After the last week’s frankly insane stuff in the aftermath of the ”Captain America is a Hydra agent and therefore a NAZI!!!!!!’ stuff in the last week, along come two good online articles about the state fandom’s gotten itself into.
That one page has caused so much pain and outrage in superhero comic fans since, oh, the last time either Marvel or DC did something like this with one of their characters. Now as said by many including myself, this isn’t going to be forever as it’ll be sorted out before the next Avengers film, nor does it make writer Nick Spencer a bastard for turning Cap into a Nazi because Hydra in the comics has never been equivalent to the Nazis. Nor is it anti-Semitic, nor does it shite on the memory of creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby because it is what it is; a shocking plot twist that’s designed to sell comics and create buzz. Somewhat successfully it seems but that doesn’t stop the death threats, book burnings and hyberbolic fan entitlement on social media.
Thankfully a couple of very good articles have emerged from the piles of vomit that fans have thrown up online over the last week. The first is by Jesse Hassenger at The A.V Club and it’s an excellent read. Hassenger makes some excellent points from the off:
It’s probably safe to say that James Rolfe does not consider himself a sexist. Rolfe, apparently better known as the “Angry Video Game Nerd,” has bravely crossed over from the world of video game crit into a broader discussion about movies via his internet-famous video wherein he announces his intentions to not see or, as such, review the upcoming remake of the 1984 film Ghostbusters. For many people, the decision not to see a particular film does not require a lengthy video announcing that intention (if it did, just imagine how many minutes of internet video would have been dedicated to Norm Of The North). But the 2016 version ofGhostbusters is different.
I don’t mind Rolfe, I even find his material funny and he clearly loves his stuff, but releasing this video….
Just makes him a bit of a sadcase. I don’t care if he’s not going to see the new Ghostbusters because it’s not going to match for him the heights of the original, or even it’s pretty dreadful sequel. I do think though that video reeks of entitlement and smugness. There’s got to be hundreds of films Rolfe isn’t going to see in a year yet this one merits it’s own video which gives an excuse for the thousands of misogynist complainers about the new Ghostbusters to mask their bitter hatred.
Now I’m not saying the new film is going to be good. I have no idea as I’ll probably not bother with it as big budget Hollywood films interest me less and less these days, but it may find an audience. It’s a talented cast so why can’t it work? Why cut off what may be something that gives new life to something you love and brings new people in to search out the source material unless you’re a tediously entitled fan or in this case, a sexist who can’t stand women being cast with the same importance as men.
Another point made by Hassenger is this:
Fans so hardcore they become irrational are hardly a new phenomenon, but they have more access to each other than ever. This is partially because of the internet, but it may also have to do with the galvanizing effects of major pop-cultural events like, say, adaptations of the Harry Potter books back in the early ’00s.
The internet has certainly made things worse, as has an anti-intellectualism and misplaced ownership of things people think they own, but the lunatic reaction to something has been going on for years. As one example take Marvel killing off Spider-Man’s then girlfriend Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #121.
Gwen was killed off because it was a shock and dramatically, there was nothing else to do with her character as if she’d lived she’d have married Peter Parker followed by domestic bliss and that’s no fun for a superhero like Spidey who lives on angst, guilt and self-doubt. Writer Gerry Conway got death threats which back in 1973 wasn’t as easy as opening up your laptop or turning on your phone. You had to get a pen, paper and then write out your threats before sticking your letter in an envelope and sending it to Marvel or Conway so you’d let them know how much of a lunatic you are.
Yet here’s the lesson. Within a couple of years Gwen’s death had stopped being so controversial. Peter and Mary Jane Watson become an item and their spiky relationship provided writers with the soap opera dramatics superhero comics need which was the point. Same thing is going to happen with Captain America or Ghostbusters. In a few years, months even, people will move on and the wailing sounds of the entitled will be drowned out by the next thing these people will find to batter to an inch of it’s life because it’s not 100% as they want it.
