Current Events: Culture Wreckers

Tired, and a bit cranky, so keeping this short. You’ve probably heard of people having no-holds-barred beat-downs over what is and isn’t “cultural appropriation”, up to and including vicious arguments that blondes shouldn’t wear hoop earrings. Well, here’s an interesting, sobering, and possibly more useful phrase for you: “cultural vandalism”. AKA what Hollywood and its adjuncts have done to Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, He-Man, She-Ra, and now, via Amazon, the Lord of the Rings.

Yes, I can hear you wince from here. It’s a justified wince, and it’s worse than you think.

It’s not a case of “visual adaptations always differ from the book”. The Meg and the original Jurassic Park movies differed greatly from their book forms, but for the most part the movies changed things to either make them easier to film or to condense extra characters into single roles to make for a clearer storyline. I have to admit I favor the movie version of Lex, for example, who got to use computer skills to save lives, rather than the book version whose main contribution was screaming.

What Hollywood’s done to beloved franchises a la Marvel is more basic, and far more cruel. Essentially, it’s “break the toys so no other kids can use them”. They weren’t satisfied with trying to bring the original stories from the books, comics, or older movies to the big screen. They wanted to rewrite original canon to tell their story instead. And only their story, as if no other possible version could exist.

I grant you fanfic writers rewrite canon all the time, but we at least tag things “AU”. And we don’t stop anyone else from going back to original canon to write their fics. But most important of all, fanfic writers love their fandom.

Yet we have article after article of Hollywood director interviews (particularly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe bunch), quoting how they hated this character and that character and that setting, and that’s why they killed X off/ had the character make this stupid decision / decided to blow stuff up. The original sources aren’t important. The fans of the originals aren’t important. Everything is about “the message”.

Think about that. Beloved cultural treasures are being handed over to filmmakers who bend, fold, spindle and mutilate them for a message. Not a story. Their vision of how a culture should be; vulgar, petty, and incredibly short-sighted.

There’s no sympathy for or empathy with the general audience. Only arrogance and condescension. If the creators in Hollywood really wanted to have a fantasy universe with elves and dwarves with exactly the same ethnicities as humans, or a fantastic setting where everyone and their uncle/aunt was of 57 different genders, they could make their own original story. And then let it stand or fall on its own merits.

But to quote Frodo, “The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own.”

 

The Rings of Power – War For A Fandom

(Warning, NSFW language.)

I especially have to laugh at the bit that starts at 1:34: fandom having an “intelligent, measured and thoughtful discussion”. Spot on, that….

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61 thoughts on “Current Events: Culture Wreckers

  1. Oooh yeah. It’s heartbreaking when adaptors destroy the thing you love.

    I think we all thought about this or that book or comic we love being adapted for visual media, haven’t we? I /like/ movies and TV shows!

    But the current trend of *gestures to the rings of power* *gestures to star wars* *gestures to marvel and DCU* THAT is like reaching for a glass of water, that someone assured you was the best water you’d ever taste, and getting a mouthful of straight vinegar.

    It’s an awful feeling.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Not even as healthy as vinegar. Ugh.

      I find it disheartening in particular because it’s a warped version of the impulse to truly create something good. How many of us got started writing after we read something and said, “I could do better than that!”

      And then we try. Usually with varying degrees of success.

      If they wanted a woke world of their dreams, why don’t they make that as a film instead? Why not try to persuade, instead of hector and scorn?

      …Probably because persuasion is actual work, that requires trying to understand the POV of the person you want to persuade. Oy.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I thought about saying bleach, but thought people might think it was a Twilight reference. XD

        I had a conversation with someone awhile back right around the time the trailers for the Artemis Fowl movie were everywhere, and it was coming out just how much they’d changed everything. And I remember both of us being like, “If they had just written this script with original characters, and not skinned a beloved book series just to stretch the hide over a new frame, this would be a movie I would go see. But I’m not going to now, because it’s SUPPOSED to be Artemis Fowl and it’s not, and I wanted to see /Artemis Fowl/.”

