Friday, January 29, 2016

Ideas Like Bullets -- HEY! DON’T CHANGE A THING! IT’S MINE!!!!

by Tommy Hancock

I recently became involved briefly in a discussion on social media with a person I consider a friend of mine, someone who I interact with online because of shared interests and have done so for a number of years.  The discussion involved a recent announcement about a major comic company getting its hands on some television cartoon concepts that many would consider classic and doing their own updated comic takes on them, in some cases changing the status quo of the idea dramatically.  This person I consider a friend commented that he wasn’t that interested in all this because this particular company had a habit of not doing right by its own characters so he didn’t trust them not to be “screwing things up” with the aforementioned concepts.  I responded with my thoughts on the term ‘screwing things up’ in connection to different creatives handling concepts that were not there on and dearly loved by some sort of fandom. What ensued after that was a discussion, he continued to stand by his assertion and I acknowledging that and standing by mine.

What follows in this column is not about this discussion and not at all about this friend.

But I do bring up said conversation and said friend to both clearly point out that what I’m about to say is not about him and the majority of fans of most anything out there AND to identify what I think the majority of supporters of any fandom are like.  I truly believe, although these days it is more like hoping than believing, that most people who are fans of a movie universe or a comic character or a tabletop game, or anything that might qualify for those of us who identify as geeks as having a fandom are actually normally functioning, reasonable people who just happen to feel strongly about a particular thing they like, maybe even love in a completely appropriate fashion.  They can make strong statements when they disagree with how a property they hold dear is being handled and on the same hand, they have the ability to comment positively when someone does something stellar with same property, be that by telling a story that keeps the property true to what they love about it or by doing something completely new and different that they actually feel works for the property.  That group of devotees to various and sundry properties is where I’d place my aforementioned friend, as I’ve seen him respond appropriately in every situation and even making positive comments on different takes on the things he loves when they have been done in a way that he thinks is appropriate to the concept he likes.  Again, that is how a fan should be and act and I really DO hope that most of us are still that way. 

No, from this point on I am not addressing the likes of my oft mentioned by never named acquaintance above or those like him.  Where my attention turns to now is the other type of ‘fan’, a term which I am hesitant to use because really, for the individuals I’ll now be discussing, the actual word from which fan is derived is probably more appropriate.  Fanatics.  People who not only like certain properties, enjoy certain stories, shows, characters, etc, but people who apparently have an unhealthy obsession for them,.  These fanatics, who not only voice their disapproval of how a particular character is being handled, but who believe that it is their place and function to comment on every sniggling point that is wrong with said handling are to whom I speak now, or at least speak about.  Because it’s not just this completely over the top arguing and reviewing of just what clause of the intergalactic law the character who would never violate that actually did violate, thanks to the new writers that we see so much of now that bothers me.  No, I am completely overwhelmed, angered, and saddened sometimes to be called a geek or a fan because that means that those I call the uninitiated lump me in with those nutbar fanatics who talk disparagingly and often disgustingly of the creator who has perpetrated this malfeasance of applying their take on said concept, to the point of insulting them or anyone who supports their version of the idea.  Those admirers so ardent over an idea that they loved as a kid or discovered while reading on a bus trip to somewhere that instead of acting like civilized human beings with one another, seek to discourage, incite, and be downright ugly to any who disagree with them.

I think what bothers me most of all about this class of ‘fan’ is that they often dig in their heels up to their armpits and become not only unwilling but whatever is ten parsecs beyond unwilling to even entertain anything new related to the concept they covet.  They refuse to go see the new movie, yet they critique the holy hell out of something they won’t even deign to damage their eyes with.  They won’t even read a page of a new author handling a character created by someone else because whatever trailer or preview they’ve seen just ticks them off to no end, so there can be nothing redeemable. 

Now, the friend I focused on when I started this? He’s not this type, and I know this for fact because I’ve discussed and witnessed his discussions of trying different takes on things and usually not being happy with the treatment of his favorite characters, but sometimes finding himself surprised.  No, again, a fan, as I now define them, will staunchly stand by whatever aspect of their favored concepts they believe in, but they will also not shut themselves off from any other takes on said idea and will be respectful not only of others who like the different takes, but also will have enough respect for people in general and the creative process specifically to at least try the different version, if for no other reason so that when they do argue about it and say it stinks to high seven heavens, they can say they have at least tasted of the rotted meat!!

