Here’s what I was surprised by as I read through all the email I have received since the second weekend of Joss Whedon’s Serenity and my latest editorial on it – I have gotten hundreds of emails from people saying they’re self-identified Browncoats but that these evangelists scare the hell out of them too. I mean, again and again I read an email where someone tells me how much they like Firefly and Serenity and consider themselves really big fans and everything and then immediately say that they do not want to be lumped in with these extremists. And they aren’t saying it in the indignant way – they’re pretty much being apologetic.
In the meantime I have also checked around the internet for fan sites where this whole brouhaha was being discussed (yeah, I’m self-absorbed. So?), and I kept again seeing people, these extremists, freaking out about what I said, often without reading it properly or even at all. Sites like Whedonesque lathered themselves into a mighty fury, and wouldn’t even cede me a single point, preferring to focus on my "tone," which is pretty much the tone of every thing I write on this site.
Fandom Wank is a very funny site that points out, and mocks, the arguments supernerds get into on the Internet. Along with Fanboy Rampage, Fandom Wank offers me hours of entertainment. This week, though, they offered me something else – a name for these extremist Browncoats. Seems they’ve been identified with the wrong side, folks. These people are Reavers.
And with that, let’s answer some emails. (It’s long, but I recommend reading to the end!)
Ryan shouts: Duck and cover, it’s a Browncoat bomb!
No, not really.
In your Aardman Fire piece you said:
"I was going to make a joke about a Browncoat setting fire to the warehouse in retribution for this weekend’s box office take, but I’ve gotten so much mail about my latest editorial in just 12 hours that I think I’ll leave that one be."
Please DON’T leave it be! Make your jokes, hold the mirror up; the Browncoats have brought it on themselves. I am a HUGE Joss Whedon fan (I own all the seasons, I’m a mod on a Buffy forum, etc.), and a HUGE Firefly/Serenity fan, but I think it’s a damn shame how these pathetic schlubs (who, I acknowledge, are a very loud minority) are scaring people out of seeing the movie by apparently trying to scare people INTO seeing it, or something.
Now, I’ve been lucky; the three times I’ve seen the film (yes, three, but I’m about Serenitied out for now), I’ve not run into any of this obnoxious, entitled, proprietary breed of fan–let’s call them Reaver Browncoats, cause…I hear they’re just about as charming. When they strut in to watch "their" film for the eighteenth time or whatever and take over the theatre, shouting at the screen, cheering every time Jayne says "gorram" or something, do they honestly think they’re doing the film’s box office any favors? That any hapless filmgoers who inadvertently wandered into this Rocky Horror Picture Show in Space nightmare are going to recommend it to their friends? Warn them off, maybe…
And Joss Whedon backing them up doesn’t really help matters much.
Now I really hope and pray that Mr. Whedon’s defense of the Browncoats is actually a defense of the sane ones, who love his work, and admire the actors, and will throw their money down to support a world they love, who will laugh at the jokes, gasp at the surprises, be moved by the unexpected poignant moments…and then fucking get over it and go home and pay their phone bill… I kind of have to believe that he is too busy or not close enough to the ground to see how rabid and scary some of his fans can get, or how co-opted this supportive fanbase became for marketing purposes, and has the impression that you’re slamming the reasonable ones, which would explain his vehement defense of them.
Trouble is, if that’s the case, his encouragement is being taken to heart by the reasonable and obnoxious alike, which means they will both probably remain unwavering in their behaviour. And I sort of hope and pray that there would be a point at which even Mr. Whedon would start to feel a bit embarassed for some of these guys.
I guess my bottom line about the whole thing is: It’s a rare treat to have a storyteller as gifted as Joss Whedon get the kind of visibility he deserves(it’s a niche visibility, but it’s still remarkable), and I am the first to give into his rollicking, smartass, beautiful and hilarious charms. There is no more satisfying escape than being in the thrall of an excellent storyteller…but you can not live there. You should not live there, or the escape becomes another kind of prison.