        Rinse and repeat for CATS. I loved CATS. I never could see it in person, but my mom got me that big double VHS taping they did when I was 12 or so and I watched the HECK out of it. Read a ton of fanfiction for it. I took ONE look at the trailer and went NOPE. (I did eventually watch it once after it had been out for a couple years, and yeah, my first instinct was correct. Awful. No wonder Andrew Lloyd Webber got a therapy dog after it came out. Some of the songs are okay, but the stage ones are BETTER so we didn’t even get that really)

        Liked by 3 people

      2. It’s so *stupid*, too– Cats! is a giant excuse to sing fun poems. That’s the POINT. Why would you mess with that?

        It’s like redoing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera as a black and white silent film.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Re:CATS movie, not only did they change the songs….. They turned Jenny-any-dots COMPLETELY CREEPY. She ate a roach. A tiny dancing roach with a person face. There were sex jokes. From JENNY.

        They completely changed the tone of Rumtumtugger’s song from cheerful camp to creepy letch.

        Skimbalshanks’ routine looks like its a b-grade chippendales routine.

        They added this whole weird subplot where Macavity kidnaps Jenny, Bustopher Jones, and Gus the Theater cat (Ian McKellan actually did a pretty good job with HIS role and song, as did Judi Dench. I mostly felt bad they were stuck in the whole hokey mess.). All together they somehow managed to make the overall plot make LESS sense somehow, and this is a play about cats singing and dancing and getting to pick who gets to die and go to heaven tonight.

        They truncated a few songs a bit so they could fit in a NEW song, not based on any of the cute cat poetry by TS Elliot. –__–;;; I think there were worse bits but my brain is refusing to remember them rn.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, GOOD to finally have words to put on why the whole thing displeased me so. I always knew I disliked having messages forcefully put into pre-existing works. If the message was originally there, then fine, but don’t go around rewriting things in ways that don’t even make sense (when you can simply add to it while actually respecting the lore) just to force a message through!
    I’m a woman, I’m glad for more representation of feminism in pop culture, but not only forcing it on cherished work generally doesn’t make sense, it even comes through as aggressive posturing, which generally defeats the purpose by turning people against your ideas, making others defensive.
    It’s soooo hard to say such things these days without people looking at you, trying to figure out which part of what you said is racist/sexist/whateverist.
    I’d actually be glad for new original works that include more minorities! It would save us from Hollywood’s eternal rehashing of existing fandoms and make us discover new worlds, new ways of thinking, new ideals and traditions. I’d love that! I think many people would!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Middle-Earth was explicitly based on the folklore of Northern Europe. That’s straight out of Tolkien’s own notes. Why can’t people accept it that way?

      I’d love to see more works of fantasy from other cultures and viewpoints. Heck, this is one of the best new movies I’ve seen, and it’s based on a Chinese ghost story….

      Whole movie is available on YouTube; I hope it’ll come out on DVD at some point.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. when a fanfic writers kills characters, especially when its done onscreen and in a deliberately terrible and or humiliating way, just because the writer hates that character, its called ‘ bashfic’ .

    when bashfic gets to be more popular then the canon material, its … not something i have words for.

    I agree with the nerrrator of that vid. we want fantasy that reflects fantasy, not fantasy that would reflects the ideals and truths and issues of our modern society.

    its now random, if hollywood will get a beloved book/comics into a good film, or somethin you regret watching- a coin flip!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Honestly think the odds are worse than a coin flip….

      The only thing I can think of to solve the problem is to somehow make it cheaper to make movies and TV shows. If it cost less, people outside Hollywood could get into it more, and the competition would force studios to go for good stories!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The cost isn’t the only problem. Copyright also plays a part. Fanfic writers (and potential movie makers) only get away with it as long as the copyright holder doesn’t come after them with lawyers. Copyright is now stretched so long that it is really hard to figure out what is safe to use, and what isn’t. A company making a movie out of an almost out of copyright work, may be able to claim that any film adaptations conflict with their interpretation. It would be iffy but companies like Disney have the big bucks to fight it.
        I’m torn here, because I’m all for authors/creators profiting from their work and not getting ripped off, but after the author is no longer around, there is no guarantee that whoever inherits will love the work or have a similar interest in guarding the author’s interpretation and defending it. In Tolkien’s case his son Christopher did a good job. The current heirs seem more interested in how much money they can make before the copyright disappears.

