So. Last night I realized that being a geek in this day and age is the closest I’ll ever get to knowing how a self-hating [adjective-as-noun] person feels.
What caused this thought? At Comic-Con, they announced a film that will contain Batman and Superman. Here is literally everything we know about it:
1. It will be written by David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder.
2. They read this passage from The Dark Knight Returns comic:
I want you to remember, Clark… in all the years to come, in your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you…
That’s it. That is all we know. We know, at some point in the future, a film by Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer will exist which contains Batman and Superman. Both Snyder and Goyer have good, bad and middling films under their name. I cannot stress this enough: we have nothing on which to make a value judgement.
And yet. The streets of the internet are awash with the semen of endless fanwank. The fixtures and fittings and finery in the Grand Ballroom are dripping with bile. Electrical fires are being caused by petulant tears. Toys are being thrown from prams. We, the geekle, are judge, jury and executioner.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
How did we become this? Shame, impatience and entitlement.
Shame! I’m gonna whinge foreeeeever!
For years now, my definition of a geek has been “someone who is unashamedly passionate about what they like”. Operative word: “unashamedly”. In the past you could get mocked or bullied for being a geek, sure. Some people dealt with that by being ashamed. Others, by fully owning it. It makes no difference now. There’s no shame left. We made it to the promised land, people. I mean, for fuck’s sake, a guy tried to blow himself up at an airport in Beijing yesterday. Oh, you didn’t hear? I’m not surprised.
Comic-Con has overshadowed political protest and domestic terrorism. We, and the world, have fully accepted our geekdom. But, for a group of people supposedly so passionate and “open-minded”, why are we so fucking ashamed? Why are we such apologists? Why do the franchises we love have to have caveats? You know what I’m talking about. How many times have you heard the following:
- “Yeah, this tv series is AWESOME! (But season 3 sucks. Stick with it.)”
- “BEST COMIC EVAR! (Except for the [so-and-so] storyline.)”
- “Oh man it’s great. (You just need to get past the first 23 issues.)”
- “It will change the way you see superheroes. (The artwork’s shit though.)”
(Additionally, this means that shameless Twilight fans are better at being geeks than non-Twilight fans. Yeah, chew on that.)
I kinda get where this comes from. One of the best parts of being a geek is when you discover something new, and you just wanna share it with the world. But! You’re so concerned about other people being dismissive that you temper your praise with all kinds of warnings. This is not productive. Other people are not dumb. If you yourself are capable of overlooking something’s faults, then so is someone else. All this attitude does is it makes you more cynical. And of course, we’re cynical anyway. Before the past few years, what did we have to choose from?
We are past that though. That cynicism is no longer well-earned. It’s okay to look forward to something.
Impatience. A.k.a “bobdamn it, Herc, get to the fucking point already”.
Well. 24 hour news really fucked us, didn’t it? Anyone else remember when you’d see a teaser at the cinema, then a tv trailer 3 months later, and you’d go “oh yeah! that thing! might go check it out”. Those were the days…
But now. Holy fucking shit. Live tweets from conventions. News shared on facebook within minutes. “News” aggregator sites guaranteeing that everyone reports that same thing. On top of that, there’s no shortage of unscrupulous douchebags doing anything to get a page view, thus generating artificial outrage. (So many of their ‘headlines’ end in a question mark. And the answer is almost always “No. Of course not, you hit-whoring cunt”). Everyone’s tripping over themselves to be the first to report something. Every tiny, little, insignificant, unconfirmed, trivial fact is newsworthy.
We are behaving like Fox news. Yeah, you heard me. We have taken a 30-second story and transformed it into nearly 24 hours (and counting!) of hollow, empty punditry. We are 20/20 quarterbacks. [It’s what you get when a “monday morning quarterback” has 20/20 hindsight. Except it’s worse because we often aren’t at the point where there could even be hindsight!].
We get impatient. We amplify everything. We lose perspective. Instead of buying into this and accepting it as worthy of your attention, go do something else. Ignore it. You know, I managed to avoid trailers and teasers and news and promotional marketing campaigns for both Iron Man 3 and Pacific Rim (it’s easier than you think). I had no expectations. And I enjoyed the hell out of ’em both. Expectations lead to disappointment. Cut that Gordian knot, and you’ll have a grand ole’ time. Besides, in the time that you spend arguing or hanging on to every last word and detail, you could be experiencing and discovering a new comic or tv show or book. Or even engaging with the real world.