I just know you’re probably getting a lot of what the kids these days call "hatahs", so I just wanted to throw my hat in and say that many of us hardcore Joss Whedon fans agree that there is such a thing as too hardcore.
Keep up the good work, someone oughta take the sky from *some* of these clowns.
Devin says: As you can see, I have indeed decided to call these extreme types Reavers. I think it’s funny, and it’s sure to annoy them to no end. As for Whedon’s backing of the fans – I hope you’re right, but we have a letter writer this column (down below) who thinks that he’s part of the problem.
I realize that you must be getting more heat from the Browncoat
community than you should because of your editorials and you must be
feeling a little persecuted, but your most recent piece was poor form
all the same. You’re most recent editorial’s main message was an attack
against a group of private citizens and as a fellow
journalist/editorialist I do not think that was okay.
the Browncoats were and always have been grateful that they got this
movie. And to say that this movie is not at least partly owned by the
Browncoats is inaccurate. Their numerous letter writing campaigns got
Firefly onto DVD and helped convince Universal to buy the rights to the
show. And if you’ve been listening to what Whedon and the cast have
been saying you’d know about this.
you weren’t interested in getting attention, why did you put "what
makes Browncoats very different from other fanbases in the past" at the
end? We both know that’s burying the lede, and the only reason to
include something as salient as that aspect of the Browncoats is to
include a closing "Screw You" comment. You’re behaving immaturely for
someone who is fortunate enough to have an editorial opinion.
by the way, I know a little about Psychology too. Dr. Death’s five
stage’s primarily applies to a patient’s method of dealing with the
news of their own impending death. However, when it comes to dealing
with the death of another (or in this case a movie) the far more widely
accepted model is J. William Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning. I get
that you wanted to come across as erudite, but you should have done
Devin says: Let’s
clear two things up first – you’re probably right about the "Tasks of
Mourning." I’ll take you word on it, as the last time I studied
anything like this was in a very good religion class in my senior year
of high school (back in 91 – a class called Jesus: Through Death to
Life, which was subversively non-religious. I loved it). As for burying
the lede: here’s a secret. That was my first draft. I write a lot of
stuff for the site quickly. I mull it over in my head some and vomit it
out in Word. So my lede wasn’t buried on purpose, and I don’t even
think that was my lede anyway. That was the conclusion I found myself
As for this bullshit about attacking a group of private citizens,
that’s malarky. I guess no one should ever write an editorial about a
political party? About a civic group? About a baseball team? Hell,
there was a very funny editorial in the New York Times this week
attacking the fans of the Yankees. I certainly hope you write a
disapproving letter, you tireless crusader!
By the way, this movie is not owned by the Browncoats. It’s owned by Universal.
Jason shouts: I would like to start by saying yes, I am a ‘browncoat’. I loved the show firefly, and I loved the movie Serenity as much, if not more. I still watch the DVDs when I get bored, and I plan on seeing the movie a few more times before it leaves theaters. I’ve made a shirt or two for the film, and even plan on buying a poster or two as well. Even as big of a fan as I am, I can agree almost 100% with everything you have said in your articles. The film didn’t do great in the box-office. It actually did rather crummy, if you compare it to a few other franchises. And I know damn well that a chance for a sequel is pretty slim (within the next 25 years, of course. Watch out George Lucas, you might have a son you never knew about).
I don’t let this bother me much, however. Because now I, as much as I hate to admit it, the fans are becoming selfish. While I don’t completely agree with your statement on how we refer to it as "our" film, I do understand the logistics in it. Yes, we are most defiantly lucky to have this movie, let alone a box set of the series. As you said, the movie world, unfortunately, does not run on how large the fan reaction was, but how the creators, distributers, and funders of the film will be able to profit from it. As horrible and greedy as the fans are making it sound, thats not a bad thing really. Universal can’t make a sequel just because their fans liked it; the fans seem to be the only ones incredibly interested in it (I will admit buying 10 tickets to see a movie you’re attending by yourself is rather sad, and a little scary if you ask me).
