Game of … Critics?

Game of Critics

To paraphrase something Bruce Banner once said, “Don’t make the fans angry. You wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.”

Since the advent of social media, fans have increasingly had an online outlet to express their euphoria in glorious, crowd-pleasing moments—and to vent their white-hot, dragon-fire rage when their beloved franchises veer in directions they deem unacceptable.

In fact, we’ve seen it twice just this week with Game of Throne’s series-ending finale as well as the announcement of a new Batman actor (which I’ll get to in a moment).

But let’s start with GoT, as the superfans abbreviate HBO’s graphic, cinematic adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy saga. The series wrapped its eighth and final season Sunday night. I won’t spoil the end for the three people on Earth who don’t know. But suffice it to say fans didn’t like it.

Not. One. Bit.

How much did they despise the conclusion? Erm … a lot. One of the hottest viral trends on Twitter this week is the use of the word unsubscribe, a reference to how disappointed Thrones fans hope to punish HBO.

Other fans are petitioning for HBO to undertake a “do-over” on the entire final season. So far, a whopping 1.3 million of ’em have signed the document asking for a reboot that, no doubt, is never going to happen.

But Game of Thrones fans’ have nothing on Batman aficionados. They hated George Clooney and they hated Ben Affleck behind the Caped Crusader’s cowl. So, no big surprise they’re hating on the latest actor tapped for that iconic role as well: Robert Pattinson. Yes, that Robert Pattison, of shiny vampire fame from Twilight. (Perhaps his Batman costume will sparkle tellingly in direct sunlight?)

As we saw with Game of Thrones, fans are firing off Twitter attacks galore, as well as multiple online petitions (the weapon du jour of today’s indignant superfan). One such petition implores, “Don’t make the Batfleck mistake again. Don’t do it. For the love of all that is holy, stop trashing the DC Universe.”

Clearly fans of these beloved franchises are angry. And online, everyone can hear you stream.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this fan backlash culture emerged. But I’ll take an admittedly arbitrary shot and suggest that it was almost exactly 20 years ago, when Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace arrived to epic expectations … and yielded similar levels of epic disappointment among the Force faithful. (Really? Darth Vader started out as a little boy who couldn’t act named … Annie? Really?)

Then again, maybe we need to go back another 22 years, to 1977, when Happy Days’ Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli tried to steal a bit of Jaws cultural thunder in desperate media ploy that infamously involved jumping a shark while waterskiing. (Hence the phrase, “Jump the shark.”)

Sharks and midi-chlorians aside, I think it’s worth reflecting for a moment on what’s going on here.

Though mine is an anecdotal, not a sociologically tested, hypothesis, I’d suggest that cultural identification with fictional characters is at a high-water mark. We’re looking and longing for meaning. We’re drawn into well-told stories with iconic characters we relate to deeply.

And—this might be the key—the online experience gives us a public space to yowl our displeasure at the top of our lungs when we think those stories go awry. It’s something that apparently we must feel empowering, as lots of folks are certainly doing it.

But I wonder if there’s also something even deeper at work here, too. Endings are tricky because there’s so much at stake, especially after eight seasons of a show like Game of Thrones. Even though fans have seen plenty of unhappy moments throughout this violent series, fans still longed for an ending that would satisfy them, that somehow made the journey worthwhile and meaningful.

They didn’t get it. And they’re seriously mad about it.

We all long for an ending that makes sense of the journey, and the painful turns and twists it’s taken along the way. Star Wars (the original trilogy) had one. So did The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And the Harry Potter saga.

Game of Thrones? Lost? Seinfeld?

Yeah, not so much.

(And while we’re at it, I’m just gonna throw Star Wars: Episode Eight – The Last Jedi under the bus one more time. Talk about a disappointment! I mean, Leia floating through space … Man, don’t even get me started!)

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous 28 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy 

Also, if I may add, anyone who is in a kick about Robert Pattinson being cast as Batman really needs to cool their jets because

1.) it’s not official. Nicholas Hoult, Armie Hammer and Arron Taylor Johnson are still in the running, and
2.) we ought to give him a chance. After all, the best performances often come from the worst sounding castings. Remember when we didn’t like the idea of Hugh Jackman being cast as Wolverine? Or when we though Daniel Craig would make for a terrible James Bond, or how we initially thought Heath Ledger was terribly miscast as the Joker?

