(Not the) Fox News: Batfleck

Hi, I’m Alasdair. As Adele said, I’m the author of The Pseudopod Tapes and I’ve been writing about genre fiction for sites like SFX and Bleeding Cool for years now. I do this because I love it, both the process of writing and the feeling of connecting with a story and being able to pull it apart and see what makes it tick. My approach is slightly unusual in that I’m not actually looking to score points like so many other bloggers out there.

I actually like things.

Scary, huh?

If something’s good, I’ll tell you. If something’s bad I’ll tell you and I’ll tell you why and that brings us neatly to Ben Affleck and the internet in meltdown.

A couple of weeks back, Warners announced that Ben Affleck would be playing Bruce Wayne in Man of Steel 2: Man Steelier. This was met with roughly the same response as senior Warners executives personally going to 1 in every 2 geek with a twitter account’s house, peeing on their lawn and giving them the finger whilst setting light to their car.

It has not gone well.

It has gone so badly, in fact, that one group of rocket scientists have started a petition to have him replaced. Because, firstly, film making is clearly a democracy and secondly hunger, poverty, terrorism and equal rights for all have clearly been achieved so now petitions can be used for stupid, petty bullshit.

Ahem.

There are two things I find genuinely fascinating about the Batfleckpocalypse. The first is how perfectly it fits with another piece of recent news and the second is how, when they’re combined, they show you exactly where fandom’s memory sits and how damaging that is.

Firstly, that other piece of news. Agents of SHIELD, the Marvel movieverse TV show is going to be shown on Channel 4 in the UK. This wasn’t greeted quite as badly (Think the head of Channel 4 sending every 3rd person with a twitter account a DM that just said ‘arse’) but it was still met with something a lot less than joy.

The reason is simple; Channel 4 have a long, proud tradition of having no idea what to do with genre fiction import drama. These are the people who showed Angel at tea time and wondered why people complained about up to ten minutes being cut. These are the people who bought the rights to Stargate SG-1 then not only cut what is arguably the cuddliest genre TV show of the last two decades, but buried it in their hangover programming on Sundays.

These are the people, along with the BBC it should be pointed out, who had The Simpsons and had no idea what to do with it.

The Simpsons.

So Channel 4 getting Agents of SHIELD didn’t go over too well, with me as much as anyone else. However, when I dug down a little bit more, the story wasn’t quite as clear cut. Friends pointed out Channel 4 had treated Lost very well. More recently, homegrown shows like Utopia and Misfits have been not just well treated but have found an audience.  Even more recently, fantastic French spookfest The Returned was treated like an actual grown up drama by them and it had (sort of) zombies in it and everything!

My deliberate facetiousness aside, the point stands. Channel 4 no longer view genre fiction with fear, merely slight suspicion and yet so many people responded to this news with a full on eye-roll.

Now take a look at Affleck and the reasons many people are citing why he’ll be awful. The movies Gigli and Daredevil and the fact he once dated Jennifer Lopez.

All of which happened around 10 years ago.

Which is also roughly the same time that Channel 4 were faceplanting again and again with Stargate SG1 and Angel.

It’s also around the same time that a lot of the generation of geeks who have twitter accounts now, were coming of age.

In the immortal words of Bill Hicks, I am the weaver…

What this seems to say about fandom culture is both very good and kind of awful. The good element of it is that fandom falls in love purely and completely and will defend its corner for decades. Look at Doctor Who, and the fact that close to two decades after it was first cancelled, there are still people convinced that the BBC are looking for an excuse to murder their massive commercial success and cash cow.  Or to put it another way, Agents of SHIELD is all but certain to be a colossal success. It may actually be an idiot proof piece of TV in scheduling terms and yet everyone, including me, is still waiting for the sort of decisions made a decade ago to be made here because we remember the failures more than the successes.

As SHIELD, so Bafleck. People are looking at his work ten years ago and seeing that actor projected forwards. It’s ridiculous when you see it written down isn’t it? If you know anyone who is exactly the same in terms of personality, skill level or body shape as they were ten years ago? Check by the side of their bed for a large seed pod and be prepared to run from people looking like this.

In the intervening ten years Affleck hasn’t just turned in good performances he’s become an Oscar winner so well regarded Warners offered him the big chair on the JLA movie despite him never having done a big scale Summer movie. He’s an immensely smart director, a damn good scriptwriter and yes, I’ll say it, a great actor. He’s not just a good choice, he’s the sort of choice that should evince sighs of relief not lynch mobs. As someone put it on Twitter earlier today:

Oscar winner cast as Batman. Fandom riots.

 

I know it’s tough to be positive sometimes. The cultural story of the geek is one of perennial oppression, of being the outcast or the weirdo and it’s very difficult to move past that. But if you can, if you can approach something on its own merits rather than the merits of what’s gone before, the world is a much more entertaining place. You’ll be happier too.

 

So, I’m staking my claim. I welcome our new, colossal chinned Bostonian Batman and I look forward to Channel 4 treating Agents of SHIELD right. I may be disappointed on both counts, but I’m not going in looking for it. If you’re sensible, neither should you.

 

Alasdair Stuart hosts Pseudopod, the weekly horror fiction podcast and co-hosts Escape Pod, the weekly science fiction podcast. He writes for lots of people. He’ll write for you if the job’s fun and you pay. Seriously, ask him, he’s right here. His book, The Pseudopod Tapes, is available through Fox Spirit now and he has stories in Tales of Eve and several of the Fox Pockets too. When not here you can find him at alasdairstuart.com or on twitter at @AlasdairStuart.

 

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