The Imminent Demise of Fandom
Last month, I took my son to see the new Terminator movie. It was his first rated R movie in a theater and he really enjoyed it. Personally, not only was I entertained for two hours, but I also got a sense of closure—something that I did not get from the previous three Terminator movies. Therefore, I got my $20 worth and had a great experience with my son.
That night, I made the mistake of going on the Internet to see how well the movie was doing. Instead of information (silly me, but wasn’t the internet originally called the information superhighway?), I was inundated with a rash of shallow opinions and proclamations of what the actors, writers, directors, and producers should have done differently. Over $250 million (and countless man-hours) spent on a two-hour piece of entertainment that I can access for less than $20, and I can’t seem to avoid the indescribably angry critiques of those who feel that not only were their lofty expectations not met, but somehow Hollywood took a piece of the childhood away from them and scarred them for life.
As I’m writing this, the release of Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker is just two weeks away. Normally, I’d be enjoying all of the ‘buzz’ surrounding another new addition to my favorite movie franchise. Usually, my biggest concern is avoiding spoilers. But ever since the ‘angry mob’ responses to the creative decisions made in The Last Jedi, I’m feeling much greater concern — this beautiful well is being poisoned by the very people who have been over-consuming the water for decades.
Look, I understand that criticism has its benefits. Looking upon a piece of art or entertainment with a critical eye increases your engagement. And sharing your opinions can help others make better decisions on how they spend their hard- earned money.
But too often, I feel like critics are so deeply into their own subjective preferences that we all start to forget that most movies are made for audiences who wish to be entertained. I don’t drive my car around a race track, so I really don’t care which car the professional drivers who write for car magazines think I should buy. I’m not in film school, so I really don’t care what someone who spends 30 hours a week watching obscure movies thinks of the latest Star Wars.
Now, this wasn’t a big deal before the internet. Few people could share their righteous opinions to more than a dozen or so people so it was easy to avoid them. Today, is it too easy for nearly anyone to publish their knee-jerk opinions to a very wide audience. Worse yet, the Clickbait nature of our current internet not only promotes sensationalistic headlines, but drowns out thoughtful prose.
This isn’t going to end well...for anybody.
If you don’t like the direction that a film franchise is going, then stop watching. I have quietly abandoned many television and movie franchises that went in a direction that I didn’t like. If, however, you wish to share your negative opinions, do so with careful consideration, grace, and in measured doses. And please think twice before you publish your thoughts for the world to read.
There’s a reason that George Lucas didn’t write and direct the third trilogy. There’s a reason that Disney didn’t spend a billion dollars (on top of the $4 billion they had already spent to acquire the company) to bring George’s ideas for the third trilogy to the screen. Right or wrong...the debates are fine, but the public vitriol has to stop. Aside from those sites that cater to the noise so that they can monetize the clicks, the anger isn’t doing anyone—Disney, the theaters, or the fans—any service. If this continues, no competent person is going to want to direct or produce the next $250 million pieces of entertainment and allow us to access them for less than $20.
I, for one, can’t wait to see the new Star Wars movie. And there’s a 99.9% chance that I’ll enjoy it, over and over again, warts and all. I’m not demanding perfection. I’m escaping to a galaxy far, far away to be exhilarated and moved and surprised and become that five-year-old kid again.
Thank you, George, for this world. Thank you, Kathleen, JJ, Jon, Ron, and Rian for continuing to entertain me (and my children) for many years to come. May The Force Be With You.
And may uncommon sense and better judgment befall those who are unwittingly contributing to the imminent demise of fandom.