Writing this email to you, as disappointing as I find this, shows that I’m not really a ‘browncoat’ to most. However I feel if a ‘browncoat’ is a fan who believes a company should make multi-million dollar decisions based on how they felt the movie did, I wish not to be called a ‘browncoat’, but rather just a fan. As much as I would love to defend the film, there isn’t much to defend. A majority of the fans had a good time seeing it, and if it was the last time we’ll see our beloved ship on any screen what so ever, thats alright. It’s an amazing story. Key word there: story. Life goes on without it’s continuation.
Now if any of my friends knew I wrote this, my head would be on a plaque. With my name written in Chinese on it.
Devin says: Oops, they may know now. I recommend changing your name and going on the run immediately!
Anita shouts: First of all, I would like to say that I enjoyed your most recent article about the Browncoats. I actually agree with a lot of your points. Please allow me to tell you my own story. I’ve been a fan of Firefly since the first episode. I posted on the original Fox board and now I post on the Official Serenity Board. I have seen the movie a few times since it came out, every time bringing more people to the theater with me. I have done this because I love the film, not because I feel some responsibility to Joss Whedon or the Browncoats. Someone on the board said recently that they had seen the movie 9 times and then followed up with "when did I drink the kool aid." Well, that bothered me a bit. And when I read your article, I realized why.
You are right. This "ownership" in the movie, the "responsibility, obsession, and religious zeal" were all created by the marketing department at Universal. And in some fans, they have created monsters.
A friend of mine and I were doing research for her thesis about fan culture, so we attended a sci-fi convention and a soap opera convention. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the experiences were very similar. The level of obsession was the same.
You are also very right about the sense of depression that some Browncoats are describing, both about the character deaths and about the possibility that the movie will not make enough money for a sequel. It actually worries me how some of these people are talking. It is as if their lives will be over if they don’t get to see more of the story. I minored in sociology and psychology in college, so this whole fan experience is very interesting to me too, but I can’t help being concerned about some of the more obsessed Browncoats.
So in short, I just had to write to you to let you know that not all self proclaimed Browncoats are crazy and obsessed. Some of us are very rational people who happen to be fans of something that maybe the rest of the world just doesn’t care about. And that’s okay with me. I won’t force someone to go see Serenity just like I won’t try to force them to attend my church or cheer for my favorite sports team. And I won’t spend any more money on this movie until it comes out on DVD because, while I did love it and I do really want a sequel (or trilogy) I can’t see putting myself into debt over it.
So thank you for your interesting analysis of some of the more obsessed Browncoats. Maybe in a few months things will calm down a little and these people can go back to their normal lives.
Devin says: I think it’s important for me to say that I don’t think your average fan is obsessed or scary. I think there are plenty of people who live their lives and who enjoy this property and then going back to living their lives. I don’t know if it’s just because of the Internet or what, the problem is that the ones who aren’t living their lives are becoming more and more omnipresent. I just read a news story about a guy who bought out a whole theater – almost 3 grand in tickets – and gave the seats away. This was, of course, for a showing of Serenity. That’s really crossing a line, in a very big way. This guy is doing not just marketing for Universal, but very expensive marketing. I don’t have a right to tell this guy how to spend his money, but if I did, I would make him spend it on a therapist.
dougballrelax33 shouts: I’m not the kind of guy to complain, but I love CHUD and all this Serenity business has made me worry. What’s the point exactly with all these editorials on the lack of box office for the film. There’s no need for it, because I can read this kind of stuff on a message board of my choice, and it scares me that these things are being cranked outwhile cool things like The Best Bastards List take months to finish.
Devin says: Well, you’ll note that I did not participate in the Bastards List. That kind of stuff is usually outside of my area of expertise. My film recall doesn’t seem to work in that kind of way, where you say, ‘Who are the best film bastards,’ and I start coming up with names. I have been with Nick and Dave when they do that, though, and it’s like watching a supercomputer go through its files and pull out the right data in seconds.