But, no, the ‘fanatics’…or maybe they’re just really close minded, mean spirited…nah, wherever I was going with that was just going to be too long and hard to remember… what I am about to say is aimed at them.  Yeah, you out there who got butt hurt over the fact that The Force Awakens did have story beats from the first Star Wars movie, but you only know that because you stayed in your little dark cave and read your computer screen, wouldn’t even put out the effort to go see the movie before you attacked it based on what other people said and spoke of it as if you were some sort of vaulted expert.  Yeah, you who won’t pick up a Sherlock Holmes book up that doesn’t have the name Doyle in the author’s spot, but you’ll get on your mailing list and your Facebook page and not only malign stories you’ve not read, but make personal comments about an author’s parentage or whether or not they should live to write another Holmes story.. Oh, and yeah, you too who at conventions see some kid cosplaying their favorite character and proceed to walk up to them and ridicule them for using cheap face paint or duct tape or drawing the S they wear on their chest on a piece of construction paper because that’s not how it’s done and they’re nothing but a disgrace to the character that You know so well, even though you’re standing there in your street clothes, wearing a bat symbol t-shirt.

So, yeah, all of you who fall into the above, who probably haven’t hung on long enough to get this far, what comes next is for you.

Get. Over. Yourselves. Now. Today.

Before your own damned ignorance and stupidity on how your infatuation with a made up story forever cripples you in having any appropriate social interaction with human beings, muggle or otherwise. 

It has been said many times that the advent of the internet and of things like Facebook and Twitter has made it easier and more acceptable for people to make more personal attacks, to release more vile vitriol than ever before at one another.  My big round Death Star it has.  If you’re one of those people who are wishing ill will on creators who just don’t agree with you, whether that be the ruin of their career or something even more heinous, then the fact that you have an Instagram account didn’t make You that way.  You, something about You, allows you to be a brazen idiot where the whole world can see it. And guess what? Only You can make that any different.

Here’s the weakest argument, really, for any fan related tirade, even the ones I sometimes go on.  Though we may find a story, a movie, a show, an idea that we absolutely in many ways quite literally fall in love with at some point, and yes, my own list is very long, it is still just a fictional creation, albeit a world we feel at home in.  And, here’s the important part of this, we fell in love with the version we encountered.  Not the ones before it, were there any, and not the ones after it, but the singular one that impacted us the most.  To believe that our dislike or at least ambivalence toward the other versions gives us any more right to do more than grumble and complain and harken back to what we loved the most, which is what most sensible people do, is completely off base.  We are not experts in any fandom enough to claim that we know any better what should happen with an idea that 99 percent of us are never going to touch.  We can be saddened, we can even be angered by what X author does with Y character in Z universe, but that does not give us the right and shouldn’t even be enough to make it occur to us to be nasty and mean and vindictive or outright stupid enough to wish bad things on people we don’t know or to spend endless hours and days arguing about how bad something is that we’ve not even tried to partake of.

Seth Rogan made a movie a few years back.  The Green Hornet, some of you might have heard of it, most probably didn’t it because it had a mediocre showing at the box office. Now, although many fans of the character, myself included, went into the movie and all the hype before it with hope, it became pretty clear early on that this was not going to be the Green Hornet we wanted.  Not the version as originally conceived in the radio show in the 1930s and not the TV version which gave a young Bruce Li a leg up in Hollywood.  This wasn’t even going to be based on one of the better comic versions of the character that has come along in the last 20 or so years.  No, this was going to be a trainwreck of monumental proportions.  And, yes, it proved to be such, for Green Hornet fans and those who had never heard of the character alike.

At the time of all the fervor about the film, there were fans, like me, who said, “Okay, not hopeful, but I’ll at least give it a watch, to see what it’s all about.” I always want to know about whatever I may be arguing about in the near future.  Other said, “Nope, not gonna see it. Not gonna waste my time or money.” And some of those same people, when the reviews came out verifying what they felt was wrong with the movie, chimed in with an ‘I Told You So’ or two, maybe. And of course there were all sorts of responses between the two, including some GH fans, maybe two at last count, who liked it enough to say so.

Then one particular response stuck out to me, from someone I’d known a tad through the internet.  And it went something like this.  “Seth Rogan should die.  Anyone involved in this piece of Shit should rot in hell. How dare they do this to my Hornet!”

Yeah, that.

Don’t be that fanatic. Please. Ever.  That serves no purpose other than for someone to add to a probably already sizable mound of evidence they’ve been building for your upcoming commitment hearing. 

Love your fandoms.  Defend them if you feel you need to.  But don’t forget…and this is coming from a writer and a Publisher who would love someone to be uber passionate about some of the stuff I’m doing and my writers are doing as they are about the bigger properties… it’s not yours, only the feelings and emotions a particular version of it gave you are.  And why dishonor something that gave you pleasure, and maybe even acted as a way for you to feel good about yourself, by reacting like a complete and total lunatic when someone comes along that has a different bent on it?

Makes no sense to this fan.