Old But Not In The Way Dept.


Over at Vertical, Inc., they're in the process of setting up a bunch of new licensing requests — some of them in-house items, some gleaned from wishlists provided by fans. I didn't figure they could talk specifics — like Criterion and most other media companies of their ilk, they tend to remain tightlipped about what's been licensed until all the ink is dry. Since I couldn't come out and ask what they'd picked up, I figured I could ask a slightly less problematic question: What time period were the titles in question from? The answer: all from the last ten years.

That provoked a note from me to the effect that many manga fans think anything older than five years is classic (read: Jurassic). The response:

heh, i consider classic to be as old as I am...so titles from the 70's. But to some manga was practically invented in the 90's

This has nothing to do with manga alone. It's a problem as old as pop culture itself — or, rather, our current concept of it, which means a division between "classic" and "current" material. Harlan Ellison was grousing about this back in 1970: "To the kids today, anything earlier than Buddy Holly and the Crickets is prehistoric."

It's all the harder when you live in a world where almost everything "cultural" ends up having a lifespan, and very little winds up being ephemeral in the first place. When you effectively have the entire cultural output of a civilization from the last fifty years or more at your disposal, where do you even start? My guess is you start more or less with whatever's in front of you — which for most people tends to be whatever's marketed to them through the channels they're exposed to. That means most people are going to start with the recent stuff and only work their way backwards if they have some overweening reason to do so — like personal taste, subjective inclination, or a recommendation from a trusted source.

It's not evil. It's just one of the ways people cope with living in a world this big, this diverse, this heavily interconnected, and this saturated with cultural product. But it means the good stuff that's more than a few years old has to be fought for, stumped for, and proselytized all the more. And in time, I think, it'll become clear what stuff is worth that kind of effort and energy, and what of it deserves to languish.

When Vertical was exhibiting at Comic-Con back in 2009 (if memory serves), they had a kid visiting the table. Couldn't have been more than ten years old. He loved Black Jack. Didn't care what year it was made in. I don't know what alchemy of curiosity was at work within him, but it was the right one. It reminded me of something else I'd been told about once, where a gaggle of about five or six kids his age sat in front of a big-screen TV in some mom-and-pop video store where Seven Samurai was playing on DVD. I would have given quite a lot to step back into that moment and creep around in front of them to see the looks on their faces.


Tags: classics culture links manga marketing Vertical Inc.




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