But the thing is that I think this is more what CHUD should be offering anyway. So many sites offer the news, and now some are even wholesale ripping off CHUD’s style (I won’t name names, but it’s a site run by a guy who used to frequent our boards). There are only so many ways you can interview people, and so the only way we can offer you the most original content is by writing about what we’re thinking. Serenity was a big film for me this year, so I had a lot of thoughts about it.
Rachel shouts: People will say – and this is something I believe wholeheartedly – that the
fanatics are always the ones who ruin the religion. The same goes for Firefly
(or Serenity, or River the Reaver Slayer, or whatever you want to call it) and
the Browncoats. I wish I could say that most of the Browncoats aren’t the way
that some of them project, but that’s probably a diluded statement, so I’ll
suffice to say that I’m significantly dismayed at the way the zealots ruin it
for the rest of us. Really, what I’m trying to get at is that I think Universal
left it a little too much up to the fans to do the marketing. They basically
handed the reigns over to a group of people who were going to scare the horses
away. Not to say that it’s the studio’s fault that the movie hasn’t done as
well as everyone would have liked, but the fans are, as you have said, pretty
damn scary. It makes me a little ashamed to call myself a Browncoat, when there
are people who define themselves the same way comparing amounts of ‘converts’
and how many times they’ve seen the movie in one day. Admittedly, I’ve seen it
three times already, and I’m probably going to see it at least once more, but I
certainly haven’t been buying extra tickets or accosting people in the theater.
It’s not just people you hear about either, there are fans telling
other fans how to get more ‘converts’, which scares me even more. I listened to
The Signal – the Firefly/Serenity podcast – for the first couple of weeks, and
besides pretty much sucking and being completely boring, the people that did it
spent quite a bit of time talking about how as soon as it was available on IMDB
how everyone should go and rate Serenity a 10, even if they hadn’t seen it yet,
along with the general convert comparisons. This is the image that Browncoats
are projecting about themselves, and it’s really upsetting to me, but it really
isn’t all on us. The very fact that Universal started the whole Browncoat
section of the Serenity site, where they offered free stuff for taking pictures
of doing things like handing out fliers and basically making oneself into a
walking advertisement certainly didn’t help the Browncoat image. Now, don’t
think I’m trying to make excuses for everyone, because God knows not everyone
needs an excuse to be a nutjob, but I really would hate for people to think that
everyone who likes Firefly a little too much also likes to be a fanatical crazy
person a little too much, because that really isn’t the case.
I’ll admit that I was rather upset by your first writing about all of this.
I’ll also admit that I took significant comfort in what Joss Whedon said
afterwards, because even as a non-crazy, I was really upset after the weekend
had ended with such dismal numbers, and I’ll lastly say that I’m one of those
idiots who is still harboring some hope for a sequel. But I want you to hear,
from someone who thinks of themself as a fairly dedicated Browncoat, that
you’re not wrong about the box office, and you’re not wrong about the fact that
the fans are looking at this the wrong way, and you’re definitely not wrong that
a lot of us are scarier than a con-full of Trekkies. I hope you’ll think a
little better of those of us that aren’t in that group though, and certainly not
hold it against us or especially against Joss Whedon, because we’re not all
cultists, some of us just really like Firefly.
Devin says: Your IMDB story is something I have thought about. I know that the Reavers aren’t the first to do this, but I hate seeing online polls and rankings getting swamped by people who are trying to manipulate the outcome. You know what? Everybody knows that Serenity is obscenely overranked on IMDB. And everyone knows it’s because of fans. And so now (and not just because of Reavers) no one takes that seriously anymore. The Internet will never be a place where a poll will really work well, but seeing people get organized like Chicago ward captains is incredibly annoying.
