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Analysis / Deader Than Disco

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A work or a creator becomes Deader Than Disco when Hype Backlash makes it go from hugely popular to almost universally hated, with little-to-no chance of ever making a comeback. This is the most important criterion. However, there are many ways that this can happen.

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Relying too much on the Dancing Bear can backfire in the long run. A film, TV show, or video game that's created to show off new special effects, technologies, or techniques can suffer from this once they become old-hat or, worse, outdated, especially if they have nothing else to fall back on. A work that's acclaimed as a great story in its own right, and which just so happens to also be a landmark in the development of special effects, is far more likely to stand the test of time. This is why we're still talking about Citizen Kane, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park as classic films to this day, and Super Mario 64, Baldur's Gate and Half-Life as classic games. On the other hand, a technological showcase that, even at the height of its popularity, is subject to complaints about bland characters, an undercooked script, and (in the case of games) boring gameplay is likely to be forgotten in just a few short years, consigned to the bargain bin at your local FYE or GameStop. It might be respected by enthusiasts and students of the medium, if only for its technical qualities, but everybody else is likely to say "huh?" when the work is brought up.

Technology isn't the only gimmick available. A work can also attract audiences by showing controversial content or addressing hot-button issues, and if there's little else underneath, audiences in later years can wonder what the big deal is once that content is no longer considered edgy. Again, stories like The Catcher in the Rye, Night of the Living Dead (1968), All in the Family, Watchmen, and Doom, while known for being landmarks in terms of breaking taboos in their respective genres and mediums, are still watched, read, and played nowadays because they had other merits in addition to their content.

    Changing times 
Values Dissonance can kill a work or creator's reputation in the long run. Audiences at the time might embrace something as wholesome, only for people years later to reevaluate it and find all manner of Unfortunate Implications that the original fans might never have noticed — or if they did, they might have even seen as a good thing. At worst, a work or creator could be seen, years later, as a symbol of everything that was wrong with the mainstream viewpoints of the time. Racial, religious, and sexual stereotyping is one of the most common victims of this; even what was once progressive could fall victim to changing societal norms. More immediately, Harsher in Hindsight or a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment can come into play when a real-life event that the creators had no way of knowing would happen nonetheless makes the original work hard to partake in without wincing. Sometimes, real-life events can produce Values Resonance, but other times, they can make it much more difficult to appreciate something with the cloud of those events hanging over it.

On an artistic level, a work that spawned a revolution in creativity in its medium could easily be outdone and consumed by the works that came in its wake. What was once a radical new take on an old plot device could become a Discredited Trope or a Dead Horse Trope in its own right. Later works may take the same story and do it better, causing the original to be forgotten. A good deconstruction of a genre's conventions can cause people to reevaluate their enjoyment of even the better works in that genre, causing them to go from acclaimed to reviled. Sometimes, a creator can do it to themselves with a sequel that turns out to be even better than the original was that totally overshadow the original's merits and make its flaws stand out more. Alternatively, copycats can simply run those conventions into the ground and cause people to get sick of them, to the point where even the acclaimed works that popularized them can see their reputations suffer. Or, people can tune into a Trope Maker to see what all the fuss is about after watching the copycats, only to end up disappointed when the work in question isn't all it's cracked up to be in their eyes. Or worse still, the original points out the genre's flaws before they even had a chance to be set in stone, causing people to view the entire genre with a more critical eye.

And on a temporal level, there's the good old-fashioned Unintentional Period Piece. A work or a musician can sometimes wear too much of the time of its popularity on its sleeve, to the point where people in later years find it difficult to appreciate beneath all the dated fashions, music, and pop culture references. This can be especially so if key plot mechanisms, lines of dialogue, jokes, gameplay mechanics, or lyrics can't work in later years due to changes in how the world works, leaving future audiences without the cultural reference points that people at the time might have taken for granted.

    Rot and decay 
Another common cause for something becoming Deader Than Disco is when a work becomes completely and irredeemably rotten over time, to the point that it spoils even the "good old days" of the franchise.

One common way this happens is for a franchise to do something that is widely rejected by the established fandom and fails to allow it to pick up a new audience. Falling victim to The Chris Carter Effect is one of the easiest ways for this to happen, as fans' memories of earlier seasons, books, films, or games become tainted by the realization that the plot that they had spent years following is going nowhere, is being made up on the fly with little forethought, and isn't likely to be resolved. Consequently, the now-former fans tell newbies not to bother. Another way for this to happen is to try and catch younger audiences by using fads, which can leave longtime fans outraged and fail to bring in the new audience that was hoped for. Finally, Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy may leave fans with nobody to root for, as the Eight Deadly Words start to take over. In a nutshell, the work enters a Dork Age that it never gets out of, Jumping the Shark so badly that it rubs off on when it was still good.

This goes doubly so if there is a Franchise Original Sin involved. Fans may look back on earlier installments and notice that the seeds for the Seasonal Rot were there all along, but simply had not flowered yet or were being held in check. If this happens, memories of the work's Glory Days may be tainted even further, as it becomes clear that things were going wrong right from the start, and that it was probably doomed to turn into the mess that became later on.

Ending a work on a base-breaking note is another way to do this. A work may be unable to tie enough plot threads or may not have an ending at all. The work's ending may be considered overtly mean-spirited, mind-boggling, nonsensical, predictable, pointless, or just unimpressive, which ends up turning off former fans and any potential new audience members.

Alternatively, It's the Same, Now It Sucks! can come into play. If a creator's output or a long-running franchise starts to grow stale, fans can turn against them, seeing them as having run out of things to say or do. In extreme cases, fans can turn against earlier installments from the creator or franchise as well, seeing the work they once loved as having always been lacking in creativity once the mechanisms of its Strictly Formula nature became apparent. This is less likely to happen if the formula was part of the appeal from the beginning; for example, Angus Young of AC/DC, a band that built its entire identity around simple, old-fashioned hard rock to bang one's head to, once proudly joked about having "put out twelve albums that sound exactly the same." However, if a key part of a creator or work's appeal was that it was innovative or revolutionary, watch out.

There's also simple backlash against some aspect of a work or its creator. Its fans may be seen as overly annoying and obsessive, causing people to hate it simply to avoid being associated with them. It might become a victim of public mockery. Its target demographic may outgrow it and look back on it as childish. It might have been the brainchild of a creator whose works are now seen as toxic. A work may be subject to Magnum Opus Dissonance; even if it's generally considered good anyway, a creator can lose his or her goodwill by talking it up too much. It may have been the perpetrator of an Award Snub, earning it a substantial hatedom from fans of the work or creator seen as having been snubbed, especially if the other work's reputation continues to grow over time. It may be a sequel or reboot that was popular when it first came out, but is later regarded as a disgrace to the original work after closer attention was paid to its flaws when compared with the original. A creator may have gotten involved in a controversy or trouble with the law that badly tarnished their reputation. A famous actor, director, writer, musician, or Show Runner may have torpedoed their career in one shot with a Box Office Bomb or a similarly despised work. A work may suffer from Mainstream Obscurity, winning acclaim and constantly being referenced yet not actually watched, read, or listened to by the general public.

Either way, people came to see the work as overrated.


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