Last week we got some news that kind of broke the Internet a little: Ben Affleck was cast as Batman in the follow-up to Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL. Naturally, fans erupted with responses, spilling onto message boards, comment sections, and social media like wildfire. In the course of an hour something became abundantly clear while perusing the thoughts, emotions, and temper tantrums of fans all over the world; some folks needed a time out.
Now, it should be noted that this doesn’t speak for everyone. In fact, most folks are able to express their discontent in a manner that is even keeled and without edging into a volcano of hate. Some commentators, however, have taken the news of a person portraying a fictional character from a comic book with such fervent emotion that it’s been equated to a death in the family or a national tragedy, even sparking online petitions, including one on the White House’s official petition page (which has since been removed) and change.org.
Personally speaking, I don’t have a problem with Affleck as Batman. In fact, I think it’s a great move by Warner Bros. in finding an anchor to carry their DC Cinematic Universe, much like Marvel did with Robert Downey Jr. I’m all for debate on that issue, but at what point does debate cross the line into absurdity? At what point do we examine the vitriol and wonder if maybe it’s time to step away from the computer? Of late, it seems that need has grown exponentially.
Fan obsession, especially on sites like this one, is expected. Shit, it keeps the life blood pumping. Like most of our fans, I’m an obsessed one. I soak in everything that comes my way that has to do with the characters, genres, actors, actresses, franchises, etc. that make up the Hollywood machine. It’s why we’re all here, right? However, we’ve all encountered those individuals who sour the whole thing and turn it into something ugly and nasty by taking their rants into crazy town, turning a seemingly normal fan debate into something else entirely. I think it’s great that something like the Affleck casting gets people fired up and talking (in fact, we kind of live for it), but when it degrades into completely unfounded insults, hateful creeds, and even death threats, the discussion is no longer a discussion, but a wall to throw mud on.
Speaking of death threats, I turn your attention to a recent op-ed written by Anna Gunn who portrays Skyler White on AMC’s Breaking Bad. Gunn has felt the sting of online bashing to a severe degree, portraying a character that conflicts with the protagonist of the show, Walter White (portrayed by Bryan Cranston). For her services in portraying a character, Gunn has garnered numerous Facebook pages dedicated to hating her character and even one person saying, “Could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” I mean, really? Come on, man, this is film and television we’re talking about here.
The truth is, we live in a world where the online environment has created a new outlet for our internal frustrations, be it over an actual life event or the hiring of an actor in an iconic role. And, in that environment, some have basically let their “drunk voice” take over. It’s cool if you’re not hip to Affleck as Batman, but to call it controversial is a stretch and to create a petition against it is just silly (When they cast Carrot Top as Batman then we can talk). In addition, creating hate pages and online petitions, while spewing venom in forums that call for the death of someone playing a character is complete madness.
The solution comes down to one simple thing: Etiquette. We learn (hopefully) at a young age how to speak to people face to face, how to not chew with your mouth full, how to hold open doors, and how to temper our emotions, rather than acting like a child having an outburst over a piece of candy. The same can be applied when we fire up our computers and seemingly open the floodgates to our emotions online. There are plenty of issues in this world to get heated over, but when it comes to entertainment, no matter how iconic or controversial a role may be, it’s important to realize that it’s fiction, not life or death.
That comes when football season starts…