Daryl shouts: You know what would be fascinating, if the producers of Trekkies would shoot a documentary dealing with the irrational behavior of these Browncoats and tack it on to the special edition of Serenity next year. Btw it is drag that Serenity tanked at the B.O. because as far as sci-fi movies go, it was pretty entertaining and I would’nt mind a sequel. I hope that Joss does’nt hold your editorial against you because even though you were right I did’nt get the impression that you were rooting against his project, but as a journalist you have to be objective first and a fanboy second. Peace and keep up the good work.
Devin says: Thanks for pointing that out. Joss himself was unimpressed with my journalistic integrity, it seems. The real lack of integrity would have been to not write what I was thinking, or to have downplayed my take on the box office just because I am a Whedon fan.
Matthew shouts: The most disheartening thing about all of this is the simple fact that "Serenity" is a fine film, and will continue to not suck, with or without the continued lack of interest of mullions of viewers. Also, more importantly, "Serenity" continued to take in more money than "Into the Blue", and had a better opening weekend than "In Her Shoes". And three years from now, if there is no sequel, we can all watch "Serenity" again, from the comfort of our homes, and be reminded of how the film really was fine, and did not, in fact, suck at all.
Devin says: The box office obsession is getting on my nerves. I could understand when there was a hope that the film would take off and that a sequel would get greenlit by week 2, but now we’re at a place where Universal is going to have to weigh a lot of factors to decide if they want to risk it again (prediction: not in theaters they won’t). So what does it matter if it beats Into the Blue at this point, or how it stands up to the opening of In Her Shoes (which, by the way, is made by a very fine director. Why are chick flicks cool to put down but when I put down shitty sci fi people have an attack?). Box office doesn’t have any relationship to the quality of a film. Just because your favored film had a better per screen doesn’t make your film any better.
But yes, Serenity is a fine film, and it is too bad that more people didn’t warm up to it.
Craig shouts: I just wanted to write to let you know how interesting I have found your whole
series of articles about ‘Serenity’ and it’s failure to find an audience at the
box office. I didn’t always agree with your take on everything but I always
found it interesting. I hoped (fervently) that the film would find an audience
but that always looked like an uphill battle. A difficult premise and no star
power is a lot to overcome. An uninspired ad campaign was the probably the final
nail in the coffin.
Personally, I am an enormous fan of Whedon’s work but
one who feels uncomfortable in the body of his fandom. I read & even post
at Whedonesque on occasion. However, I mostly feel really distant from the
fandom for the most part. I don’t got to conventions. I don’t want to get into
weird chats about how Whedon abandoned Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I just love
the work (specifically Buffy & Firefly) and have a lot of affection to the
man personally (no one talks about their craft with as much passion & wit).
In the past couple of years, I have been witness to a lot of weird things in
Whedon fandom but this last week was way over the top.
You nailed it on
the head when you said it was like witnessing people go through the stages of
death, and the denial stage has gotten a real workout. It’s been creepy & a
little depressing to read a lot of the posts.
The last article really
struck a chord for me when you mentioned marketing’s co-opting of the Browncoat
fan base. It’s here that I think things got a little out of hand. When Whedon
came on screen before the Browncoat screenings and praised the fans & asked
them to get the word out, he, in essence, made them part of the process of
selling the film. I think, in part, this led to the over-the-top nature of
some (not all or even most) of the fans in trying to sell the movie, and also to
the depression about their failure to get more people into theatres.
understand the concept of using the fans to get word out but I think it was
abused a touch here and this hangover is what the end result is. It’s a shame
really. The people who really enjoy this film universe should be celebrating a
damn good movie that was made against really long odds but instead they are
obsessing over poor box office numbers and the likely end of the this
particular story. This is a prime example of when fandom goes wrong at the
Devin says: What’s better: studios taking the fans for granted, as they have for years, or studios co-opting the fan base for marketing? I don’t like either, but the idea of the fan base answering to the guy with an MBA in marketing makes me queasy.
JSW shouts: First off; did you miss how important the foreign box-office has become to films? If Serenity, somehow and someway, became the number one film in the UK. The film will be well on it’s way to making a profit due to rate exchange alone.
