I love the internet. It allows me fast access to near unlimited information, be they technical information, opinions, reviews, analysis, articles, etc. etc. etc.
I’ve learned much, almost every day, and while at times reading people’s opinions (and trolls) can be frustrating, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad and sort things out on your own.
One thing that I’m noticing, however, is that this opening in allowing people to opine on things like movies, books, and TV shows and I’m realizing this leads to a sense of ownership of these properties on the part of fans.
I’ve long pondered why there was an almost literal lynch mob around the release of Batman v. Superman, a movie I liked quite a bit -moreso in its Ultimate Cut- and its director Zack Snyder. Whatever your opinion of the film is, to many it was as if Mr. Snyder had committed some kind of unforgivable sin with what he did with the characters.
After the film left theaters, the anger turned toward the Ghostbusters remake, though to a somewhat lesser degree, yet for many this too was some kind of unforgivable sin against a beloved property and the people behind it should be… I don’t know, what exactly?
More recently, there appears to have been something of a repeat in the release and the fan reaction with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. To many fans, the movie was a betrayal of the original Star Wars films (I don’t know… I have the film but as of yet haven’t seen it).
Today and over at Slate.com, I found this article by Willa Paskin which focuses on fan theories regarding the Benedict Cumberbatch starring Sherlock series, specifically that many fans of the show feel the character of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were/are lovers…
The case of the fractured fandom
I find that speculation, which isn’t terribly new regarding Holmes/Watson (the idea that they might secretly be homosexual lovers has been around since at least the 1940’s and likely before!), nonetheless in this era of the internet allowed groups of people, including someone mentioned within the article itself, to really go to town with developing this theory and offering examples of how the creators, in their opinion, were pointing towards this alleged relationship.
Which brings me to this point: Speculation and/or scorn toward the way characters are handled by fans is perfectly fine, but bear in mind: These characters are the property of others and they will do with them what they choose.
Sure, Sherlock Holmes is now in public domain, but the Sherlock TV show is being made by the BBC under the control of several individuals who make the decisions of how the show will progress. They can, if they want to, read the many fans’ opinions on how the show should progress and whatnot, but ultimately they decide the direction of the show.
(A digression: I suspect the show is done and will not return for a fourth season. I could be wrong, but that’s just my opinion).
Similarly, whether you liked them or not -and its certainly your right to love or hate them!- the people behind Batman v. Superman and the Ghostbusters remake were granted authority to use these characters and create these properties by the people/companies that control them.
The films themselves may have been great or horrid, but them’s the breaks… not everything works out and with properties such as Batman and Superman, just because one version comes out not to your liking doesn’t mean the ceiling’s about to fall in on any future incarnations of said characters. Superman survived the release of the not very good Superman III and the outright terrible Superman IV and Batman certain survived the release and ridicule which came after Batman and Robin.
I guess my point is this: Sometimes fandom needs to back off, at least a little, take a breath, and understand that your pleasure/disgust and speculations regarding property X are just that: YOUR opinions on it.
Do you hate Batman v. Superman? Do you feel the characters in Sherlock are lovers? Do you feel The Last Jedi was a betrayal of the original Star Wars films?
That’s perfectly legitimate… for you.
And you have every right to either hate these works or love them or speculate about their meaning or anything else you desire.
My worry -and the great danger- is that when fandom becomes powerful enough to dictate the release of new creative endeavors, then we’re treading into dangerous waters.
I feel fandom did affect what DC has done since the release of both Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. One has but see the Justice League film to see that end result.
Will the pressure of fans lead, if it should happen, to have Sherlock season 4 reveal that Holmes and Watson are lovers? Will we have a Last Jedi redo where Luke Skywalker is treated “better”?
I worry when fans become such a powerful force.
But I suppose I also worry too that certain properties have become as big as they are and brings out these emotions in people.
The other day I looked up the top films of 1979 (don’t ask) and it surprised me that the #1 box office film of that year was… wait for it… Kramer vs. Kramer. The other nine films, in order, were:
The Amityville Horror, Rocky II, Apocalypse Now, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Alien, 10 (the Bo Derek film), The Jerk, Moonraker, The Muppet Movie.
Interesting list, no? Only two of the movies were sequels and/or part of a series (Rocky II and the James Bond film Moonraker) while a few others became series and/or had sequels but at this point were original works.
Compare that list with the top box office films of last year, 2017:
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, The Fate of the Furious, Despicable Me 3, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Wolf Warrior 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman.
Of these ten films, a whopping EIGHT of them are part of a series and/or are sequels to other films and one of them, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, is a somewhat-sequel/remake of an original work. The only “original work” is actually a live action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast animated film!
So, essentially, NONE of the top 10 highest grossing films of 2017 were “original” works from start to end.
In conclusion, perhaps it’s no wonder, given how many sequels and cultural blanketing these works have created, that fans become so enmeshed in these works.