Am I the only one that thinks this whole “entitled fans” debate is getting old already? For those of you who haven’t seen this phrase bandied about, well first of all lucky you, and second of all it’s basically becoming a catch-all phrase to describe disgruntled fans. A couple of years ago it was used to describe Star Wars fans for not lapping up the trash that was The Last Jedi; more recently it’s been dug up again to sling at those of us who are unhappy with the ending of Game of Thrones (more specifically for a petition that I don’t feel the need to go into cos it’s much the same as any other petition on the planet).
A lot of the time, this argument seems to be a way to shut down criticism- which is never a good look for a creator. Aside from the fact it often seems like people with MASSIVE platforms going after the little guy, let’s just say throwing your weight around shouting “HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE ME FOOLISH MORTAL” makes something else seem a little bit inflated… 😉
That said, the creator isn’t necessarily wrong for standing up for themselves. After all, if they had a vision for their work and the audience doesn’t like it, that’s not their fault, right? And harassing the author/creator/whatever isn’t okay. No matter how much we might love something, we don’t have ownership of it. And in the words of Mick Jagger:
So, I actually do get that a creator really shouldn’t have to do what their audience wants. That’s why I say REVIEWS ARE FOR READERS– they’re made after the fact and aren’t designed to make the author change their ways. Still, while it may be true that “art is not a democracy”, it doesn’t then follow that “ergo I never have to listen to criticism”. Nor is “I don’t have to listen to you because you’re just a fan” a great argument. Because here’s a little secret: FANS WANT THE PROPERTIES THEY LOVE TO SUCCEED. That’s why they’ve poured their time/money/hearts/souls into these projects. And to forget that is to forget what made success possible.
This is particularly significant when looking at modern, commercial art. When we’re talking about huge franchises like Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Harry Potter etc, we’re not talking about its creation in a vacuum. These hugely successful properties owe more than a little to their fans. The fact is, shows/movies/books even are being treated more like products; likewise, creators have been willing to treat fans more like customers. And that’s fine- but then it doesn’t stand for writers/producers to still say “it’s art, we can do whatever we want!” Because you can’t expect to act that way when taking people’s money AND get no complaints if you miss-market said product. As a fan, I might be more forgiving if things don’t pan out exactly as I want; as a customer, I won’t be as happy. For instance, if I go into a restaurant and order pizza and you give me ice cream, I’m not going to be happy (no matter how much I love both). Customers rarely want subverted expectations. Which brings me onto one of the biggest areas of debate…
Now, here’s the thing: subverted expectations aren’t always a bad thing. Game of Thrones in particular was known for it- and known for doing it well. There are times when I wish the creator had gone the unexpected route. And some art exists in that beautifully comedic and meaningful sphere where art breaks all the rules. Some of my favourite works exist in this bubble: Guards, Guards, Carry On and even the Alan Partridge books! Fans don’t always want to be serviced, if you know what I mean 😉 But, in the case of the elephant (or lack thereof) in the room/Seven Kingdoms, trying a bold manoeuvre like subverting expectations has to be well executed.
Funnily enough, a lot of criticism like this is actually fairly technical. Mary Sues, subverted expectations, fanservice are all terms that existed for a long time- and yet they’re being brushed aside for causing “offence”. Ironically, this feeds into the idea that there is a right and wrong reason to criticise art nowadays (or to criticise criticism). With call out culture waiting in the wings, (often verified) journalists are able to rile people up and simultaneously forbid regular consumers from questioning creative “genius”. This doesn’t seem like they have the audience’s best interests at heart: it seems like thinly veiled elitism, pulling up the drawbridge and gatekeeping competition.
That could just be my sceptical brain going into overdrive though 😉 To be on the safe side, let’s just engage in honest discussions, not resort to stifling conversations by throwing around ad hominems and stop calling fans “entitled” for voicing opinions.
So, what do you think of the “entitled fans” debate? Do you think fans go to far? How do you think creators should respond? Let me know in the comments!