There’s an interesting phenomenon going on around the world, over the course of the last 15 years, I’d say. With the explosion of social media, an endless array of websites, podcasts, and YouTubers with truths to share, the “entry level” to being a commentator has dropped to the ground.
I’ve seen how pervasive it’s been on every day life, how we discuss political matters, how we express views on things, how we interact with perfect strangers. There are just so many avenues where you can assemble your own soap box and extoll your own virtues, that pretty much anybody can do it.
It used to be that in order to be part of a media outlet, and to have a platform for your thoughts and insights, you had to be something of an expert. The spots were limited, the amount of networks were sparse, and there was a sense that if you were going to pop up on a TV show or get published in a newspaper or magazine, that you really had to know your stuff.
You probably had to have a degree in the field you’re commenting on, perhaps even some practical experience in that arena.
Nowadays? All you need is a laptop, or maybe even just a cell phone.
And you don’t have to back anything up, either. As long as you’ve got a decent quality camera, or a vocabulary that demonstrates you at least made it through high school, YOU can be a blogger, YouTuber, or Twitter Personality!
On the one hand, that’s a great gift. People want to be heard, and now is the easiest it’s ever been to make your mark, grow a fan base, and “be” somebody. But on the other hand, it also means that you get a bunch of folks who have no real idea what they’re talking about or how they should be talking about things shouting things to the high heavens and having their half-baked hot takes broadcasted for the world to see.
I know this, because I speak from experience.
I got my first two writing jobs simply by asking for them. I wrote emails to a couple of sites I frequented. I didn’t have any samples to share at the time, except for maybe some rambling diatribe on an old Tumblr page, and I got both jobs! They hired me- seemingly- because I was able to string some words together and because I seemed willing to work for free since I just loved talking about movies so much and all I wanted was a platform.
Now, it works in my favor that I do happen to have some background in the field and connections in the industry thanks to my family, but the folks who hired me…didn’t know that. I was just an excitable, quasi-eloquent guy asking if I could write news stories and occasional editorials.
That’s all it took.
I bring all of this up because a lot of the explosion in this field has occurred in the last ten years or so, since sites are sprouting up every single day and they all need CONTENT. Just like in “real life,” where there are so many TV networks and 24/7 news channels, that it’s almost impossible to figure out what’s worth watching and what’s actually important. That same thing has happened down here in the blogosphere.
That’s why I laugh when folks point to a post from a fanboy blog and say something like “Journalism is dead.” PFFT! This stuff isn’t journalism. This is some person at home in their pajamas squeezing in a post while looking for a real job in another tab on their browser.
And what happens when you have a bunch of non-experts- a bunch of lay people- spouting opinions in an attempt to beef up their word count for “the SEO?” You get folks saying things they shouldn’t say, about things they don’t really know anything about.
Now let’s lock in on today’s thesis: Zack Snyder.
Over the course of the last decade, the two big entities to cover in the geek blogosphere- which is an extension of the lunch room debates people have been having in middle school since the 1950s and 60s- are Marvel and DC. Those are the entities that garner the most attention, clicks, downloads, and views. Yes, Star Wars occupies that sacred space as well, but I’ll save that for another column down the line.
I bring those two up because, aside from being two of the most popular geek entities in the world, they’ve also been making their biggest moves ever in the last 10 years. Think about it, 2008 gave us both the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. It’s been quite a decade since.
Now, while Marvel has had some minor bumps in the road, they’ve mainly played things very safely since 2008. They know what their demographic is, they know what the winning formula is that satisfies audiences and critics, and they just keep chugging along- occasionally wowing us with something unexpected. Keyword: “Occasionally.”
On the DC end of things, once Nolan wrapped up his Dark Knight Trilogy in 2012, the brand went in a riskier direction. They hired a filmmaker in Zack Snyder whose output up to that point had been somewhat polarizing, and whose work seemed aimed more at niche, almost art-house audiences, and they asked him to handle some of the most sacred characters in pop culture history- characters everyone and their mother has preconceived notions about.
Unlike Marvel Studios, which was taking B and C-List characters like Iron Man and Thor and trying to get audiences to care about them- thus shaping how the mainstream views them- DC was making movies about the most beloved and well-known figures ever in their first two DCEU movies (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman).
There was nothing wrong with that decision, mind you. Who could blame Warner Bros. for saying “Let’s bring out the big guns“? I sure couldn’t.
But issues arose once it became clear that Snyder, a very talented filmmaker with a very particular vision, wanted to challenge mainstream perceptions of these characters. Again, not a bad way to go. But it’s a way that begs for higher degrees of scrutiny, critique, and potential outrage when you seemingly strip a character of the qualities that many grew up on.
It’s a situation that requires tact, eloquence, and an ability to be measured in your assessments if you’re a writer covering those movies.
Unfortunately, Snyder didn’t get any of that. And it’s not his fault. He was just unfortunate enough to release his films during a time when a bunch of amateurs with a laptop and no editor could just spew whatever was on their mind at the time.
