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December 29, 2005

Mainstream Tastes Limit Transmedia Opportunities

Reading through the year-end double issue of Entertainment Weekly, I began to think about the limits that mainstream coverage of the entertainment industry put on success in the industry. As you know, my main areas of interest are soap opera and professional wrestling, and it probably doesn't surprise you that this year-in-review recap include nothing from either of these places, despite their prominence on television.

Despite still being a dominant force in daytime television, even with the increasing competition for the daytime viewer and the change in composition of the daytime viewing audience, soap operas are completely ignored in the "Best of 2005," as a genre.

And pro wrestling is ignored in glaring ways. For instance, in their listing of the biggest entertainment stories of 2005, EW identifies the success of Chris Rock's Everybody Hates Chris for UPN, implying that it's the only major hit of interest in UPN's history and rejoicing in its capturing of the young demographic. Yet, WWE's Smackdown had previously aired in that same timeslot for years and was highly successful and remains almost as successful on Friday nights, despite Friday being a death day.

Considering the EW focus on sitcoms, that wouldn't be that surprising. But in its listing of the great entertainers of 2005 who died, 82 people are listed, yet the list doesn't include the death of Eddie Guerrero, one of the WWE's biggest stars, who died in his prime at 38 years old.

On the other hand, released its list of the Top 10 Most Euologized Persons of 2005, which found Guerrero trailing only Rosa Parks and Luther Vandross. The online funeral guestbook registered over 5,500 comments made on Eddie's page as of the end of the year.

Considering many of the ideas people now celebrate as complex television came from soap opera, and considering how much of an innovator WWE has been in transmedia storytelling and many other aspects of media convergence, it just makes me wonder how many other extremely popular and profitable areas of popular culture are ignored by most mainstream journalists, considering the two areas I study in particular were both completely shunned....

I believe a major part of it is that the fan communities surrounding these "fringe" entertainments, from the perspective of mainstream journalism, is chiefly misunderstood, even when the industry in general could still learn so much from these cultural producers and their fans.

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