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Monday, May 5, 2014

What If You're Not a FanGirl/Boy?

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

I often find myself along the margins of fangirl conversation, chiming in only to discuss particular themes in certain science fiction and comic book movies. Only to be brutally dismissed by hard core fan culture that is quick to point out your presumed naivete. But it's not so much naivete that's the barrier in this discussions. Rather, it's how you're approaching the story that divides you.

For instance, I finally sat down to watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind this past weekend, and I have to say I just thought it was okay. Prior to watching, I had heard all these superlative things about the film--many of which I understand, other parts I can't get behind. But I get why people--fanboys and girls--love it. Director Steven Spielberg is a master at inciting wonder in the audience and in his characters, and Close Encounters is just another example of that. This movie is an embarrassment of fandom riches--an unknown alien identity, the wide-eyed innocence of children, and the ultimate sacrifice of man.

But none of this was enough for me, at least not from this film. Granted, I think that had I seen this as a child in the 70s on the big screen, I'd probably have a different perception--especially since the special effects are awe-inspiring. But I'm still not sure what this film means.What is its deeper meaning?

Which is what I love about great sci-fi films: they make you think about the world and society in a different way. Jurassic Park, Aliens and The Day the Earth Stood Still, for instance, are great because they are so visceral in how they tackle human perception, fear and anxiety. Same goes for exceptional comic book adaptations like The Dark Knight, which touch on various sociopolitical issues we can relate to.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

But if there's nothing about a movie's themes that resonates with you, can you still appreciate it? Well, I'd say say yes for myself. As I mentioned above, the more fantastical aspects of Close Encounters are nothing short of thrilling. It's not enough to make me refer to the film for years to come, but I do appreciate its sense of intrigue and adventure. The characters in the film take you on their journeys with them, ones that you may not have otherwise considered. Their enthusiasm for the unknown is enough to sustain you.

Then there are movies like Divergent and The Amazing Spider-Man that have already established audiences from their print formats and may not even need to build much more than that. So should they even bother? I'd say yes again to this, because the idea of a film adaptation should be to inspire a new audience, while also catering to the devoted fans. I haven't read Divergent or the Spider-Man comics, so I can't say whether either of the aforementioned films accomplish that. I'll have to leave that question up to the fan culture.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Nicola Balkind recently touched on this subject in her piece, Is X Just a Poor Man's Y?, in which she asked why the dedicated fandom fails to be appreciated in the newer pop culture analysis of film. Is it enough that a film simply indulges in fan culture and evades the rest of the viewing audience? Should we grade these kinds of films on a slant? Eh, I'm not one to coddle a particular type of film just because it has a built-in audience (or for any reason), but I am intrigued by the question.

I still think there should be something beyond a film's aesthetics and popularity that grabs your attention, or takes you deeper into the story its trying to tell. After all, if these fantasy films don't allow for that, then why bother to watch?


Anonymous said...

VERY interesting points raised here. Glad to see you put it out there. Fandom can be a blessing and curse, to both parties. Fandom, sadly, often leads to being unable to look at something objectively, which we should all be able to do.

Marvin said...

I often come up against these thoughts when it comes to Game of Thrones and its fandom. While it's been my favorite set of fantasy books since 2001 or so, and I do love the show, I don't consider it to be my favorite thing on TV. It's among them, of course, as it's tons of fun, but it has flaws, as all things do, and I will not dismiss them.

Good post!

Brittani Burnham said...

Great post! Fandoms can be a touchy thing. For instance, I'm so disappointed with The Walking Dead this year, but I can't help but still be immersed in the fandom. Ugh. lol

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