Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

The End of Fanboy Culture as We Know It…and I Feel Fine

Posted by CinemaPsycho on March 30, 2005

2005 is shaping up to be an interesting year for many reasons. One that seems to have attracted little notice, at least in the media, is the potential end of the two major sci-fi franchises.

Of course we all know that this year George Lucas will release what he claims is the final chapter in the trilogy of Star Wars prequels. Even though it’s long been rumored that Lucas originally intended there to be 9 movies in the series, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith will be the last new Star Wars film. I don’t know if that’s really sunk in for a lot of people yet. In less than two months…it’s over. That’s it.

I’m sure the franchise will continue in various ancillary projects, such as the long-running series of novels and a proposed TV series (I can’t really see Star Wars working in that format, but I guess you never know). But as far as the movies go, Star Wars will officially end on May 20.

For someone like myself who grew up seeing the original films in theaters, and then several more times over the years on television and video, that’s kind of an odd thing to realize. Like most old-school fans, I have my issues with the prequels. I think they’re mediocre films at best, with the occasional impressive scene (I think watching Yoda fight Christopher Lee was the last time I officially “geeked out”). Lucas has said many times that the prequels are for the new generation of fans, not the fans of the original trilogy, and despite my disappointment in them, I can see his point. From the point of view of the younger audience, these are the Star Wars movies. The older films are ancient relics to today’s kids, as strange as that sounds. Then again, I doubt that many 12-year-old kids really give much of a shit about the inner workings of the Jedi Council, so a lot of the content of the prequels are quite baffling if that’s the audience Lucas and company are trying to appeal to. The political stuff must play like C-SPAN to them. But whatever – the prequels are what they are, and I’ve resigned myself to that. Even if Episode 3 turns out to be great, Star Wars will still never be what it once was. And maybe it never could have been.

At the same time, the Star Trek franchise seems to be winding down as well, with the seemingly early cancellation of the current Enterprise TV series, and no other Trek shows or movies in the immediate future. Again, I’m sure that Trek will continue in other formats, and will eventually return at some point in film and television. Trek is too big a cash cow for Paramount to let completely die. Even if they should.

Trek fans have responded to Enterprise’s cancellation with a surprising response, not only flooding Paramount and UPN with pleas to renew the show but even raising a substantial amount of money (around $3.1 million at last count) to fund a fifth season of the series. Hopefully that money will soon be turned over to aid tsunami victims or something else that might actually benefit people in the real world, because I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of Enterprise coming back.

Here’s what baffles me about the whole situation. For the past four years, we’ve been hearing nothing but complaints about how lackluster a show Enterprise is. Especially from hard-core Trek fans. Now that the show’s been cancelled, suddenly they’re saying it’s the best show on TV and they can’t live without it. Where is this coming from? Yes, the show’s improved greatly this season, but do any of these people really think Enterprise is a great show, much less a great Star Trek show? I can think of a dozen current shows off the top of my head that are better and more deserving of this kind of fan response.

Here’s what I think the deal is: for the first time since 1987, there will not be a Star Trek show on the air this fall. The franchise is dead, at least for the time being. This is causing the hard-core geeks (a term I always use affectionately) to panic and come out of the woodwork to show that the “Trekkies” are still out there. It’s not so much that they want Enterprise back – they just don’t want Star Trek to die.

On one level, I can understand that kind of commitment and devotion. I even sort of perversely admire it. I’ve got nothing against Trek (although for me it pretty much died with Voyager and the last two movies), and it wouldn’t bother me at all if Enterprise came back. I just have to wonder if there isn’t a certain level of cultural myopia going on here.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying this is true of all sci-fi fans. I’ve never liked the stereotype of “the sci-fi geek who lives in his parents’ basement”. But lately, there does seem to be a certain contingent that just can’t let it go. I mean, the show is CANCELLED. It’s over. It’s not coming back. Enterprise is done. Why does this idea scare people so much? It is just a TV show…right?

I’m not knocking people for liking sci-fi. I’d be the last person to do that. But what I don’t understand is why they don’t seem to like anything else. There are people who won’t give anything a chance unless it’s set in outer space or some fantasy world! That’s just bizarre to me. It’s not too dissimilar from those old people we all know who constantly watch nothing but Matlock and Murder, She Wrote reruns. Aren’t the mindsets pretty much the same, when it comes down to it? They’re basically saying, “I like one thing, and only one thing, and I’m not interested in anything different.”

I’m sorry, that’s just weird to me. It’s like those people who will only listen to one specific subgenre of music, whether it be punk or metal or “indie rock” or electronic (whatever they’re calling it these days). Don’t they get bored? I know I would. I get restless if I listen to the same radio station for more than 15 minutes. Then again, there are millions of people who listen to Top 40 radio, and seem to prefer hearing the same 10 to 20 songs over and over and over and over again ad nauseum. I’ve never understood that. Then they complain that they’re hearing a certain song too much. Well, change the fucking channel! What exactly makes that a difficult thing to do?

My question is, when there’s so much out there to sample, why not give something a chance if it’s good? I don’t really cover TV here (though I think there’s a lot more value in it than a lot of what you find at the multiplex), but I do watch a fair amount. And I really don’t care what a show is about, as long as it’s good. I don’t care if a show is about cops, lawyers, doctors, gangsters, detectives, housewives, psychics, plastic surgeons, circus people, funeral home directors, an Old West mining town, people stranded on an island, or even a gorgeous five-foot blonde teenager with a knack for solving crimes (and a killer smile). If it’s got interesting characters and fascinating stories, fucking bring it on! I’ll watch it. As long as it’s not formula, and it’s not a goddamn reality show, I’m there.

