Pop culture has a problem with death; our nostalgia refuses to let cherished relics die. We brought Star Wars back to life — same with Marvel, the Harry Potter universe, and even Shrek. The desire to turn everything into a franchise and change the lore to add in more details isn’t just manipulating the audience, it’s also emotionally exhausting. It’s getting more challenging to care about a new Star Wars movie or Marvel TV series because not a month goes by that I don’t have access to some kind of Star Wars or Marvel experience.
My objection to all this comes from a different direction. Franchise mania sends a signal to creators, one that's very hard to ignore, that the only kinds of things worth creating are franchises in these molds. Not individual stories, not things that don't lend themselves to sprawl.
But given the sheer amount of stuff out there to read and watch and play and listen to and interact with, maybe that's why franchises and their sprawl are becoming more attractive as a creative mode. A single creation can't compete as effectively with a whole universe of creations, especially when much of fandom consists of folks who love being sold not just a story but a whole way of life.
I'm reminded of a line of thought I've had from time to time, about how one of the ways you can tell you've arrived culturally is if your work is adapted to the big or small screen. Prestige. But it is misleading to think that a prestige treatment of one's work is its culmination. Likewise, not every idea's ultimate development is in the form of a franchise of properties. It might be, but be conscious of how that impulse might stem more from marketing than storytelling.
I need to emphasize that I'm not trying to cast franchises in general, or any franchise in particular, as a bad guy. They can be good, and they can be used to create good things. But they are not the only things; they are not the alpha and omega of this craft. They are just one possible expression of what storytelling can be.