This meant that instead of thoughtful criticism, you got a lot of Hot Takes. Instead of objectivity, you got folks who were so annoyed that he didn’t deliver the version they had in their head that they wanted to tear him down and mock him. Because unlike professionals, they took the creative decisions he made that they didn’t like personally. So it became “Your movie offended me, so now I’m going to personally try and offend you.“
So we got this sea of armchair quarterbacks with non-existent credentials, unloading vitriol, pettiness, sarcasm, and passive aggression at Snyder.
And, again, I would know. Because I was one of them.
When I first started in this field in 2013, I was so disheartened by some of the things he did in Man of Steel, that I never skipped an opportunity to mention how ill-suited I found him for the job of adapting my hero Superman to the big screen. Over at Latino-Review, any time I was asked to cover a story that involved Snyder and his plans for Batman v Superman, I couldn’t wait to get down to that bottom paragraph where I could point out why I think he’s the wrong man for this job, or to take a passive aggressive jab at whatever comment of his the article was based on.
It’s because I was a butt hurt fanboy who had a platform, and I was going to make sure you knew that I thought his storytelling priorities were all wrong.
Now, I’ve tracked the arc of my relationship to Snyder and his work before (Read: “Here’What I Think of Zack Snyder“), so I won’t rehash that here any further.
What I want to focus on here and now is that from this toxic culture where any Average Joe With An Axe To Grind Can Take A Vicious Swipe At Zack Snyder rose the current landscape.
On one hand, there are the Snyder Fans- people who loved his films and respect him as an artist- who sat back and watched what bloggers did between 2013 (Man of Steel) and 2016 (Batman v Superman) with their childish, amateur jabs, and on the other side you have…“Bloggers.”
Yeah, the term Blogger has become a nasty brand in their circles, and I can’t say I blame them for that. Just as one high-level blogger painted with a broad stroke on twitter a couple of days ago speaking of “DC Fans” in a very negative light, they retaliate by acting like all bloggers are the enemy, and like nothing a blogger says can or should be taken seriously.
It’s created this nasty, irrational, disruptive feud.
That’s a big part of why I left that arena around the time Justice League came out. Like I said in that other piece I linked to, when I saw what had happened to that film, and realized how crushing that was to the hardcore Snyder fans, I sobered up. I realized there was nothing to gain from antagonizing them, just as I had stopped taking jabs at Zack Snyder when things got real last May as we discovered of his daughter’s suicide. It was all a big wake-up call about priorities.
But I digress.
This whole thing with Snyder and his fans being against the blogosphere makes perfect sense when you consider the context I’ve laid out here.
The entry level for being a blogger, YouTuber, podcaster, online commentator, Twitter Personality, or whatever else you’d like to call it…is nonexistent. Anyone can just be one of those things now, and some of us treat that responsibility with a greater sense of professionalism than others.
And some of us had to grow up as our careers evolved.
That’s another important distinction. You never know what someone’s intentions, goals, or agenda is. Some of the bloggers you see out there are trying to earn a living and create a career out of this- Those usually express themselves more professionally. Others are just everyday fans like you or I who want attention; Possibly even garden variety trolls. And there are others who are just doing this for fun, who have no skin in the game and just think it’s neat to have a platform where they can talk about this stuff.
That’s what makes all of this such a crap shoot. It can be hard to decide who to follow, or why, because it’s hard to tell where a person is coming from. And it’s even harder to know if their opinions are coming from a place of reason and insight, or from a petty, immature place.
I won’t pretend to have a solution to this problem, as I myself am imperfect and am constantly learning, improving, and evolving. I just know I’ve got clarity on this issue, because I see on a daily basis how gleefully certain troll bloggers like to stir the pot and use animosity to drive traffic to their sites and attention to their fragile egos.
A lot of people in this business…have no business being here, and there’s no way to stop them.
Something For The Other Side To Consider
While the vast majority of this piece is meant to shine a negative spotlight on the industry I’ve elected to wade into on my free time, I want to give Snyder Fans something to think about, too.
Since it is such a varied lot here, in the blogosphere, I’d like for you to consider that not everyone who feels passionately negative about Zack Snyder’s DC films as the enemy. In many instances, we’re DC fans just like you are. And our anger or outrage about his films are based on seeing our beloved characters treated unfairly on the big screen.
To some of us, a character like Superman has been one of our best friends through the darkest, scariest, loneliest parts of our lives. So we get very upset and resentful if he’s treated in a way that seems to betray the Superman we know and love (and need).
I’m not saying that’s ever a justification for them taking personal jabs or being unprofessional. I’m just pointing out that not every detractor of his films is some sort of “hater” you can easily fit into some box. Sometimes they can be a great ally, as you’re both technically on the same team, but you’ll never discover that if you just blindly hate anyone who dislikes those movies.
That’s why I’d love it if we could get back to fandom being about loving what you love, without hating what you don’t again.
Thanks for reading,