It seems to genuinely baffle some folks that shows that are not considered “genre” works can attract the same level of fanatical obsessiveness that their beloved sci-fi and horror-themed shows once did. But more and more, that’s what has been happening. Thanks largely to the Internet, the kind of devotion that was once restricted to shows like the original Star Trek, Dark Shadows, The X-Files and Buffy is now freely given to “mainstream” shows like 24, Alias, Lost, Desperate Housewives and of course my beloved Veronica. Fans pore over the minutia of each episode like scholars examine the works of Shakespeare. There are tons of fansites out there for these shows, and I honestly think that terrifies some people. “Geeking out” isn’t just for the self-proclaimed geeks anymore. Practically everybody’s a fanboy (or girl) now – they’re just not obsessive about the same things as the original geeks.

I honestly think this is a good thing. Seriously, aren’t we all a little tired of the old fanboy paradigm by now? If you’ve ever read the AICN talkbacks (and Jesus, what a viper’s nest that is), it’s the same old thing, year after year after year. Whenever Hollywood changes a comic-book character or announces an unnecessary remake of a classic, you hear the same old predictable cries of outrage. As if it’s going to make any difference…haven’t we reached a point where we’re beyond being pissed off about these things? I don’t know about anyone else, but I have. Not that Hollywood is always right, and that people’s voices shouldn’t be heard. But Jesus H. Christ, aren’t there more important things going on in the world than what a comic-book character’s costume looks like? Isn’t there a saturation point where people just get over it, and move on? Yes, Batman and Robin was a terrible movie, but for god’s sake, it was eight years ago. Are our lives really that empty that we can’t learn to let it go already? Does it really matter that much?

I was thinking about this when I was watching the recent Clone Wars cartoons on Cartoon Network. I thought they were pretty cool, but I honestly didn’t really care about what was happening in them. If I were 14, I would be all over this stuff like white on rice. It would be a monumental event. Now, I obviously care enough to record and watch them, but if they didn’t exist, it wouldn’t affect my life one way or the other. I love the Spider-Man and Lord of the Rings movies, but I love them exactly as that: movies. I could really care less how faithful they are to the source material. I loved that stuff when I was a kid, but it’s been years since I’ve read comic books or fantasy novels on a regular basis. It’s not important to me anymore. It’s not so much that I’ve grown up (god knows) as that I’ve moved on.

My point is, people’s tastes change as they get older. Thank god, or I’d still be watching Miami Vice reruns and listening to Dio and Night Ranger. Our interests diversify. We let go of old things and try new things. That isn’t necessarily bad. It can be positive. I loved Star Wars and Star Trek when I was younger. Now that they’re effectively coming to an end…it really doesn’t bother me that much. Is it because I’m an old codger who’s lost the ability to care about the things I loved in my childhood? Maybe. Or maybe I just love different things now.

Look, I’m as fanatical as anybody about the movies, music, TV and literature that I enjoy. What’s the name of this site again? But I also think there comes a time when you have to let go. Some people just don’t seem capable of doing that. I don’t know if it’s an unwillingness to let go, or just an inability to move on and try something new. But sometimes I wonder if that kind of obsessiveness hurts us in the real world. It’s one thing to enjoy visiting a fantasy world – it’s another thing to live there. I can totally understand the impulse to escape the real world, believe me. But how much is too much? Is there a point where it becomes detrimental to the way we function in society? And if so, do we only know where that line is when we’re already too far past it to remedy the situation? I don’t know the answers to those questions. But I do think about it. I guess that’s something.

I’ve made no secret of my obsessive love for Veronica Mars, both the show and the character. I’ve just slipped in references here and there, I haven’t written about it because frankly even I think it’s strange. I won’t attempt to explain it (except for my massive crush on Kristen Bell – really, can you blame me?), although I have to say it is a really excellent show. It’s probably not something I would have given a chance when I was younger – it probably would’ve hit “too close to home” (high school wasn’t exactly fun for me either). Even a few years ago I probably wouldn’t have been able to “deal” with the issues the show brings up for me. But now, there’s something about it that really moves me. Each new episode makes me giddy with anticipation. Go figure, right? Anyway, lately I’ve been visiting some Veronica fansites, more out of curiosity than anything. Some of them are really detailed and incredibly passionate, to the point where even I’m blown away by them. In a strange way, it’s kind of comforting to know that there are so many people out there that care about the same thing I do, as much as I do. It’s a relief to know I’m not the only one. I can relate to that feeling. The sci-fi geeks may not get this show, but I do. I’m sorry that they can’t appreciate it. And if being a fan of something like this damages my cred among those people…fuck ‘em. I’m not going to dislike something to please them. Life is too short. Honestly.

Will I be crushed and devastated if Veronica gets cancelled? Absolutely. I won’t lie to you or myself and pretend otherwise. That would really suck. But sooner or later…I’ll get over it. I’ll move on. And eventually, something else will come along that I’ll love just as much. Because that’s what happens. That’s part of life. As another great detective once said, “It’s all part of life’s rich pageant”. Maybe some people just aren’t capable of understanding that. More’s the pity.

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