There’s been a petition on Change.Org been doing the rounds on social media this past week. One that has been getting a lot of attention, for better for for worse. Mostly worse. With over 1 million supporters as of the time of writing this, “Remake Game of Thrones Season 8 with competent writers” is a sad commentary on the current state of fandoms.
Fan backlash isn’t some new concept cooked up by today’s more “discerning” media consumer, but it’s certainly been whipped into an entirely new level of fervour not seen before.
Thing is though; good movies and Television series turing bad has been happening since time immemorial, it’s just a fact that; for there to be good things, there inevitably need to be some bad things too. But it’s this current trend of people being unable and unwilling to accept something they don’t see as perfect that makes us all seem like our priorities in life are aimed in the wrong direction.
What am I saying? Is it that we should be accepting of media? even when it fails? No of course not, fans have the right to demand better of their entertainment. Certain professional individuals spent years making a career out telling us what was good and what was bad.
If Roger Ebert declared something was of a poor quality, people would listen, because he’d earned that right. Never once though did he hand a page of notes back to the director and demand they make it again. Because we move forward look towards the next thing rather than stewing at what could have been.
Being upset that a show you were invested in disappointed you is completely justified, however many of the reactions of fans on social media are not. Going after the creators, the actors or the platform holder not only makes you look crazy, it undermines the platform you’re trying to promote. Refer back to another post on this site talking about the insane backlash following the release of The Last Jedi a few years back. It’s petulant.
The Social Media Personality Problem
Like with what happened surrounding The Last Jedi, this Game of Thrones thing is a sign that simple fandoms have evolved into something more. They’ve become obsessions, lifestyles and even jobs for some people.
There are a ton of websites, podcasts and Youtube channels out there dedicated to discussing, speculating and digging far too deeply any aspect of a single show, movie or video game. It creates a core for which people’s shared passion can orbit like a star. Then the social circle and grows around this person will grow, to the point where many fans will take this person’s word as gospel truth.
Which is the next big problem with the modern fandom; they’ve become utterly unable to separate “opinion” from “fact” in their minds. These social media personalities, they’re obviously far more invested in this media, because they spend far more time thinking about it than they really should.
They have to though, because in a lot of cases it has become their job, it’s what pays their bills. Obviously they have a lot more personal stakes tied up in the media, but not just that, they’re creating entertainment. So their real displeasure at the media is then amplified by the need to outdo the hundreds of people out there doing the same thing. So they go bigger, in their praise and in their rage.
But, in doing this, they create a much higher jumping off point for their fans to start from. The personality puts out a video in which they’re very angry. The fan will add a few of their own genuine problems on top of this to become absolutely livid. When in a vacuum, they’d probably only be a bit annoyed.
Thus we get these circles of fandoms who will stand and die by the opinions of their little social circle. Reading Twitter threads regarding this current season of Game of Thrones is painful as a consequence of this mentality. People have their own personal feelings regarding the season, but at the same time, utterly refuse to accept the opinion of anyone else, on either side.
To the point where I’ve seen people will use the line “that’s just your opinion.” in a dismissive manner, as though their own opinion is the holy light of truth, and a mere opinion is not something they’d sully their lips on. It’s crazy to think that once upon a time, people could just be happy to let others think what they wanted.
Something changed, and it wasn’t Star Wars
Some of the biggest, oldest fandoms in nerd culture are no strangers to seeing their favourite movies put out some howlers. That’s all part of the experience of being a fan. The Star Trek fans laugh and give shit to the terrible aspects of the older movies in the franchise. Old Star Wars fans rally together against the Prequels as a matter of camaraderie.
As someone who has had wildly different feelings on the prequels over the years, never have I once heard anyone demand George Lucas go back and try making them again.
This change has come from a newfound expectation from the fans that the media needs to meet all of their specific needs and desires. One that completely disregards the incredible resource and talent required to produce media of this scale.
It’s because we’ve changed culturally, a combination of the younger generations growing up with some built in sense of entitlement, coupled with a huge increase of people defining themselves through the media they consume in a way we’ve never done before. Dating apps proudly present a customised “Game of Thrones fan” on the top of people’s profile, as though liking a show can become a person’s defining feature.
Which makes petitions like the one regarding Game of Thrones all the sadder. They mean next to nothing in the grand scheme of things. As much as fans like to think they’re rallying together to tear down the corporation. The inherent lack of risk and time required for a person to simply click a box on their laptop of phone is hardly a testament to their passion and vitriol for a better version of their media.
It reminds me of the cult-like, tribal approach to fandom that caused the soccer riots of the 1980s. People don’t see themselves as simple fans anymore, but as warriors that need to battle to “protect” the sanctity of their fandom, as if to justify it. Although it differs in that most of the angriest people surrounding a TV show are also the least likely to prove their mettle by throwing chairs at police on a cold Wednesday night in Milwall.
No, instead, the violence of the old hooligans has been replaced with a sense of intellectual superiority and misguided gatekeeping surrounding their vision of what the material should be. The original creator or copyright holder be damned. What might be the most annoying thing about all of this though, is the fact that the angriest people also seem to burn out the quickest.
RemakeTheLastJedi.com was a movement that seemed to have a lot of traction when it first got going, and while it’s still out there, taking people’s pledges. I don’t think the person running it has been all that vocal regarding his plans to screw Disney and make a movie that the “entire fandom can be proud of.”
They claim to have nearly $500 million in pledges thus far, despite not actually taking a penny from anyone yet. I wonder how many people who felt angry enough to pledge back in the day still feel like putting their hand in their pocket now. Especially with the The Rise of Skywalker seeming to get people on board once again.
Sadly, it’s become the accepted reaction
Which is the core of the problem here. All this rage, mud slinging and outrage is just blowing smoke. As fiery and vitriolic as response to The Last Jedi was at the time, none of those “crusaders” had to the follow through to make good on their big promises.
Outrage and backlash have simply replaced disappointment. In this age of entitlement, where everyone feels like they’ve earned a good experience simply because they invested some time into a show, something can’t simply be a let down anymore. It needs to be whipped up into a drama to add to the grand story we’re all the star if in our own minds. The worst thing about all of this though is that the normal consumers out there, the people who don’t live and breathe this stuff are the ones who suffer.
Some people out there are normal. They don’t understand these massive overreactions aren’t to be taken seriously, which is difficult considering their vastness. But in the end, many of us just want to enjoy things, and while that certainly does not mean we should disregard all criticism, we’ve lost the middle ground in which we need to sit to avoid going insane…