Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Ego of Entitlement

Some great comments on my Star Trek post! Nice to see that there ARE people who like the film. There were some negative comments, which I chose not to post because it would be nice if there was ONE place on the Internet, even if it's just my tiny hovel, where negative Star Trek comments can't go. But I will address some of them without directly inflicting them on you.

There's a difference between "This movie was so terrible and anyone who liked it doesn't understand Star Trek or writing" and "I just don't like the way these guys tell stories, it doesn't work for me." Of course if you are in the latter camp and are still seeing their movies, then I have some questions for you. There are great writers who do nothing for me. I can appreciate the craft, but I'm not compelled to watch or read their work. I have been almost daily vilified for this, by the way, which is absolutely charming! I know a lot of people loved Pacific Rim but I didn't see it because I didn't have any interest in the subject matter. Not a Kaiju fan. It doesn't mean I hate it, or think the people who loved it are stupid or clueless or don't understand storytelling. It's just not my thing. I don't think this is a big deal, and wonder why people are SO enraged when everything isn't catered directly to them.

Unless someone can correct me (I wouldn't mind being wrong about this), no media site has posted a positive Into Darkness article. I don't read all of them, so maybe there are some (I don't mean movie reviews; that's a different, less partisan animal). But io9 and have basically become "here's a differently titled rant on why that movie sucks four months after it came out." Why is a movie you don't like SO offensive that you keep writing the same rant with a different title? Not that Star Trek is their only whipping boy, of course. These sites seem to settle on things they hate and then just whale away. I wonder about their staff meetings. Whenever they blog about things they like, I enjoy them. But the crazy negativity is just getting wearying.

These media sites straddle the line between fandom and journalism. This is a terrible way to do business. They get access to creators and actors and rather than even pretending to be impartial, they are so partisan that it's confusing. Are you giving us news, opinions, what? If you've only seen, say, a one-minute teaser for something, should you REALLY write a post about how much it's going to suck? (the answer is "no indeed," io9) And it's not like the people writing for them are idiots. They're super smart, engaging, and good writers. So what is it, then? Is it just the precedent that was set by AICN? As soon as the studios handed over the keys to AICN, the floodgates opened. True media journalism was pretty much over.

I realize that ranting about things you think the Internet hates is a great way to get the hit counter to go up, but all you're doing is adding to the culture of entitlement. Because fans read your sites. They comment on the articles. You encourage the fans to be negative by the very tone of your piece. If anybody posts anything positive, they get shouted down.

I finally went to look at the book trailer for JJ Abrams' upcoming book and the io9 comments were hilarious. The first comment was, wearily, a crack about lens flares.

Now listen. It's 2013. Lens-flare cracks weren't even amusing in 2009. This is a book trailer for something that has nothing to do with Star Trek, and that's the best you guys can do? LENS flares? Jesus. One guy was obviously sick of it. He did the laundry list of Why We Are Supposed To Hate JJ Abrams, basically telling everyone to move the hell on. Ditto that dude.

But people being positive and enthusiastic on the Internet isn't sexy I guess. We're at the point in our online society that if we're not belittling someone we have no purpose. And it's anyone, really. Television, movies, music, books, sports. This line between fandom and journalism just went up a level last week, as some absolute IDIOT decided to post a sales document for Lost. People were appalled at how different the document was from the show. Methinks they would also be appalled at how different the outlines are from the final cuts, but whatever. io9 picked it up, of course, because it's "Let's bash JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof" Central. The title, I shit you not, is "The Series Bible That Sold ABC on Lost is Full of Lies." Of course it's not a series bible, but why should io9 be  expected to know the correct terminology? I just love these people knee-jerking about television when they don't know the first thing about how it's made.

And then there's this article, which is still a bunch of utter nonsense (OH NOES THEY LIED TO US HOW COULD YOU DADDY WHY DON'T YOU LOVE ME ANYMORE), but at least they make somewhat of an effort by talking to Lindelof about it. My favorite part of it:

Right off the bat, we have to mention Lindelof was not happy this document leaked online. 

