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July 25 2016

Creators, fans and death threats: Talking to Joss Whedon and others on the Age of Entitlement. Hero Complex looks at the "changing relationship between those who create and those who consume".

I used the "stop ruining my childhood" comment once, I forget when. I meant it jokingly, and it was not directed directly at anyone. But I don't think I'll ever say it again, even in jest. I used to get upset at reboots, and still do to a tiny extent. I mean, it would be nice if original stories were given more space on the roster. But, I realize now that the movie I loved as a kid that's getting redone isn't going to be seen by the new generation. The aren't going to seek it out, because there is no reason for them too. But a newly released movie they might see. And maybe, just maybe, once hearing there is an older version of the movie, the original might get new fans. But the new one doesn't make the original disappear. And it might even be better. (There are a few things I want them to reboot.)
I have absolutely no love for the role of fans in entertainment these days. It's always 'Give me this' or 'Stop doing this' or 'This sucks because it doesn't do what *I* want'.
On the other hand I can understand - and agree with - people that have a problem with the changing of established entities. Gender, race or sexual orientation (which are of course the most prominent aspects of change these days) are a huge part of an individual's identity. Perhaps they shouldn't be. Perhaps it REALLY shouldn't matter what we are, but only who, but we treat it like it matters - and so it does. However by changing important aspects of a character's identity we risk to alienate those people (fans) who have established an emotional connection to this character based - among other things - on the very characteristic that is now being replaced by something else. So I totally get why people, who spent fifteen years buying comicbooks about a girl with long black hair have a problem when the lead of the movie adaption is suddenly a balding dude. Giving people something (e.g. a character that "represents" them) is great. But when this process also includes taking something away from other people - instead of creating something completely new - you have to acknowledge this and realize what you are doing. Not everybody disliking the creative casting choices of the new "Ghostbusters" is a horrible misogynist. There are also those people, who for thirty years have been associating the 'Ghostbusters' with Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston, were perhaps waiting for a new project for ages and are now disenchanted since it finally happened but contains none of their favourite characters.
This doesn't mean there shouldn't be a female ghostbuster - or even an all-female ghostbuster squad. But we need to be aware that there are different types of resentment. Not everybody, who has a problem with something, is an ignorant hater. It's easy to endorse change when things change to your liking.
I believe we need to remind ourselves of the ability to put outselves into the shoes of your neighbours. When a white character gets reimagined as black, you might welcome there being a new 'role model' that's 'like you', but be aware that someone else might "lose" their 'role model'. - You might be pissed about "losing your role model" - but be aware, that the other person perhaps didn't have many in the first place and is simply glad to gain another - no matter how. - Be also aware that losing something can feel more devastating than never having it in the first place.
Things are rarely 100% "black and white" (no pun intended). People need to remember this and stop being stupid. Death threats. Are you kidding me? It's merely entertainment. The next game or show or book is right around the corner. And if it's really that important to you, you should probably think about getting some professional help. There's more to life than your favourite movie. Try finding it and learn to ignore marginal stuff that may not be to your liking.
Well said, Sahjhan.
It goes back very far. Even earlier than the threats Patrick McGoohan experienced after the last ep. of The Prisoner which forced him to move his family to California, or the woman who wrote letters demanding Michael J. Fox marry his on-screen girlfriend from Family Ties.

Of course, there are species of entitlement Joss or Martin or Gaiman would likely never dare criticize; most periods of history have two sides to their coinage.
About fan culture...

I'm really glad to have Whedonesque and that it's a place where people are nice but can also share their honest opinion about something even if they don't like it. It's all about respect.

About changing "gender, race or sexual orientation"...

I've actually been thinking about this lately because of the new Spider-Man.

The new Flash is going to be Indian and I don't think I like that. He's the privileged white bully. An Indian in America is by definition an outsider. Flash is not that. It does not bother me very much, but a little bit. Now, if MJ was anything other than a redhead I'd have a heart attack (see? hyperbole). Gwen should be blonde. I don't know why. I don't know if it's racist. I also don't like whitewashing, so it does go both ways but I understand there's a lot more white characters and role-models.
There is nothing new about patrons of the arts attempting to influence the artist (cf. The Agony and the Ecstasy as just one example). What is new is the immediacy and efficiency with which consumer-patrons can communicate to the artist... there often is no gating mechanism, no way to throttle the stream of messages that flow in from the masses to the beleaguered creator.

Fans (and remember, that word derives from fanatic) who insist on the [presence|absence] of particular plot points or character attributes need to learn their place, as consumers and not creators. If a particular story is not to one's liking, then one either takes some creative-writing classes and writes the story the way one would prefer, or one shuts one's effing piehole. Critique is fine, inflexible demands are not. And if the creator chooses to go a different direction, one can either go along for the ride or find another path. Don't let the door hit you in the backside, etc.

I used to wish that I had the talent to create stories. But if I did, and I was attempting to do so as a career or vocation, I think I would avoid any forms of social media that did not provide me an easy-to-use capability for managing the inbound messages.
All this is the reason I almost never visit any fan-sites any longer.
I was disappointed when Joss quit Twitter and I didn't get to see his funny little one-liners and non-sequiturs anymore. But I totally understand why he did it. If I was famous, I would stay far, far away from any kind of social media that can't be friend-locked.

Not since sociopaths stopped being the exception and started being an actual demographic.
people seem to have a real hard time of grasping the concept of artistic freedom. yes, the interaction with fans can be very rewarding for both sides, and even steer a creator in one direction or the other, but ultimately it's not up to us to decide what happens, and that's the way it should be.
I have never "gotten" this thing about fans telling creators what to do. To me, the whole point of being a fan is looking forward to what the person whom I deeply admire for their creative story telling is going to do next. And I might like/love/dislike/hate it, but the point of being a fan, to me, is in seeing What Comes Next from the brain of this person whom I admire. When it's Joss, I've mostly loved whatever-it-was. So, I am really looking forward to what he does next, WHATEVER IT IS.
The thing is: some (most ?) people are fan of worlds, characters or universes, not fan of the creators.

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