“Worst Thing Ever!” On Geekdom and Pre-Judgment.
By Phil Boothman
The advent of the internet and social media is a double-edged sword, particularly for those of us who identify ourselves as ‘geeks’ or ‘nerds’: many years ago, it was difficult to find other people interested in the weird, obscure and nerdy things we loved and thus the life of a geek was a rather solitary one. Then the internet came along and we were able to talk to people all over the globe about the films, comics, video games and culture we had obsessed over alone for so long, and the geek suddenly became a much more social animal.
But on the other hand, the internet has given everyone the opportunity to vent about their own views and opinions. This is a good thing on many levels; for example, I wouldn’t be able to share this article with you if it had never happened, but it leads to something I personally cannot stand, and which has been growing more and more prevalent in recent years: pre-judgment.
If you’re unsure of what I mean by this, go to the comments section of any trailer for any major film, any article revealing a casting choice for a blockbuster franchise, any announcement for a new film or TV show, and you will find it glaring back at you like an angry wildcat in the bushes.
When Ben Affleck was announced as the new Batman, the internet exploded: naysayers flocked to Twitter to vent their outrage, people wrote articles with titles like ‘Ben Affleck Is Seriously Going to Play Batman’ while articles supporting the casting decision became a novelty, anti-Affleck campaigns started on Facebook, and some groups even started petitions to get the character re-cast. People across the globe immediately decided that the part had been woefully miscast and that the film had been ‘ruined’ by the hiring of a divisive A-list star.
The outrage died down, as these things always do, but a reminder of it reared its ugly head again last week as Jesse Eisenberg was cast as Superman’s longtime nemesis Lex Luthor in the same film. Once again, the internet exploded with anger about the casting choice, and once again people decided that the movie, which had already been ruined by Affleck’s casting, was dragged even deeper into the depths of movie hell by this decision.
Similarly, you only have to look at the reaction to a trailer for a big superhero movie to see this in action. Admittedly, a large number of the comments will be along the lines of ‘Awesome!! Can’t wait to see it’, but recently there have been a growing number of comments of the ‘Looks crap. The new director/writer/star killed this franchise and I will never watch a movie again’ variety. One film in particular for which I have noticed this trend is the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past: there has been a vast amount of scepticism about this movie, none more so than when Empire Magazine recently revealed their individual covers for each of the characters. Cries went out across the internet of ‘X character looks terrible, this movie has been ruined even more than it was already’ and ‘why is Bryan Singer killing this franchise?’.
At this point I feel it’s important for me to point out that I do understand that the point of trailers and promotional images is to hook in a potential audience, and if people don’t like what they see then they are unlikely to spend their time or money to see the finished product. But in the case of the trailer for Days of Future Past, people complained about the quality of the footage they were seeing, when production on the movie was still underway and the footage was far from complete, and it is unfair to judge a product before it is complete.
I also understand that, by and large, these are characters and properties which we geeks took to our hearts many years ago, that are now becoming more and more popular with the general public, and we feel protective over them. Thus, when we see or hear about a version of these characters that is not entirely in line with our opinion or memories of them, we have a tendency to lash out. It’s not entirely our fault: thanks largely to the internet, we live in a milieu of instant gratification wherein anything that we want is just a few keystrokes away, and it becomes frustrating when something is not perfect down to its very molecules in our own personal opinion. But generally speaking, lashing out on the internet in the comfort of our own homes and the protection that anonymity affords us, solves nothing and causes more frustration than it solves.
So next time you hear a piece of casting news, or see a promotional image, or watch a two-minute trailer that rubs you the wrong way, don’t immediately judge the finished product. In the same way you wouldn’t have someone hand you a jar of mayonnaise and a slice of bread and then complain that it wasn’t a delicious sandwich, don’t observe the tiniest snippet of a film or TV show and complain that your favourite property has been ruined. Just have a little faith, and afford the people working on these things a little time, and you could be greatly rewarded.
And next time you feel yourself reaching for the keyboard after hearing some casting news, just remember, people complained about the casting of Heath Ledger as the Joker, and look how that turned out.