THE ECONOMICS OF STAR WARS DEGRADATION

Vice Admiral Gender Studies
by Colin Liddell

There has been a lot of discussion about the ever-increasing degradation of the Star Wars franchise. Why has this happened? Surely it would have been better to maintain the quality and consistency of the original franchise and keep the core fan base happy? Instead, since George Lucas lost control, we have seen the opposite, a loss of quality and the insertion of an irritating "woke-ness" agenda that mainly manifests as feminist empowerment.

The core fan base can't understand it, and so are forced to grasp for explanations of what is "really going on.” A popular theory is that the people who own the franchise are more interested in a "social engineering" agenda than in making money hand-over-fist. In fact—so this theory goes—the owners are merely using the film as a weapon in a wide-ranging attack on Western civilisation, which they supposedly wish to destroy.

But it's not just the people behind this one franchise or Hollywood itself that is implicated. Depending on which group or individual conspiracy speculator you interact with, it is a wider group sometimes called "globalists," "reptilians," "Jews," or simply "They"—yes, the much dreaded Pronouns!

My intention here is not to dismiss any of these theories out of hand, as absolute certainty on any issue is becoming an increasingly rare commodity in this Clown World that we live in. Instead, I wish to offer an additional theory that I believe explains the apparent phenomena in at least a more parsimonious way. A strict economic approach is the one that works best here.

The main characteristic of the Star Wars franchise is that it is a mass cult product, something with both deep and wide appeal.

It is important at this point to present two idealised types of “successful product.” Any actual product will be closer to one of these two types than the other, or be a combination of elements of both. Essentially, successful products are “wide and shallow” or “deep and narrow”—i.e. they either have a wide and shallow appeal or a deep and narrow one.

The first of these types would be a mass market product that one bought without any deep sense of satisfaction; while the second would be a cult or luxury product that stirred more intense feelings.

Conceptualization of cult appeal (black line) vs. mass market appeal (purple line). The depth of the line represents the degree of appeal of the product. Yellow represents the interest zone and green the purchase zone. The black line separating them is the purchase threshold. A-F represents total number of potential buyers. B-E represents the number of mass market buyers. C-D represents the number of cult product buyers. Typically the latter group are more intensely satisfied, or "over-satisfied," representing "economic inefficiency" in this mode. 

If the appeal of a product is wide but too shallow, it will be noticed and may even be famous, but few will end up buying it, meaning that it will fail. So, the shallowness always has to be at least deep enough to prompt the parting of money. Products like this will therefore often have to be cheap. Typical examples would include potato crisps and washing-up liquid.

Products with deep and narrow appeal work in a different way. Because the appeal is deep, the market is guaranteed, but it is also limited. Whether the product succeeds will often depend on the ratio between costs and takings. Takings can be raised by repeated purchases of similar or connected items, or by a higher price. Luxury fashion items and certain cultural products are examples of this kind.

Next, assuming we ascribe a fixed amount of appeal (and costs) to two hypothetical products, one of each idealised kind, the mass market product that is just good enough to sell to a wide group of people is economically more efficient (and profitable) than the cult product that has no trouble in selling to its much more limited audience. The reason for this is that the cult product will be more satisfying to its limited audience than the mass market product to its wider audience. But that excess satisfaction merely represents "waste" in strictly business terms. If that excess satisfaction can be monetised by prompting repeated purchases of similar products or by affixing a "luxury market" price, then the gap can possibly be narrowed, but probably never closed.

The only way to go is down.
Now, let's apply this model to the Star Wars franchise, which has strong elements of mass market appeal and also cult appeal.

Star Wars is loved by its core audience because the first series over-satisfied them. Viewed as a cult product it simply did not need to be that good in order to get them to part with their money. It could have got the vast majority of them to part with their money at a much lower or shallower level of satisfaction without harming revenues or even future revenues significantly. The degree to which it over-satisfied them was therefore a measure of its economic inefficiency.

Although it had a cult-like intensity of appeal for its core audience, Star Wars was also a mass market phenomenon. But even a mass market phenomenon doesn't cover the entire market. While hundreds of millions went to see the Star Wars movies and became fans in varying degrees, many others did not. The fact is that the cult-like intensity of its popularity with its core audience limited the wideness and shallowness of a more economically efficient appeal.

The second series of Star Wars movies—the so-called Prequels (1999-2005)—endeavoured to continue over-satisfying the core fan base. As such, from a purely economic point of view, it became a relatively inefficient attempt to capitalize on the deep appeal of an established fan-base. It was inefficient because, unlike other goods with “deep and narrow” appeal, such as luxury fashion items, it is difficult to raise cinema ticket prices to a high level, and there is also a limit to how much merchandise can be sold at high profits to the same fan base. This second series attempted to stay in the “comfort zone” of the core fans, and did not actively seek to widen the puddle much.

The third series of Star Wars movies, which began with the greatly disliked The Force Awakens (2015), by contrast, took a much more radical approach. The owners of the franchise clearly came to the conclusion that the core audience was being over-satisfied by the product, and that they could therefore afford to satisfy them less and still get them to part with their money. Instead of working hard to continue over-satisfying this demographic, they instead put their energies into widening the market, going for a broader but shallower puddle. This was manifested in two main way—race and gender—with more prominence given to characters who were not White males, i.e. not the core audience.

As some have noticed, the racial outreach aspect was half-hearted and even reversed to some degree, after negative feedback from the increasingly important Chinese market. But the increasing feminisation of Star Wars has gone on full steam ahead. While many see an evil agenda of destroying White demographics at work here, I see something less diabolical if equally destructive in cultural terms, namely clunky and soulless economic logic.

What the third series of Star Wars is clearly trying to do is to remain just engaging enough to its old audience of geeky White males to prompt them to part with their cash, while also pulling in new audiences of "Grrl Power," feminist-tainted females and other untapped demographics. Is it working? Who knows, that would require a detailed analysis of the accounts. But I rather suspect it is, or at least better than simply leaving the old Star Wars universe pristine and sacrosanct on the shelves of its core fanboys.



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