I freely admit that bitching fanboy is a happy fanboy. In fact that is the first thing I ever said on this blog. I personally practice this on a regular basis, hence my reputation for a sunny disposition. There is, however, a limit to how much fans should become “outraged.” At what point do fans stop being the acceptable bitching fanboy and start to be something far more obnoxious and quite honestly detrimental to geeks as a whole?
To be clear, I’m not talking about the people who complain when a change is made to their favorite comic book. At ECCC, when asked what the public response was to bringing back Peter Parker, long-time Marvel writer Peter David said, “When Doc Ock took over, there were a ton of fan complaints. Now that Doc Ock is leaving, there are a ton of fan complaints.” In general, people don’t like change, and geeks are no exception. Eventually, the uproar over Spider-Man, just like with any other event, will die down and 99% of fans will either forget that the whole thing happened, or just not care. Of course there will be the diehards that won’t let it go, but the only reason the rest of us will remember them at all is by watching all the truly embarrassing YouTube videos they’ve put up. In years to come we can all sit back and laugh at their predictions of the death of the comic industry, all while we read a comic book.
No, the people I’m talking about are those who feel that they have somehow been robbed or cheated by some element of pop culture. The first of these groups that comes to mind are the amazingly large numbers of fans who were completely incensed about the original ending to Mass Effect 3. I say this having done at least three full run-throughs of 1 and 2 and I’m working on replaying 3 (I got stuck with no useful saves and had to restart). All said and done, I’ve probably put more than a week of my life—that’s 168 hours—into these games and I’ve loved nearly every minute of it. So when I say that I am completely perplexed by the fan response, I speak as a hardcore fan myself. I just cannot understand how people can get so up in arms over a game. Was I pleased with how the game ended? No. Do I think that it was a fitting payoff for such an epic game franchise? No. Do I think that the game designers owe me anything for my efforts? Absolutely not! The guys who wrote Mass Effect 3’s end are allowed to tell whatever story they deem appropriate. It would be in their economic best interest to give the fans what they’ve been expecting, but designers are also well within their rights to twist the plot and take some risks.
Another great example is the overboard rage that fans have unleashed on the multiple versions of Star Wars. Starting way back in 1997 with the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition, George Lucas has been tweaking his original films, making the “improvements” that he always wanted to, but that weren’t possible when the films were originally made. Since then, every time the trilogy has become available in a new format, there has been something new added. I admit that every time I watch these newest editions I’m forced to ask myself what George was thinking, but that’s as far as I go.
The same thing goes for the prequel trilogy. Sure I question the casting of Hayden Christensen as well as the little kid who played Anakin, but I just take the good with the bad. The reality is that we fans asked for more Star Wars by buying all the expanded universe books, and the toys, and everything else. We have no right to get pissed off when we don’t like the story George Lucas came up with. As much as Star Wars belongs to the fans, first and foremost it is George Lucas’ story and he can do what he wants with it. The best way to express disappointment is to stop handing money to the franchise.
The most recent target of fan outrage is George R.R. Martin. We all love A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones for those of you who don’t read) and we are all waiting for George to finish out the last two books of his epic series. Unlike Star Wars and Mass Effect, most of the fan energy is aimed not at Martin’s story, but at the pace with which he is publishing books. Martin has even received threats, but I want to stress that the people who act this way have gone way beyond reasonable fan complaining. Martin has publicly acknowledged that his writing pace is becoming a problem and has promised that he is working on getting his last two books out. This will probably only pacify his readers for a limited time, however. We can only hope that the more rabid fans realize that they are out of line, and need to relax.
It’s well known that fanboys are highly invested in their entertainment and that they have high expectations. However, these standards must also be tempered by the acceptance that the creator has every right to take things in any direction he desires. Of course, as fans we can still be upset or disappointed when these creators do something that we feel doesn’t fit the rest of their work or is just plain bad, but we also need to remember that there is a limit to far we should take those feelings.