I like liking things, I enjoy being caught up in a tv show, comic or film and enjoy talking about such things with like minded folks, or even ones that disagree with me, provided we at least try to see the other person’s viewpoint, or can agree that our tastes and opinions can differ. As I look at pop culture websites, youtube and facebook I can see that I am somewhat in the minority, or certainly the less vocal percentage of internet fandom. It may be an age thing, I have been around long enough to see much of the reasons for the vitriol before and am no stranger to long-standing properties undergoing changes that I either didn’t understand, nor approved of. I’m sort of tired of it now, because despite all the changes and things that aren’t as I remember them being, it really doesn’t matter.
Now hear me out, I don’t mean that these aren’t things to care about in the ‘more important things in life’ way. There’s validity to that, but I am a man wearing an X-Men tee shirt and have Marvel comics characters tattooed on both of my arms, so lets not be of the misunderstanding that I have my life in the correct perspective. What I mean is, so what if it has changed? Is that so bad?
Whilst I have seen this happen a few times in comics (a female Thor, a Captain America of colour and an Iron Man who is also a teenage girl of colour) it has never felt like any kind of betrayal or anything like that. Captain America has been replaced several times and my objection to the Sam Wilson era, was that Falcon was very much his own man as a character and sticking him with the name seemed to diminish Sam Wilson, rather than affect how I saw the name of Captain America. I read some of his appearances, saw that they were going for a man trying to live up to a legend, but believing he never would was a valid story to tell and I found it somewhat interesting. Thor as a woman, split the character and showed us a Thor who wasn’t worthy and another for whom wielding the hammer could be a death sentence, these were good ideas and led to interesting stories. A teenage girl in the Iron Man armour led to interesting things either and we got away with having the original Iron Man in that story well, so what did we lose? It seemed to me that people arguing these things, seemed bothered about something beyond their preferred characters not being the ones under the familiar name.
When it came to movies and tv this seemed to get worse. Earlier this year, I watched Captain Marvel, which was the film that introduced the Carol Danvers version of that character ( the 5th Captain Marvel I believe) and there was so much anger over the character, the actress playing her and what seemed to be her insertion into the comics and the MCU as a major character. There is a couple of things to look at here, I am a fan of the other versions too. I liked the Mar Vell version when he was a spy for the Kree who fell in love with the Earth and out of love with the Kree. I liked the Genis Vell version too (mostly for Peter David’s writing) and I hold them dear to my heart, but Carol Danvers was a character going back to the early Mar Vell stories and had been a character under her own name as well as Ms Marvel, Binary, Warbird and Ms Marvel again, before getting the name Captain Marvel which wasn’t being used at the time. I read some of the character’s comics and they weren’t for me. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be. I read a recent mini-series which did a bit of a secret origins take on Carol and that was actually very good and other appearances have been good too. The character isn’t for me, nor does it have to be. She was in a movie, which was slammed by some for being too feminist. That does take me to a quote I like from the author Salman Rushdie “Of course I am a feminist the other option is a$$hole.” I may not have read much of what he has written, but I like what he said there. Is feminist a bad thing now? Being raised by a strong woman, being married to one and working with a couple, I never thought of women as anything other than as good as a man at anything they do. But I watched the film and when the character of Mar Vell was gender swapped to be a female, posing as a human called Wendy Lawson I didn’t think of it as a betrayal, but more of an interesting plot choice that I didn’t think of. If you change any of the cast to male, the story doesn’t really change too much and if we can be honest, haven’t enough men had this movie anyway? 22 MCU movies and only 1 is female led? That’s a pretty poor showing don’t you think? Whilst it’s not one of the MCU’s best, it is a solid midcarder of a film that was both fun and accessible. I was glad to see it come out and will no doubt pick up the Blu Ray before too long.
That came on the heels of last year’s recasting of the BBC TV series/character Doctor Who. So many people complained about the casting and overall direction of the show that I seriously wondered what they could have seen that would make reasonable people feel this way. Was it her well received performance on Broadchurch? Or her appearance in the apparently underappreciated Attack the Block? Was it that the role was just handed to her? Oh wait, it wasn’t. As far as I was aware, she hadn’t actually been seen on the show yet. So what was all the anger about? When it finally was on the air, I watched it.
