The “Urban Fantasy” field, back when it began in the 1980s and ’90s — when the term referred to works by writers like Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, Francesca Lia Block and Neil Gaiman, not paranormal romance and detective stories — had at its heart a metaphorical search for wonder and natural (rather than supernatural) magic in city settings. These writers were asserting that one needn’t travel to imaginary lands, the medieval past, or even to the countryside to find a magical (dare I say “spiritual”?) connection to place: it was available to all…yes, even at the heart of the beast: the big, noisy, crowded, diverse, dangerous, exciting modern city. (And remember that these writers began working in the ’80s, when urban decline rendered many cities far less appealing than they are today.) Charles’ Newford, Emma’s Minneapolis, Francesca’s Los Angeles, and Neil’s London are cities in which the mythopoeic history of the land has re-asserted itself. The human protagonists of their books are those who hunger, in one way or another, to find that connection…and then to use it in concert with the unique gifts that cities alone can offer.
When writers attack bad PR, the unspoken heart of their criticism is the failure on the part of the publicist to adequately conceal that she is performing emotional work for money. The creative industries, so often seen as a liberatory alternative to the corporate grind, trade on the passion of their workers. People forgo higher salaries and better employer-sponsored benefits for work that is stimulating, flexible, and aligned with their personal interests. As the wisdom goes, one should pursue creative interests for love and not for money. So the idea of performing passion for a wage becomes especially anathema, and the phoniness of PR work is used as a foil for the more authentic work of the writer or editor. […] Though the sentiment seems, on its face, a gesture toward rejecting estranged labor, under capitalism, privileging the work of the artist over that of the person who promotes the art relies on gendered conceptions of what constitutes valuable work, and furthermore supplements a neoliberal work ethic that demands an absolute identification with one’s employer and neglects the fight for better wages or shorter days in exchange for prestige or passion. Publicity, therefore, is not so much a corrupt form of work as it is a symptom of the way that neoliberalism structures all work.
Unique taste — and the capacity to avoid the basic — is a privilege. A privilege of location (usually urban), of education (exposure to other cultures and locales), and of parentage (who would introduce and exalt other tastes). To summarize the groundbreaking work of theorist Pierre Bourdieu: We don’t choose our tastes so much as the micro-specifics of our class determine them. To consume and perform online in a basic way is thus to reflect a highly American, capitalist upbringing. Basic girls love the things they do because nearly every part of American commercial media has told them that they should.
“Looking back I only wish the Internet had existed in 1987. I suspect that social media would have raised awareness of the film’s [The Princess Bride] unique quality and helped propel it to blockbuster status.”