If you want to give anyone a serious discussion about box office. Please, the next time, remember how much FOREIGN BOX OFFICE has become as important or more so than domestic.
You were right about the whole "business of art" thing, but the BUSINESS end did not promote the ART end properly. I think it would be safe to assume, the marketing meetings for this film. Could have been as bad as the marketing meetings for Shaker Heighters during the second season of Project Greenlight. Universal had no idea how to market this film. If they let Joss market this film. He had no idea either. Ever since Universal lost their two main execs. This studio has had troubles selling anything. Why people possibly have faith in King Kong being sold to the American public continually amazes me.
Secondly, why did you write this column in the first place? Do you like this sort of attention? If so, then why? Why do you want to get your balls busted from the likes of yokels such as myself, or even people that would take a sharper more offensive tone towards you?
You pondering why Whedon and Kev talk to their fans the way they do, and how it could lead to future editorials. Totally ignores that you, constantly and steadily, write in ways to provoke people. They at least, are trying to get to know who supports them. What are you trying to do Devin? See how many hateful emails you can receive? Dont know throw stones into their glass houses from yours across the street.
Third; Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks are dramedies. Good shows from a good creator who did better work on the Ben Stiller Show. Yet, why slam FireflY? When you clearly have anti-TV Sci-Fi biases? This should probably go with point number TWO, but come on. Slighting a show that was untimely cancelled and then resurrected in a movie,based on the quality of Firely, and the quality that sold all of those boxsets. Makes very little sense.
Finally, if CHUD and AICN were started as fan sites. Why did you write another piece that belittled the fans, and why did AICN act like the cowards they are? They are just fans. We all know what FAN comes from. So they want this film to succeed. The same way CHUD and AICN wanted Hellboy to succeed. Of course, neither of these two sites, took half the time to give Serenity anything but grief for months.
It might not be on your top ten list (why slam the film again?), but it made my year. If the Transporter can get a sequel. Serenity can as well. If foreign box-office helps.
Dont try to take the sky away from any fan ever. It’s not only rude, but it goes against what all of these online sites are supposed to be about; the love of film/TV/Music, etc…
Devin says: Lotta points to address here. Foreign BO is only important if a film, like The Transporter, has foreign money in it. The fact is that foreign BO doesn’t mean all that much, or we’d be seeing teasers for Riddick II: The Underverse right now.
As for the selling of the film – I don’t really know what else they could have done. This was not a movie that was designed for marketing (and King Kong comes pre-sold). And as for the difference between me and Kevin Smith, well that should be obvious. He’s a filmmaker. I’m a critic and commentator. It’s my job to write stuff like this. I don’t see where the problem is.
And who cares what genre a TV show is? Freaks and Geeks was one of the all-time best TV shows ever. Period. Why does it matter that it’s a dramedy? It was just a great show on all levels. It was better than Firefly and that’s why I compared it – that was a show that was better, was better all the way through it’s run and was cancelled. However, the fans of that show aren’t as obsessive about it as the Reavers are about their show.
Finally – I know CHUD and AICN were fansites. I addressed that in my piece. But you know what? There’s a difference between a fan and a lunatic. The line is getting crossed more and more and it’s being dismissed. It’s giving moderate fans – people who like stuff but don’t center their lives on it – a bad name. It used to be that Star Trek fans were the complete nutters, but now it’s moved on to just about every possible franchise and property. And you know what? You’ve just given me the idea for my next editorial. I think I’ll call it "Does Devin Hate Fandom?"
Stefanie shouts: First let me introduce myself, I am a 21 year old Australian female who is about to begin her honours year in Cultural Studies in 2006. I’ve been following sites like CHUD, JoBlo and Ain’t It Cool News for about three or four years now and have rarely been as moved to write to a contributor as I have just now. I want to comment on your article “Out of Gas” published on 9th October 2005.