No shit. I know this is mystifying to you media bloggers, who think that all of Hollywood is an open door to you and that you should be sent dailies for every show, too, just so you can post them online like you do with casting breakdowns or rumors about who's up for what job, but listen:

You do not know how television works, no matter how many writers you chat up, no matter how many TCA bagels you eat, no matter how many laughs you have with Jon Hamm. YOU. DO. NOT. GET IT. When these irresponsible cockdoodles post things like this, the fans develop an even greater sense of entitlement. They seem to believe that because they turn on the TV, they are entitled to EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT, like children who want a cookie NOW. And if you don't give them exactly what they want, they have the right to attack you, apparently forever, denigrate you at every turn, and then write a guest rant on one of these media sites where other angry fans can agree with them. Ad infinitum.

While you should probably have an idea about how the business works if you're writing about it, constantly getting it wrong doesn't make you look very good. And there are people who can write critical essays about film and television without getting into ANY of this, so it's possible, you guys.

An aside: These fans do not seem to grasp the concept that while they are not getting what they want, somebody else is. The online fanbase for a show is substantially smaller than the viewership, which is apparently tough to grasp because then I guess it means that you are NOT, in fact, a glorious snowflake of originality but a very tiny voice in a roar of millions. But hey, that's an ego for you. The creative person must cater EXACTLY to each specific person. Somehow.

The entitlement of fandom has been around for awhile, but it has exploded with the Internet. Someone who (let's face it, this was obvious) wanted his pals to come at me, bro, posted my Star Trek blog. And they came at me, all right. It was kind of glorious, watching the foaming, white-hot fury of these nerds. I knew that there would be people reading it who hated the movie. But the beauty of it is, I don't have to engage them. If someone is ranting on about something you love, you are not beholden to them to argue it out. Just shut down, or stay silent. I do wish that people would keep their mouths shut, though, when someone's talking about something they like and another person goes, "I hated it." Well, so what? Why is it so important to you to offer your dissenting opinion? I offer mine only on my own blog. I don't go around telling people I hate things they like all over the Internet. One guy told me that he would never watch anything of mine again (he hasn't seen anything of mine). He said that I needed to cultivate fans, I guess by not calling 'em like I see 'em. He was insulted that I insulted him with my article.

Well, sweet thing, I've been insulted by you children for a very long time. And I could lose an entire legion of these particular Star Trek fans and it still wouldn't even begin to make a difference. But really, the deal is that I didn't write it for that guy, or for the people who hated the movie. I wrote it for the people who liked the movie, who would enjoy reading my interpretation of the film. I'm not going to take notes on my blog from a guy who isn't even in my intended demographic.

What's fascinating is that this guy looked me up on IMDB, and THEN proceeded to tell me I shouldn't piss him off. I suppose that if I hadn't written anything that had been produced, I would get to have my opinion and piss him off as much as I wanted to.

And when some media grunt gets his grubby paws on an internal ABC document that exists to GET THE SHOW ON THE AIR, they only do it so that the Internet's angry army posts comments and shares the post, which gets the hits going.

One journalist even said that "as a journalist, it's a fascinating story." No. NO. As a journalist, you should be ashamed of yourself. IT'S NOT A FASCINATING STORY. IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. It's only a story if you're interviewing one of the writers and they TELL YOU THE STORY. You do not get to know everything about a television show. You get the show, you get the people who make the show talking about the show. THAT'S IT. I would be mortified if any of my story documents were leaked, and I'll wager that most writers feel the same way. It's a sales document. An internal document written for the network. What if journalists didn't get to control what they wrote? What if all of THEIR notes and thoughts and pitches were leaked against their will? They'd be pretty unhappy. The worst thing about this, aside from the fact that this is awful, is that OF COURSE the creative people responsible for the document don't get to explain themselves, or have opinions.

Rather, the rabid fans who exist to hate use this to "prove" that the show is terrible. They were personally betrayed by the show and now they've been proven right. So because nobody, including the journalists, understands what this document represents and how Lost was developed and hell, HOW TELEVISION IS DEVELOPED, people get vilified.

Complaining about a TV show or a movie is one thing. But the added element of entitlement takes it to a really creepy level.

