By Crayle Vanest and John B. Pyka
The Geek Community is generally a positive, fun-loving, and supportive place. Unfortunately though, many of us have developed some bad habits that we could improve on. One of these habits is: utterly trashing things we don’t like.
After The Batman, which casted Robert Pattinson as the titular character, dropped in theaters, many people took to the internet to make some highly negative claims.
“This is the most boring Batman film I’ve ever seen.”
“Robert Pattinson is a terrible actor and they should have never made him Batman.”
“This movie is garbage.”
How does this make fans of the film feel? People who liked the movie may now feel like you’re judging their taste, and maybe even like you think they aren’t a “real fan” because they like the “wrong” movies for such a beloved character.
People who were waiting to watch at home may now also be completely turned off, instead of giving the film a chance to stand on its own legs.
So, what can we say instead?
“I wasn’t personally a fan of The Batman’s pacing. Movies like that don’t tend to hold my attention because…”
“Robert Pattinson’s take on Batman didn’t resonate with me. I really prefer (insert different actor) in that role.”
“I hope someone else enjoyed it, because honestly, I just didn’t.”
On the Cereal Box Network, we’re focused less on tearing down the things we don’t like, and more on celebrating the things we love.
For instance, Cereal Box Network owner Johnny is not a huge fan of Game of Thrones. Instead of “This show is so stupid, I don’t know why people are so into it,” he’s explained his lack of enthusiasm on air as “Swords and wands just really aren’t my cup of tea. I’m not into fantasy (though there are some exceptions).”
At the end of the day though, he’s glad other people got so much enjoyment out of the show. Rather than ranting about something he didn’t like, he spends his time recommending others to watch things that he can see the value in. Isn’t that much more productive anyway?
It’s also important to foster communication that allows people to disagree respectfully in fandom.
Crayle and Andrea of Cosplay Café love the 80’s animated fantasy classic, The Last Unicorn. It’s one of their all-time favorite movies.
While working a table together at MidSouth Con with them though, Johnny mentioned that he had re-watched it recently, and felt that The Last Unicorn didn’t hold up to the test of time.
To which Andrea and Crayle responded, “Whaaat? We’re going to have to talk about this on air sometime.” And they still plan to, without any feelings of judgment. (They also watched it together that very night and discussed all the things the ways they have bonded over the movie, partially because Johnny reminded them by bringing it up.)
If Johnny had said “That movie is garbage and I hate it,” Crayle and Andrea’s emotional attachment to the film may well have motivated them to respond confrontationally. And who wants to add that kind of unpleasantness to a convention that’s supposed to be about enjoying our fandoms?
As cereal boxers, we’re able to keep our pop culture discussions feeling safe and fun, because we don’t tear each other down. And that includes not tearing down films and comics that our friends on the network hold near and dear.
Of course, we can still be honest about the things we don’t like. And why we don’t like those things.
It just helps us keep things fun for everyone if we pause for a minute and consider how we word our dislikes.
A movie, song, comic, or show not being to your own taste shouldn’t be an indictment on the fans of that piece of entertainment.
Life is stressful enough without feeling like you need to defend something that brings you joy, because others have called it by strong insults like “garbage” or “the worst.”
Many people have called The Room, starring and written by Tommy Wiseau, “the worst film ever made in the history of cinema.” Yet the film developed a cult following, and eventually spawned a dramatic retelling of the movie’s filming and production.
A piece of entertainment can seem almost objectively bad to you, and still bring something of value to the table.
Just think how much less exhausting the group discussions in Star Wars spaces would have been in 2017 if people hadn’t been announcing over and over again that The Last Jedi somehow ruined the entire Star Wars franchise. Inevitably, fans of the movie would feel they were being accused of causing a downfall of the film universe that they loved. So, the same argument would break out over and over.
It can be fun to critique things and get counterarguments if rational debate is your bag. Some discussions on The Last Jedi did manage to achieve that.
But the trend of angry arguments over the movie had lots of people muting their group chats for anything Star Wars related for an extended period of time. And who wants to have less Star Wars in their life just because some fans can’t be civil?
Which why those of us at the Cereal Box Network are calling on fans to change the way they express their distaste.
Geek Community: Change your vocabulary!
Crayle Vanest is regular contributor on Back of the Cereal Box (most often appearing on the Back Issue Breakfast Club episodes), and co-hosts Cosplay Café and Comic Books: The New Class.
To see (and hear) her talking about all the pop culture things she loves, visit craylevanest.com/craylevanestpodcasting