Last week, pop culture had a double-barrelled shotgun levelled at it, possibly quite literally.
The first chamber was in play after James Rolfe (aka The Angry Video Game Nerd) released a video stating the reasons why, as a fan of the original, he would not see the all-female Ghostbusters reboot. As a fan, because any other reason could lead to accusations of sexism (on a personal note, this writer has interviewed Rolfe and found him to be a generally reasonable, pleasant human being – nothing like the character he portrays in his web series). The video received a lot of attention from cultural critics.
Shortly thereafter, Marvel released a comic revealing Steve Rogers aka Captain America had been a Hydra double agent all along. Author Nick Spencer’s Twitter feed was flooded with hate-filled messages, accusations of anti-Semitism (under the assumption that making Captain America a Hydra agent also made him a Nazi – which is patently false) and, perhaps most disturbingly, death threats.
As critic Devin Faraci posited in his excellent examination of the Cap debacle, fandom has run amok. There’s a sense of entitlement brought out by the very nature of the internet that no longer allows art to be art, but rather a product. And if said product doesn’t please, the maker should be put to death (you can read Feraci’s terrific essay and the chilling death threat from a former marine here).
Adult entertainment’s latest development plans to have its stars cater to specific paying customer’s demands – be it the strangest kink or the most vanilla. Today, fans are treating their pop culture of choice the same way.
If you want to stay off some creepy ex-marine’s list, avoid screwing with the following.
Dan Aykroyd recently released a statement about the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot claiming it was both funnier and scarier than the original. Aykroyd has a vested interest in saying that as the film’s Executive Producer, but his statement read particularly forceful and a little odd. He noted that all performances, “male and female,” were good. Why did he feel the need to make such a distinction?
If you’ve been in hiding for the last year, fanboys of the original have been rattled by the very notion that their beloved 1984 classic got girl cooties all over it. But don’t accuse them of being sexist, they clearly just want the new film to not exist at all or stay within the spirit of the original, male-driven original.
Or, more likely, they’re just reverting back to their sixth grade selves…
9. James Bond
With a franchise in which the lead actor is always negotiable, the question isn’t whether the original intent will be changed, but how. Fans still have confounding reasons to lament the underrated Timothy Dalton era. The films may not have been the best entries, but Dalton’s portrayal was the closest to the source material until Daniel Craig. Craig has recently left the series, despite hoards of money being thrown at him not to, and it appears Tom Hiddleston is set to be next in line.
In the interim, however, there were campaigns for both Idris Elba and Gillian Anderson to take on the mantle. While Elba was mostly well-received by fans, the undercurrent of racism still reared it’s ugly head in some circles. And Anderson, also surprisingly well-received, scared the same contingent who hates the idea of an all-woman Ghostbusters. Essentially, it’s been much like the U.S. elections for the past eight years. They were mostly okay with the black guy for a while, but once a woman was thrown into the mix, everyone lost their mind.
The telephone – those old enough to remember rotary phones, landlines and phone booths can laugh about the archaic ways we used to try and contact one another. But Alexander Graham Bell, whose invention was accused at its inception of bringing about the end of the world, could never have imagined the impotent rage of tech junkies.
It seems a bizarre little subculture, but the lines around the Apple store each time a new version of their phone is released don’t lie. This is the age of “right now,” and any change in resolution, load time or feature sends tech fanboys into infant tantrums. We shouldn’t be surprised. Recent surveys have shown that younger generations use their phones even during sex, so that end of the world prognostication may not be all that far fetched.
7. Star Wars
We’re not talking about the new entry in the franchise, which was met with critical and audience acclaim. That acclaim was not shared by creator George Lucas, who referred to Disney as “slave drivers” and said it was not the way a sequel would have gone in his midichlorian-addled mind.
The backlash, this time, was toward Lucas himself during the 1990s, when he took it upon himself to update the effects of the original trilogy and make it clear once and for all that Greedo got off a shot before Han. The changes were hated by fans, who tried their best to pretend they never happened. When the prequels rolled around, more claims of Lucas ruining their oh-so-precious childhoods were bandied about. It may not have been what the fans wanted – which, today more than ever, is paramount – but an argument could be made for letting a creator end things on his own terms. Never has the benefit of the doubt been so radically denied to an artist.