Of course, the things fans are actually entitled to are their own opinions and feelings, even petty or deeply stupid ones. But it’s more than a little depressing when passionate fandom and fan glorification allows anyone to become convinced that resistance to a Ghostbusters remake is a principled stand rather than sexist whining.
The second good piece comes from BirthDeathMovies.com (a shite name for a site, but the piece is solid) and writer Devin Faraci whose previous piece I dismissed in my essay on DC Universe: Rebirth and the news DC were introducing Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen into the DCU proper. This one makes some of the same points as the previous one, but it’s still worth reading as the last week has seen a level of crazy, entitled bullshit I’ve not seen since Doctor Octopus became Spider-Man…
There’s one point that Faraci makes which is worth exploring;
I had an argument with a younger fan on Twitter recently and she told me that what she wants out of a Captain America story is to see Steve Rogers be happy and get whatever he wants – ie, the exact opposite of what you want from good drama), but while the details change the general attitude is the same: this is what I want out of these stories, and if you don’t give it to me you’re anti-Semitic/ripping off the consumer/a dead man.
Fans want stories they want to read or see. Forget the fact they may be a small minority and in giving into their demands companies like Marvel or DC end up damaging their brand name as they’ve done oh so often over the last decade especially.
But this is the problem. Having worked in comics in some shape or form on and off for over 30 years I’ve seen fan entitlement first hand more times than I can remember, and I’ve also seen fans who think they’re The Next Big Thing being crushed after being told that, actually, you’re not very good. you can see this sort of thing happen in the patchy Morgan Spurlock documentary, Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope as prospective comic artist Skip Harvey suddenly comes to terms that he’s not as good as he thinks he is. Part of the reason for that is the culture of ‘you can do anything should you want it enough‘ that we’ve seen spring up on both sides of the Atlantic, that’s resulted in an increase in the anti-intelllectualism that’s been part of American culture for generations that now seeps into British culture to the point where actual genuine idiots like Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson are considered to have opinions worth listening to.
It’s been interesting watching so many people bring up Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the Captain America fracas; one of part of it is that their Jewishness allows angry, petulant fans to throw down a social justice bomb but it also speaks to how modern fans see many modern creators. They’re nobody compared to the ones who invented this stuff. The modern creator is the server, and they should be going back into the kitchen and bringing back a Captain America cooked to their exact specifications, and without any sort of complications or surprises. This is what fans have always wanted, but the idea of being consumers – people who are offering money for services rendered – only reinforces the entitlement.
Which is true. We live in an extreme consumerist society where we’re conditioned to consume from an early age, and ”Geek Culture” is an example of that where fans who will love a character, video game, film, etc will lavishly love that film to the point where it becomes almost religious in their defence of the sanctity of that character. Yet many of these people leaping to the defence of the now dead Simon and Kirby are also the same people that leapt to the defence of Marvel Comics when the Kirby heirs were fighting to give Jack Kirby the credit he deserved for creating most of the Marvel Universe. The fear many of these people voiced was that the Kirby’s would ‘take their characters away’ and the consumerist defence of Marvel Comics was rife. After all the fear of losing their monthly fix outweighed any sense of right or justice for the man who created their beloved characters in the first place.
I don’t propose any solution because right now there isn’t one. However calling the likes of Rolfe out for annoyingly announcing he’ll never see one film or those weeping and wailing over a plot twist in a Captain America comic is a start. Calling out the hyperbole and hysteria is a start. Calling out fans for not protesting things that matter like creator’s right, even if that creator is dead, is a start. Actually discussing things at an intellectual level above toilet graffiti is a start. Addressing the issues of ‘Geek Culture’ (a term I so many issues with but that’s for another time) is a start.
Making debate better, and more informed is a way forward because once you do that the crazy types look even crazier and obsessed. Not letting silly wee boycotts or Twitter hashtags replace actual proper debate helps too. As said, there’s no easy solution to it but while people sit back and tolerate, or worse, encourage the nutters things aren’t going to get better.