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Within a few hours of Robert Pattinson being named as the new Batman, dozens of petitions had sprung up online demanding the studio recast the role. The idea of the vampire heartthrob from the Twilight series becoming the Dark Knight has outraged fans all over the world. Meanwhile, after last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, similar petitions began to circulate on social media demanding the season be completely rewritten and reshot because fans were unhappy with the way the story is developing.
This has become the new normal in what can only be called an entitlement culture growing within fandom. Star Wars Episode VIII saw similar complaints from fans --among the racial and sexual slurs lobbed at some of the film’s stars-- resulting in petitions demanding the film be removed from canon and a new movie be made in its place. Hell, there was even a petition last year demanding that cosplayer Momokun not be allowed to portray the character Bowsette at events.
Night King's getting real tired of your shit, internet.
We’re all well aware of the toxic fandom that has marred this particular decade in entertainment but it’s about time we started getting a grip on it. The level of self importance and entitlement displayed by fans who not only create these petitions but those who sign and share them is becoming an epidemic. We can either start policing are respective fandom communities or sit back and watch as they collapse from the weight of the vitriol spewed by people emboldened by their perceived anonymity and pseudo celebrity status online.
As a writer this behavior doesn’t just worry but it pisses me off. As a creator, I want to make something that will be enjoyed by those who experience it. My success is measured, at least financially and socially, by the response my work garners from fans. If I write a book and people love it, it’s going to sell and I can stop living off of Ramen noodles and prayer. If it flops, well, at least there’s still hot water in the tap. Likewise, as a fan, I have become invested in characters and stories that have moved me in some way. I’ve cried over the loss of fictional characters and been relieved when the good guys win.
At the same time, I’m still disappointed about recuts of Star Wars and E.T. that felt totally unnecessary. I also remember the fan backlash to those changes but, because internet culture didn’t dominate the world then, the reactions were tame compared to today. The problem remains that fans feel that they are owed something by creators, especially filmmakers, who have already provided them with so much.
What I see every time you share a movie petition.
A filmmaker who has given you a trilogy doesn't owe you anything else. They gave you their work and it's there for you to enjoy or dislike. Likewise, fans don't owe a filmmakers any of the almost fanatical devotion that they give to these stories. Still, you'll find creators and consumers alike who are always going that extra mile to offer something else. You'll also find the ones that are always demanding more.
So what can we do about this problem?
For starters, entertainment journalists and websites can stop giving these narcissistic endeavors a platform and an audience. There's a reason we're not linking these petitions in the article. Every time we write up one of these petitions or share it on social media we’re spreading this toxic disease and validating the trolls who created it. I may be an entertainment journalist but I have ethics and I’ll risk not getting the ad revenue for a client outlet if it means not giving hate and entitlement a platform.
The same goes to you reading this article. Rather than share articles and links connected to these childish tirades and self indulgent petitions, just keep scrolling. Like jumping into the comments to find answers before you open another pointless clickbait listicle on Facebook, use a little discretion.
In a perfect world, we could just put the trolls in their own room and let them all grind each other down into nothing. Unfortunately, that’s not how this works. I’m not linking to these petitions because I’m not going to give them that sort of validation. You want to end toxic fandom and toxic behavior? Well it starts with you. Take responsibility for what you say, for what you feel, and for what you share. Cut off the audience for the trolls and stop spreading their poison for them.
Meanwhile, you can still poke fun at things you don’t like. You can still make derpy Game of Thrones memes. You can still joke about sparkly Batman. Just don’t be a dick to the fans or the creators. It's really that simple. We should live by each other's joy, no each other's misery.
Robert Pattinson is Batman. Deal with it.
Dan is an author, editorialist, podcaster, and horror culture & lifestyle correspondent from the Southeast. You can find Dan on social media @dotdblog and read his stories at Danno of the Dead Blog and through PDI Press.