        Liked by 4 people

  4. I slightly disagree.
    Something like the fanfic that the middle movie of the most recent trilogy of Mouse Wars isn’t even about the message. It is just about humiliating and degrading those who liked the original Lucas Wars. And more and more of the reboots and rewrites and sequels and adaptations are like that. That is what subversion ultimately is: degrading the story/worldbuilding and ultimately the audience for the sake of humiliating and attacking the audience.
    I will say that a fair amount of what was originally labelled “subversion” is in fact not: if you are monkeying with tropes and expectations in order to make a better story, there is simply no “sub-” to the “version.” But when you design tropes and expectations into a story in order for there to be negative pay-off (also known as “punishment”) when they are not just “not fulfilled” but actively attacked in order to mock the audience, you have subversion.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. “Yet we have article after article of Hollywood director interviews (particularly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe bunch), quoting how they hated this character and that character and that setting, and that’s why they killed X off/ had the character make this stupid decision / decided to blow stuff up.”

    Can you list those, please? I know which movies I think really disrespected canon and which ones were just adaptations done as best as possible, but you’re perspective would be good to hear.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks.

        :reads through link: Huh. I would not have believed this of the Russos given what I saw of *Winter Soldier* and *Civil War*, since those were pretty good adaptations (imo, the ending for CW fixes the atrocious finale in the comics – that is, however, a personal belief). But the Russos’ success with those films might have been due to the writers and the influence of the person/people behind the scenes who held the purse strings. I would argue that the second and third Captain America films were decent adaptations but by *Infinity War*, you *can* see the break down where the Russos got tired of everything. Maybe it was because they really *did* hate the characters from the start, maybe they knew the cultural vandals were coming anyway (I’ve heard that latter theory posited, so mention it here) and so threw everything out the window. I understand that the Russos actually got into a fight with Marvel/Disney Studios over the eleventh hour addition of Carol Danvers, so these comments from them strike me as odd.

        That being said, Shane Black *definitely* had no respect for Tony Stark or Marvel, most of Phase three was a disaster from a canon and a character standpoint, and I wish Whedon had stayed for the last Avengers film(s). Regardless of his faults, he knew and loved the Avengers, and it showed in his movies. I can see now why you dislike the MCU so much.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Reading through some of the comments on the original blogposts now, there are serious disagreements as to if the quotes are real or not. I honestly don’t know, I’ve never watched those kinds of interview shows.

        So now I don’t know.

        I will say, however, that the post itself sums up the treatment we see of the fandoms in Hollywood. Sadly.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. I don’t watch those kinds of interview shows, either, but the story of the Russos fighting the addition of Carol Danvers to the narrative at that point in the series was something I heard. It may have been a false lead as well – perhaps the Russos didn’t resist it. Who knows?

        The only MCU movies I really made time to see in theaters were the Captain America films and the Avengers films, sans Endgame, which I do not like at all. Prior to *Thor: Ragnarok* and the Black Panther movie I had no major complaints about this branch of the franchise aside from the IM sequels because the characters were presented properly even if the lore was changed a bit (sometimes unnecessarily). With a few exceptions, after *Civil War* everything went sideways.

        I attribute it to this same treatment by Hollywood of fan-beloved franchises as well. They hate it and they don’t care that fans – newcomers or regulars who were present from day one – love it, they’re going to destroy it anyway just because it hurts the fans, whom they hate as well. There is a reason I only refer to the first eight years of the MCU in my posts, and this is it.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. …That explains _so much_.

        And now I feel the urge to do some serious outlining on that Star Trek: Generations alternate ending I’ve been meaning to do for years….

        Liked by 3 people

  6. Marvel and DC comic books had untold numbers of alternate settings/universes before there was even the notion of bringing them to the silver screen so it’s just one more for the pile. Honestly the only difference is that unlike the movies that have a start, middle, and end; the comic series just seem to keep going and going and going to ensure that people will keep buying them.

    She-ra I’ve only seen the 2018 reboot and the 1985 series (more the former than the latter) and honestly find the reboot to be much less groan-inducing/interesting in it’s presentation.

    Now the Bayformers movies, they did the franchise dirty. But then, that’s Micheal Bay for you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I used to defend the Bayformers movies, on the basis of at least having some fun action scenes. Then they came up with the “Order of Witwiccans” (and connected it with Excalibur!), and I immediately set about apologizing to everyone who’d had to put up with my lame defenses.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. The relatively new thing with the MCU was “what if we pull off an adaptation that is good over /several/ movies.” They pulled it off for a while.

      Then, everything changed when the vandals put their feces smeared fingers into the pie.

      Whedon at least, some of the time, could tell a story without his personal vileness spilling over to the point that it was obvious to the audience.

      Yeah,in hindsight Buffy and Firefly made some attitudes obvious. But, mainly in hindsight.

