Ghostbusters 2016 (Columbia Pictures), Star Wars The Last Jedi (Disney/ Lucasfilms), Doctor Who Season 11 (BBC), Star Trek Discovery (CBS Television), all have one thing in common… they have all gone to war with their customers.
In the last few years, through the use of social media, fans have become a unified force that will waste no time in making their displeasure known to the television and movie studios that produce their favorite content. In some cases the criticism has been a real attempt to help the producers and directors to stay true to the established canon, and in other cases it is has been brutal public floggings for perceived transgressions.
Producers, directors, and actors have been praised and vilified. Some have taken the criticism with a grain of salt and others have gotten into social media shouting matches with overzealous fans. To be completely honest, television and movie studios have always insulated themselves from the general public, and the vocal fandom. Companies like Disney and Warner Bros. have firewalls in the form of PR departments that handle the day-to-day vagaries of unhappy fans and harsh critics.
However, the fandom is now equipped with the power of the internet and social media, and the firewalls that were in place have been breached. The unruly fans can literally make or break a movie by word of mouth, and a keyboard stroke. And for better or worse, the fans are flexing their collective muscles, making their voices heard, and telling the creators of their favorite content that they work for them.
Instead of trying to embrace this new paradigm shift, the television and movie studios have decided to stamp out any honest debate and criticism. The strategy that they have decided to use is equal parts shameful and dangerous… any vocal group of fans are quickly labeled as a bunch of xenophobic, sexist, misogynist, misfits. And therefore, their concerns have no merit, and should be ignored as racist ramblings.
Columbia Pictures and Paul Feig, used this strategy to silence the fandom over the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. End result … the movie bombed at the box office.
Disney used a similar strategy when the fan base voiced dissatisfaction over Star Wars The Last Jedi. End result … Disney and Lucasflims were publically humiliated when the fandom boycotted the Ron Howard-directed Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Lastly, the BBC employed a similar strategy when Doctor Who fans expressed their concerns over the direction the series was going with the new show runner and actress picked to play the titular role. End result. The UK consoldiated ratings have remained steady, but the US viewership has dropped by 2 million.
Ironically, the slogan that has become the battle-cry for the Star Wars fandom is "Get Woke or Go Broke."
Yes … fans can be rough and unruly. They can hurt your feelings, and make you see red. They also can be loyal and forgiving, and appreciative of quality art and entertainment. They don’t like to be ignored or labeled as racist knuckle draggers. Last but not least, they pay the bills … and the customer is supposedly always right.
Any media company or executive that forgets that is going to get a harsh reminder.
**Disclaimer: there have been a few instances were some people have behaved in a manner that is equal parts sexist, cruel, and morally reprehensible. This article does not condone such behavior nor does it attempt to gloss over vulgar and mean spirited bullying. **