This is kind of a case study of the quintessential “bad fan.” Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons as a character pre-dates the spread of internet criticism, but it seems every forum, website that allows commentary, or YouTube video is packed with almost nothing but Comic Book Guys (hereafter referred to as “CBGs”).
What makes the CBG type such a bad fan? He’s the one who loves something so much he ends up obsessing about it without end; then his love (as love of anything can do) turns to passive-aggressive hatred. He can’t wait to take something he loves, and tell the world why it’s not good, not what it used to be, or somehow a “betrayal” of his obsessed loyalties. He knows everything about it. He’s the kind of “fan” who takes the time to learn all things about something (including it seems watching entire films in slo-o-o-o mo-o-o-o-tion) just so he can point out its flaws.
The most famous and now apparently meme-worthy quote ever uttered by CBG was from the “Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” episode of The Simpsons. After Poochie’s “hilariously unfunny debut” CBG commented that it was the “Worst. Episode. Ever.” And later went on to state that “As a loyal fan I feel they owe me.” To which Bart responds, “What could they owe you? They’ve given you thousands of hours of entertainment for free! If anything, YOU owe THEM!” CBG’s retort, “Worst. Episode. Ever.” This exchange pretty much sums up what bad fans like CBG are all about. There’s a bit of narcissism to them — they feel that entertainment is all about what should entertain them personally, and they are somehow owed this for their patronage. I can see CBG on every 4Chan, Bell of Lost Souls, YouTube, and TV show webpage I’ve ever been to. Even sometimes quoting CBG proudly, “Worst. ::WHATEVER::. Ever.”
In my Warhammer experience I see it a lot. Games Workshop comes out with new models. Annoying posters all say, then build on each other’s comments like, “Wow that’s ugly I won’t get one.” “Why are they so expensive!!! I’m quitting.” “They ruined xxx by changing the rule to do xxx.” Yet…they still sell the miniatures, special editions of books, and these people are coming to the site day after day…just to say how much they hate everything? One post I saw kind of summed these posts up, “Will you all quit complaining? You’re going to end up buying them…” I bet that person was right.
Another point is, like CBG did to Poochie (who was designed to be awful), focusing on something bad and channeling all fan hatred on it. Nothing shows this better than Jar-Jar Binks. People were severely disappointed with Phantom Menace. It was kind of a slow, mediocre movie, but it had its fun parts. I liked Darth Maul. But for some reason what everyone heaped their rage on was Jar-Jar Binks. He was almost a scapegoat. Fans didn’t like the movie like they thought they would, so it became Jar-Jar’s fault. I don’t find him any more annoying that C3P0 or the Ewoks honestly…But all the fury was directed right at him. I thought Anakin’s “chosen one” story was far more tired than the comic relief character.
I won’t say CBG doesn’t have a point; any kind of entertainment eventually suffers from its age. Again from that episode of The Simpsons, Lisa points out that over the years the innovation and characters can’t maintain the same impact they once had. To try to make the show, comic book, music, whatever fresh creators try all kinds of things. They add new characters, kill someone off (often only to bring them back…somehow), or totally change their style (say going from hard rock to techno or rap). Some fans actually love these changes. Some don’t. But I actually feel it’s more impactful to simply change one’s own behavior than complain without end about the new status of whatever you’re obsessing about.
Going back to The Simpsons, for its first 9 seasons it was close to my favorite show ever. After season 9 it seemed to get a bit “stupider” in its jokes and, to me, became more about watching Homer scream and guest stars. Now that was to ME. My response was to try it for a bit. Watch the odd one here and there…and then give it up. I haven’t watched a full episode since season 11. I didn’t continue to watch it just so I could go to the forums later and complain about how it was the Worst. Episode. Ever.
One of my favorites, that I came to very late, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love that Joss Whedon style of humor+drama+weird. But even it made the classic changes. It went for “introduce new character” (only kinda made sense, even in fantasy world), then “kill character” as options for extending its life. It was still great, but not as good. Same goes for Eureka. TERRIFIC sci-fi show. Then they went back in time, changed the reality, and kind of rebooted the show. Still great, but I personally preferred the original set up.
The same goes for The Walking Dead. Great show. Great story, fresh characters, interesting take on the zombie apocalypse. Halfway through last season I kind of lost interest. The show wasn’t any different really, but I just stopped watching unless I wanted to catch up later.
I’m not saying voicing your opinion isn’t positive. But it should be constructive and not just bitching for bitching’s sake. Constructive complaints are what happened with Futurama. The show was cancelled. The fanbase came together and made its support so publicly known that they eventually released new episodes on DVD and then returned to TV (sadly ending this year…). THAT is how fans should work. The constructive way to voice your beliefs about something you’re a fan of is to do so positively, seeking to change what’s wrong, not just repeating what you don’t like in snarky and anonymous form in the internet. The positive way I expressed my dislike for the newer Simpsons was to stop watching. I didn’t like it, but people do, so why should I spend my time complaining a.) The show is bad now, b.) These new stupid fans are the reason it’s bad c.) They should just go back to “the way it was.” Who am I to say what other people should like? New fans like the new version, they shouldn’t make a show just for me…and maybe, just maybe, I’m the one who changed. Maybe the things I once obsessed about don’t, as Lisa said, have the same impact.
So many of us fans still watch shows they no longer love just to make bad jokes (usually just quotes from something else, or different versions of memes that have been around since 2006) on forums and sites later. THAT’S being a bad fan I think. If the toys you once loved aren’t fun anymore…stop playing with them, and maybe, pick up something new. It’s the only way to grow. Staying with the same-old-same-old that you now hate is to decay. Again, it only breeds hostility and negativity. Why do that to yourself, or worse, inflict your negativity on others?
The Simpsons gave us many perfect caricatures of nerd fans. I remember one who asked, “In episode 2F09, when Itchy plays Scratchy’s skeleton like a xylophone, he strikes that same rib twice in succession, yet he produces two clearly different tones. I mean, what are we to believe that this is some sort of a…a magic xylophone or something? Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.” Homer’s response, “I’ll field this one. Let me ask you a question. Why would a man whose shirt says “Genius at Work” spend all of his time watching a children’s cartoon show?” Yep. That about sums it up.
For the sake of all fans, please don’t be the Comic Book Guy…
The next post ties into this one, Don’t Build Them Up Just to Tear Them Down.