Why We Are Neck Deep In Content Scum

As I sat down to watch TV with my younger cousins, I encountered a familiar Indian cartoon character — Chota Bheem. Bheem was up to some kind of rescue mission with his bunch of poorly animated friends. Ladoos, apparently, are the source of his super-strength. There was a very familiar feeling. #Relatable as social media fanatics like me would put it.

That’s when I realised that over a decade Spinach has turned into Ladoos. Any fans of Popeye — The Sailor Man” reading this?

(Left) Popeye with his Spinach | (Right) Chota Bheem with his Ladoos

Last month, a young South Indian movie director was in the news for copying parts of different movies to put together a script that appealed to the masses. Of course, there was a huge debate because we are talking about a star actor’s movie. His fans deemed the negative critics as people unworthy of watching the movie. They claimed that their leader — the star actor — was sharing a social message through his movie that no one else had dared to. All this propagated through a series of recycled memes — watermark over watermark. I made the relatively sensible choice in the debate. I decided not to watch the movie.

(Left) Superman | (Right) Shaktimaan

While Marvel and DC form a large proportion of today’s global entertainment on TV and on screen, they are far from what once was known as creativity in the entertainment industry. In India, we take this standard a notch higher (lower?) by Indian-ising a pseudo-creative Western attempt at telling a story. This includes examples like the Indian Superman — Shaktimaan from the 1990s.

Storytelling, today, has de-evolved — even in books. From Mario Puzo, we have lowered our standards to Dan Brown. This is not to say that Mr. Brown sucks. Just that in our minds we have constructed and contributed to a reality wherein Dan Brown is a best-selling author despite sticking to a largely similar storyline, book after book. Following this, we have a pile of scum, below which there are books by Chetan Bhagat. You see what I am getting at?

With laws against plagiarism (copying) in the entertainment industry choke-holding copycats, Indian movie and TV show makers have started giving due credits and/or obtaining official copyrights for a remake/reboot.

Did you watch Jab Harry Met Sejal— the official remake of the below average Hollywood rom-com When Harry Met Sally? If you’ve seen it, it was a movie to forget, wasn’t it? Good for me, I am wiser than you, I decided to give this movie a miss as well.

Indian history and mythology is neck deep in rich, unused content. It’s a touchy subject, however. This is because consumers do not endorse a flexible adaptation of a story that in reality could be fictitious or dramatised. There is always someone who takes offense, including those who certify movies. Tsk tsk, remember Pahlaj Nihalani?

Karni Sena protesting against the creative freedom used by the filmmakers of an Indian movie
Getting butt-hurt has limited our ability to be creative.

Let’s backtrack a little here. You are in the average educational institution in India. It is exam day. The following would be the most common description of the educational experience.

As soon as you’re born, they make you feel sma — ” oh wait. I apologise. My inner habituated plagiarist comes to the fore, at times.

“I sign up to learn new things. I am taught what already exists, with a minimal exploration of the possibilities. Then, I am evaluated on how well I am able to recreate what already exists on four sides of an A4 size paper — question after question. I graduate and struggle to become a functional member of the society, doing things that my education has equipped me with.”

A post on Tumblr puts it across better, “Education does not test your intelligence, it tests your patience. It tests your patience. It tests your ability to hold your pee. It tests your ability to keep calm and not slap someone who’s being annoying.

Phew. That was difficult to put into words. I certainly have received some extensive education.

Ultimately, adaptation works only as long as it is innovative. Otherwise, it should just be called something else — Replication.

Replication is the biggest evil to the creative experience — for the creator as well as the user. But, if the system teaches us to do that, fine tunes our skills at that for years together, it is no surprise that it gets encoded in our thought process.

I am on the verge of completing my master’s degree in Psychology — which in India, starting from kinder-garden, is 19 years of education. In these years I have been a part of five educational institutions. They have taught me something over and over again — get your keywords right.

The Versatility of Human Intelligence

Keywords are just a fancy way of saying: “To score better, be a Xerox machine.” I would have to come up with a creative swear word to fully describe how I feel about that. But, I am going to wisely sidestep the activity.

There is a huge debate about whether or not robots can be creative. Robots are capable of combining what exists in different permutations to create something that has the look-and-feel of something new, but in reality is a replicated construct.

If that’s what we do, as people, what really is the human experience? Are you really going to tell me that we have reached the plateau of creativity?

The influx of content scum started because we want to be comfortable (read lazy). The scum has evolved and expanded over time and now we are neck deep in it.

On one side, we have,

Being Indian.
The Kapil Sharma Show
Bullshit-Recycled Memes.

On the other side, there’s,

Stranger Things
Doggo Memes.

Some operate in the grey area of being gracefully scummy as well. But you already know what I am getting at.

The morality of choice, however, is ours — lazy or better
I’m not saying my content is great or even good. I know it isn’t. My vocabulary is definitely scum when compared to that of Chetan Bhagat. But, this discussion goes beyond mere skill, right? All I am saying is at the least it isn’t a paraphrase of some existing article. In my opinion, that’s the first step to getting better.

They’ll call you bad. They’ll call you dull. 
They’ll not find you fancy. 
You’ll not go viral. 
But it’ll be yours.

Having completed my final theory examination (read rut) for the partial fulfilment of my master’s degree, I vow never to contribute to the content scum that surrounds us day in and out.

Zero strings attached.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

I’m Aravind Kannan. I believe that by nurturing human behaviour we can make the world more sustainable. I am presently pursuing a Master’s degree in Psychology from Christ University, Bangalore, India.

How is great content created? Here’s an example.

Journey of A Joke — Web Series by Abish Mathew