Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fanboy Insecurity Run Rampant

Never underestimate the irrational fanboy need to be "right." It makes sense, honestly. Most of your hard-core fanboys (certainly myself) grew up feeling outside of anything and everything that would be considered "mainstream."

Yet, in recent years, we have this situation where fanboys have become a driving force in pop culture. With Hollywood falling over itself to make big-budget hay out of almost every cartoon series or comic book I grew up with, my generation of nerdy-types are feeling like the belle of the ball. Everybody wants in our pants...to grab our wallet.

The fan reaction to this sort of attention is always the same, and we've seen it over and over, and over again. A sense of entitlement, a sense of ownership. It's good, honestly, in small doses, breeding a deep affinity for these characters and properties. However, I can't think of a single case where this fan-property relationship hasn't turned dark.

Yeah, it's the UK poster, what of it?
The latest place where I see this is over on Rotten Tomatoes, in regards to the critical response to The Avengers (or, I guess the official title is Marvel's The Avengers - there you see Disney ownership in action). At the time I write this blog, on May 1st, 3 days before opening on May 4th, the "tomatometer" rating for the film is 94%. An excellent score, by any rational estimation.

Right now, there are five "rotten" reviews, with 82 "fresh." Now, I look at that and think, "well some people just don't enjoy this kind of entertainment." Part of my growing up as a fanboy made me 100% certain of two things. One is that I like what I like, and I shouldn't ever be embarrassed by that. Secondly, that not everyone is going to like what I do, and...so what?

I love the hell out of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, Across the Eighth Dimension, and, when that movie came out, virtually no one else did. Trust me, I've rarely felt as alone as I did sitting through that movie - twice - in a 500+ seat Cinerama theater with 3 other people.

But I loved that I was alone. I loved that Buckaroo and the Hong Kong Cavaliers were something for me and just a few others. No internet to connect with those folks. The movie was, and is, quirky, weird, and not for everyone. That's part of why it's awesome.

Now obviously, The Avengers (screw you, Marvel's) is supposed to be a much more populist entertainment. Yet, I still wonder, what the hell happened to the sense of the individual in fandom? Why do we see fans getting in such a twist over the film "losing" it's 100% Tomatometer rating?

Worse yet, we see fandom as a offshoot of our current political discourse. Comments on every, single "rotten" review call for that critic to be "removed" (i.e. censored) from Rotten Tomatoes. Or, long, involved, overly fannish diatribes as to why the review is wrong.

I was particularly annoyed by the responses to Stephanie Zacharek's only barely negative response to the film in at Movieline. Where fans, including "Marvel Fan" (*sigh*) take umbrage with Ms. Zacharek's comparison of the film to the nostalgia-fests The Artist and Midnight in Paris (which, to be fair, it's pretty clear she likes more). Why in God's name would a fan be offended at that? Any mainstream superhero movie is, by it's nature nostalgic! If you're offended by that, then you better be offended by the entire way both Marvel and DC Comics have handled their publishing for the past twenty to thirty years!

Critics are not supposed to make you, or the people who made the film, feel better. They're supposed to honestly tell you how they felt about watching the movie in question. Stop acting like their job is to reinforce your personal self-worth by telling you how right you are.

The silliest damn thing about all of this is that the "94% Fresh" rating is never going to stand. Never. Once the mainstream press reviews start coming hot and heavy on Thursday, that percentage is going to drop like a rock. I don't think it's going to fall into "Rotten" territory (below 50%), but I suspect, ultimately, at a guess, somewhere in the 80% range. Respectable, even great, and the film is gonna make a bazillion dollars. With that pretty much assured, I don't see why people fixate on what Cole Smithey thinks. I mean, he's a pretentious twat, but what difference does that make to me?

I also get somewhat bothered about how this impacts my personal interactions. I am more of a fan of Christopher Nolan's Batman films than I am of the "Marvel Movie Universe," even if I enjoy both of them tremendously. I think Nolan makes insanely commercial art, and Marvel makes extremely artful commerce. I wouldn't miss either, but I'll always prefer the former. Upon seeing the latest trailer for Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, I shared it, and my excitement about it, on Facebook.

I was particularly hit by comments that I made being labeled divisive. What I wrote was, "I'm gonna be 100% honest with you folks...Every, single time I see something from this, I stop caring about Avengers." That's truth. I didn't say "Avengers sucks." Perhaps I could've elaborated, explained more, I'll admit, but after being really excited to see The Avengers on Thursday, all it took was less than three minutes of The Dark Knight Rises to make me absolutely more excited to see that.

You may disagree. That's perfectly OK by me. I like what I like, and not everyone is going to like what I do.

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