Online petitions, complains and discontent: the power of a fan in the modern era of entertainment

Nowadays fans seem to have acquired a high level of influence on the products that reach the big screen or streaming platforms as Netflix or Amazon Video. Is it fair for the fan to be able to choose the way an artist should work?

Nowadays technology has powerfully made its way through our everyday life in a way that we would have never imagined in the past. We all live in the era of Internet, a massive medium that allows us to see and do things that just 15 years ago weren’t possible. From online bookings, the possibility to see places that really likely we will never have the chance to visit in our lives, or the worldwide immediate propagation of news and infinite possibilities more. Unavoidably, the world of video entertainment has been changed by the web and its distant and dark corners. Comparing the impact that an artist work had in the 1970 with the one it currently has, we clearly notice a big gap between the two, and, I should say, both cases have negative and positive sides.

First of all, the potential reach is much different: the amount of people having access to a film or a series is extremely higher now in the 2019 than it was in the past, until the Internet took over. Cinemas are way more widespread and streaming platforms give the chance to almost everyone to have access to new content basically everyday, and we were able to witness worldwide phenomenons like Endgame, just recently. Another thing that’s changed, is the way a work is received by the large audience. In the past was harder to have access to opinions and reviews: if you wanted to decide if watching a film was worth watching or less, you probably would have had to go to the cinema and watch it yourself. Now, instead, it’s so much easier to find reviews on the web, and make up your mind about it: how many of us check for reviews before deciding to go watch a new film on the big screen? There is nothing bad in it. Cinemas can be expensive at times, and we are just making sure that watching a certain film is worth the ticket price, or just because we don’t want to be disappointed when we leave the screen. So far, there’s nothing bad in these changes: all of them definitely are an improvement on the fan experience, including the chance to debate with people from all over the globe. Lately, though, a new trend seems to have emerged: the will to alter the artist’s work. Is this a right of the fans, considering that they are the ones who pay to watch it? It is a delicate subject that requires a bit of deepening. In the past months, we have seen petitions, complains and discontent that sometimes led to some results.

First example, is the running Game of Thrones themed petition that asks HBO to remake season 8, after it caused anger and disappointment among the fans (the petition currently holds 1,659,990 and counting signatures). Even if probably started as a provocation to the producing company, the petition was able to find an exceptional support, even though HBO will never -ever- consider it: it would be madness just to think about bringing back the show for a remake of the last season. Moreover, if this should really happen, it will give unimaginable power to the fans, who would feel as they would be able to change every show, film or similar that they didn’t like, or deem awful. Season 8 was the worst of the show, but we have to accept it, embrace it and move on. (Endgame spoilers ahead, be aware!)

Second example is the petition that asked Marvel to bring back to life Tony Stark/Robert Downey Jr after he sacrificed himself to finally get rid of Thanos. Now, for how much passion, love and sadness there is behind this request, it is objective that the petition shouldn’t have had a single reason to exist: Tony’s arc reached the end perfectly. Endgame give the character the closure he deserved: from starting his own family, meeting with his father one more time in the past, and eventually sacrificing himself to save everything he loves brings the perfect end to the superhero. It would be wrong to bring him back and ruin the whole development that got him to snap his fingers without a second thought, putting aside his presupposed selfishness. As the Game of Thrones case, this one will be ignored by everyone at Marvel headquarters, and its only result will be to show how much the MCU has been able to impassion and move the fans around the world.

Now, let’s get to two examples that could have changed the game and how it plays. A couple of months ago, Paramount Pictures released the trailer for their upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog film, causing an immediate backlash of the fans about the design that the creators had chosen for the supersonic fast video-games character. As immediate was the choice of the company to redesign it, and the promise of the director to respect fans’ will, after the massive amount of complains and discontent they had received. For how much this can be considered as a potential (and dangerous) precedent, the choice of the Paramount and Sega was only fair in their own interests: unhappy fans would have meant less income from a film that really likely it’s already not going to be a box office monster.

For the most recent example, we have to move our scenario to Italy, where the recent Netflix adaptation of Neon Genesis Evangelion was a total disaster, and brought to thousands and thousands of complains from the italian fans of the anime. Italian translator Gualtiero Cannarsi, who was in charge of the adaptation project, was at the centre of the critics. He chose to use a haughty and pretentious lexicon and language that sometimes the grammatical rules were completely ignored and re-written. The result was a hard to understand product that led Netflix to take the decision to remove the new adaptation from its platform, and to apologise to all the users about the objectively bad new adaptation of something so loved as it can be Neon Genesis Evangelion. This time the reprisal of the fans was more than justified, as it is unacceptable that a platform like Netflix offers a product that it causes discomfort to whoever is watching, and it should have been reviewed before its release.

The big question now is, are the fans entitled to modify the work of an artist, who worked hard to bring his own views and ideas to life? My very personal opinion is that fans shouldn’t be able to make creators change their content. People have every right to criticise, review and demolish whatever they see, but we should never forget that everything we see it involved an incredible amount of work and, if it got to be released it means that someone deemed this work worthy to be shared with the big audience. Picture going to a museum, looking at a sculpture or a painting and then going to the museum director and ask him to modify it because it’s not a good piece of art. It would be crazy, wouldn’t it? Nobody would ask for a Picasso’s painting to be altered, as it would be sacrilegious to say the least: so why should it be different for a film, or a TV show? The concept itself is the very same: they are both pieces of art, different from each other, but with the same starting idea to communicate something to other people.

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