok hype machine?
1. The End of an Era in Hollywood’s Hegemony
For the majority of its existence, moviemaking required serious infrastructure and capital: expensive cameras, recording equipment, sets. It made sense then that the industry would coalesce in one place: Hollywood.
For generations, Hollywood has been the home of cinema and ground zero for America’s cultural influence on the world, but as is the case across industries, broader access and greater fluency to technology is having a profound impact on centralization. The same goes for storytelling, and Hollywood’s power is waning.
An entire generation has taught itself how to shoot, edit, graphically augment, and develop an audience for their content via TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat. The cost of both training and production continues to drop, while the tools continue to improve. The rise of game engines in film production will further lower the cost and complexity of filmmaking, while unlocking new opportunities for filmmakers.
- Matthew Ball, What China, Marvel, and Avatar Tell Us About the Future of Blockbuster Franchises
This rise in film-making fluency is creating more opportunities for other cultural perspectives to find the spotlight on the world stage. The current Korean-wave we're experiencing is just one long-overdue outcome of that— from Parasite, to Squid Game, to the dominance of BTK on the global charts — and the country’s widespread early adoption of technology plays a huge part.
Broadband was delivered to all Korean households as early as 2010. Now a decade on, the Korean public is way ahead when it comes to the blurring of virtual and physical realities. Evidence of this is clear in the way the behemoth K-pop industrial complex manages talent and creates franchises and universes.
[Studios are] designed as an inside-out place, with every room a stage set for press conferences, fan chats and livestreams. [Boy bands] are in near-permanent contact with their fan community through a digital metaverse. Even before the pandemic, [studios were ] creating online concerts for its groups involving VR and holograms.
For more collectivist societies like Korea and most of East Asia, Hollywood values of capitalism and individualism are not necessarily priorities, and the American monopoly on massive scale storytelling has, in many ways, peaked. (It was K-pop fans who came together to shut down a Trump rally in 2020, after all, while #FreeBritney was just catching on.)
In his essay, Matthew Ball dissects why 2009’s Avatar massively outperformed 2019’s Avengers: Endgame on the international stage:
The film’s “protagonist humans” are classic Western archetypes such as the taciturn soldier and the driven scientist. The villains are archetypes as well, but they are also particularly close to foreign caricatures of evil Americans: the tough-as-nails, violence-prone colonel and pillage-the-earth corporate executive.
It's fitting that cutting commentary on class and capitalism like Squid Game and Parasite are coming from cultures outside of the American hegemony.
Hollywood isn't the only movie industry in the world. China has the largest movie market on the globe, while Japan and Korea have been releasing critically-acclaimed and massively popular films for years. Bollywood is a whole industry in and of itself. As we’re seeing across industries, technological innovation and increased access to it is leading to decentralization. While we may continue telling the same 7 stories, expect to see many more variations of them reflecting more diverse perspectives.
2. The MoMA is Selling Picassos to Buy NFTs
Did one of the world’s iconic art museums turn into a ‘degen NFT trader’? It’s one of the stranger headlines in a year full of them, but there is good reason for it.
The museum plans to sell $70 million worth of the collection gathered by the founder of the CBS broadcasting network… The collection includes Pablo Picasso’s 1919 "Guitar on a Table" as well as works by Renoir and Rodin.
The museum has been keeping tabs on the rise of digital art, made more popular by the rise of NFTs and the ability to prove provenance of digital assets. And after significant declines in IRL attendance even after the pandemic, the museum decided to diversify in order to extend its digital reach.
Inclusion of these digital assets in real galleries is on the table too. New NFT galleries like SuperRare’s in SoHo have proven that people will leave the house to view collections of digital art as the line blurs between the physical and digital.
These galleries are incredibly flexible in what they display as there’s no need to transport or take care of physical pieces. It makes it easy to do a ‘Collector Takeover’ such as their June 20th event that featured digital arts patron: Cozomo de’ Medici. According to Perkins, more than 300 visitors came through the gallery for the show.
And while you can view his collection here anytime you want, there’s definitely something to viewing it in an expertly-curated physical space that museums like MoMA should be able to tap into.
3. The Hunt for Virality is Making Fashion Boring (and Wasteful)
TikTok’s success comes from giving its users a taste of virality— that fleeting 15 minutes (or seconds) of fame. Its model promotes ever-changing trends for its userbase to keep up with. From songs and dances to visual filters, engaging with the latest is how to be seen. Unfortunately, everyone seems to be chasing the same thing and being ‘novel’ isn’t a winning strategy.
When it comes to style, TikTok has been slowly removing ‘personality’ from the equation. Chasing virality based on the latest trend ultimately makes everyone dress the same. On the platform, there is no incentive to stand out from the crowd because individuality doesn’t get you ‘likes’.
Style on TikTok has evolved into a series of peer-pressured dress-up sessions that have people jumping in and out of aesthetics, trends, and identities to fit the latest craze.
This could have a detrimental effect beyond the destruction of personal style. Faster trend cycles are increasing textile waste as clothes go out of style faster. In fact, traditional fashion brands that operate on a seasonal cycle can’t even keep up.
Microtrends are a ripe money opportunity for fast-fashion brands who can produce clothes and have them in stores within three weeks.
The rise in popularity of brands, like Shein, has also contributed to this. Shein is known to offer 700 to 1000 new styles daily, making them the fastest of the fast-fashion brands. As a result, Shein is considered one of the least sustainable fashion brands in the business. It is near impossible to mass produce at that level and have it come at no environmental costs.
In response to this hyper-accelerated cycle of fast fashion, innovators in the space like FINESSE are tapping into the potential of A.I. and online communities to generate designs. Followers of the brand get to vote on which ‘fits ultimately make the cut for production — in the aim of creating a more sustainable and more inclusive business model (sizes range from XS to 3X). The ability to plan for more considered drops with an already-engaged community could be revolutionary for an industry built on chasing hype.
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