There's a really great article currently running over at Forbes from Scott Mendelson, who's a film critic based here in L.A. It used to be that Mendelson wrote for his own blog and as a contributor at the Huffington Post, but he's now been picked up by Forbes where he regularly comments on the business of Hollywood. Not the gossip, the business -- the money. His latest takes a look at a relatively recent phenomenon in entertainment that he refers to as "Fan Entitlement Syndrome."
Over the past few weeks, we've seen a loud social media outcry from two admittedly opposite camps of fanboys and fangirls as a response to two recent casting decisions. First came the silly comic book geek crowd losing its fucking mind over the news that Zack Snyder had picked Ben Affleck to play Batman in the Batman vs. Superman movie, whatever its title might end up being. Then came last week, with an entire different social media demographic -- basically women you wouldn't under any circumstances want to be stuck next to on a cross-country flight -- losing its fucking mind over the big announcement that Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson were going to play whatever the hell the two main characters are called in the film adaptation of everyone's favorite mom-porn novel, 50 Shades of Grey.
Mendelson's take is that the most rabid of niche audiences have become so used to getting their way that not only is the mainstream media turning their outrage into actual news when they don't -- and therefore throw a tantrum -- but it's having a negative impact on the way movies are made. Characters that should stay dead are brought back because it's sure to be a hit with the fanboys and even shows are resurrected that may very well have had their chance and simply failed fair-and-square. While it's indeed not bad to see the resurrection of Arrested Development, the argument within the echo chamber of its fawning acolytes for years that it wasn't given a chance to find an audience was always nonsense, and I say that as someone who liked the show a lot. Fox is the network that killed my beloved Firefly after less than a season, so there's no love lost there, but it admittedly gave Arrested Development more leeway than it probably even deserved. Given its ratings at the time, it's staggering it wasn't canceled sooner.
What Mendelson doesn't get into, though, is the reason <em>why</em> the fans have so much power these days, and it's something I've already mentioned: social media. The internet is wonderful because it's given average people a chance to override the gatekeepers in entertainment and make or break stars, movies, bands, and shows entirely based on a democratic vote. The internet is also a really crappy place because it's given average people a chance to override the gatekeepers in entertainment and make or break stars, movies, bands, and shows entirely based on a democratic vote. What you get now, as Mendelson says, is a bunch of people who think they're entitled to have a say in how a movie is produced or what becomes of a show and its storyline, and given the social media hive-mind and the way that it's empowered not simply every idiot with an internet connection but the social media-savvy geek culture in general, it sometimes becomes hard to tell what's really popular and what's just a very loud segment of the internet mouthing off.
Movies, albums, shows, and so on are, more often than not, already made by committee these days. Sometimes I can't help but think that the last thing we need is for more people to be allowed into the process -- and to flip their shit when they're not, because they're convinced they deserve to be.