The Wednesday Waffle: Issue Twenty Four - "It may not be for you and that's fine."

March 13, 2019

We're all very passionate about the things we like - but we live in times where most people are much more vocal about the things we hate.

 

Here's why that's a bad thing...

 

Let me take you back to a night in July 1999.  Twenty Eight year old me is sitting in the Odeon (because The Everyman didn't exist back then...) as the room goes dark, the curtains open and the legend "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." appears on the screen. There is an audible intake of breath as a cinema full of people who have been waiting for this since 1983 begin watching Star Wars: Episide One - The Phantom Menace.

 

Before that moment, there had been no Star Wars that I didn't like.* After that moment I had to accept that George Lucas was fallable and that I now lived in a world where some Star Wars absolutely sucked. I was furious, and I was vocal. In fact my behaviour and attitude can easily be demonstrated by this excerpt from Spaced, in which Simon Pegg's character vents his own feelings on the prequels.

This, of course, was a time when the internet was less of a thing than it is now (broadband had yet to happen, and I'm not even sure I'd even used Google at that point...) and social media was still in its infancy. No Facebook, no Twitter, just Friends Reunited and MySpace.

 

I know. In may ways it was the dark ages.

 

But it meant that my rage and fury at the abomination that is the Prequel Trilogy was confined to conversations with my friends. All of whom agreed with me - so there were no arguments, just a bunch of nerds in their late twenties having conversations about why the Original Trilogy was better.

 

And then I started teaching and met some actual kids. By the time Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith came out I was extablished enough as a character with the kids I taught that we'd have conversations about comics and Star Wars and stuff in class. Imagine my astonishment when I learned that some of these kids - none of whom were stupid, I knew they weren't because I graded their work - really liked the prequels. Not because they were Star Wars  hating monsters, but becasue they regarded Episodes 1 - 3 with the same genuine affection that I harboured for the originals.

 

This took some processing, let me tell you, but it taught me a lesson that has stood me in good stead ever since - and seriously helped with my blood pressure.

 

Basically, I loved (and indeed still love) the original trilogy because it was literally made for me. I was five years old in the summer of 1977. A little young for sitting through the actual movie perhaps (I finally saw it on TV when it was first shown five years later in 1982 - another aspect of fandom that seems hard to comprehend now) but the perfect age to fall in love with the robots, and the toys, and the books.

 

Then I grew up with that trilogy. I rarely saw the movies - we didn't have a video player, and they were rarely on TV, so my experience was all about the comics, books, toys and my own imagination. Of course it was going to be deeply ingrained into my psyche. 

 

The prequel trilogy? Not so much. It was aimed at the kids who were between five and fifteen in the early 2000s. Those kids had a whole different life experience from my generation. They wanted different things, and the prequels pandered to those tastes - as they should have done. Now, it's possible that they might have made a prequel trilogy I loved (one without midichlorians, flying R2 units and all that damn back-flipping) and that would have been a bonus. But the fact that I didn't like those movies won't have bothered Lucasfilm one little bit - and nor should it. They didn't make them for me.

 

To stick with Star Wars as an example, the same is true of Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. But there are a couple of very important differences in the enviroment they found themselves in.

 

If you were ten years old when The Phantom Menace came out, you're nearly thirty now - roughly the same age I was that night in 1999 when I saw Phantom Menace. It's unsurprising that people who grew up with the prequel trilogy reacted badly to the sequel trilogy. They're in exactly the same situation I was in back in 1999.

 

And then there are the fans of my own generation. From our perspective, we've already been burned once - we're scarred and cynical about this stuff now, and we have very firm ideas about "our" characters (in a very real sense Han, Leia nad Luke are among my oldest friends, I feel like I've known them for over forty years) and we can react badly when they do things we don't like.

 

So yes, we're going to notice that The Force Awakens is basically a remake of A New Hope, and that considering it's supposed to be the middle part of a trilogy The Last Jedi doesn't seem to have much of a relationship with Force Awakens - although we'll conceed that Episode IX might make some sense of it all.

