Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Knockaround Fans

How many fans can you trust with your fandom?
Forty years.

That's the number I figured when I was a kid. Forty years of fandom, and you could consider yourself a legitimate fan. You need them for experience. To develop leather skin when naysayers start their neighing. When actors start to phone it in, or they get to direct The Final Frontier as part of their contract so they’ll appear in the vastly superior The Voyage Home.

So, I got started.

Movies and TV shows filled my eyes and ears and, sometimes, blew my mind apart with the creativeness and exploration of the human condition.  Bladerunner still has me asking questions, despite what Ridley Scott has claimed. Star Trek: The Next Generation at first appeared to stumble, but then started firing on all dilithium crystals, and BAM we get episodes like “The Inner Light” which played prettier than a Ressiken flute!

What are we gonna do now, man? What are we gonna do!?
Of course, along the way you stop thinking about being a fan and you just enjoy what you’re being shown. The world—the universe—is wide open.  The Matrix, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Tron, and The Terminator, and Aliens.  Those are just the big names.  Forbidden Planet, Metropolis, and The Day the Earth Stood Still and Dark City still resonate, and in some cases hold up incredibly well.

That’s when you hear: “Lucas is going to write and direct the prequels!” That kid who started out wanting to be a fan, he totally buys into the hype, the advertising. After all, you saw Star Wars in 1977 in theaters (because your parents ROCK), and you remember when Lucas said there would be no more movies. But, here he is, changing his mind.  So, you do your Happy Dance with wild abandon.

Then you watch each prequel film, in succession, and the disappointment starts.  No, not all at once, and not instantly, to be sure. A Phantom Menace has some really cool lightsaber action. Darth Maul!?  Wow! But the rest? Anakin is a toddler!?  Sure, it lines up with what Obi-wan told Luke, but it doesn’t gel! It’s like Lucas moved the headstones to build his shiny, new vision, but he didn’t move the bodies.

Did you hear who they got to DIRECT!?

So, the doubt creeps in, messes with your world view. By the time you’re watching Revenge of the Sith you realize Lucas was a BIG IDEA guy, but he couldn’t really deliver on the execution. Once he made his name, his fortune, he could take his hands off the wheel, and others—stronger, faster, more creative—made it awesome.  You can see that A New Hope was really a mess, and if it hadn’t been riffing on so many other, better concepts, it probably would have been a disaster. Empire, that’s the real genius, where Lucas had the pull to bring in Kasdan, Brackett and Kershner. 

Being a fan stops being the point.

Being entertained, that’s the thing.

Whaddya mean only Rob remember who I am?
Fandom discussion boards and chatrooms and Facebook groups start to pop up.  You “meet” like-minded people, share interests, and make friends (and enemies).  Then, you find the trolls. Folk who are there not for the joy of the thing, but to drag down anyone who finds even the remotest connection to a film or a TV series.  Sometimes they don't even know they're trolls, so lost in their own troll-dom.  Studios and writers and directors and actors and remakes are announced and are quickly shot down by “fans”. Boycotts are called and mud is slung in every direction.  There’s no chance you can stay clean. You get embroiled in the smallest points of discussion, and have every aspect of your character called into question because you liked something long, long ago in what feels like a galaxy far, far away.

Forty years.

You get past the silliness of it all. J.J. Abrams is tapped for Star Trek and then for The Force Awakens. He delivers. It may not have been YOUR VISION of the franchises, but Abrams opens the door and lets everyone run inside and play around with glitter and glee.  Yeah, it's a rehash of A New Hope, but A New Hope was itself a rehash.  The fun, the magic, the Force is with him. He renews interest in these 40+ year old concept pieces.

Forty years as a fan.

But then, after, you realize that's what you are. You’re a bona fide, legitimate fan.

You’re going to sit in that theater when the credits roll for Episode IX and you’re going to smile.

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