Fandom’s Dirty Laundry: When Good Fans Make Bad Movies
Last week, Tom Jane released a fan film in which he reprised the role of the Punisher. It was met with widespread approval on the web, aside from the race issue. Yes, it must be said, in contrast to the variety of black characters in the short, portrayed both positively and negatively, the only two white people are an unrepentant murderer and an apathetic Ron Perlman. Tom Jane, we don’t have a white president, you can’t get away with that!
Now, Jane’s work isn’t unfun, but it is heavily flawed. It depicts a literal ten-minute retirement, with the Punisher either licking invisible wounds or retired as gang members rape women, beat kids, and kick puppies.
Without a compelling reason for Castle not to fight crime, him not fighting crime is just playing a game of keep away with the audience. There’s no point. I’d be more impressed if the shirt at the end had read ‘The Aristocrats.’
The Punisher has kind of a one-note personality. He kills criminals. If you have him killing criminals, you’ve got it, man. So why is fandom ignoring this glaring mischaracterization? I think it comes down to the fact that TJ did this short out of love for the character. As a fandom, we like other fans. We especially like when the people stirring the soup are fans too. It makes us feel like we’re not just being sold products, we’re sharing in art, a passion project. But there’s been plenty of bad art made because the creator was too close to his subject. Daredevil. Superman Returns. John Carter. Tron: Legacy. Deep Throat. The downside of fannish love is that it blinds us to characters’ proper role in the narrative.
Gus the Doorman is hilarious for thirty seconds, so we want a whole movie of Gus, even though he was only funny for thirty seconds. So when writers overlook what’s best for the story for what’s best for a character, we get Gus The Doorman In 3D. Nowhere is this more obvious than in The Amazing Spider-Man.
Andrew Garfield is a fan, but unlike Raimi he can’t take a step back and see objectively how to package this character. His Peter Parker is never in the wrong, never not fuckable, never anything but a Canon Sue. It’s gratifying as an id-driven fanfic, but for the movie, it’s disastrous. With us never feeling bad for Peter, there’s no sense of triumph in good things happening to him. And let’s be real. Guys, did you ever relate to Peter, getting an artful bruise because he protected someone from the school bully, then getting hit on by an impressed hot science nerd? Ladies, did you ever not want to sex him?
And yet, even before the movie came out, you had fandom embracing him and doing manips where he’d been adopted by Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. I don’t think they were responding to the performance (since the ad campaign painted Peter Parker as even more insufferably emo than the movie turned out). I think they were going off his fanboying. Didn’t hurt that he had a cute smile.
Now, maybe you want to give a pass to a ‘fellow fan’ because they tried hard. But me, I think if they’re really passionate about their work, they should be working even harder to get it right.
Note: Please disregard this if I ever get a job writing movies. The important thing is I tried.