The Rising Outrage of Fandom
Via a friend’s Facebook post, I happened to peek at an article called ‘Fandom is Broken’. Written by a movie critic named Devin Faraci (thank you sir!), he mentions Anne Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery, who forced author Paul Sheldon to bring her favorite character back to life by writing a manuscript which appealed to her needs of reviving Misery Chastain back to the land of the living.
More importantly, Mr. Faraci in detail reveals the challenges for writers and other creatives to deal with an overwhelming horde of fans who insist the character(s) they love should always have a happy ending, no matter what. I will agree with the author of the piece that real drama does not operate like that, nor does good, solid storytelling. In the 21st Century, fandom is built like a fast food restaurant where you ‘have it your way’. Last time I checked, good stories are not Burger King.
In today’s ever connected social media world, writers are indeed walking blindfolded on a very narrow tightrope in building and nurturing a fan base. It’s important for writers to communicate with them, but their fans should not dictate what the next creative project should be. Hard as this may sound, fans become fans because they like a writer’s work or simply like the writer. Fans also become invested in a character like Misery Chastain, like Anne Wilkes. If something happens to change the reader’s perception of their favorite character like Captain America, fans will take up internet arms to display their displeasure, outrage, total disgust of where the author is taking the storyline. I would suspect a decade ago, fans didn’t have a feeling of ‘entitlement’, that they were just as content to see how a story would play out amid the twists and turns along the way. Fans used to have more faith in their favorite writer to ‘stick the landing’ and make the story count. Today, even bestselling authors on their own blogs complain about the immature treatment they receive from a group of people who claim to love a certain writer’s work, but raise cane about it.
This is movie related, but there’s no better example of fandom running amok than what happened to director (and writer) Joss Wheldon because of a particular comment in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. He wrote a scene in which Natasha Romanoff, AKA the Black Widow (through flashbacks) was subject to a variety of procedures that left her unable to have children. This left an emotional toll and in one fateful statement, she mentions to Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk), “You know what my final test was in the Red Room? They sterilized me, said it was one less thing to worry about. You think you’re the only monster on the team?”
The internet went bananas, especially on Twitter. Social Justice Writers were outraged! The headlines from at least two sites prove that!
Io9: Black Widow: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
The Daily Beast: Avengers: Age of Ultron’s’ Black Widow Disgrace
The reaction to the Black Widow’s admittance of her sterilization set off a firestorm heavily criticizing Wheldon to the point he was forced off Twitter. Submitted for your (dis)approval, here is the screenshot from disgruntled fans who had plenty to say: (watch how Wheldon handles the responses with class)
In one fell swoop, Natasha Romanoff became Misery Chastain. A sterilized, ‘monstrous’ Misery Chastain who became a talented superspy who could kill when needed, but not bare children. Paul Sheldon had it so lucky! He only had to deal with a psychotic, mentally disturbed Anne Wilkes who under different circumstances, could have created a profile on a Fanfic website and continued her own adventures of Misery. The 21st Century ‘fans’ are looking for symbolism, not story. They’re looking for ‘representation’, not plot. They are unwilling to be less excited to delve into the challenges a certain character must go through in order to overcome, and more excited that Misery needs a girlfriend because it would be a huge boost for the lesbian community that Misery has……..
This is madness. Enough, seriously!
Writers of fiction are not social activists because we the public feel they should be. They have a choice to present deeper issues (not just social) that are a part of their world, not because we feel they should represent ours. Keep in mind in fiction these are characters, protagonists who we root for and feel we have much in common with as readers. An antagonist is a character we cannot wait to see their comeuppance. In the world of ‘real life’, berserk fans who send nasty tweets to their favorite writers because of a scene in a movie or passage in a book they despise like, need to slow down and understand it is fiction you’re reading or seeing, nothing else. The author’s job is to make readers actually read a book and/or create engaging characters that we have empathy for and want to succeed. Opinion pieces that focus on anything not relating to the character, such as representation, image, etc, is a huge waste of time. Sorry to state the obvious. Not that it’s any less important, but it’s not the writer’s job to push for a doll of Black Widow or to promote her in other departments he or she has no control over. The best they can do is write a story and hope you enjoy it. That’s all.
I invite you to read the Fandom article linked on the bottom of this entry so you can see and judge for yourself whether or not you’re one of the fans guilty of contacting your favorite author on social media for the sole purpose of complaining and not constructively criticizing their work. I feel authors appreciate constructive feedback that will help them become better storytellers in the future. In today’s uncompromising fandom, criticism borders on outright insanity which authors definitely don’t need or deserve.
Charles L. Chatmon
Creator, Authors N Focus Extra