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July 9 2017

Not everyone loves cinematic universes

Even in 2017, somehow ‘fanboys’ is still a derogatory term.

Being born in 1971 I’ve seen the worlds of comic books and geek culture go through many phases. We’ve been the outcasts, the investment of the future, the fastest growing literary segment, and I’ve seen our films go from downright awful to being some of the highest grossing films on the planet.

That means it’s okay to pick on fanboys again.

Around two weeks ago The Hollywood Reporter ran an article Inkoo Kang entitled “The Fans Have Inherited the Film Industry — and It’s a Problem for the Rest of Us.” Initially, I read the article, scoffed and went on about my day. However, since then I’ve come back to it in my mind time and time again as I see things all around me that make the article so incredibly incorrect that it’s mind boggling.

Let me hit some of the highlights.

Movies were once inviting. Ticket-holders didn’t need to skim Wikipedia entries before getting in their car because they could follow a story from the start to its end. Sure, sequels and remakes have been around for more than a century, but the past decade has seen their takeover of the multiplex (in most of America, the only kind of theater around) — and a corresponding rise in the exclusionary nature of mainstream film culture.

Okay, fair enough, you feel excluded. Of course, this also reeks of self-importance and a short term memory loss of the cyclical nature of the film industry. Remember when Westerns were super popular in the 1940s and 50s? What if you didn’t like Westerns? Musicals were also extremely popular from the 1940s through the 60s. There were far

Remember when Westerns were super popular in the 1940s and 50s? What if you didn’t like Westerns? Musicals were also extremely popular from the 1940s through the 60s. There were far fewer movies houses, fewer films produced per year, and to that end, a lot more exclusion if those weren’t your genres. If you want a more modern example, lets discuss the romantic comedy explosion of the 1990s where you couldn’t swing a stick without hitting Meg Ryan making eyes at Tom Hanks or Billy Crystal.

But, you’re right, this mainstream exclusion is totally a burden to filmgoers today and them only. Yep.

As the media and entertainment industries continue to fragment, blockbusters like Wonder Woman and Get Out have remained one of the few cultural products we can all watch and discuss (and argue about) together. And so there’s something enormously dispiriting about the current transformation of our public square into a clubhouse, where the bar for entry gets higher with each new franchise installment. Disney’s not marching anyone into MCU Summer School at gunpoint — but viewers who don’t keep up with Marvel’s annual output (three features this year) are at risk of being confused when they do drop into the overstuffed “cinematic universes,” or of being shut out of a significant chunk of pop culture altogether.

The sequel grind can wear down goodwill among fans, too. I’d only ever call myself a “fanatic” about one franchise — The X-Files — and its much-hyped return last year only reminded me of the original series’ glaring faults.

Okay, the first rebuttal was an addition, this was the part that I really kept coming back to in my head. Somehow the fact all the Marvel films are connected is the big issue. There’s too much to keep track of and it’s not welcoming to new viewers.

… and then later in the article, Kang talks about their love of The X-Files. One of the most convoluted series to ever air on television that half the time didn’t know where it was going. It consists of 208 episodes and two films. To date, there are 16 MCU films. Lets say someone wanted to drop into the middle of one of these projects for some unknown reason. I could watch 104 episodes of X-Files, or eight MCU films. Who has the bigger pile of homework?

The reason this kept coming up in my mind is this article came out when I happened to be rewatching the 1970s comedy series, Soap. It ran for four seasons and was heavily interconnected. If you had dropped into season 3 you would have found numerous references to something that happened two seasons prior. What do you do then?

After I finished Soap I moved on to Frasier – I like having shows playing in the background as I work – and this is where it gets particularly messy. Frasier was a completely new show, but as most people know it was born out of Cheers. From the very start there were numerous references to events and characters from the previous show. Is that somewhat exclusionary?

My point is, there has always been interconnected properties. Should we delve into the tangled web of Norman Lear series from the 1970s? Who was Maude? She’s Archie Bunker’s sister-in-law? Wait, the Jeffersons used to live next to the Bunkers?

Need a cinematic equivalent? Okay. James Bond’s first film was Dr. No in 1962, so if you wanted to jump in with say Live and Let Die in 1973, a time when home video wasn’t a thing, how were you going to catch up on the seven films you missed?

What is happening with the MCU, the DCEU, Harry Potter films and so on is nothing new. It’s just yet another cycle of Hollywood. Yes, I do think it’s going a bit overboard as of late, and you kinda need to choose what you want to follow, but that’s awesome, you have a choice.

To sit back and say ‘the fans have inherited the film industry’ is not only insulting in the clearly derogatory way the word ‘fans’ is used, it’s just silly. Hollywood and filmgoers finally just woke up to what comic book readers have known for decades; we were enjoying awesome characters and stories. We’re glad you’re along for this portion of the ride, and we welcome you. We also know that eventually, it will die off, and that’s fine. We finally got our moment in the sun, and we’re enjoying it and we know that we’ll someday go back to a movie here or there.

As for Kang… just chill would you? Fine, you don’t care for the MCU, that’s your right. Instead of blasting us for enjoying these movies, just let us have our 15 minutes and then we’ll go away.

In the meantime… there’s still a pretty vibrant X-Files community out there. Perhaps you can go discuss the conspiracy and how it seemed to change every week.


Source: The Hollywood Reporter .


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  • Ponta Vedra

    If the MCU is too involved, then why are the films so spectacularly successful?

    Probably because (1) most of the films are still excellent even if you don’t know what happened in the previous films, and (2) if “fanboy” is defined as anyone who understands the MCU and can follow the overarching stroyline, then there are tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of “fanboys” out there.

    Kang is either butt-hurt over the more popular movies not being his cup of tea and that not ending anytime soon, or, more likely, is just engaging in journalistic trolling. Maybe both.

    • Exactly. Each of the films is easy enough to view on their own. The connections, for the most part, are just little nods that make you smile if you get them, and harmless if you don’t.

      I’m going with trolling.