Comedy, as a whole, has some sacred cows that should not be touched lightly.
Movies, books, and games on the other hand…
I like to maintain that, if you’re a true fan of something, you know the strong points and weak points of the work and love it regardless of the latter. After all, things made by human hands are inherently flawed, but if the flaws are funny or endearing (or at least small when compared to the good qualities of the work), then it might be said that that particular work did achieve a sort of perfection.
But sadly, a lot of fans out there turn into frothing, rabid dogs when a work they like is questioned or criticized, and even sometimes when that work is adapted to a new medium. In their eyes, the work is God, come again to save them from their meager, bored existence and enlighten the word with Its words of wisdom. To insult It is to set fire to the American flag, after having used it as toilet paper. Or, perhaps more relevantly, spanking yourself with the Mexican flag.
The ensuing “discussion” (read: bile) involved inevitably invokes Godwin’s Law, but the bitterness and resentment rage on, and the “discussion” is never truly forgotten nor closed.
Why is this? Why are these works, fiction and non fiction, not only taken so seriously (fans and anti-fans have, in some cases, literally tried to kill over them), but bitterly argued and put up on pedestals?
The answer: ego and entitlement.
There’s no question that people love their works. Some buy movies and books for a casual look, while others go on to buy merchandise, follow the key players (authors/creators/actors) on social media, write whole blogs and papers worth of analysis, and attend clubs and conventions. And just because one person is more fascinated and invested in a work doesn’t mean that they are always automatically the nutjobs (or serial killers). They appreciate how the work speaks to them; how it reflects society or some aspect of the human condition and experience.
There are reasonable people all over the spectrum, just as there are crazies.
While I can now appreciate both works that challenge and conform to my views of the world, I didn’t always feel that way. And some stuff still irritates me from time to time, when it doesn’t line up with how it played out in my mind. My example of this, though it’s a bit dated now, is the portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen first night with her husband in Game of Thrones. I read the book before I saw the episode, and while the book did have some rapey-ness to the scene, at least at first, it was not to the same extent as it appeared in the show. And my first reaction to this change was confused irritation.
But I’d like to point out that the director of the show is different than the writer of the book, as well as me, and three people will seldom see the same thing. Creators also have choices to make that the viewing audience doesn’t have to.
What I’m saying is that the works get caught up in people’s egos. The closer that they identify with something, the quicker and more intensely they are likely to come to its defense when criticized, I think, particularly if it is a thing that panders more than questions. And pandering doesn’t immediately equate simple or “no-greater-message;” usually, it’s just more visibly biased.
When someone attacks a work that you love, whether they mean to attack you, personally or not, you’ll be more likely to take it personally. At best, you’ll get defensive, but at worst, you’ll get angry. Hopefully not violent.
To the average Joe, or “you” in this scenario, the person might as well be saying, “It is stupid, therefore YOU are stupid.”
It’s a common misconception, and an easy trap to fall into.
The second part of the problem comes from an entitlement mindset.
Here we return to the “you.”
Perhaps you think you “saw it first,” whatever “it” is. Or perhaps you connected with the work so much that it brought you to tears, and you just can’t understand why everyone else isn’t bawling or acknowledging the work as a golden masterpiece.
You picture the characters, the story, the drama, and relationships a certain way, but that isn’t where it ends. For whatever the reason, the work has become “yours,” and you defend it like a grizzly bear defends her cubs.
To be fair, once a work has been published, it doesn’t just belong to the original creator anymore. They have shared it with the world, and, barring a few copyright laws and requirements, people can interpret and make of it whatever they want.
Also, adapting something that already exists in one medium to another is hard to do. You NEVER see an adaptation that is unanimously beloved by critics, general audience members, and fans of the original work, and anyone can successfully argue that the new thing works or doesn’t work and be right in at least one way.
Sometimes you get the guy who penned the original work to push it into a new medium, to various levels of success.
But yes. Consciously or unconsciously, people attach their treasured works to their sense of self; their personality, and even, ironically, their personhood. These fans then use these works to measure the quality of other people. They make friends (or determine who to avoid), and subjectively judge just how smart (or worthy) those friends, enemies, and average Joes are.
A critic becomes “the other” as quickly as a regular non-fan. Sometimes even a “bully;” not there to think about something popular or interesting, but a personal assassin to your self-esteem. Any concession of merit means that you are letting them win, or agreeing with them completely, and that just cannot be!
And then some of these same “victims” take their voices to the web, or the streets, waging holy wars and viciously attacking those who don’t agree with them. Even if those people happen to be fans as well.
Fans against fans, non fans against non fans, and everyone in between. Thanks to the internet, we have even more widespread, stupid chaos.
Silly? Sure. Potentially harmful to people? Hell yes.
The need to hyper focus on the good old “No True Scotsmen,” to constantly compete with and compare yourselves to others, even with works of escapism and fiction that don’t belong solely to you…This is a big reason why I argue that we should acknowledge faults with the work and, by extension, ourselves.
That’s not to say that I myself am perfect at it, but just that it is what I ultimately strive for. I gush and rant about plenty of things, but at the very least, I try to be receptive and respectful.
It’s much easier when people give you the same courtesy.
Disagreement is bound to happen to everyone, but how often it does and how much you let it affect you is up to you. Keep supporting your canons, fandoms, and hatedoms, but don’t push them onto others like a religion.
That goes the same, if not double, for you, hardcore sports fans.
Not everything is a battle that must be won.
*No photos or video clips belong to me.