In the apparent overhaul of the DC movies (again), moviegoers and comic book readers have been essentially assured that they trust the process and that they (the recently merged parent company Warner Bros. Discovery) will do justice to the immense catalog of stories and characters. During the company’s second quarter investor call, new WBD CEO David Zaslav confirmed the months of rumors when he said the DCEU would be “similar to the structure that Alan Horn and Bob Iger have implemented very effectively with [Marvel Studios chief] Kevin Feige at Disney.
A few weeks later, news broke that The Lego Movie director Dan Lin was in talks to direct this effort. With this news came a more alarming note in The Hollywood Reporter‘scoop:
The role would include overseeing not only film but also television, with Lin reporting directly to the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, according to sources.
Anyone paying even half-hearted attention to Zaslav’s leadership over the past few months should be very concerned. Before getting to the heart of the matter, let’s look back for a moment on the last few months.
From top to bottom, Zaslav made terrible decisions and signaled that he was squirming to make the situation worse. By cutting a basically complete solo film for one of comics’ most recognizable women (Batgirl) and a number of other projects in various stages of development to save a few million dollars in pandemic-related tax deductions, they have lost tens of millions more in market value. To reduce the costs of paying animation labor and health insurance residuals, they removed a slew of animated content, including at least one DC project.
For fans of a particular multi-DC project director like Zack Snyder or James Gunn, things don’t seem clear to them either. Whereas bat girl was directed by Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi, it was technically part of the Synderverse due to the appearance of JK Simmons’ James Gordon. Also, when the documentary filmmaker Leslie Iwerks asked WBD to allow the clips from 2021 Justice League (aka The Synder Cut), he was told that the only Justice League that exists came out in 2017. On the Q2 call, they also highlighted the big IP, when James Gunn does the opposite, whether in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Extended Universe.
Decisions like these, in addition to a not-so-great year for the box office as a whole (yes, there were standouts, of course) caused further delays in WBD projects. The mega studio only releases black adam and don’t worry darling This year. Reports of “why” are conflicting as to whether it’s changes to upcoming movies, a budget issue, or a combination of the two. Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom and Shazam! Fury of the gods are now pushed further back to 2023, the same year as the dreaded Glow film.
Another tentative replica from Marvel
There’s a sect of DCEU fans excited about these changes and a “strongman” approach to these bad decisions by Zaslav. Of course, that’s partly because people who were mad that DC started to include more women and people of color are now happy about Batgirl’s cancellation, but I don’t think that’s most people . (Contrary to popular belief, I don’t equate anything I disagree with with racism!)
Instead, I feel this will to believe that this time company management will make it right for the fans just comes down to encouraging all the changes that strength help your “team” when things aren’t going so well. For over a decade, the people who have chosen the DC side – when you don’t need to take either side in a battle between massive corporations – have taken L after L. There were a few highlights, but it’s a waste of the MCU, despite the fact that the MCU itself is far from perfect.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a former colleague present when Zaslav took over Discovery in 2006 said his favorite phrase was “command and control” and that he demanded immediate results. Under his leadership (in which 20% of the staff was immediately cut), TLC’s image as an educational network morphed into a reality TV-powered network where you can gawk and say, “God thank you, it’s not me”. The shows about weird addictions, serious health issues, people’s weights, kid beauty pageants, Roma (named with insults, though) and really big families – many of which would include hidden sex crimes by the network – dominated.
Law student Ada from Adam on demand discussed this at the end of his video on TLC hot and heavy:
This belief that this unique and daring man will fix everything, yes, is inspired by Marvel and has really whitewashed the many mini-battles Kevin Feige and others had to battle Marvel’s Ike Perlmutter and others for creative freedom, but it’s also a microcosm of collective anxiety in many countries around the world about masculinity in a time of decades of gender equity. This anxiety can express itself in a much worse way (see the “manosphere” and its latest inductee, Andrew Tate), such as the rise of global fascism over the past decade. What better medium to dig your heels in than comic books and like-minded movie franchises that largely fulfill temporary fantasies?
This is what we work with
Part of that is “normal”, unchecked anti-competitive behavior (looking at you, the Department of Justice and others who are supposed to prevent monopolies) and what happens in many, many mergers.
However, it looks particularly gruesome because WBD reps have made micro-aggressive statements at every point of defense and because Zaslav has a long public history with terrible people, highlights of which include a tight relationship with how-are-you-that-racist Clint Eastwood. Because of the “report to me straight” leadership style, it’s likely he gave CNN executive Chris Licht the go-ahead to hire the decades-long NYPD expert (among many things) on the unjust surveillance of MuslimsJohn Miller, as a law enforcement analyst.
These last two should come as a surprise because even before news of all the cut movies and projects started to emerge and the trend was very clear, Zaslav made a few fairly clear statements about the voices and stories he thinks are valuable— monetary or humanity. Instead of empowering creatives to tell stories and support talent voices, Zaslav and the company change values (similar to Netflix) to appeal to disgruntled viewers of diversity who see young people and people of color as whiners.
While (before the merger) Warner Bros. strived to diversify all parts of its staff and stories, the The discovery network was half as ethnically diverse. As is often the case in mergers, a lot of people are getting laid off, and while there’s no headcount to know what those numbers look like for the average new WBD employee, at the top level, it’s been a bloodbath for people of color…especially women. It caught the the attention of legislators, advocacy groups, shareholdersand subscribers.
(Going through The Hollywood Reporterfeatured image: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
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