Your article was fascinating to me because this topic of internet fandom becoming a place of consumer/producer interaction is precisely what I will be writing my thesis on next year. I am specifically going to look at comic-book fandom, so as to combine it with the relatively recent emergence of the “comic-book film” genre, and the practices of the fans on the internet being “used” by producers to not only market films more effectively but even dictate content. I am unsure of your familiarity with academic work in this field, basically in terms of theory there isn’t too much written on this particular phenomenon yet; probably because it is so new. There has been much written about fans as sub-cultures and fan practices (I’m sure you know this, especially about Joss Whedon fans, there are whole academic journals about Buffy) and also about new genres of filmmaking in new conglomerate structures and the emergence of the franchise in Hollywood filmmaking. I intend to show what I have observed as links between these two schools of thought and hopefully make some developments in the way we think about the future of marketing films and entertainment in general.
Your article asked some exact questions I would like to investigate further in my work, such as the nature of modern marketing and the role of fans and the internet in it. In this area I felt your observations really hit the nail on the head and you are right about Serenity being a great example of this new interaction. However there were some comments you made that I would like to pick up on now and also address in my writings; that is the common attitude towards these new developments and, ultimately, fans themselves. A lot has been written on the social perception of “the fan” over the years in Cultural Studies (if you are interested I suggest you start with Henry Jenkins, practically the father of modern fan theory) concerning the misconceptions and stereotyping, often unkind and inaccurate. There was a tone in parts of your writing at times that reminded me of this, especially when you described the “duty” of fans. I find this way of thinking about fandom ultimately reductive and unproductive as it relies too heavily on merely describing and characterising the group rather that actually theorising on motive and agency. There are theories in Cultural Studies where audiences are thought of as active rather than passive; that there is a significant interaction between two distinct entities, the consumer and the producer, when a film is screened. The figure of the fan works as a perfect example of this active consumer, someone who views a film from within their own context. Of course, this is true of all viewers; fans are like an amplified version. Personally I view the new developments in film marketing on the internet as an extension of this active interaction. New media has given us as consumers many more locations of meeting producers or, as you call them, artists. Contemporary theory suggests that maybe this new environment of less “walls” as you call it between author and audience produces a new art; one that recognises and incorporates a more active audience and also one that doesn’t always occur on a movie screen but in all medias. Some people find this quite exciting. Parallels can easily be made with the emergence of reality and digital television where we are gaining more power over what screens in our living rooms.
I suppose my question to you Devin is how do you feel you fit in as an internet journalist on a clearly genre fan-orientated website? Your site is a prime example of these new links and meeting places for fans/audiences and artists/advertisers, and yet your views expressed suggest you believe there are proper places for fans and producers and this interaction is getting out of hand. You seem to long for a simpler, more romantic time of movie magic, where filmmakers are worshipped and scrutinised and audiences are graded into types: the brainless masses, the cool, the snobs, the geeks and the really pathetic tragic geeks. And the most you could do to become part of a cycle of capitalist franchise was buy a Han Solo action figure. I personally believe those days are long over (well, actually, it’s probably more accurate to say it was never like that, never that simple) and I think sites like yours are a major catalyst for that change. Browncoats spending their own money to promote Serenity as a demonstration of their love and sense of ownership indicates many significant events, not the least the social theory/psychology angle that comes when investigating fan community practices. For me though the most significant event is this new producer/consumer cross-over: that a fan can love a text so much and practice that love so that they are not just emotionally but creatively and economically invested in the text. The implications of these practices and mindset are, as you know, enormous; especially when you take into account the encouragement of this by filmmakers and studios. I’m then further interested in what you and your colleagues on the web who all seem to view the industry in that more traditional and nostalgic way are going to do now that boundaries are being moved right in front of you, your sites being these sites of change. I hesitate to judge these new boundaries as good or bad, I don’t think about these issues in such terms. I tend to just observe the changes and think about what may be causing them and what may lie ahead.