Fans are entitled to watch the show. They can like it or not. They can bitch about it if that's how they feel. They can praise it if that's how they feel (although mostly that's done in private so as to not infuriate the trolls). But they do NOT own it. They don't deserve to have input into the creative process. You want to be creative? THEN BE CREATIVE. Leave other people alone. Let the professionals do their thing. And if you don't like it, don't watch it.

(That's the kind of sentence that could get you murdered. Ranting idiots HATE when you say that, but it's really just common sense. I don't watch things I don't like. If I hate a movie, I don't pay a premium to see its sequel in 3D IMAX)

If the media blogs would make even the slightest effort to be more responsible and maybe a touch more positive, maybe they could stem the tide of the entitlement fans. The culture of the Internet is to hate, but they don't have to feed into that. There are people on message boards and in comment sections who think they're cool when they hate, because that's what gets them the attention. Why not try to change that, media blogs?

Speaking of hate (not from these folks though), some comments on my Star Trek post!

Dan writes:
My sole contention with this, and it is a small one, comes from the idea that there was no character conflict on the Original Show. That Starfleet or even the Federation was perfect on the original show. Roddenberry never intended that in the 60s, he saved that until TMP and TNG, possibly after he had already bought into revisionist fan adoration. Watch McCoy and Spock argue in "Galileo 7" or "The Tholian Web." Count the number of Admirals/Ambassadors/Dignitaries are complete asses across the three seasons. How about a Starfleet captain who provides all his ship's weapons to an alien tribe after his crew dies? (The Omega Glory) Or a ship's captain who SELLS HIS CREW INTO GLADIATORIAL SLAVERY? (Bread and Circuses) A Federation scientist who is going to replace humans with androids? (What Are Little Girls Made Of?) A Sociologist who thinks, "hey, maybe that Hitler guy wasn't so bad?" (Patterns of Force). Or a Starfleet Captain who provides weapons to a warring tribe so they can fight a proxy war against the Klingons backed other native tribe. (A Private Little War) Oh wait, THAT WAS KIRK!

I could go on, but my point is TOS is like some great religious text the adherents of which have supplanted their own dogma and doctrine over the actual document. TOS does represent a BETTER future for humankind-hell, just having a black female officer on the bridge accomplished that in '66-but it never showed a PERFECT future for humanity. There was always dramatic conflict, and it wasn't always with aliens.

All good points! It's curious that the people who really did go on about how awful conflict is in the JJ Abrams movies conveniently forgot about this. I'm not nearly as familiar with TOS as these guys are, so forgive me. The whole point always seemed to be to test the Prime Directive. I feel like with TNG, a lot of that fell by the wayside, like Roddenberry was looking back through non-conflict glasses at the first series and wanted to really make a perfect utopia. Which isn't very dramatic, is it?

By the way, Dan wrote a fantastic plot-driven examination of the Abrams Trek films, at this link.

The Lotus Tea Dragon said:
If you notice, though, the complaints are always focused on petty things. It's all Wrong Font, and Wrath of Khan. It's like these people didn't even watch the movie.
I'm a live and let live person. If you like something I don't, I won't try to tear it down to spite you. At the same time, I expect the same in return. I was discussing the movie with a friend who considers himself a Trek aficionado, and I had to keep correcting him on details about the movie, which just passed right over his head as he continued his ill informed rant.

Yeah, that's how I felt, too. So much of the criticism leveled at this movie and at the first one proves that the critics were just sitting their enveloped in righteous balls of fury, I guess, instead of listening and watching. Because it's all basically explained, isn't it? I have a nearly impossible time taking you seriously if you literally didn't understand what was happening in front of you.

Still, all in all, I don't have to care, because the vast majority of people enjoyed the movie, and we'll see a third one. Trek fans complaining about something they failed to grasp, even when shown to be in error, will never end. They hate it because it's not what they want, even if what they want is something that has been done that they also hated.

"We want action!"
"This movie is for idiots! It's all explosions!"

"We want cerebral stories!"
"This movie is boring!"

It's lose/lose. No wonder Orci told them all to fuck off.

