Thursday, June 18, 2009

What makes a man a fan?

Everyone is, of course, entitled to their own opinion. If everyone just got along nicely, the world would be a Stephenie Meyer nov- oohhhh I went there. Everyone likes different stuff, and it's kind of pointless to get up in arms about it.

I used to call myself a fan of various things, but as I get older -- and I am a baffling 24 -- I find I can't work up the energy to get vocal about things anymore. One of the big fromages for me was Star Wars. That one was pretty much a perfect storm of reaching into my young mind. I'd seen the old trilogy on Dutch television when I was about ten. That mystical tome also known as TV guide called them classics, and it made me curious. I remember having to stay up till eleven to catch them, eventually retiring at the epically late hour of one. For some reason, the network decided Return of the Jedi was to be aired on a Wednesday instead of a Friday night, and after the amazing cliffhanger of The Empire Strikes back, being made to wait a few extra days (school night, had to tape it!) for the thrilling conclusion made it hit me all the harder. The very idea of a hero who had to resort to non-violence to win the day was completely alien to a kid reared on Die Hards and Lethal Weapons and Predators.

These were the mid-90s, and if you're somewhat movie-savvy, you remember what happened in '99. And yes, I was, of course, the perfect age for prequel-mania. It took me months, if not years, to realize that maybe... just maybe those prequels weren't as awesome as I thought they were. But those years in between them, oh! how the internet was prequel rumor central. Every dumb Star Wars forum I lurked on, every bit of "news" that Christopher Walken or Gabriel Byrne was going to be in the next one I latched on to. And sometimes I'd hear these names: Mara Jade, Admiral Thrawn, Exar Kun, ... what what? Who were these people? They weren't in any of the movies, new or old. Here's where I found out that there was a whole universe worth of Star Wars besides the movies (an EXPANDED universe, as it were) for good little nerds to consume. The only possible reaction I could have had was obviously AWESOME LET'S GET INTO THIS SHIT. Oh man, my library carries a bunch ohgodohgodohgod!

Let me use this venue to reach out to my no doubt fives of readers and reach out to everyone in my 4th year Dutch class in high school. I am sorry for doing a half hour book report on Barbara Hambly's Children of the Jedi. It was a very lame thing of me to do, and I apologize.

After having read more than a dozen of these bitches throughout my teens, I finally started reading the first one of Timothy Zahn's Admiral Thrawn trilogy on a trip to Italy when I was about 17-18. I remember finishing it, taking it back to the library and just not really caring what happened next. There's only two other books that got similar treatments from me: Dune by Frank Herbert (about 40 pages in) and Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (18 pages in -- F'lar and F'nor? Seriously?). Even though Zahn's trilogy (fantasy authors have huge boners for trilogies, almost as huge as I have for brackets) was supposed to be the "best" the Expanded Universe had to offer, I was just burned out. I was just going to see the movies from now on, and fuck this neverending supplemental shit.

I don't know exactly which one of these came first. The release of the animated Clone Wars "movie" or a friend of mine asking if I wanted to borrow a Thrawn omnibus. The former was met with a resounding ahongiveafuuuuck. Yes, technically, there was a Star Wars movie playing in theaters, but it was actually just the first three episodes of a new Nickelodeon cartoon edited together and called a movie. A movie concerning the Clone Wars, the fictional conflict set between Episodes II and III. The fictional conflict that already had a series of cartoon shorts dedicated to it: by the great Genndy Tartakovsky of Powerpuff Girls fame, no less. This new Clone Wars movie was fill-in-what-blanks-in-the-timeline-you-can moneygrubbery of the highest order, typical of this (or any) Expanded Universe. The latter was a lot simpler. An offer of giving the so-called best of the EU another shot years after the facts. I'm sorry, but total apathy. The only thrill in this kind of book is in reading about some adventures with familiar characters. You won't find any deep themes or new insights in them. If you already know that Thrawn ends up getting stabbed by his bodyguard who is seduced to the light by one of our heroes -- sound familiar? -- there's little this shit has to offer you.

The point of this Harryknowlesian derail/introduction was to give you a bit of my background as a fanboy. It was a few weeks ago, at one of my RP nights, a group member asked who was going to see Terminator: Salvation. Awkward silence followed, until someone said he was probably gonna wait that one out till it was on TV. The original fella couldn't believe it: a Terminator movie in the theater and you're not going to see it? I asked him if he'd read any reviews, which really were universally terrible. He said he'd form his own opinion, dammit!

I couldn't really fault him, to be honest. After all, a film's meant to bring about emotions, and that's a very personal process. A movie might work on you that wouldn't work on me and vice versa. Would I have enjoyed Terminator 4 if I didn't know the ugly story behind the scenes? If I hadn't the faintest of how a blockbuster came to be or of the concepts of script doctoring or MPAA ratings manipulations (and that one's an entire Wholly On The Level in itself)? I probably would. I mean, I was 14 once.

But I can't say I'm completely cured. I wish I could say I now seek out solely original, independent creations free of franchise fuckery. I do, to some extent. I'm a lot more open to new things. I don't pit "my" franchise against others. Yes, there was a dark time in my life that I tried to tell myself The Phantom Menace was better than The Matrix AND The Fellowship of the Ring. But on the other hand, I'll always click the Iron Man II article before clicking the one about Moon, for instance.

Fuck you, inner child, I'm trying to convince myself I'm cool now.

Here, have this Erick Sermon video.

Aaah yes.

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