Thursday, September 6, 2012

I'm sooooooo changeable

I was bid by a commenter to discuss the fickleness of fans and I think it's perfect timing considering all this hullabaloo about Benedict Cumberbatch being misquoted about the CBS show Elementary. (Okay, for some random reason, every time I see the word hullabaloo now I think of Honey Boo Boo. This is terrifying but also reminds me that I should blog about how much the obsession with this little girl scares me. If you don't know who Honey Boo Boo is and everything I've just said has made no sense, then thank God.) Anyway, getting back on track, here's the dealio with Mr. Cumberbatch: he did an interview here with the Hollywood Reporter and things seem to have been misconstrued (as the article now accounts for) and posts like this popped up across Tumblr to clarify this. That was, after all the posts on how happy people were Cumberbatch finally came out and said that he disapproved of Elementary had faded.

I'm sort of confused by all the Elementary hatred. Okay, so I get that CBS is kind of a questionable television network (but c'mon, what isn't questionable? Everything is questionable! Even I am questionable! But that is called existentialism, my dear children, and is in fact frowned upon by those who didn't like Waiting for Godot. (Wow, that's gotta be the weirdest reworking of that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory quote ever)). But the show hasn't actually premiered yet and already people hate it and want Mr. Cumberbatch to hate it and want the entire Milky Way and Gallifrey to hate it too.

And this would be my reaction:

Look, I get not liking something after you see it. I get that. I get being concerned about competition from a similar show towards Sherlock. I don't get why anyone would hate it without seeing it first, though, and why they would insist Cumberbatch hates it too. I mean, c'mon guys; this show has Jonny Lee Miller in it; I've mentioned this before; these two are bros. I mean look:

BROS. (Or at least the best representation of such evidence that I'm going to get). 

Instead, this whole Elementary thing has gotten kind of out of hand. As a fan who will pretty much watch anything vaguely Sherlock Holmes related at all (look, I watched the Olsen twins in my youth because they did a mystery series. I have no shame), I don't really hate any adaptions. It's Sherlock Holmes - there's so much you can do with it. Sherlock himself is different in some of his stories compared to others (sometimes he's really friendly and other times he's such a tool) and I like how different representations pick up on this. I may not like what every adaption does, but I certainly don't hate them from the very depths of my soul for what they choose to do. This wonderful little post on Tumblr pretty much sums it all up. (Baker Street Babes for the win!) (I also love the extreme amount of love the Baker Street Babes have for The Great Mouse Detective; that movie was my introduction to Sherlock Holmes and I love that someone other than me is still very adoring of that film.)

It seems like fans are just being pretty fickle, liking one thing but not another; it's like the Coke-Pepsi difference - it's all a matter of taste and one should not be ostracized for it. Or the Mac-PC debate (not that I have ever played nice in that debate; mea culpa my PC-using friends). So I can understand the reservations towards Elementary; I get it. I just don't get the extreme visceral reactions.

Says the girl who threw 50 Shades of Grey across the room. At least twice. 

Of course, I hated 50 Shades of Grey. It wasn't part of something I'm a fan of. I most certainly was NOT its intended audience. But what about these fans who don't like these other Holmes representations? Is it because they feel it isn't directed towards them the way the version(s) they prefer are? Is it because they don't want their niche interest cluttered up by "copy cats?" Is it simply because it doesn't feature Benedict Cumberbatch and therefore it doesn't matter?

Something like all of the above sounds about right.

It gets a bit weirder when dealing with actors. Like fans who stop liking an actor because they're dating someone (as this blurb implies). That I don't get. Or people who don't like an actor because, oh, I don't know, they don't like Bono (Martin Freeman apparently doesn't, according to this). But I'm not personally affronted that Mr. Freeman doesn't like Bono, despite the fact I like U2. Because the world is big and complicated and people have varying tastes and I can respect that.

But in fandoms, that doesn't always work out so hot. It's a bit like how people on Facebook and Tumblr don't seem to get along; there's some hidden dark turmoil that I don't really understand and that I'm not invested in because I don't belong to that group so completely that it becomes an affront to me as a person if someone violates the Tumblr creed or expresses an opinion in a fandom that I don't agree with. Unless, of course, they're being a troll, then I'm probably going to get irked.

But then things get more complicated in this whole "changeable"-ness of the fandoms. And that involves Steven Moffat.

