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 Life Skills for Fanboys:  The Fandom Effect

 written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2016

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

Fandom Media

So two recent articles that fell into my Facebook feed.  One is Fandom is Broken and the other is Ghostbusters, Frozen, and the strange entitlement of fan culture.  Both talk about how fan culture has become entitled, angry and even a little dangerous.  I don’t totally disagree with some of the points, but a lot of what’s here is media hyperbole.

Devin Faraci of Birth. Movies. Death. pens the first article.  Jesse Hassenger of the A.V. Club pens the second.  They both talk about the double-edged sword that following the fans’ suggestion can be for the bigger franchises.

Well, duh.

As a creator (and especially as a guy that did improv for years) I know fans will challenge you to burn down your creation.  You cannot believe some of the suggestions you get at improv shows.  Well, actually, you could because you simply need to think of the dirtiest ones.  “Can I have a suggestion for a type of movie?”  “Porno!”  “How about something I return at a store?”  “Condom!”

Every.  Fucking.  Time.

What we had to do as performers is manage the suggestions, so we did.  It was easy.  “Porno?  Nah, we did that one last night.  What else?”  or “Condom?  Too easy!  Give us something harder!”  Playing with the audience and managing their expectations at the same time is part of the show.

What these two authors (and others) are pointing out correctly is that fans feel entitled.  Of course they do.  What customer doesn’t?  So when Faraci writes, “These fans are treating stories like ordering at a restaurant – hold the pickles, please, and can I substitute kale for the lettuce? But that isn’t how art works, and that shouldn’t be how art lovers react to art. They shouldn’t be bringing a bucket of paint to the museum to take out some of the blue from those Picassos, you know?”

Yes, fans do that.  But you know who could tell them to take the bucket of paint and shove it straight up their ass?  Picasso, the creator of the paintings in this hypothetical example.  The problem is, the creators on these big corporate franchises are either dead or marginalized.  That’s the fault of the corporation, not the creator.  It’s corporations that foolishly opened themselves up to criticism (and rightly so) of the new Ghostbusters trailer.

Hassenger talks about fandom like he’s above it.  (Is there any place more snarky and nerdy than the A.V. Club?)  He focuses on a particular reviewer that refuses to give the money to the new Ghostbusters makers and calls (or implies) he’s being sexist about it.  I don’t think you have to be a movie reviewer to see how bad that trailer is and I too have stopped giving movie makers my money just because they make genre films.  I find it interesting that he calls the reviewer sexist, but not the makers of the movie for cynically remaking a classic with a female cast just to appeal to a new demo.  That sounds way more sexist to me.

The problem with these big movies, big changes in comics and video games (Captain America, Frozen, Mass Effect, etc.) is that there is no longer a creator.  If the Walking Dead comic book suddenly starts to focus on aliens, you can write Robert Kirkman and say “Where the Hell are you going with this Kirkman?”  Because fans love the creator as much as the creation, his credibility will provide him some slack to change.  But if the TV Walking Dead people did something as minor as, say, kill off Darryl—  (Actually that would be pretty major, but not unrealistic.)  I’m sure fandom would go absolutely nuts.

The difference is, Kirkman is THE creator, the TV show guys (to the fans) are nobodies that punch a clock.  If you get a bad steak, you might complain to the waiter, but you wouldn’t BLAME him, he didn’t cook it.  You blame the chef and the chef makes you a new steak or you eat elsewhere.

Blame the Franchises

The Franchises: Trek, Wars, Marvel, etc.  They come with a price.  Now that geekdom has reached the mainstream, fans are going to learn a hard lesson.  Hollywood and it’s various megaconglomerates are going to squeeze every dollar out of those franchises until there’s nothing left but empty, useless husks.  I would argue that it’s just about over for Trek.  Time to shelve it for 20 years and start over in the 2040’s.  Star Wars is a toss up.  I give it two more movies before it starts to really wane.  Marvel keeps surprising me, but they are running out of runway with the comic books.  I won’t be lining up for Onslaught: The Movie any time soon, even if they bring back Favreau to direct.

