We are knee-deep in the golden age of nerd culture — which should be a joyous occasion for all of us sweaties who were once ridiculed for our interests. Suddenly, being a comic book fan is cool: #StarWars made over 2 billion dollars at the box office, and we have both #Marvel and #DC cinematic universes. At first, it appeared that this was just a passing cinematic trend — however, it looks like this is the new world order.
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As fans, one would think we'd be overjoyed by how far we have come, and how the things we cherish are now being shared by the masses. Instead of being grateful, we tend to complain about the minutia of the projects, rather than be thankful for the fact that they exist. Maybe this is due to us becoming spoiled as consumers, or maybe some of the quarrels are based on something a bit more rooted in the core of who we are.
Check out out a fan rant about the Ben Affleck Batman casting:
Taking issue with the casting that fans believe isn't 'true to the comic' — whether it's because of gender swapping, race change, or change of sexuality — is a constant in the fan community. When this occurs, there is often outrage; inevitably the phrase "It's not true to the source material" arises. This could be one of two things: that people are afraid of change, or because something more unsavory is at work.
Change Is Bad
Change is scary, because it is not familiar, and familiarity makes us comfortable. If things are the way we expect them to be, then everything feels right in our world. From a psychological standpoint, fear of change is a manifestation of fearing the unknown. The "unknown" is a term most often paired with anxiety. Let's apply this logic to the realm of rabid fandom. This realm exists in many forms and often extends back into someone's childhood. Our formative years are aptly named because they inform who we are. We learn and grow, gaining a moral compass that stems from our belief system.
So, what does all this have to do with being passionate about certain forms of entertainment? Let's use an example: I grew up and read a certain comic book over and over again, consuming it and growing with the character. The character inadvertently becomes a part of who I am — maybe not in a life altering way, but I have grown accustomed to that specific character, and more specifically, I only see the character the one way it was presented to me.
Taking that same example, say that later in life a studio announces that they are going to make a movie based on my favorite character — awesome, right? Only, they change the lead character in some shape or form — for this example, we will use gender swapping. My favorite character was a man but now is a woman. This change makes me angry, not because I am a sexist person, but because it isn't the character I am familiar with.
This is often the case when it comes to fans having an issue with changing major characters. What is my example person's next course of action? I really want to support my favorite property, but I don't feel like it's being done the correct way. This makes me upset, which is a wholly understandable emotion, but it's what follows that becomes the problem.
The World Of Instant Feedback
Social media is a double-edged sword if there ever was one. On one hand, we have the ability to talk with people around the world; on the other hand, we can instantly put any asinine thought that pops into our heads online. This presents the main issue in regards to public perception.
Let's jump back to the example given in the previous section. Here I am upset about my favorite character being female instead of male. I could digest the information, accept the change, and move on. Instead, I go on the internet and rant about how the studio is ruining the character I love, which quickly devolves into a tangent that some people might find insensitive. Now I am in a situation where a simple case of me being afraid of change morphs into something much bigger than that.
It must be said that people are entitled to their opinions. However, we must think about why we have these opinions and what they are actually rooted in. It has become shockingly apparent that some people on social media want to watch the world burn, so they will make incendiary comments just to get a rise out of people. Those people have enough problems and should be ignored anyway.
Back to the issue at hand: the ability to have instant feedback can breed misconceptions. If I don't care for a certain thing, I am more than entitled to that opinion. But this thought can get people stuck in cyclical thinking, that can fuel most arguments; "My opinion is right so therefore yours is wrong". Having the moral high ground has become a sort of drug in our society. Comic book fans are no different. It allows people to hate on certain things, without having all the information. This follows the classic Jedi logic: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate.
Change Is Inevitable
Fans need to remember that no film or TV property has ever followed the source material verbatim. They use elements and certain aesthetics, but some things don't translate to a visual medium. So, arguing that something is bad because it doesn't stick to the source material is moot. It is just used as an excuse to mask our fear of change, which I hate to break it to you, is inevitable.
Some of the best comic book movies have been very loosely based on the comics. The Dark Knight Trilogy is a shining example of that. It took elements from many different stories and made a wonderful new story. All of the MCU films are an amalgam of different story lines that weave in and out of each other flawlessly. Using the term "source material" is employed as a foothold that enables someone to argue about their fear of change, instead of just admitting they don't like change.
In summation: people don't like change, it's scary and we make great attempts to avoid it at all costs. Comic book fans are no different, and don't like when the thing they love is changed from what they are familiar with. This doesn't make them bigots or racists, it just makes them human. Nerds are people too. There are more constructive ways for fans to voice this upset, but at the end of the day, they just want to be heard and have their opinions matter. In the end, that is all any of us really want.
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