And I would argue that Ben Affleck had a divided opinion and not a hated one like Clooney. For me personally, he’s not one of the big 3 Batmen (the 3 being Kevin Conroy, Michael Keaton and Christian Bale), but he was in my opinion giving a great performance in bad films (moreso in BvS than JL).
Anonymous 28 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

When I look at how angry some canvases can be, I have to ask myself: is the anger justified? It depends, if you ask me.

I remember how mad I was when I finished watching Captain America: Civil War due to how the whole movie ended on a cliffhanger. For me at the time, it ruined what was otherwise a great film. Looking back now though, I think that my anger was unnecessary, as it was less of the film being bad and more of the film not playing out the way I would have hoped.

On the other hand, fan anger is at times justified. When looking at Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it not only is a bad Star Wars film that doesn’t make sense in the Skywalker narrative, it’s just a bad film in general. In that case, the answer that people (especially SW fans) have over that film could be considered justified (it doesn’t excuse some of the racist, “colorful” words that some fans have said, but I personally think that represents a small percent of the fan base).

And then I look at some areas where some of the hate is earned and some of it is not. Zack Snyder’s vision for the DC universe is a prime example. His idea for the universe was to show how human heroes (even superheroes) can be. And that even when we make mistakes, we can still rise up to do good in the world. Batman killing people wasn’t just for the sake of it. It was Snyder showing that even heroes can fall, and that even though we may fall really far away from good, we can still come back and become good again (not too different from the relationship with God and sinners, come to think of it).
The problem was in the execution. Batman v Superman had the right idea in the third act, but the execution was so bad that it becomes more face palm worthy rather than an “oooooh” moment. And the fact that Snyder, Affleck, Cavill or anyone involved in that scene didn’t improvise the scene at all makes everyone involved look like idiots.
Zack Snyder’s DC universe, much like George Lucas’s prequel trilogy, can be looked back upon as a failed experiment: the both had the right idea, but they were both terribly executed.
Anonymous 28 days ago
I enjoyed Last Jedi, but then I probably have bad taste. Also I love anything Star Wars, even if it probably isn't good. 
-Emma Bibliophile
Zach's Gaming And Stop Motions 29 days ago
Does anyone else find the "Game of Thrones" criticism hilarious? I've never seen the filthy, sickening show (I mean, the review said there was incest, seriously? Who in their right mind would watch trash like that? Apparently millions of people...) But seeing it under fire by its own fan base has been extremely satisfying! I hope HBO goes under over this, they deserve it.
Anonymous 29 days ago
It could be that the show's just not for you, which is fine. But the incest in the show is not condoned, and it's not gratuitous. In fact, it's the original sin that sets the entire plot in motion.

Don't forget there's plenty of incest in the Bible. And the story of Adam and Eve couldn't have been literally true without a whole lot of incest.

-- The Kenosha Kid
Zach's Gaming And Stop Motions 29 days ago
Incest is just one issue. I don't think someone who claims to be a Christian (or even a moral person) should watch a show that uses the "f" word, shows intensely, disgustingly graphic violence, and shows almost naked women and sexual content. 
Secondly, Adam and Eve were the first created couple. I believe that scholars would back me up that other humans were created (where did Cain find a wife?) after Adam and Eve. And, if you're referring to cousins marrying cousins (Noah's children's children,) that's one thing (it is also still practiced today without being looked down on much,) but brother and sister? That's disgusting. Absalom was so disgusted by it he killed his brother for doing it to their sister. 
Nothing personal at all, The Kenosha Kid. I just believe it to be  a repulsive show that's getting exactly what it deserves. If you feel clear with watching it, that's between you and God, and I'm not judging you.   
Anonymous 28 days ago
Just wanted to say something real fast. My Dad is a pastor and he has said before in one his sermons a while back that Adam and Eve probably had another daughter and that's who Cain married. I don't think God created any other humans because I would think that would be mentioned. Could be wrong.

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Zach's Gaming And Stop Motions 28 days ago
I'm also a pastor's kid! : D High five, lol!
That's a good point, and you're probably right, but I am 99% sure I heard some scholars (on some research DVD or something) say that other humans were created after, which explains how there are multiple nationalities. I hope I'm not saying anything wrong, that's just what I've heard. But the whole incest issue was not in any way what I was aiming at in my original comment, all I was saying is that I strongly dislike GoT and I'm happy to see it go down. I hate incest, but it is most likely a part of how we were created. No one really knows for sure, because the Bible doesn't get specific on all of that.
Nice meeting you though! God Bless! : )
B Evans 28 days ago
Absalom didn't kill Abner for committing incest with Tamar, he killed Abner for *raping* Tamar. King David also refused to discipline Abner in any way, which didn't help.
Zach's Gaming And Stop Motions 28 days ago
Although I understand what you're saying, I think Absalom would have been just as disgusted and angry if it had not been rape.
Honestly, as you said, David should have done something, that's why things escalated so quickly. But as I said above, incest is not the issue I am aiming at. I hate incest, but I was not writing about that. I simply made a comment saying that I'm happy to see a nasty show like GoT go down. That's all. No more, no less.
God Bless! : )
Hannah Cole 28 days ago

Here's a good and interesting article I found about the origins of Cain's wife for anyone interested.