And, it goes without saying, no one deserves a death threat or a stalker or anything dangerous.  But do fans deserve to react as they see their favorite things “reimagined” by hacks.  Uh, yeah.  We do.  I think that new Ghostbusters trailer is shit, regardless of the cast.  The new Star Trek movie?  I was out after the first one.  The first one was decent.  The second, I refuse to see.  Deadpool?  I wanted to hate that movie.  I really did, but it’s pretty awesome.  I have to admit.  Fans are going to acknowledge a good movie and pan a bad one.  Hellraiser got a lot of flack for not casting an English actor in the lead, but it’s a decent flick and most fans of the comic series agree that it was a fairly worthy movie.

The bottom line is, if you’re going to be custodian of icons you either polish them and take care of them or you fuck it up and take the metaphorical bruising.  Corporate giants should’ve figured out that without the creator as at least a figurehead—  They’re fucked if they make a mistake.  You pay your respects to history or pay the price.  Zach Snyder is finding that out the hard way.  (And boo-hoo, they still made millions.)  I’m not suggesting fans should have a hashtag war or a vote in every genre-based movie, TV show, etc.  But corporations would be very bad custodians to do so without the creator.  The huge drop off in quality on Game of Thrones is only tolerable because the producers showed such great respect and deference to George R.R. Martin and his work.

Make no mistake.  The creator is the conduit to the fans.  The creator has the credibility.  Everyone else is just punching a clock until they’re replaced by the next guy.  And as these once niche pop culture pieces of art become more and more mainstream, it’s bound to pick up a few wackos in the wake.  The high numbers make it inevitable.  So while it’s nice to do something intimate and cool, like create a Twitter feed for a character or post YouTube videos—  By definition, it’s no longer intimate if it’s being done by a multi-national corporation for a $500 million dollar movie, so maybe it would be better to giveaway hats or something.


Fanboys are the customer and the customer IS always right.  This is especially true if you work for a giant corporation.  There’s no excuse when a $500 million isn’t awesome.  None.  Zero.  People should be fired.  Drummed out of polite society.  Perhaps given a job as a street sweeper or cleaner of public toilets.  When you’re a struggling creator just trying to get by, however, that’s different.  Plus I have never met a real creator that gave in to the fans so completely as to burn down his own creation.

It’s funny to me that these media analyzers can’t see the creator forest from the corporate trees.  Creators aren’t perfect.  (See all three Star Wars prequels.)  But I sure would’ve rather have seen Lucas direct the original Star Wars cast than the guy that put the Beastie Boys “Sabotage” under a Star Trek trailer.  Lucas may have lost it, but at least he gets it.  Even if he shits the bed again, it’ll probably be original.

And even if the Fanboys ask you to burn down your creation, there are TONS of ways to do that without actually doing it.  Unfortunately, the control is often not with the people with vision and creativity.

THAT’S the problem.  And I cannot blame the fanboys for screaming bloody murder about that.  (As long as they actually don’t commit bloody murder.)

Previous Columns

Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts
Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Con Locations
Traveling to Cons on the Cheap
Con Economics
Comics, Sexism and Trolling
Searching for the Words
How to Fix Comics?  Stop Reading Them
Shopping at the Con
The Hollywood Double Edged Sword
Beware the Geek Scams
Success Kills
In Response to Chuck Dixon, Paul Rivoche and Janelle Asselin
Fanboy Reporters
Dealing with Critics and Haters in the Internet Age
Who Are the Creepers?
The Cosplayer Treaty of 2014: A Proposal
Female Thor
Comics’ Non-News
Geek Feminists and DC’s T-Shirts
Cosplay Blowback
Charlie Hebdo and the Other Stuff You Should Know
Customer Service
The Intolerant Internet

Superhero Movie Moral Compass