Oh, and by the way, this is the shit that other people take the piss out of us for. They don’t just point at you and go “you like Batman! ha! wanker!”. They unbreak their voice, undrop their balls and say “mnyaaaah! well, in issue 265, it clearly states that Sandwich Man is whole wheat bread, but in the press release for the Minge Boy crossover, it says…”
So, this one cuts both ways. Many geeks feel entitled. And then the studios and marketing departments pander to that, ultimately hurting us, them, and Baby Jesus.
It’s a fair generalization to say that we like established franchises. Things with book or movie tie-ins, lots of episodes etc. More of this means more detail. It’s more things to sink your teeth into. It also means more potential inspiration for new releases. But why the hell would you expect a comic adaptation to do the storyline that you like best? And worse, why would you get pissed off that they don’t go in that direction?
For example, see all the people who had “much better” ideas for using the Mandarin in Iron Man 3. And were so adamant about it, with a tone of such betrayal. Your opinion is your opinion, fine. But filmmakers don’t owe you a damn thing. And here’s the rub: imagine if they had kept it closer to the comics. We all know what would have happened. If it had been faithful, then the stuff that differed would have been nitpicked to death and the stuff identical to the comics would have been unsurprising and would elicit bugger-all response.
Geeks, listen carefully here: you do not know how to make the best [franchise name] movie/show/comic. We are either too fickle (you get caught up in the moment, and look back in 5 years time and go “oh, hmm. not so great”), or too stubborn (i.e. the conceit that Superman or Batman have a central dogma. We treat our obsessions almost religiously [often moreso], yet neglect to remember that, like religion, it is deeply personal. Your take on a superhero is not automatically true for other fans).
But by fucking jove, right or wrong (usually wrong), we’re bloody vocal about it. And filmmakers, writers, executives, can’t help but listen. The joke’s on us, though! They listen too much. We shout so loudly we convince them (and ourselves) that we know what we want, and what happens when they listen to us?
- They brought back Firefly as a movie! Maybe fan interest will convince Fox to bring back the tv series. No? Well, maybe all you countless (and vocal. Oh so vocal in their disdain for Fox), Firefly fans should have actually gone to see the movie.
- That prick Zack Snyder had better be faithful to Watchmen! Oh. Well. He was almost entirely faithful to Watchmen. It’s like seeing the comic panels. But on the screen. Oh. I don’t feel anything. At all.
- The new showrunners for Community went to Comic-Con, and saw people in the audience dressed like Inspector Spacetime. They suggested doing an Inspector Spacetime episode. Huge cheer from the audience. Huge. Smash cut, one year later: “man, that Inspector Spacetime convention episode really blew dead bears”.
It’s a noble effort, but you can’t please all the people all the time. The art of making a consistent, artistically valid, thematically cogent movie, is dwindling. It’s that old chestnut about a camel being a horse designed by a committee. Except the fans are the committee. And we’re dumb enough to think we have the answer, and they’re dumb enough to listen to us. Serves us both right.
Springer’s Final Thought
We’re passionate people. Sometimes that passion blinds us to other possibilities, makes us close minded. We hold on to this thing that we love, and somehow think that a bad movie/comic etc retroactively damages the rest of the franchise. We’re smothering what we love by refusing to let it grow. Evolution doesn’t work without mutation and variation. Geeks, give your obsession room to breathe, please.
We have become cynical, and we’ve made the decision makers cynical. We tell them “baby, just change this and we’ll be happy”. We, the fans, are a filmmaker’s love interest. And we’re sending them mixed signals. Constantly. Is it any wonder they get confused and leave us drunken voice-mails of mutually exclusive promises?
The best moments in life occur without expectation. Recently, a friend was asked if she wanted to go to the beach. She said, “Yeah sure, why not?”. The beach turned out to be on a small island in a different country, and she ended up flying the airplane herself for part of the journey! How much less satisfying would it have been if she’d known all that weeks or months in advance?
And yet, here we are. We’re given the latitude and longitude. We’re told our cruising altitude. Studio executives give powerpoint presentations on how coarse the sand will be, and the salinity of the water. Our minds are incredibly powerful. So, ironically, when we get all this information, we are at our most optimistic. We think of all the many ways things could turn out to be great. And from these concrete details we hope to carve intricately detailed sculptures of expectation. No wonder we’re so disappointed when it doesn’t match what’s in our mind’s eye.
So. What can we do to be better fans? It pretty much comes down to enjoying what there is to enjoy, not treating every detail as discussion worthy, and at the very least waiting for a trailer before we put on our judgemental pants. And for shit’s sake, stop clicking every damn “news” link tagged with [franchise name].
If you’re really that impatient to discuss something passionately, then stop living in the past, stop living in a hypothetical future, put your money where your mouth is, and go unashamedly embrace something new.