The Plight of a Modern Fanboy

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A few weeks ago, one of the members of our comment section made the understandable assertion that my unequivocal support of Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis is simply due to my being a fan of his. And I think I agree.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Cosmopolis is a tiny little art house type movie. Despite Robert Pattinson as the lead and the curiosity factor he brings, would I have made an effort to watch it within a week of its home video release if I hadn’t been a fan of the director? Nah. My Cronenberg fandom was the only reason I watched the thing in the first place.

That’s probably obvious, though. I think the “accusation” has more to do with me turning a blind eye to its alleged problems out of some misguided loyalty to the director. Again, I don’t exactly disagree. Meet me after the jump and we’ll talk about it.

Watching Cosmopolis was… not exactly what I expected. I flipped it on, not really knowing what I was in for. The trailers portrayed a cool vibe and interesting philosophy, but very little else. Turns out the movie was a rather different beast from those initial ads. It’s slow, dialogue-heavy, and obscure. Cronenberg’s trademark weirdness is front and center, but without the clarity of his recent output or the viscera of his earlier stuff.

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In short, Cosmopolis is the kind of move that requires effort from its viewer to appreciate. To appreciate it, I had to stick it out through a movie that seemed, particularly as it started off, incredibly alienating.

All this is getting around to a potentially inconsequential question: What are the responsibilities of a fan?

It’s been easy and tempting, for me, at times, to write that off as a silly question. As fans, our only real responsibility is to partake in entertainments that “peel our banana,” as that kid from Mimic would say. It’s not like the simple act of enjoying something carries a burden of work or effort along with it. Or does it?

In 2013, fans fund projects through Kickstarter, participate in grassroots advertising, create their own videos/images/mashups and more. As modern media consumers, we have an unprecedented access to and control over the things we fill our time and minds with.

Heck, for our fearless leader here on Unreality, and many others like him, being a fan is a full-time job. It’s something grown-ups do, that has a real influence on our social and economic landscapes.

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Fandom is serious business. It’s worth considering the notion that it has a meaning beyond reactions to this or that.

Lets look at sports fans. For the most part, they don’t give up on their teams after a dry spell. Heck, some teams seem to stay in a permanent state of disappointment, but the fans stick by them anyway. Cynical reading of sports and sports fandom aside, there’s something admirable in that practice. For these people, it’s not about being on the winning team; it’s about being on THEIR team.

On a related note, I still consider myself a Shyamalan fan.

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This is a guy who’s made three legitimately great movies and two rather good ones, by my count. Even if he never makes another good movie, most filmmakers have yet to kick out ONE film that deserves the mantle of “greatness.” Shyamalan may never make another movie that reaches the artistic heights of The Village, but that he can make a movie like The Village (or Unbreakable, or The Sixth Sense) automatically puts him in a certain camp, regardless of how disappointing some of his later movies may be.

To use another example, The Lost World didn’t invalidate Steven Spielberg or Jurassic Park.

But for me, fandom isn’t just about being willing to get over the occasional (or even regular) missteps of certain artists. Let’s bring it back to Cronenberg. See, he’s given me a half-dozen great films (Videodrome, Dead Ringers, History of Violence, The Fly, etc). Most of his other stuff has been thought-provoking, at the very least. Every now and then, though, he makes a movie that seems to be so concerned with theme or experimentation that it actually loses power as a narrative.

Like Cosmopolis.

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And… yeah, and this too.

Basically, my fandom of David Cronenberg was the only thing that pushed me to the finish line of some movies that would otherwise be off my radar. And it was the factor that made me really dig into the details of those movie, to try and find what made them tick, instead of putting them in the stack of “interesting misfires” like I might otherwise have been tempted to do. Fandom can be about trying to find the positive and/or personal elements in projects I might otherwise ignore or dismiss

starwars

Yeah, I’m going there.

There’s no question the Star Wars saga has had a polarizing effect on the (for lack of a better word) nerd community. Lucas’s decisions since 1997 have raised the ire of many people who loved his previous work. Then again, there are those of us who think Lucas is still an eccentric, sometimes frustrating genius.

For me, learning to appreciate the Saga was a direct result of simply finding Lucas’s approach to have merit. But Star Wars raises another, more relevant point (in other words, let’s not derail the conversation to talk about the relative worth of these movies):

Both sides consider themselves “true fans” of the work. On the one hand, you have the true fans who want to preserve the originals. People like RedLetterMedia have created an astonishing amount of content dedicated to articulating the frustration they feel through criticism, comedy, and outright vitriol.

On the other side of the fence, you have true fans who embrace the new with the old, as one cohesive saga writing thousands more words to express that admiration. Just… less angry ones.

So, how can both of these camps be “true fans?” Because being a true fan requires EFFORT.

Or, you know, not. I’m just thinking out loud here.

What do you mean when you call yourself a fan of something? Does it mean anything deeper than “I like this thing a lot” or “This is something I respond strongly to?”