The Role of Fandom in Media
With the new Star Wars film out this weekend, I've been thinking about how fandom fits into modern media. Just in case you haven't seen the movie yet, this is a spoiler-free discussion.
I'm a big fan of the Star Wars franchise. There are more hardcore fans than me, and I certainly don't consume every single piece of Star Wars that is ever released (I haven't even seen any of the animated stuff), but I do enjoy the films and the theming and atmosphere of Star Wars. So around the release of the new films I get excited.
I saw Rogue One last night, after fastidiously avoiding trailers and spoilers and all that stuff. I had seen the teaser from a while back but that was it. And I stand by that decision. I did the same thing with The Force Awakens and I felt that it really preserved the sense of mystery and heightened my enjoyment of the movie.
When I combine going into this movie cold alongside the fact that I am a fan, I don't know that my critical faculties for analyzing stories is on full throttle. I'll forgive a lot in a story that I want to like. I know this. So when I came out of this movie with great feelings, thinking that it was easily my favorite movie of the year and possibly in the top three Star Wars movies ever, can I really trust that feeling?
Look, there are two sides to this coin. I think people should be fans of things. I think that's great and gives a lot of joy and anticipation and I just generally enjoy engaging in fandom. There's great community and wonder in being caught up in this creation. But at the same time it can make you blind to things that are happening right in front of you.
In my opinion, Rogue One isn't just a great Star Wars film, it's a great film period. Does it have flaws? Yes, and I even saw them because I did my best to keep my filters up. There were some hiccups, a bit of a jostling start, and some really questionable CGI to make characters from the original trilogy appear in this one. It's not perfect, but what is? The movie is exciting and channels a lot of that Star Wars nostalgia that you want from this sort of thing, it has good characters (even if they aren't fully fleshed out all the time), and I felt like the flaws that jumped out at me I could forgive as I watched. Like I said, I have a lot of forgiveness for movies I want to like.
I left the movie loving it, and wanted to go right back in and watch it again. I don't say that about many things. I didn't say that about The Force Awakens.
So what is the place for fandom in movies? I think it's a great driving force and colors any commentary or review, but at the same time it's incredibly fun and rewarding. Yes, my review may be biased to liking the movie, but other reviews will be equally biased the other way if the reviewer isn't a fan. And that's totally fine. People like what they like. Every single book or movie that I thought was the greatest and my favorite thing has countless one-star reviews that I just don't understand. It's almost like we weren't watching or reading the same thing, because we kind of weren't.
So do we judge things hyper-critically, or through a lens of fandom? I think the answer is yes. Be critical but don't be afraid to engage in something that you like. If you enjoy a film, don't feel bad about that. You might even recognize where it went wrong and what you wished they would have done differently, but still enjoy it. Even if a story isn't perfect it can still teach you something about yourself and about the world. That's what stories are for, after all.
I thought Rogue One was fantastic, flaws and all, and I can't wait to see it again. You may disagree, and I might argue it with you, but that's OK. After all, I thought Pacific Rim was a great movie, and that's a controversial opinion, so what do I know?