A few days ago, Devin Faraci, the editor-in-chief of Birth.Movies.Death, published an article titled “Fandom Is Broken.” If you follow The Midside fervently (all five of you), you may remember Faraci as the example I used in my critique of modern film criticism as he claimed that the only purpose of film criticism is “to describe a personal experience with a movie.” Well, damn, Daniel, Faraci is back at it again with his latest piece.
In “Fandom Is Broken,” he asserts that modern fans are entitled, decries the view that stories are products, and labels Gamergate a “terrorist hate group.” And let’s be fair here, Faraci is on to something with the first of his three points when he writes “It’s all about demanding what you want out of the story, believing that the story should be tailored to your individual needs, not the expression of the creators.” I’ve pointed out many times how the modern audience member only wants to see the story in his head, fuck whatever the artist wants to create. It’s another manifestation of the entitlement culture our government and school system has crafted.
I likewise agree wholeheartedly with his characterization of the psychology of a fan: “The fan, I thought, couldn’t tell where they ended and where the thing they loved began.” This inability to delineate between the self and the object of affection is where the problem arises–and Faraci completely misses that point, turning his piece from something insightful to something deeply ironic, dangerous, and possibly disingenuous.
The rest of his argument is an indirect critique of capitalism. He states that fans “see these stories as products” and that “the idea of being consumers – people who are offering money for services rendered – only reinforces the entitlement.” His definitions are all wrong here. Stories are products–“a thing produced by labor,” and fans are consumers–“ consumes.” That money is involved in the exchange of the item that is produced by one group and then consumed by another doesn’t hurt the exchange. It only helps it, as it shows the consumer he must present something of value to the producer to consume the producer’s product. In fact, it is when you don’t view the relationship between producer and consumer as a trade that the problem arises–because the producer becomes obligated to the consumer.
And that’s when the death threats and hate speech and Faracis of the world are born.
The conclusion of Faraci’s article sees him rightfully decrying the death threats and hate speech. Not once, however, does he point out that he is as guilty of this behavior as anyone is. His articles since the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice demonstrate a clear intent to attack Zack Snyder’s (and by extension WB’s/DC’s) ability to make the films he wants to make simply because Snyder didn’t make the Superman Faraci wanted.
On May 30th, 2016, Faraci wrote “Zack Snyder is systematically destroying Superman not because he doesn’t understand the character but because he profoundly dislikes the character” with his only evidence being a misunderstanding of the themes of Batman v Superman in specific (Pa Kent was teaching his son how to cope with making mistakes, not “that every act of heroism is a catalyst for something terrible in the world”) and Snyder’s movies in general (Pa Kent wasn’t an Objectivist nor did he act based on Objectivist ideas). This misunderstanding quickly became a misinformation campaign with the intent of rousing enough fan fervor around the idea that Batman v Superman had failed as a film to pressure WB and DC into changing the artistic direction of their future films, most notably by removing Snyder as the director of Justice League Part 1 and Justice League Part 2.
On May 31st, 2016, Faraci claimed that Suicide Squad, WB/DC’s next film in their universe, was undergoing expensive reshoots to add “more humor and lightness into the film” because WB wanted to “[bring] in some more of the lightness to which audiences responded.” The lightness and audiences supposedly responding to it was a reference to the oft-repeated notion that Batman v Superman was too dark and not fun. These reshoot rumors gained steam until they were shot down by Suicide Squad’s director David Ayers 11 days later:
— David Ayer (@DavidAyerMovies) April 11, 2016
Undeterred, Faraci spun another story on April 29th, 2016, latching onto the fact that the then-director of The Flash had backed out of the project due to creative differences. In Crisis On Finite DC Movieverses, Faraci wrote, “this may not be the only movie impacted by the aftermath of BvS. According to multiple, reliable sources James Wan is feeling a tremendous amount of trepidation about Aquaman.” Like his fellow DCEU director Ayer, Wan addressed these falsities with tweets a mere two days later:
— James Wan (@creepypuppet) May 2, 2016
Just resurfaced from been buried in a foxhole for the last two weeks, wrapping up all things #conjuring2. You guys are killing me.
— James Wan (@creepypuppet) May 2, 2016
These tweets are a pretty powerful response to the rumors Faraci crafted. Wan, a director, first spoke visually with the picture of him in front of a giant Aquman mural. Would someone “feeling a tremendous amount of trepidation” about the project post such a shot?. He followed it up with a statement explaining how it was basically impossible for him to feel any trepidation. He had “been buried in a foxhole for the last two weeks” focused on wrapping up another movie, so he had no time or energy to feel anything about a future project. That fact is why “you guys are killing [him].” Whether amused or confused, Wan was taken aback by the rumors.
And why wouldn’t he be? They weren’t based in reality. They were the result of one man’s agenda–to stop someone from making the movies he wants to make by undermining his credibility in the fandom. And that agenda is the intense irony of Faraci’s piece on fandom. In it, he crafted the following metaphor about fans’ approach to stories:
“These fans are treating stories like ordering at a restaurant – hold the pickles, please, and can I substitute kale for the lettuce? But that isn’t how art works, and that shouldn’t be how art lovers react to art. They shouldn’t be bringing a bucket of paint to the museum to take out some of the blue from those Picassos, you know?”
As I noted earlier, this argument is strong, and this metaphor in particular is probably the best way to demonstrate it. However, Faraci writing those words is a punchline worthy of the Joker because the behavior he’s describing is exactly how he’s approaching Snyder and the DCEU. Sure, he’s not delivering death threats or directly harassing Snyder, but he is using his platform and influence to spread what he knows to be misinformation that he knows will harm Snyder’s public image. The only possible reason to lead such a campaign is to stop the artist from making the art he wants to make. And while Faraci is not threatening Snyder with literal physical death, trying to stop an artist from making the art he wants to make is just as much of an attack on his life. It’s attempted spiritual murder. (Faraci might realize this point if he actually understood The Fountainhead as he claims to.)
There are any number of ways for Faraci or his followers to defend him from my accusations of course. He’s just repeating rumors. He never said they were true. (To what standard, then, do we hold journalists and bloggers?) In the scoop/prediction game, there are more misses than hits. (Is there any other profession besides punditry where it’s ok to be wrong more than right?) Snyder is no Picasso, so he doesn’t deserve the same reverence. (At what point from Wiseau to Hitchcock do we draw the line between artists who are acceptable to attack and who are not?) What’s important to remember about these defenses is that they are at best rationalizations and at worst outright deceptions. And that dichotomy is ultimately what defines Faraci’s character.
Either he doesn’t realize the deeply contradictory positions he holds and is simply shooting in whatever random directions his emotions drive him, or he knows exactly what he is doing and his article is a smokescreen intended to obscure the fact that he participates in the exact behavior that he claims to be critiquing. If you want, you can figure out which one it is. It doesn’t really matter to me. Either way, it’s pretty fucking despicable.
Critique art all you want. I welcome your opposing views on movies and television shows. The discussion can only increase my own knowledge and enjoyment of the art form. But when you cross the line from critiquing the art to attacking the art’s creator (especially when you decry people for doing the latter), well then…
You’re a huge fucking asshole, Devin Faraci. Fuck you.