I am getting a little bit fed up with seeing beloved pieces of my childhood disregarded in the media, vilified by the news and abused by cinema. I thought we would be past this by now. “Nerd Culture” is so widespread now that there isn’t anybody it doesn’t touch anymore, and yet we continue to see dated viewpoints and a lack of basic respect for a culture that is fast becoming the dominant one.
I’m not claiming that mainstream media needs to respect all the things I like, but it needs to take a look at itself and update its attitude towards certain subjects. Time magazine, a publication that, like many, refuses to drag itself out of the mindset of 30 years ago has featured Palmer Luckey, creator of the Oculus Rift on its cover in a way that the collective internet has interpreted as ridicule.
They are taking what could be a revolutionary piece of technology, and are disregarding it because it is being developed as a video games peripheral. The Rift is already being used for construction, sales, design, teaching and medicine, but Time feels the need to mock it because it doesn’t want to understand it.
Luckey himself has laughed off the internet’s interpretation of the cover, saying that him being on the cover at all is a big step forward for such a dated medium. But if you look at him there, his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, you can tell he is as aware as the rest of us how little the piece actually means.
It makes me question how ‘mainstream’ said media is any longer. By definition, for media to be regarded as mainstream it must be reflective of the beliefs, thoughts and activities of the current majority. By this logic, the people who enjoy video games and comic books must exist in a sub-culture of fake pointed ears, doing nothing but rolling D20s in their parent’s basements. It’s not like Batman and Mario are two of the most recognisable character in the world. The simple fact is that so-called mainstream media isn’t as far reaching and all encompassing as it used to be. Most British newspapers will sell a few hundred thousand copies a day, adding up to a couple of million a year. If you compare this to some Youtubers who have over ten million subscribers with billions of views, media outlets of the past are quickly finding themselves becoming obsolete.
The internet has allowed media to fragment, people can find incredibly niche sources of news and content in abundance, and content creators prosper from it. While this happens, the big news sources talk about the same subjects in hushed tones, as if it were something to be afraid of. For a humber of years only time you would see a video game on a major news outlet, it would be accompanied by grim faces and reports of a shooting in which a copy of GTA being found at the gunman’s home is somehow a more pertinent fact than the pound and a half of LSD in his possession.
There is this accusatory attitude amongst certain media outlets when speaking on the topic, usually accompanied by half truths, poor research and finger pointing at what is seen as the easy scapegoat. It stinks of a dated medium taking cheap shots in hopes to stave off their ever increasing irrelevance.
But it isn’t just the news that is guilty of this, the broadcast and print news is quickly becoming irrelevant, of course they’d have nothing good to say about their successors. What is more surprising is how we can continue to see poor examples in cinema. We are amidst a nerd renaissance in cinema and on television. Comic books are the new frontier to be exploited, and those of us that grew up with the all very happy to let the money men take these beloved properties and turn them into cinematic experiences for us. So why is it that we continue to see movies like Fantastic Four and Pixels being made that seem to care little for anything beyond the bottom line.
Marvel have been at the forefront of turning their properties into successful movies and television shows, and yet studios such as Fox continue to struggle to hit the same highs as often. I think this is almost entirely down to a lack of basic respect for the source material. I get the sense that Marvel studio really do want to do right by their fan base, and by doing this the money takes care of itself. When it comes to Fox, I have still have visions of the cigar chomping executive, the guy who seems to think that the people he is selling to are still the idiotic kids who filled the arcades in the 80s, the kind of guy that would argue with you that you’re opinion is incorrect and he knows what you really want. I’m boiling the problem down to a caricature, I admit, but with bombing superhero movies often suffering the same problems, there has to be a common reason behind it.
Doctor Doom in the latest Fantatic Four movie is the most recent example, Doom is a villain in only so much that his actions put him at odds with the heroes of the story. His methods might be extreme but everything he does, he does with the earnest belief that his is doing right by the world to stop them from ultimately destroying themselves. He is a complex character and one of the most interesting villains the universe has produced, and yet Fox have boiled him down to a stereotypical villain whose saviour complex is replaced with a baseless desire to destroy earth. So he’s absolutely nothing like the character he was named for.
If that’s not enough, X-Men: Apocalypse is the next movie in the actually successful reboot of the X-Men franchise. Despite them seeming be getting a grasp on why people like the Marvel Studios movies so much, images of the character Apocalypse have started popping up online and compared to the iconic look of the character, it would be impossible to tell who it was supposed to be out of context. It’s a move that’s hard to fathom, the costume doesn’t look that bad, granted, and the movie isn’t out yet, but it’s simple things like this that are holding Fox back.
Bottom line is this should be happening any more. The average movie goer doesn’t care if your comic book or video game movie is respectful to its source material or not. The fans, who just so happen to be some of the most vocal fans around, are going to fill the internet with free press, good or bad. Studios need to take that extra time to find the right people and let them make the film without adhering to their standard checklist of changes from up above. That is the difference between a success that will launch a lucrative merchandise line, spin off and a dozen sequels and a box office flop that makes the name of that franchise poison for the next half decade.
I want to hope that the old media’s leaning towards this stubborn mentality despite their dwindling number is simply because of the grey hairs in charge and not an ingrained trend in the medium itself. I don’t want to see the broadcast and print media fail, but if they don’t take a more open minded approach to the way the world is going then they are going to get consumed by emerging media that allow people to consume specifically what they want to know rather than what ‘mainstream media’ thinks they need to know.
People care about things, if you can’t show the same care and understanding in your dealings with the medium, then going elsewhere is a very real and dangerous alternative that could kill an industry, one I once wanted to be a part of. And that would be a real shame.