It was enjoyable, good performances, action and writing and whilst not as good as Matt Smith’s the 11th hour, it was better than the rest of the new Doctor Who actor’s first episodes. The rest of the season was okay, some good episodes, some not so good, but isn’t that always the way? What about the quality had changed that so many people could be so down on it? The retorts of ‘SJW’ and ‘get your politics out of my …..’ etc etc as well as the usual ‘ruined my childhood’ rubbish came up. But here’s the thing, most heroic fiction has an element of social justice in it. It is built into the idea. The politics argument is also spurious as most good fiction and good science fiction in particular has politics or some message built into it. Doctor Who has had a go at taxation, prejudice, war, totalitarianism and a dozen other things besides going back as far as it’s pro-enviroment themes during Inferno over 40 years ago. It’s not the actor you are objecting too (no one could accuse Slyvester McCoy or Colin Baker of being master thespians) nor the writing (I watched Fear Her and 42 as well you know), so really what is it that you are complaining about?
This post (rambling as it may be) came about because our puppy isn’t always sleeping through the night and I have had a few sleepless nights as a result. After a couple of occasions of channel surfing, I decided the next time I would put a film on and the newest film I had bought, that I was able to watch at 4am was Star Wars episde XIII, the Last Jedi. Wow, did that film get a lot of unnecessary bile as well. But I watched it and it was alright. It was better then most of the prequels, better than the last one and I will be honest, I didn’t know what the fuss was all about. The grief that the cast has to deal with was ridiculous (one of the cast was chased off twitter) and for what? A film that many people didn’t like, but many people did? It was okay, there was a lot of good moments in the film and it pointed towards an interesting episode IX, yet once more we have the not my star wars people, the cries for re-edits and complaints of SJW agendas again (so we didn’t think that a film about a rebellion against a fascist empire wasn’t going to have any of that?) and discussion of the film seems to have been shoved aside in favour of shouting about what the film means and how the fans have been betrayed by this newest installment. I may write more about this film as I have both positives and negatives about it, but it seemed to crystalise what I had been thinking.
The point of this incredibly long diatribe is this. If you do not like it, that is okay. The world is full of things that I do not like, but others do. The world also has stuff that I like and others do not. That is okay. Not everything is for me. I am quite fortunate, being a straight white man, quite a lot of fiction is for me. But I have also enjoyed stuff that shines a light on other points of view and perspectives. Many of my favourite shows have female leads, or leads of colour and not seeing myself reflected in this fiction is not a problem to me. But having that broader range of appeal and greater representation does mean something to other people. If I can see myself reflected on TV or film in a leading role, why shouldn’t everyone else. If a lot of TV and film and comics is aimed to me as a demographic, why doesn’t every demographic have the same thing? If something is for me, or if I can enjoy it, fantastic. If it isn’t, well that’s okay too, because it doesn’t have to be and it will be for someone else. If The Last Jedi isn’t my star wars, well that’s okay, because there’s another 7 or 8 movies that might be, no point getting all aireated about it. My not liking it, doesn’t make it wrong, any more than my liking it makes it right. If the new stuff doesn’t do it for me, that’s not a betrayal of the fans or the ruining of my childhood, that’s okay, because I have a lot of stuff that does do it for me and more seems to be coming up all the time. You can reboot, recast or remake whatever you want, it doesn’t ruin my childhood, because I had those things then and in terms of popular culture, my childhood was pretty damn good. Most of the things that I enjoyed as a kid or available now still. I can watch 80’s cartoons, 70’s movies, 90’s tv shows and so on and share them with those I love and every now and again, something new will appear that will impress and/or entertain me.
If you like something, enjoy it, share it and be thankful for it, because it does enhance your day. If you don’t, what you can do is, walk away. If you don’t like the new Doctor Who, don’t watch it, millions of others will and the older stuff is still there for you to enjoy. If you don’t like the way the new Star Wars films are being done, then vote with your £ or $ and don’t go to see it. You are not harmed by these things and this bile and vitriol is neither helping you, nor changing anything. Several times I have walked away from stuff that I felt wasn’t for me, sometimes I go back, sometimes I don’t and in neither instance is anyone else affected.
If watching a female Doctor Who doesn’t do it for you, don’t watch it. The complaining, the hate-watching isn’t necessary. Some little girl might watch that and be inspired, the way that you were once inspired when they were a he. The geeks of the world like to still see ourselves as the keepers of these myths, these fragile things that need to be protected from the newcomers, but weren’t not. These stories belong to all of us and maybe you need to be a little less precious about them. The greatest stories grow and change and aren’t the same decade to decade. We need to let new people enjoy them, new people create them, so they are sustained and continue to enhance all of our lives.
Wow, kind of went on a long rant there, didn’t I?