      Liked by 4 people

  7. Aye on She-ra. I admit the original cartoon was NOT anything fantastic. It was like… jelly beans.. a nice-tasting treat with no real nutrient value, but it was fun and so what*? And then… oh, a “message”… gee, at least the original only preached a bit at the very end in a separate (and often hilariously unrelated) segment. And fwiw, the JMS written episodes (yes, he got his TV start there…) were above the average. And at least one other writer did the “idiot ball” thing so bad it broke character for the one holding the ball.

    * Why yes, I do like the black jelly beans. Not “too.” I might eat them first… or save them to savor later. YUM!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Let’s fact it, it’s kind of hard not to have some form of message/theme present in media. Even if the writers didn’t go out of their way to include one. The difference I’ve found is whether the theme is something integrated smoothly or the presentation simply hammers your face in with the message.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve heard it said as:
        THEN – “We are here to make money & entertain. If you end up giving a message or having a point along the way, that’s fine. (as long as it doesn’t affect the bottom line)”
        NOW – “We are here to preach & message. If you end up making a bit of money or entertain someone along the way, that’s fine. (as long as it doesn’t affect the message)”

        Liked by 1 person

  8. For a counter-example… the *lack* of this is likely a major reason why people fell in love with “Arcane”, the League of Legends Netflix series. Riot Games was very upfront that the target audience of “Arcane” was everyone who had played the game for the last 10 years. It was their “thank you” to all the fans who had stuck around for so long.

    And then they proceed to make a TV Series that had *really good* world-building, characterization and just wanted to tell a good story rather than primarily be concerned about what “message” that story was getting across. Which meant… a whole bunch of people who had no idea what League of Legends was also enjoyed it.

    Which isn’t to say “Arcane” doesn’t have a message. Its themes are pretty obviously “duality” and “history is cyclical”, but what it’s saying about those themes is filtered through how the characters see and react to the world around them. The characters’ choices and agency was prioritized over message to the point that I can’t remember a time while watching “Arcane” that I thought “this character is making this choice/doing this action because the story message/theme *needs* for them to do so”. Instead the characters are making choices based on everything else that had happened to them up to that point.

    In a very big way, the “message” of “Arcane” is about the importance of the bonds between fathers and daughters, mentors and proteges, sisters and brothers, and leaders and their followers. And how those bonds can either overcome or be destroyed by “duality” and “history”. Weather or not that’s a good thing… really depends on *who* those bonds are between. In “Arcane”, the people involved are always more important that the ideal being worked out.

    And I think that is what is missing in a lot of the “cultural vandalism”. It’s decided in advance that the ideal is more important than the people involved in how that ideal works out. And people know that’s not how it works out in real life.

    But yeah… “Arcane” is… probably about as close to perfect as it gets when it comes to the “tell a story in nine TV episodes” format. It’s really fun to see the literary analysis portion of the internet get to gush about all the good examples off “how to tell a story well” in it instead of the “this thing sucks because of x reason” stuff it often can fall into with modern media.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. /But yeah… “Arcane” is… probably about as close to perfect as it gets when it comes to the “tell a story in nine TV episodes” format. /
      With a side of ‘How to drive your viewers completely rabid with a cliffhanger of epic proportions.’

      I’m sure I was far from the only person going “No, NO! You heartless magnificent ******s, you can’t end it like THAT!” in the final moments of ep 9.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. And it was such a well-done and aggravating cliffhanger because it was *earned* by the narrative. It was the opposite of “cliffhanger to make cheap drama”. Arcane’s ending was bound to Get Jinxed and it was jinxed when the stakes were at the highest moment in the series.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. But yeah… “Arcane” is… probably about as close to perfect as it gets when it comes to the “tell a story in nine TV episodes” format.

      Haven’t watched Arcane yet but I would nominate the anime “Vivy” as a worthy challenger for the tight, self-contained story via episodes format.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I didn’t like Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies very much, but it was an inside-fandom artistic disagreement. “Your writers love Aragorn too much, and are running through all the standard 1970’s fanfic tropes for male heroes” was a big one. (I still can’t believe that they actually had him fall down a cliff into a river.)