I came across this post sometime ago and didn't really know when to approach it, how to approach it, how to feel about it. It's all fine and well for me to tear 50 Shades of Grey apart because I hate the bloody thing. But it's much harder when the things are being criticized this much are things you love and enjoy. In fact, part of me doesn't quite understand how the people who write posts like this on Tumblr are still fans of the show if they have this much pent-up aggression towards the creators. Of course, that being said, I take a lot of issue with Disney films but I still like them. So maybe from that perspective it is more easily understood.

I did take a look at the Scotsman interview that the post lists and Moffat does come across less positively than I'd like in his comments about women. However, I also know that this is an interview and, if we know anything about media and where this post began, it's that interviews can often misquote. These tweets seem to express just that:

I of course didn't look at every example the "master list" gave and I am not familiar with the characters listed other than Irene Adler (I've yet to get into the episodes of Doctor Who with Steven Moffat in charge; I'm still back with the 10th Doctor and Rose) so I can't speak to that. And honestly, part of me doesn't want to. It's hard as a fan to admit that maybe what we're watching is less than perfect in its perception of women. It's not that we don't see it; it's just that it's harder to talk about. But at the same time, these are some of the best portrayals of women that I've seen, especially with shows like Two and a Half Men and [insert reality show of your choice here] on air. And yet, I still long for better representations, even in the shows I love. So I give kudos to these fans for speaking up. But what boggles my mind is how much they hate the creator.

However, I think that comes from my mindset. To me, I don't think Moffat would be able to create characters as fascinating as Amy Pond, River Song, and Irene Adler if he really hated women. They aren't exactly your typical female leads and they have elements you don't see on mainstream U.S. TV. I don't think this is Moffat here; I think maybe it's more society coming though. I mean, it's the patriarchy - we can't escape it. I know too well the feeling of being a writer and being terrified that your characters are reinforcing gender stereotypes because the plot is progressing in a particular way and then you feel like the patriarchy's won. Maybe it's because a lot of story arcs that are considered good writing come from patriarchial tales. For instance, Anna Karenina is a wonderfully written book - but it was kind of dampened for me when I heard that Leo Tolstoy wanted women to stay in the home and obey their husbands and that novel is an expression of what can happen when they don't. And was we modern writers are standing on the shoulders of these giants... well, it makes it a little difficult for us to find places to branch out to in tales we know that people will want to listen to.

Not that Steven Moffat is a perfect human being by any means. Not saying he's a horrible person by any means either. We as fans also have trouble accepting that actors, writers, directors, etc are the same fallible pinkish-brown monkeys that we are. And holding them up to impossible standards is rather rough on them. Not that they shouldn't be accountable for what they say and what they produce; they know the power of their craft I'd hope. But we also shouldn't expect them to break down the walls of patriarchy with one single TV episode when such a system is so embodied it's impossible to get out of. But when I see posts like the following:
It suddenly gets way harder to make sense of anything. Clearly, fans are more than just fans out here - things matter; the themes and portrayals really, really matter to us/them. We want, perhaps, to escape from our troubled world for just a while, or perhaps want to see something that offers answers that we can't find elsewhere. But when we see this other world is just as troubled as our own or also doesn't have the answers, there's a sense of frustration. We demand better writing, better representation, better hope and if that fails us, we take it out on each other. We call Moffat a douchebag, we insult people for not seeing what we see, we grow jaded when people are less than what we expect of them. And in reverse, as John Barrowman puts it:

It's a vicious circle, with us all pressed up against a glass ceiling we haven't quite figured out how to break through. Here's for hoping we can break through it. And here's for hoping we can begin to see that taking it out on each other doesn't do any good. We should be pushing for better representations and different ways of writing - but as viewers, we have to accept that this may look different than what we're used to, our viewing habits may have to change, and shows may not meet other expectations we have - happy endings, for example, or neat concise story lines. Shows are already beginning to do this, though, and our tastes are growing with them. Sitcoms where every episode ends with a neat little bow are less popular while shows with continuing twists and turns like Breaking Bad and Mad Men are all the rage. But the more complicated shows get, the more complicated the opinions will be. Can we as fans keep a hold of our opinions without attacking others for theirs?

As my dad's friend Ron says: We shall see what we shall see.

So, dear commenter who requested this, I hope this at least somewhat touches on the discussion you were hoping I'd provide on fan fickleness. It sort of digressed into feminism, as per usual with me; I hope you will not mind. For your input, I reward you with a hedgehog:

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