Right? There's a perfect example of entitlement. God, people got pissed off at him! He had no right to defend the movies. No right to correct the fans. No right to speak his mind. The fans have decided that they are the final arbiters for who says what.

Someone wondered why this matters to me, why I want to change peoples' minds about the movie. But I don't want to change any minds. It was my opinion and interpretation, and I posted it. Simple as that. You know, a lot of people work VERY hard to make entertainment. If they're constantly being savaged at every turn, no wonder they tell people to fuck off. I'm sure that Damon Lindelof is just weary at this point. Every time he goes to io9 he must just sigh heavily and drink from the bottle. I know people hate him with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns, but is that really a fair exchange? That level of bile, of vitriol, for a TV show you didn't like? If you were watching Lost just to get to the end, then your viewing habits are a little weird for me. The end game isn't why people go into making television. I'm surprised that it's the only reason so many people watch it. But then we do live in a gimme world where a journey isn't the destination.

If I put my heart and soul and all of my time into making entertainment, then you know what? YEAH I get to defend it. I get to protect it. You don't have to listen. You can hate the show and bitch about it all you want, but you do NOT get to tell ME that I can't give my opinion. Everyone who reads this blog knows that I'm not a fan of Steven Moffat's Doctor Who. I wrote a few posts about what I don't like. I do not go trolling through message boards or posting every five seconds on Twitter how much I can't stand him. If he wants to defend his show, then he gets to do that. I just don't have to listen, and I don't have to watch the show. Nobody's making me.

Mr. Jeff Bond Esq had this to say:
Actually there HAD been a classic (although I'm not sure large) BSG fandom and they exhibited exactly the same furious hatred of the new Galactica...only they had even fewer legs to stand on because at least the original Star Trek was an excellent, Emmy nominated (for Best Drama and Nimoy's acting, not just visual effects) TV series, while Galactica TOS decidedly was NOT. But you don't fuck with peoples' childhoods. Me, I loved Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea when I was a kid, but I don't go around telling people it was a superior TV series...  
I still remember the shrill "STARBUCK IS A GIRL WTF" bullshit that went around. Of course that was ages ago. Imagine the outcry now. I can't even imagine what's going to happen when they really get this Star Wars movie up and running. I will say this about JJ Abrams, though -- he's really very good about keeping things secret. And I love his reasons for it. I totally agree with him. I don't seek out spoilers. I know that makes me weird, but whatever.

elchilverde said:
Give me the current Trek reboot/alernate reality over continuing to churn the old Trek universe w/ some new series offshoot or another STTNG movie. I suppose the ranters right now might be some of the same people that back in the day when the pilot aired for STTNG that didn't liek the cast, the new effects, the story, etc. because it was completely different that the original series.
 Oh, they HAAAATED it! They thought it was an affront, even though it was from Roddenberry. They watched all of it, went to the movies and bought it all on video and DVD, but they LOATHED it. I just don't watch things I don't like. It's pretty simple.


Brian said...

Where is that clip of Charles Foster Kane applauding at the opera in "Citizen Kane", cause that's my feeling here!

I have had the same thoughts when I read the fan rants online and in articles, noting the sense of entitlement and the insane expectation that every person in entertainment should somehow be a mind-reader of that one person. I am fan of some movies and shows that aren't always that popular, but it seems that in today's fandom everyone is expected to tow the line and hate together. It's weird and scary and I don't think studios and filmmakers should seek out fan approval anymore. In fact, just cancel Comic Con altogether!

And regarding TNG (it's my favorite Trek series, actually), I remember reading an interview in Starlog magazine around 1988 where a minor actor on TOS stated he felt TNG would barely last 2 seasons, never being accepted by fans. So yes, even actors from the original show were hating on TNG!

Lee Thomson said...

I agree with everything you've written here, even the part about me being an IDIOT.

As you say, people do not know how television works, and I'm trying to provide an insight over in my own little hovel, by posting scripts, outlines, pitches and bibles. I'd hoped people would find the Lost document interesting, even educational (by the way, I didn't leak the document; it has been online already for the better part of a year, but adding it to my site is what caused this mess).

