Fandom Out of Control

This past week, the cinema was met by a whole lot of confrontation, which as someone who loves that buttle of ideologies and opinion as much as anyone, I was excited. However, there’s a difference between some favorable and respectful discourse, and strawman terminology to tear down the person more than the opinion being disputed. This editorial is meant to touch on that subject and many others in regards to the modern day fandom of filmmaking, or the lack thereof it, because you don’t see these kinds of disputes when it comes to films like “Hereditary” or “Call Me By Your Name” or any other type of low-budget, highly reviewed, stylized, or artistically manifested kind of film. 

Instead, those films go under the radar with little to no gripes from the audience, not because the audience loved it, but because of the lack of attendance from them. It’s a give and let go kind of a thing that makes the mass general of audiences look hypocritical, and we as critics usually have to bite our tongues for this, but viewers have lost their touch with the language of film. I know that comes with a lack of impact because I am not such a critic that writes for a prestigious paper like the Washington Post, or a prestigious site like RogerEbert.com, or a film-heavy site like the Hollywood Reporter. 

I know that I stand on my own two feet by my lonesome in protest, and it’s almost immodest to dub myself a critic when I maintain no press credentials, little viewership, and a self-funded, unpaid, blog. But I see more than 150 movies a year, keep the ticket stubs, read books about filmmaking and film criticism, and in constant support of young local filmmakers like Weston Davis. I put my time in, and though I am not noted for it or recognized for it, I feel that one day I will be, which will make this article bittersweet to look back on because it's on that is bluntly honest. 

I say this with the utmost amount of confidence though in that the massive amounts of general audiences are unempathetic, lazy, and unreliable as filmgoers. I am not asking them to see films and notice the framing of a medium shot, or the duality of a screenplay, or the relevance of a movie to something else from the sixties era of television; I am merely asking them to think. 

Challenge yourselves, be inspired to see films that are different or that stand opposed to your beliefs whether they be political or religious. Marc Bernardin once stated, and I am paraphrasing, that most filmgoers don’t know or care who made the movie that they’ve paid money to see, and he’s right. 

Few of them do, and if they do, it's usually because of some roundabout knowledge involving a director’s personal life, far more than his artistic outings. Like that of a James Cameron, who people were seemingly unaware of until his Wonder Woman comments, despite him being one of the most prominent directors working today. Maybe it's a short-term memory loss thing, I’m not sure, but general audiences continuously feel as if they're steaming with vitreal and disapproval. As if they walk into to see a movie like “Hereditary,” knowing the critical buzz it's received, preparing to hate it. Never attempting to understand why critics loved it, which leads me to my next point in that of the laziness of audiences. I have had too many friends tell me they hate critics because they hate Rotten Tomatoes because the site gave a film that they liked a lousy score. 

The problem in that logic resides in the steps it took to get to that opinion, Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregate system, using a significant amount of reviews from individual critics and combining their grades to average out a score of fresh or rotten. An important note there is an average score, it’s that small stat in tiny font that resides underneath the Tomatometer that you can see in a web browser, under that you’ll find the total number of reviews listed, the number that are fresh, and how many are rotten. If a film maintains an 8/10 average rating out of more than 100 reviews, that is an A to A+ film for critics, movies like “Moonlight” and “Psycho” and “Wizard of Oz” reside in this place. Something with 7/10 is usually something like “Thor: Ragnarok” which is a film that everyone liked, but no one loved. 

The point of all of that is to say that people get upset about a grade, never reading the full story into how that grade came to be, like reading one of the reviews listed. For example, “Get Out” was a movie that I, and pretty much any other savvy filmgoer loved. It has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the one review that is rotten has an enormous fallacy in the center of their argument, confusing the movies ideals and motives with something else entirely. It’s a bad review, one that you can argue with, something general audiences could do more of the same of, but they never read the reviews, but rather the last paragraph that summarizes their opinion. 

Then again, maybe I don’t want audiences reading our reviews. Not because I fear criticism, but because I fear the backlash, something that seems to be back in fashion these days, with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” receiving such hatred and vitreal that it's sent one of their stars, Marie Tran, off of Twitter entirely. Continually relating back to this us versus them mentality which has existed for years, in the seventies, it was Trekkies versus Star Wars fans, a fight that has gone on for ages. There’s Predator versus Alien, Michael vs. Jason, DC vs. Marvel, Anime vs. Comics, WWE vs. WCW, and the list goes on, but they all had a sense of respect and dignity attached to them. No one ever turned to racial slurs, political transgressions, or personal attacks on people’s beliefs and what not. 

For Tran, it was a bunch of so-called “Star Wars fans” choosing the dark side and redacting their fair criticisms of a film to racial invective, misogyny worded, rape and death threats. They were hurled at her at an unrelenting rate that drove Tran to do the rational and fair thing which was to shut down the access given to them, by her. It was an event that took up all of the headlines this week in cinema news, turning her Cinderella story of staring in her first feature film, which was a Star Wars film mind you, and being the victim of its criticisms. 

She’s not the only one though, Rian Johnson’s twitter handle is a mess, and Daisy Ridley stood up for an anti-gun political belief that was soon met with the same bitterness and hatred as Tran’s inclusion in the most divisive film of the decade. She’s been stripped down from her social media pages with nothing but an Instagram profile pic and a bio that read “Afraid, but still doing it anyway.” She’s not the first to do it, not just Star Wars fans, but the vitriol of the internet seems to have no bounds as of late as in 2016 Leslie Jones was sent off of social media for taking part in the “Ghostbusters” remake. Having a constant pile of sexually violent and racist tweets thrown at her that ended up driving her to step down from the technological world that is supposed to birth more connection and not division. 

It begs the question: what do fans want? Not only Star Wars but movie lovers in general. The only franchise with constant support from audiences is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a franchise that, in all fairness, is usually more of the same than anything nuanced or unique. Do fans want that though? Do they desire mediocrity and familiarity over the risk of nuanced and failure? Are they okay with their favorite films remaining stagnant and unprogressive? 

It seems that way as if fans are shouting “if it ain’t broke; don’t fix it,” as films like “Black Panther,” “Ocean’s 8,” and others that are trying to breathe new and fresh air into cinema are met with some barrier, as some audiences seem upset by that format, though the box office may not show it. It’s as if they’ll pay to see it, just to complain about it, which leads to me to quote the princess of Wakanda, Shuri, by stating “Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.” Shouldn’t that be our entire goal, to improve what works? 

I know I’ve already spoken out of turn, and I have ranted long enough, but the fandom is out of control. It’s reaching a tipping point that is driving film studios mad by this point, basically forcing them to become something their not, whether it's DC trying to start its own universe of heroes or Universal trying to birth its own multiverse of monsters. Fans are asking studios contradicting questions, and it's time fans take a good, long, hard look in the mirrors and either figure out what they want or figure out how to watch a movie like an adult. Star Wars fans most of all,  who seemingly have forgotten the teachings of a little green puppet who warned them about the perils of hate.