SWMegaFan linked me to three different recent articles on three different sites that appeal a lot to geek culture, all of which having to do with the idea that maybe fandom is getting out of hand. They talked about the crackpot reactions over the new “Ghostbusters” film, anger over Marvel’s “big surprise” re Captain America, hashtag campaigns, and so forth. They realize now that fandom is demanding content be made its way, that it’s not being seen as art but instead as products that need to please the fans/consumers and their sensibilities or else.
Gee, you think? Where have you guys all been lately? Oh, that’s right, some of you were right there encouraging the mobs as far back as the ‘90s when the target was George Lucas. Geek culture magazines, pop culture and movie web sites, and the infamous AICN talk back fed nerd rage over the Special Editions and the prequels. Devin “You’re A Fine One To Talk” Faraci compared today’s fans to Annie Wilkes from “Misery.” I’ve been using the Annie Wilkes comparison for 20 years! I used to joke that Lucas had better pray his car doesn’t break down in front of the homes of these “fans,” because some of them were that crazy. There were always fans who have not liked the direction their favorite shows/movies took and have long since grumbled about showrunners and creators. What changed with the SEs/PT is not only a bigger, more immediate platform for venting but also active encouragement from the media. No reaction was too extreme. The narrative was Lucas committed an unpardonable sin by letting his fans down and his fans were righteous in punishing him because they knew Star Wars better and cared about it more than he did. Since geek media depends on getting readers, egging on the hate with an untold amount of clickbait and open comment sections had become a staple ever since.
Studios and creatives on the production end have done their part to encourage fans gone wild too. I’ve noticed a Comic Con-ization of popular culture, where it’s important to win over that crowd by telling them what they want to hear. It used to be when a show creator, writer, or actor thanked fans at a con for their support, it was genuine, because they were so doggone thrilled somebody cared about their work. Today it often seems like pandering and sadly, a lot of people can’t discern when it’s pandering or they simply don’t care so long as they get what they want.
But these self-appointed poohbahs of geekdom have always been short on self-awareness, as are their readers, judging by the comments to some of these pieces. It’s disingenuous to scratch your head over why a guy would make a video announcement that he is boycotting “Ghostbusters” when over a decade ago you were applauding and promoting “fan-cuts” of TPM or seven-hour long prequel-bashing videos. If you’re treating these rebellious fans as heroes don’t be surprised others are seeking that kind of attention and validation; you also can’t be surprised at how corporations are increasingly treating their films and shows as “product” when not too long ago, you were attacking an artist as a villain for offending the nerd hordes. It even went on just a few months ago with X-Files creator Chris Carter. You can’t be surprised at death threats getting lobbed at the guy who made Captain America a Hydra agent if you thought it was hi-larious when Patton Oswalt “joked” about beating Lucas to death with a shovel. The Annie Wilkes crazy kind of fandom is their Frankenstein’s monster.