I wasn't expecting what happened, at all. I seriously (naively) underestimated the effect a nine year old document for a series that ended three years ago would have, and just how deep misplaced senses of entitlement and ownership ran. I was disappointed by headlines at Boing Boing and io9, who created their own context for the document by linking directly to it rather than to my site (not that I want the hits; I couldn't care less, but at least I present it without judgments of "self-delusion" or "lies"), and mortified that Mr Lindelof was personally inconvenienced and had to explain matters on Slashfilm. He and I have had a very brief Twitter exchange, where I have apologised for messing with his week, and I hope that, now this particular online tsunami has finished washing over us all, all can be forgiven.

exastra23 said...

"You do not get to know everything about a television show. You get the show, you get the people who make the show talking about the show. THAT'S IT."
YES!!! George RR Martin is not our bitch!
I strongly agree with everything you said about entitlement culture, negativity culture, poor blogger journalism, irresponsible blogging, people commenting ignorantly about tv/film without context, not watching stuff you hate, focusing on the positive, and even Trek not being completely conflict free.
I also agree that it is your prerogative to like Abrams NuTrek, and dismiss criticisms; if you insist.
There is a lot in these reboot movies to like —but it is held together with flimsy thread that falls apart under scrutiny.
I adore Cumberbatch as Khan, despite the white washing. Greenwood as Pike is wonderful. If you ignore all the legitimate complaints, I can see how these movies might seem good.
But I can not accept the premise that Abrams Trek really is good, or that the majority of fans think so. The reasons you gave (or were given) for people hating these Treks are not the actual reasons why the movies are or should be hated. Having heard fans attack NuTrek at conventions and in various articles, that's not why we hate it. Those reasons you mention ARE dumb, invalid and miss the point. It has little to do with entitlement ego.(although I dread the painful and herculean task) I could give several narrative examples why this is bad storytelling (and bad Trek), but I might be misinterpreted as negative—which is not intended to be hating, but critiquing logically.
I’m dismayed no one apparently has provided you a list of what these movies did wrong--. logic holes, plot holes, poor character utilization, contrivances and cotton candy superficiality. I suspect no one is going to care about these movies in 10 years, and will still be watching Roddenberry’s Trek.

AJ in Nashville said...

Hooboy, I feel a "get off my lawn" moment coming. As usual, Kay, you hit the nail on the head here.

I have for years pondered near unto apoplexy the question of why it is that these days even average, otherwise kind, seemingly well-adjusted folks (often a generation or two younger than myself, but not always), are so much more demanding, so much less forgiving, and so much less tolerant of anything that chafes against their personal sense of what is "good" vs. what "sucks."

Of course, I'm referring here mostly to the same dynamic you mentioned in your post: the highly partisan opinions about those things which we consider entertainment: Movies, TV, music, Mac vs PC, iPhone vs Android, you name it; there seems to be no middle ground on ANYTHING anymore. And as you also mentioned, people can literally alienate themselves from entire groups of their peers for a single opinion which departs from that of the thought police.

No one seems to want to think for themselves anymore. Heck, forget about FOMO; what folks today seem to fear much more than "missing out", is "not winning"; personally, I think it's "the fear of NOT BEING RIGHT" that people are really afraid of; because these days, being on the wrong side of popular opinion doesn't merely cast you as being "different" — it casts you OUT, period.

Nope, from where I stand, when it comes down to the things that spark our imagination, fuel our fantasies, and validate our collective longing to escape from the harsh reality that has now become everyday life, being a "live and let live" kind of person (as another commenter had previously referenced) doesn't cut it so much anymore, or so it would seem (to me anyway). There's just too much at stake for us to risk being wrong.

As a society we've become so obsessive and protective of our ever-more important fantasy lives that any assault on our shared fandom's often sacred set of agreed-upon sensibilities isn't merely a difference of opinion, but a personal affront.

Everybody wants to be right; nobody wants to be wrong. Everybody wants to "Have it your way." People may *say* "I'm OK, you're OK," but what they're *thinking* is, "I'm OK, YOU SUCK!" Oh, and a most of the time, while hiding behind a keyboard, they do a lot more than think it.

Personally, I blame those damn video games...and Burger King.