Zach's Gaming And Stop Motions 28 days ago
Thanks, Hannah! I'll try to check it out later!
God Bless! : )
Anonymous 28 days ago
There's great material by Answers in Genesis about that topic.
-Emma Bibliophile
Zach's Gaming And Stop Motions 28 days ago
Emma, is that a book? I'd love to check it out, do you by any chance know who it's written by? Thanks! : )
Anonymous 27 days ago
Answers in Genesis is a big Creationist organization who has a lot of books and articles about Creation, the Flood, and some stuff about Cain's wife. their website I think is I think. They were the ones who built the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. (Great place, by the way.) 
Anonymous 29 days ago
The thing that annoys me the most is when shows end on a cliffhanger or an ambiguous ending and don't continue for at least one more season. Early Edition is a perfect example of this.
charitysplace 28 days ago
Didn't Early Edition end with Gary meeting the future recipient of the paper? I thought it was a nice ending -- closure. He sees that the needs of others will still be fulfilled one day when he's gone.
Anonymous 28 days ago
Honestly it's been so long since the show was on tv I probably got a little confused as to just how the show ended, but for some reason I thought it was Gary letting the girl leave when he really should have said he loved her and wanted her to stay. That's the part that's always bugged me about the show, and for some reason I remembered that part as the ending.
charitysplace 29 days ago
Where did my long comment go? :(

Bottom line: it wasn't that GOT ended "in a way that we didn't want it to." It's that it was so badly written, poorly paced, and out of character that we were understandably upset. It's like pulling up to a premium ice cream shop and they give you a McDonald's fruit cup.
Anonymous 29 days ago
It's fantasy with all the cool trappings but none of the deeper meaning and power that made series like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Narnia so wonderful.
- Emma Bibliophile
Anonymous 29 days ago
I agree! I think it comes down to exactly what fans are complaining about. If people are upset because they didn't get the happy ending they wanted, then that may be subjective. But if the complaints center around the plot abandoning all logic, consistency with the characters and story, and so on, then I think it's completely justified criticism. 
Michael Liljenberg 30 days ago
I'd go even further back.  Fan activity got Babylon 5 a fifth season and failed to get Serenity a second back in the 90s.  The cancellation of Serenity seems to be when the sci-fi/fantasy fandom began to really simmer in a way that threatened to boil over at any moment when media creators failed to measure up to their expectations or desires.

The interesting thing about the GoT fan rage, is that many of these pop-culture news outlets whose columnists are driving this petition are the same folks who have attacked, or dismissed as racist or sexist, the fans who complain about how The Last Jedi, Star Trek Discovery, Captain Marvel, or even that She-ra reboot on Netflix spit on the legacy of their franchises. 
Anonymous 29 days ago
I am a fan of Star  Wars but I will not bawl out Disney for anything I didn't like about the new releases. (For the record I did enjoy the new releases)
- Emma Bibliophile
Kendall Litzsinger 3 months ago
this is kinda true. fans are so entitled these days and think they own these shows. reality is, these shows are not and should not be for the fans, they should be written as the writers intended them. 
Anonymous 3 months ago
I actually kind of enjoyed the Phantom Menace, much more than Attack of the Clones. Besides Jar-Jar of course.
-Emma Bibliophile
Zach's Gaming And Stop Motions 29 days ago
From what I've seen of it, me, too! I liked it a lot. I don't really know why people got so angry over it...
Anonymous 28 days ago
Probably because they didn't think it lived up to the originals. But 1 and 3 are better than 4 and 6.
Anonymous 28 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

1. A New Hope
2. Empire Strikes Back
3. Rogue One
4. Revenge of the Sith
5. The Force Awakens
6. Return of the Jedi
7. Episodes I and II
8. Episode VIII and Solo
Anonymous 28 days ago
What? That's not the actual order of films.
Anonymous 28 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Of course it isn’t. That was just my personal ranking of the Star Wars films from first to worst.