Culture Clash: Attacking Fandoms

They always said deaths come in threes…

While attacking fandoms is not a particularly recent phenomenon, it is recent in regards to the span of mass-produced media. Over the last decade, give or take a couple years, producers, directors, CEO’s, and writers have all flocked to the notion that the quickest way to the customer’s wallet is by berating them, insulting them, and attempting to guilt-trip them into watching whatever you throw on the screen, whether it is a lazy cash-grab rehash or some attempt at “modernizing” the media.

When you take on the responsibility of legacy media, you have the privilege of working on it. They are not ‘your’ creations, they were other people’s creations that have built a large, profoundly dedicated fanbase, that creates non-canon fictions surrounding the characters, costumes in honor of them, and builds communities online such as forums and chat-groups for the sole purpose of discussing said creations.

Which is why it is also your duty to honor that legacy and not to spit in the faces of those that were responsible for building up the intellectual properties in the first place. The only reason they exist is because of their fans, and they will tear you down to the ground and smother you, just like what happened with Star Wars, which had a slow, painful, over-wrought death by the hands of the people who were loyal enough to suffer through the mostly-boring prequels. If you do not appeal to the fans, you will lose them, and at worst, you will anger them, assuring the inevitable demise of your project.

One of the primary problems with remaking or rebooting or creating spin offs of legacy media is that we have a generation of millennials, and soon zoomers, that feel it necessary to insert their own personal grievances into legacy media works. They create false premises in order to attack strawmen that do not exist to state how progressive and virtuous they are. Having She-Hulk berate Hulk by stating she is infinitely better at controlling her anger, while quite easily being angered and acting excessively angry towards a fellow hero, both shows a weakness of the character and their hypocrisy as well, but they simply expect the audience to accept what she says. More than that they feel it is also necessary to artificially inflate “diversity” and “representation” by race and gender-swapping characters on the off-chance they can appeal to the sensibilities of the cosmopolitan liberal, who likely was not interested in the property to begin with and likely will not care if you make Teela a hispanic-looking lesbian. You know who will care? The fans, because they grew up with, related to, or found the characters and the stories associated with them fascinating, and now you are switching out parts of those of characters’ backgrounds and personalities like a kid playing with lego bricks and wondering why the fans get upset. Newsflash; they are not ist-phobes, you are simply treating things they value as if they are meaningless.

Media can be a powerful platform to voice strong opinions of dissent, for instance with ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’, or ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. The primary difference is that their source material was based purely on political motivations to begin with, and their characters had an internal logic and consistency to them that was not compromised for the sake of shouting lines of dialogue that conflicted with the character and their actions throughout the media, or conflicted with the general premises of the media, or were simply ad hominem against some political side. They took serious issues and handled them in a dramatic and serious manner.

An example of how not to do this would be the Supergirl show from the CW, which constantly could not help but throw jab-after-jab at then-current president, Donald Trump, despite the president having little to do with anything going on in the show. They also made it a constant point of reference how Martian Manhunter feels oppressed as a black man, despite the fact that he’s a shape-shifting alien who can change the way he looks at a moments notice. Creating these strawmen and false dilemmas adds nothing but holes to the stories you are trying to tell and alienates the fanbase by introducing divisive content that either does not belong or runs directly contrary to the point they were trying to make to begin with.

The easiest way to correct this is to simply respect the source material. ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy is a perfect example, which heavily drew inspiration from stories such as ‘Batman: Year One’, ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, ‘Knightfall’, and ‘The Killing Joke’. It used bits and pieces within its overall re-imagined take on the classic hero, but it didn’t feel the need to have random shots of women protesting for abortion, or Catwoman jumping in to tell Batman he is a sexist pig, or Alfred commenting on how awful Bush was. It existed within its own frame of reference to tell a story, possibly the greatest superhero story on film, and succeeded critically, commercially, and through casual audiences and die-hard fans alike.

Studios are scrambling finding and dropping directors, shelving projects like ‘Batgirl’, and cancelling projects in pre-production now, all because of the realization that they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars on people not wanting to watch their garbage. Lately with the influx of movies failing at the box office, there’s been this myth that the pandemic has killed the theater-going audience, although if you look at the movies that are doing well, they are grossing about just as much as they would have before the pandemic. They are films such as ‘F9’, ‘No Time To Die’, ‘Top Gun’, and ‘Spider-Man No Way Home’, movies that have almost no political motivation behind them, and retain the same spirit that carried those franchises to the top of the box office to begin with; appealing to the fans and general audiences.

This does not mean all media should be created without any political context behind it, it simply means that if you want to create a political story, then make one. Do not just lazily gift-wrap legacy media with declarative statements about progressivism hoping it sells to the people who were never interested in it to begin with, while simultaneously hedging your bets that the long time fans who do not want it either will simply gobble it up too. Otherwise, they will be the ones who attack you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s