    And I’ve mentioned before that the great thing about Jackson’s WWI documentary, from a fandom viewpoint, is that you find out that being a WWI military buff is Jackson’s primary fandom. Obviously this was a tad unfortunate for portraying medieval-level tech and battles in Middle Earth, but it’s very lovable, especially for people who’ve hung around military buffs a lot. “Military buffs with the budget to buy everything but who also like to share” are very valuable people for historians.

    The entire existence of the documentary is due to a museum knowing how to take advantage (in a good way, and for everyone’s good) of a seriously deep-pocketed WWI buff with unique skills and contacts.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. Desecration.

    Violation.

    “Someone loves this, so I am going to go out of my way to destroy it, even if it means nothing to me.”

    You’re not the only one to notice– and no, it doesn’t line up to anything good.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It’s a common cluster B personality tactic. They actively go looking for what people like so they can ruin it.

      To kids who grew up with it, it’s soul-killing – you can’t be honest with your parents about anyone or anything you like, ever, or you’ll see it tormented and destroyed.

      Liked by 5 people

  11. Video Games have much more freedom to do so- for example, there is a fanmade web-serial for Fallout, called Nuka break, which managed to capture the feel of Fallout series, particularly Fallout 3 and New Vegas, amazingly well!

    There are planty fanmade pictures, animations, and sometimes even films, that really give that feel of the fandom in question. if a loving fan, can make something that feels like it could, maybe even should, be canon, or atleast an ‘alternative world posibility’ that still feels true to the setting and characters, with a fraction of the resources…

    I loved Arcane, despite not playing the game at all-and been rereading its wiki for the characters, to see the ones introduced in the series.

    I think trying to change things to better fit modern trands in films to make it for the wide audiance, is what lowered the quality of the ‘ Warcraft’ film- it was nice, BUT NOT GREAT.

    then there are things like ‘Artemis Fowl’ – I enjoyed the books greatly, considered them better then harry potter when I discovered that series, but the movie they made was disappointment all over. For so many reasons…

    In my opinion, the best to go about making a comic, book, or game into animation or film, or even a serial, is by making the work a love latter to the fandom. not a thing for a wide audiance with some stuff inserted for the fans, but a thing for the fans, with some things for the wide audiance, so that someone new to it, can still get relevant exposition, understand and enjoy the work.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. The thing that has me most “I /will/ work out how to make an original imitation that works according to the logic of the inspiration” is Star Gate.

    The third live action series is not canon for me. The second, past a certain point, is no longer canon to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. See, this is exactly why I love finding creators and skilled people on YouTube and such who are big fans and use the skills they have to make content of the stuff they love. Look up the live action My Hero Acedemia: LA, it’s made by professional stuntman and filmmakers that work in Hollywood and used the stuff they learned to make a good video of stuff they love. I really wish that was more common, than this attack on fans

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I also love that video you linked and my favorite part is his point about there being options already in the world of tolkin for them to use if they wanted to create a show with diverse characters and such! But that’s apparently too much work! 🙄

    Liked by 2 people

  15. So here’s the question.
    Why LoTR?

    If they wanted to make a huge, inclusive, *original* fantasy epic I’d totally support that.
    There’s a lot they could do if they wanted to build it from the ground up.

    Using an existing fanbase is just lazy marketing, and it forces the writers to jump through a bunch of hoops trying to adapt a story to a different medium while trying to deliver whatever messages they think will appeal to modern audiences.

    I’m pretty sure part of the problem is that most of the executives have a stronger background in marketing than writing, so when they say “were do we cut corners and force people to do more work” they land on this.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Somewhere, there was a fanboy running their mouth off about The Silmarillion.

        That fanboy didn’t keep his piehole shut, so the really active stupid executives heard about the “Moar live action Tolkien” concept, and then pushed their way into the game.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s an attempt to apply communism to social capital (instead of monetary capital).

      Basically LotR has a huge legacy, reputation, history, etc etc etc around it. The proper term might be called social capital. The slang term would probably be “audience goodwill.” Well they want all that goodwill, without having to do the work or pay the time investment to get it. So they essentially do their own thing then slap a beloved name on it to try and cheat the audience.

      It’s like the worst possible interpretation of a step-parent who wants you to call them “father” even though they’ve only known you for a day and just done a bit of legal work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just like regular communists. Only worse. With regular communism you might at least point out an objective measure (i.e. 2 children arguing that one of them got 2 cookies and the other got none) There’s no real objective measure to social capital so they can claim it’s “not even” in perpetuity. (i.e. those two kids fighting over who mom loves more)

        Liked by 1 person

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