For the record, I am not a Browncoat. In fact, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of any particular franchise. I come from a lower-middle class upbringing, I love film (all types, big and small) and my interest in this area comes from a fascination with the future of media and our place as consumers in it. There is so much more I could write, but I don’t want to bombard you. I just found myself reading your article and going “Wow! This is my area!” and felt compelled to write down my thoughts. If the writing seems scattered I apologise, I’ve taken the past year off so my writing is a little rusty plus it’s hard to convey quite complex ideas quickly and clearly without getting too wordy and dense. If you’d like me to re-word some points please let me know. Like I said I rarely write, but rarely do internet journos actually write such self-reflective articles. Thank you for that. I did once e-mail Harry Knowles a short questionnaire which he kindly answered and sent back, but mostly my e-mails (to people like Moriarty and specific fan sites like bluetights.net) are ignored. I don’t expect a reply, I know how busy you must be (although it would be cool), but I do look forward to seeing the developments in the future on your site and others and hopefully down the track we could talk in more depth about this issue. I would love to somehow get over to the U.S. and study…who knows what will pan out for me.
Thank you for the great read and I can’t wait for the next instalment.
Devin says: That’s a great letter. Thanks for taking the time to write all that. I wish I could honor that letter with a response as smart and well-thought out. But I can’t, so I’ll hit a few of your points:
Yeah, things ARE changing. But the problem is that I don’t think they’re changing for the better. There’s this utopian view that the Internet is going to bring fans and artists closer, but I think all it’s going to do is degrade artists and make fans a cog in a publicity machine. The degradation of artists has happened in comic book fandom – there is nothing as embarrassing as logging onto a comic book forum and seeing a beloved writer battling some troll. Or even worse, airing industry dirty laundry. I mean, I love it, since I’m a gossipy bitch, but it humanizes these guys in all the wrong ways. I liked it when my contact with Stan Lee was his Soapbox column.
As for the promotional stuff – it just seems perverse to spend money so you can get more of something to spend your money on. I mean, if the guy who spent 3 grand on tickets made the difference and got another movie, what would he end up with? Another time he had to spend 3 grand on tickets.
The role of fansites in all this is endlessly troubling to me. Honestly, I look at it the same way I look at my living situation. I’m a white guy who moved into a mostly black neighborhood half a decade ago. I was one of the pioneers of a wave of gentrification that’s hitting my neighborhood like a tsunami now. The things I liked about this area are going away, and it’s the same thing with the site. CHUD and AICN and the rest began as alternatives to the corporate entertainment press. Now I see the big magazines taking our voices, while we’re cozying up to the publicists to get that screening and that interview. I always have to ask myself if this interview I am doing is going to affect the way I cover that person in the future.
It’s good to know I have smart readers to keep me in line.
PJ shouts: Its not that you have an opinion on how it works, its that it’s condescending and arrogant that’s what brings out the rage in some.
You just overlook one thing in your equation; its also about love – and the peeps at the top in Universal love – there will be a sequel – just wait and see
Devin says: This love shit – how do you not see the Jesus freak similarities? The love thing, and the blind faith thing. Man.
Rhiannon shouts: It seems to me that the Browncoats really are no different than other fanbases. In fact, stuff like this tends to happen yearly. Last year around this time it was the Farscape fans who were getting put upon by folks in the media to stop becoming pawns of "the man" who uses them to his advantage. Scapers did a lot of the same things Browncoats are doing, for a TV miniseries and not a movie, but to the same effect. They spent over 6000 dollars for a bulk buy of GoCards to promote the miniseries. They placed ads, and even way back in 2002 folks like Rob Owen were saying they were being "used as pawns" by David Kemper and the other evil, egotistical creators/producers. Well, I still have two Farscape bumper stickers on my car, and oh yeah, a nice Serenity plug in my signiture.
What I don’t understand is why the film critics of the world decide that a person spending their own money how they choose, to support something they love, is worthy of their scorn. I can see how some people might be called obsessive or crazy, but hey, every fandom has their red-headed stepchild. Really, how is this different than the guy who gets his car wrapped in the Steelers logo? Or who volunteers or donates money for their favorite independent public radio station? One is sports, one is art