Service For the Common Fan

With time on my hand until my next project–meaning by this time next week I’ll be laying out the research for something–I was playing with my 3D modeling program, where I roughed out a design for a ship I created for a role playing game, and I looking through social media.  I shouldn’t say, “Looking through social media,” because that sounds as if I was searching for something.  The reality is you just wait for a notification to pop up, and you decide if it’s worth your while to respond.

Time and again I’ll find something on Facebook that sorta, kinda pisses me off.  This is something I’ve written about a few times, and the Internet being what it is, I’ll probably write about it some more in the future.  Probably about the time a few dozen of my friends posts the legal notice that Facebook can’t “own” their post, and resulting counter-posts that tell them they’re full of shit . . .

One of the things that was going around the other day was the picture of a tee shirt emblazoned with the words, “Cancel Glee and Renew Firefly“.  While I understand the fan base for Firefly is almost second to none–well, when compared to some fan bases–my reaction, as a geek, comes in two stages.  One, Fox, and every other network out there today, is looking to make money.  Glee makes buttloads of money for Fox, and the thought that they’d dump a cash cow like Glee for a show that didn’t make it through its one and only season is pretty much up there with the unshaken belief that I was going to win that half-billion dollar Powerball drawing last night–which is to say, pretty ludicrous.

Then there’s idea two, which is:  it’s over.  It’s been ten years.  Let it go.  You’ll feel better.  Really, you will.

When Your God Joss even says that bringing back the show is a little crazy, because, on top of everything else he’s said that he’d need to ruin the careers of more than a few of the actors to make the show happen, you know it’s not going to happen.  We’re not talking about a situation where a studio discovered later that, hey, this show we canceled a few years back is still making a lot of money for us, lets try making some movies and see what happens–no, this is a case of, “Yeah, it makes a bit of money for us, but we tried the movie thing, didn’t really work out–oh look:  Fringe is on!”

I know Browncoats are a . . . shall we say, enthusiastic group, and they’ll find for their show until the end of time.  I don’t blame them, because I understand fandom, I understand geekness, and there have been a few things that have happened to my favorite shows and stories that have left me a little weepy in the end–

But then I got over it and moved on to something else.

This attitude isn’t unique to the Browncoats.  Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last fifteen years, you probably know how butthurt many Star Wars fans have been since the reissuing of the Special Editions, and the appearance of Episode 1:  The Phantom Menace, and the two movies that followed.  To say “George Lucas raped my childhood!” is a fair bit of hyperbole is something of an understatement, and I’ve seen statements from fans that have gone well beyond that discussion.  Seriously, though:  if Greedo shooting first = your childhood being raped, your childhood sucked tree roots from the start and you can’t come to grips with that fact, or you’re simply batshit insane.

Out of fairness I will say:  I’ve never been a fan of Star Wars, and I’ve been known to say in private conversations that George Lucas is a hack.  That said, as far as I’m concern, the franchise was George’s property for decades, and as its creator, if he wanted to CGI Han in a tutu for the Original Trilogy, it’s his damn business.  See, that’s what comes from creating something:  it’s yours, and you can change things if you are able.  Some times changes make sense, other times not, and some will be plain damn stupid.  But when it’s yours, then if you feel you need to fix or change something, you can.

That’s why we have these things known as “Director Cuts” of movies, or “Unabridged Versions” of books.  The guy who helped create the magic wants to show you what they really wanted, and they change things.  Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s bad; sometimes it’s genius.  Usually there’s some groaning from some corner of the fanbase, but that’s okay, because that is the nature of some people, to groan because someone had the temerity to change their favorite thing!

It’s this last thing that sort of gets my hackles up more than a little, that fans believe that once you put something out there that they love and cherish–nay, they have the need to possess it with their heart and soul–it becomes theirs.  Every scene, every word, even the actors who walk about the stage and help create the characters–it all makes some fans act like a seagull from Finding Nemo:  mine, mine, mine, mine, mine!

There is one expression from this base that is usually reserved for an actor or actress who has left a successful franchise  but who left an incredible mark during their tenure–and that expression is, “They need to come back and do (guest shot, cameo, on-screen strip) because they owe it to the fans!”

My question is always the same:  “Why?”

Actors, directors, and writers don’t owe it to anyone to keep retreating the same ground over and over because it’s going to give some of their fan base the fix for the jones they have.  I used to hear this after George Clooney had moved on from ER and was doing movies:  “He needs to come back for a few episodes because it owes it to the fans.”  Actually, no, he doesn’t.  Also heard that about Jim Carry:  “He needs to do another (Ace Ventura/Dumb and Dumber) because he owes it to the fans.”  Again, he doesn’t–though that last movie is suppose to be in the works, but I think it’s more about owing money to people than owing anything to fans.

Sure, fans have done great things to keep certain properties going well beyond the point where they should have died.  But many have also developed a sense of entitlement about some properties as well, acting as if, by the mere fact they’ve watched a set of DVDs 3,204 times in the last seven years, and are going to watch them again this coming weekend, that you, the actor, the director, the writer–you owe it to them to keep going back to this well and make them happy!

This isn’t something new.  Anyone remember The Final Problem being the last ever Sherlock Holmes story ever written?  Of course you don’t.  That’s because, even though Holmes and Moriarty did a header into the swirling waters of the Reichenback Falls, Arthur Conan Doyle later wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles–which was set before The Final Problem–and eventually brought Holmes back to life in The Adventure of the Empty House.

The reason for this return is often said to have been due to “pressure from the fans” to bring their favorite detective back to life.  This could be more truthfully be called, “Conan Doyle was dealing with crazy ass fanboys,” and you’d be right on the money.  After The Final Problem was published, fans took to the streets wearing black armbands and wandering about pissed off.  Conan Doyle’s publisher received tones of hate mail, and death threats were sent to author.  People created “Keep Holmes Alive” clubs, and wrote their own fan fiction where Holmes not only didn’t die, but probably had sex with the writer afterwards.

In short, Conan Doyle suffered the wrath of obsessive fans who felt he owed it to them to keep writing about Sherlock, and since he didn’t know if one of these people was an ancestor of Annie Wilkes, he muttered the Victorian gentleman’s equivalent of, “Screw this noise,” and got to puttin’ pen to paper.

It’s a problem for us creative types, that if we get “popular”, then we need to understand that not only might we be the subject of adulation, but of more than a few people who are going to accuse us of being sell-out hacks, blind to the needs of fandom everywhere.  When the later happens, there are a few avenues available.  We can fall prey to the scorn, and just give up ever dealing with these people; we can take fandom with a grain of salt and create as best an interface as possible; we can even become a fan darling and do what we can to make them all nice and happy . . .

Or, we can just laugh all the way to the bank, because it’ll always be there, and make the best of the situations.  For example, George Lucas finally said, “The hell with it,” and sold Star Wars to Disney for four billion and change.  Now The Mouse can deal with all the butthurt coming their way when they bring Darth Vader back from the dead, happy in the fact they’ve made a billion dollars from fan off a movie that will likely raped a new generation of childhoods.

As for George, he’ll probably keep doing this:

Yes, he’s making fun of the people who got all over his shit about changing a pivotal scene in Episode IV.  And he did it by wearing a tee shirt that more than a few geeks have bought to show their displeasure at his change.

And you know who made that tee shirt?  A company owned by . . . George Lucas.

Well played, Sir.  Well played.