Friday 30 September 2016

The fanboys who attack reviewers are in a terrible sulk with reality

Published 06/08/2016 | 02:30

'I learned the truth about fanboy culture after writing an unkind review of an RTÉ documentary about man-bun advocate and occasional mixed martial arts participant Conor McGregor.' Picture: Brian McEvoy
'I learned the truth about fanboy culture after writing an unkind review of an RTÉ documentary about man-bun advocate and occasional mixed martial arts participant Conor McGregor.' Picture: Brian McEvoy

'Suicide Squad', the latest deafening juggernaut set in the Batman universe, opens in cinemas this weekend and, sad to say, it's a disaster. Cara Delevingne's eyebrows have a leading role. Will Smith sleepwalks through his part as a bad guy with a heart of gold (and an endearing penchant for shooting people in the face).

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Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn is a vandalised Barbie Doll in comedically revealing hot-pants. There may be worse ways to spend two hours and €20 - right now, I can't think of any. 

This is not a controversial opinion. Critics have been unanimously down on 'Suicide Squad', dismissing the $175m tent-pole as puerile, misogynist and dreary - a squalid mess that bludgeons the viewer with a blaring soundtrack and frenetic editing. 'Suicide Squad' is, in fact, the worst reviewed blockbuster since… DC Comics' previous attempt at a box office takeover, the numbing, petulant 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' (imagine... a movie only worth seeing because it has Ben Affleck in a cape).

But fans of the DC universe - the sandbox wherein reside Batman, the Joker, etc - are not taking the drubbing lying down. Instead, and without having actually seen 'Suicide Squad', they spent the week venting against critics in the traditional fashion: by going online and yelling their angry nerd lungs out. Thus far some 16,000 have signed a petition demanding the shutting down of Rotten Tomatoes, a website that aggregates movie reviews and where 'Suicide Squad' languishes at a 34pc average rating - at least 10pc higher than it merits.

Fuelling the protests is a conviction, apparently widely held, that reviewers are biased against DC and slanted towards its great rival Marvel. While 'Batman v Superman' and 'Suicide Squad' are dumped on repeatedly, the theory runs, Marvel films such as 'Captain America: Civil War' are undeservedly lionised as masterpieces. Some DC devotees have gone as far as suggesting that journalists are secretly on the Marvel payroll.

This is obviously ridiculous (as if anyone would hire journalists nowadays).

Yet it speaks to the intractability and refusal to face reality that characterise modern fanboy culture. I learned the truth of this first hand after writing an unkind review of an RTÉ documentary about man-bun advocate and occasional mixed martial arts participant Conor McGregor (below).

'The Notorious' was, I concluded, tiresomely obsequious and weirdly reluctant to delve into McGregor's ambitions and motivations. Here was factual television that appeared fundamentally uninterested in its subject, whom it painted (surely unintentionally) as an attention-seeker with iffy fashion sense.

The backlash was immediate. A deluge of emails challenged my competence, sanity and neutrality. I was just a "hater" - singling out McGregor not because he'd participated in a sub-par hour of television but because, shivering in my writer's garret, I was apoplectically jealous of him.

What I took from the incident was that hard-boiled aficionados are in many cases unwilling to acknowledge reality. That's what happens if a person becomes defined in their own mind by their fandom. When your devotion to a UFC athlete or a comic book property warps the sense of self, it's time for a walk and a long think (and a sabbatical from Reddit).

'Suicide Squad' is a terrible movie. As they glare at their computer screens, raging at the damning notices, fans should pause to ask where the blame truly lies. Shooting the errand boy - or urging their obliteration by internet petition - will do nothing to improve the quality of the message.

Irish Independent

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