Horror films are in a world of their own in terms of public consumption. The vitriol directed toward certain remakes are target-specific, and in mainstream critical circles often ignored. But in an age where zombies dominate the horror scene more than any other monster, any changes to zombie physiology can infuriate rabid fans. Viewers of The Walking Dead (and creator Robert Kirkman) like to forget that season one ended with a blow by blow of how the zombie virus works.
The day of the fast-moving zombie of the early 2000s has been quietly swept under the rug. Even the most acclaimed film from that period, 28 Days Later, survives only on the technicality that the hordes are not actually zombies, but the rage-infected living.
5. Mass Effect 3
Time was, you saved up your allowance to rent a selection from the NES library from your local Blockbuster. With little more to go on than misleading box cover art and the odd screenshot from your Nintendo Power, you were renting blind and hoping for the best. If the game was produced by LJN, you were pretty much screwed.
Today, Blockbuster is a remnant of the past. And the hype surrounding a game’s release is loaded heavy with fan expectations.
None suffered more harshly than Mass Effect 3, a generally well-received game that, according to fans, had an infuriating ending. After fighting through hoards of Reapers, the player is given three options, each of which results in the lead character’s death.
Displeased fans organized the “Retake Mass Effect” campaign online. One fan went as far as to lodge a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Those of us old enough to remember 8-bit consoles could never conceive of going to such lengths over that crappy Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde game. Talk about entitlement.
Even those with no vested interest in sports had something to say about deflategate. It transcended it’s typical place in news and became a national controversy still debated over to this day.
Sports fans should have a much harder road to convince the general public their devotion to a team or player is justified. After all, they’ve had to battle through the inherent racism of a team name, animal cruelty, homophobia and even potential child molestation that may taint the legacy of their beloved. Yet a lot of the media tends to give sports fans a pass when holding a team’s feet to the fire.
Iron Man 3 is, arguably, the most accomplished standalone superhero film Marvel Studios has yet to produce. It’s slick, funny and incredibly entertaining, scripted by legendary Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black and, by the last act, feels very much like a sequel to that franchise as much as does a superhero film. But don’t tell that to anyone loyal to the comics or their eyes will roll back into their head and they’ll begin speaking in tongues (it could be Kree, but without a translator implant, who knows).
Anyone who knows the Iron Man comics knows of The Mandarin – Tony Stark’s most feared nemesis. Fans had the rug pulled out from under them when, in the film, The Mandarin was altered into a bumbling, beer-soaked figurehead of a much more sinister plot. It’s not that the real Mandarin doesn’t make an appearance (played by Guy Pearce), just that the standard robe-wearing nightmare from the comics is revealed as a gag. It’s a funny gag, played pitch-perfect by Sir Ben Kingsley. To this day, Marvel fans will refer to you only in vulgar terms if you speak highly of the change. As we just did. Oh…
2. Michael Bay-ification
Fans of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic were apoplectic when superproducer Michael Bay suggested his new adaptation would feature an extraterrestrial origin story. It turned out to be slightly inaccurate, but Bay’s new Turtles, directed by Jonathan Liebsman, had many other reasons for fans to be furious.
Initially, archvillain Shredder, a Japanese robo-samurai, was whitewashed and played by character actor William Fichtner. After fans unleashed their fury, reshoots added a mostly silent Asian Shredder, turning Fichtner’s character into a confusing middleman.
Most Bay produced reboots have been met with heavy criticism, but none was more viciously (and rightfully) attacked as the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Plans to continue to the series were abruptly cut short.
1. Celebrity Love
Recently, Amber Heard has come forward to speak about the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of former husband Johnny Depp. The story went through the standard and clearly well-respected vetting process of the internet. Depp fans took to the comments section with cries of “We weren’t there” and “We don’t know the whole story.” This neglects the fact that the bruises on Heard’s face tell enough of the story to fill in horrid blanks.
This is where, in past instances such as Rihanna and Chris Brown, fan love becomes something far more insidious and vile. It’s all fun and games until the victim of such a hideous crime of domestic abuse gets no support or is held to a higher level of unjust scrutiny, merely because the accused is held in high public regard. It’s something to consider next time a musician you admire goes on an ill-advised Twitter rant.