 

And we're going to have opinions about how certain characters die, whether certain side-quests were a waste of our time and whether you can survive in the vacumn of space**. And that's all fine and dandy.

 

BUT.

 

It doesn't matter one jot what people like me think about the latest main series Star Wars film, because people like me are all forty something blokes, and this movie wasn't made for us. It was made for people who are currently teenagers and pre-teens. If they hated The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi then Star Wars would be in trouble. If they hate the new Resistance cartoon, Star Wars has a problem.

 

But it would seem that the kids are pretty much in favour of it all, so what I think is simply irrelevant. If I happen to enjoy it (and for the record, by and large I did, although I'm never going to be a fan of Canto Bight) that's a bonus for all concerned, but neither Disney or Lucasfilm is going to lose any sleep so long as their core demographic is happy.

 

Obviously we're going to have opinions, but we kinda need to dial back the impotent rage online. There are currently parts of the internet where to say you enjoyed The Last Jedi, or to venture the opinion that Captain Marshall is a decent superhero flick, or suggest that a comic written by a woman might be good leads to an almost immediate rain of fire and brimstone from people who don't just disagree, but want to suggest that you should be brutally murdered for holding such a view.

 

Even when that doesn't happen we live in a world where positive comments are instantly countered by negative ones - sort of like this:

 

Commenter A: 

I really enjoyed Umbrella Academy on Netflix.

 

Commenter B: 

It was trash. Bad acting and a poor script. Gerard Way is a loser. The Comic was terrible too. 

 

Now, that may well be Commentator B's heartfelt and deeply considered opinion (and this was a genuine exchange on a Facebook comics group a week or so ago) and one which might perfectly reasonably been shared in a conversation with a like-minded friend.

 

But in these circumstances my only response to Commenter B can be summed up by a popular meme:

If somebody likes something you can't stand, just move on. There's no need to "yuck their yum". In fact, it's important that you don't.

 

Not because you're not entitled to an opinion. Not because people are precious little snowflakes who must never have their views challenged. Not because not liking something makes you a bad person - not enjoying the Captain Marvel movie doesn't make you sexist, not liking Black Panther doesn't make you racist.*** 

 

But there are times when announcing your opinion to an eager world is not the appropriate thing to do. People need to be able to express their love for a thing without having somebody else shoot them down with a whole load of opinions about why they're stupid for loving that thing, and how that thing is the worst thing that has ever happened.

 

All this negativity is bad for us. Being a geek used to be about unashamedly loving the thing you love. It's beginning to feel like geek and nerd culture is becoming more about how much we hate the things we hate and as Yoda will tell you "hate leads to suffering".

 

The honest truth is that the person who suffered most from my vocal hatred of the prequels was me. For a while, I allowed myself to make something I loved a source of rage, sadness and irritation. I don't want to do that again, and I don't think you should either.

 

So lets love the things we love, and accept that the things we're not so keen on simply weren't made for us and move on. Let people enjoy things. We'll all be happier.

 

 

 

 

 

*Because nobody I knew had seen the Holiday Special (which is available in full in YouTuve and if anything is even worse than you've heard) and nobody counted Ewoks: Caravan of Courage and the other Ewok movie (the title of which I have mercifully blanked from my mind) they did as canon.

 

**You can. I mean, you actually can in real life for a short time, there's a great scene in an Arthur C. Clarke story that explains it, but if you happen to be inside the shields of a starship just after a large amount of atmosphere has been explosively vented into them you definitely could. That was still a terrible special effect though.

 

***Constantly banging on about how the real Captain Marvel movie isn't out for a few weeks yet does sort of make you an annoying person though - yes, the character now known as Shazam! was the first character to be called Captain Marvel, but the honest truth is that DC don't own the trademark on that title, because they neglected to secure it and it really is time everyone moved on - when a company called Marvel Comics realised that the trademark on the character name Captain Marvel was available it was an absolute no-brainer that they'd snag it.

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