In 1995, I sat with my friend Trevor, flipping through an X-Men comic book. He turned to me and said, “Imagine if we had lots of TV shows and movies about our favourite superheroes.” I looked at him, and replied, “That would be unbelievable. I’d start by casting Sylvester Stallone as Wolverine.” Fast forward 22 years later, I want to go back in time and tell those little fanboys to be careful what they wished for—except the Stallone casting because that’s just awesome.
Why would I warn them, you may ask? Because the fanboy culture’s killing the comic book star.
At the start of 2016, excitement surged through my body. It was the year of Deadpool, Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad… and that was just the big screen. On the television front, we had new seasons of Daredevil, The Flash, Arrow and the start of series such as Preacher, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Every month—heck, every day—there was something new to get pumped about. By the end of the year, I dreaded reading anything comic book-related. Not because of the content, but due to the entitlement of the whineboys and their hullabaloo. I hate to say it, but the geek culture has become as bad as the jock culture; we’ve become armchair critics.
The problem isn’t the actual criticism; it’s the disproportionate nature of it. To many fanboys, there’s two extremes: great or horrible. The middle doesn’t exist, even though that’s unfortunately where most pieces of art lie. Combine this with a powerful decentralised decision-making attitude, where the vocal minorities scream the loudest, and things get blown out of proportion
Look at Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice for example, which holds a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. Objectively, is it a worse film than Batman Forever, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, or X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which hold 40%, 37%, and 38% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes? It’s a divisive film for sure, but if you rank it as the worst film of the year, you really need to watch more films. In fact, over the past few months, many reviewers and fans have admitted to changing their stance towards the film after a second or third viewing. Why? Because the hype is no longer there.
Every studio dreams of a self-functioning hype machine, which adds extra zeroes to their bank accounts before the film is even released. Comic book movies are hot property for this reason, because even if the film is a stinker, the fans will flock to see it. However, the hype machine can also prove to be a film’s biggest enemy—case in point, BvS. When a fan is extremely passionate about something, a disappointment will shatter them even harder than if they went in without expectation. It’s like going to a water park as a kid. If you’re so psyched for it and arrive there and it’s raining, you’ll feel like someone burnt all your Christmas presents. However, if it was a last minute plan, you’ll feel meh about it but move on.
When the hype dies, jadedness takes over. I’ll point to Powerless, DC’s new comedy TV show that’s arriving soon, as a prime example. I’ve seen more negative comments towards this TV show before a clip had even been shown. Sure, it’s not a show which a lot of people were calling for, but how can we judge something before it’s even released? Before it’s even been aired, the negativity spreads like wildfire. This is not okay.
The moral of the story, I suppose, is not to discourage fans from being passionate about things, but to be careful before they tear them down without thought. Yeah, it’s the Internet and we all feel like mini Donald Trumps when we post snarky comments and bitchy tweets, but we’re talking about serious business here. People are being fired, studios are changing business models, and decisions are being made because of your emotional reactions. That’s huge. It shows the power the fans hold at the moment. And to quote Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”