Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Confessions of a cynical and crotchety fanboy

Earlier this year I told myself that I might give The Hunger Games a chance, even though I had never read the series of books on which it's based. I certainly like Jennifer Lawrence, the rest of the cast ain't too bad either, and the impression I get from those who have read the books is that it's no Twilight. So why can't I work up the energy to even get excited about the movie? I've given this some thought, and I think the answer encompasses my feelings about a number of recent Hollywood fanboy franchises.

Like most kids, I grew up consuming pop culture in all its forms: television, movies, comics, books, music, etc, but as I've gotten older, in a number of cases, I've either stopped or limited my interest in current product in favor of rediscovering older material. (Movies, obviously, are an exception, since this is not an exclusively classic film blog - though I've thought about making it one on occasion.) Tastes change; what was once considered cool now looks stupid; I get that and I accept that. 

Movies, however, always seemed like the one thing that would never go out of style for me, especially fanboy movies - Batman, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, etc., the ones usually (though not always) based on a popular pre-existing property in another medium and usually (though not always) sci-fi/fantasy. The ones you see with your like-minded friends, usually on opening weekend, if not opening night.

Somewhere along the way, though, I developed a resistance to the newer stuff. Maybe it's a result of getting old, I dunno, but suddenly I looked at anything new and popular (the key word here) with suspicion. Harry Potter is perhaps the best example. I never read the books because I was sick of seeing them everywhere and besides, they can't possibly be that good, right? Of course, that never stopped me from liking something in the past. I started reading Anne Rice's horror books in college because I had heard how good they were. Same thing with George RR Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" books over a decade later. But then, the Potter books were supposed to be "young adult" novels, and I figured that meant they weren't for me. So why did I keep seeing adults reading them - normal-looking adults, not fanboy stereotypes?

I didn't know and by that point I didn't much care. The movie adaptations were in full swing and I guess I didn't feel like jumping on the bandwagon. (I'll say this much about the Potter films: I knew they'd never get anywhere close to a Best Picture Oscar nomination, but I didn't realize until recently that they had never won any Oscars at all. For a franchise that has been as insanely profitable as it has, with a quality cast and crew behind it, it strikes me as quite shocking that it never won a single Oscar for anything, and I suspect this cannot be attributed to merely luck of the draw. But that's another post.)

And now we've got The Hunger Games, poised to fill the void left by the Potter franchise, and once again my initial reaction was to bristle at all the hype surrounding it. If early reports are to be believed, it could do tremendous business at the box office. (Fandom Assembled is certainly ready.)

I think for me, what it comes down to is that when it comes to both Potter and Games, I have no stake in this - i.e., I've never read the books and have no desire to. Why do I have no desire to read the books? Because I can't shake the nagging belief that this is not for me; that it's for the younger (whiter) generation, even if adults do read these books as well. It's not something that's tied to fond memories of my childhood - which is why I don't feel this way about Avengers and most superhero movies. I grew up with superhero comic books, so of course I'm gonna feel emotionally connected to their big-screen incarnations (unless, of course, they suck; I mean, I don't watch them out of blind loyalty). And who knows - maybe it's this kind of attitude that prevented the last Potter film to get nominated for Best Picture.

I also think that it's possible that I'm the type of fan that liked it better when Fandom was a closed, insular circle, a secret language spoken by only a privileged few, instead of the worldwide, multi-billion dollar, multimedia industry it has become. Now that it's become easier than ever to immerse oneself in Fandom, it's less special. When everyone's a fanboy, no one is, and while Fandom can be a rewarding and enriching experience, it can also be irritating and disappointing as hell.

All of this is more or less me trying to convince myself to give Games a chance. I might. We'll see.

I don't suppose anybody else out there has ever felt the same way?


  1. Right on! I was thinking I was the only person that refused to participate in that Harry Potter group think. I too have never read a word or seen any of the films. Same deal with that twilight series. I do however think that I will be checking out this film. I loved Jennifer Lawrence in Winters Bone so I am thinking of giving this a shot. Not that I will be reading the books. :-)
    Nice Post

  2. Well, what can I say? Hope you like it.

  3. I just read the first Hunger Games novel and it was completely engrossing - I couldn't put it down. Very suspenseful. Now I'm revved to see the movie.

    FWIW, I think there's no reason why a "young adult" novel can't be as good as an "adult" novel, in the same way a Carl Barks comic can be better than a dumb, new "adult" comic. Anyway, a lot of it's just marketing and pigeon-holing.

  4. That's true, and I certainly read my share of children's comics. Maybe with movies it's different because of the mass marketing, like you said.

  5. I think the biggest issue may be in the term "Young Adult". I have for years, being an avid lover of knowing the inner working of the publishing industry known that the concept and term is purely marketing.

    A perfect example of knowing to ignore the term "Young Adult" or in some cases even "Children's" is Roald Dahl. Imagine if as an adult you had never been introduced to James and The Giant Peach, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Henry Sugar, etc.... do you think you'd even try them? You'd dismiss them thinking they were only for kids and you'd be hurting yourself.

    Then you have more current writers like Cornelia Funke, Eoin Colfer, and even Brian Selznick. Yes, Hugo Cabret is both Young Adult and in terms of this bandwagon concept of Harry Potter/Hunger Games falls under that category too.

    You're probably doing yourself a disservice in dismissal. If you dismissed more because there's just too much stuff period so one has to pick and choose, yes, but Avengers was for kids too if you remember. Or was it "for kids"?

    Just yesterday I tried explaining to someone that even though Yo Gabba Gabba airs at 8 AM on Nick Jr., it's not a kid's show... it's an adult show geared for children. He didn't want to understand.

    Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, etc. are the same things. They're MARKETED for Young Adults/Children and the writer, editor and PR team have all that in consideration when presenting it, but they also have the underlining feed that they try to get out there that it's really an adult novel, with younger readers in mind.

  6. If that's the case then why call it young adult at all? Just say they're books that's good for everyone to read. Actually, no, I suspect the answer is because there's money to be had in the YA market, now more than ever.

  7. I'm not young (read: teenybopper) nor white but I actually enjoyed the books and am looking forward to the film, though not as much as The Hobbit or Batman 3. I initially felt the same way you do about HP, but when I gave the first movie a shot I actually liked it. So I guess I don't mind that it's not marketed for my demographic so long as it's well-made. I even gave Twilight a chance but they're definitely NOT well-made.

  8. The more comments I get about this the more I think I will see 'Hunger Games' after all.


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