License to Disagree

Posted: March 2, 2014 in Musings
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You_Only_Live_Twice_-_Gun_BarrelI recently watched Skyfall. This post isn’t really about that.

It’s about James Bond in general. Or rather, fans, as manifested in the modern James Bond fanbase. Mostly because it’s fun to revisit. Now, when I was around 11 or 12 I was absolutely obsessed with the 007 movies. Frankly, it was a good time to get into the franchise- the heart of the Brosnan era (3/4 of which were good films), a time when TBS regularly ran marathons of the older Bond flicks, when you had a singularly fantastic video game based on the franchise in GoldenEye (and a few fun, if not amazing games based on Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough. We’ll ignore the fact that 007 Racing exists.). My dad even dug up his old copy of From Russia With Love (the novel) so I could get a taste for how Fleming originally wrote Bond.

It’s fun to look back on it. I remember hanging out with my buddies when we’d rented or bought another movie or one was coming on TV, I remember middle school debates at the lunch table over who was the best Bond and who was the sexiest Bond girl and which was our favorite pre-title sequence. We had idiosyncratic names for those parts of the movies we didn’t know the proper terms for (we called the famed Gun barrel sequence the “Shoot the screen thingy” and the teaser the “before the credits part”. ).

And then Die Another Day¬†happened. We all saw it. We all know it sucked. It was a million bad decisions vomited onto celluloid. Terrible theme song by a pop star that was never any good? Check. Shoehorned in character intended for spinoff? Check. Horrifying CGI that makes your eyeballs want to grow tiny mouths and scream FAKE? Oh, god yes. For Christ’s sake, Austin Powers was more dignified. At least that was consciously making fun of the spy genre. ¬†A good portion of us disowned the whole Brosnan series as crap. Some of us probably still do.

That wasn’t the first or last time that kind of thing would happen to something I was a big fan of. Earlier, we had seen the Batman franchise take its nose dive with Batman & Robin. The Fallout games would soon falter as interplay made a series of stupid decisions (among them dropping the Fallout sequel for PCs and focusing on the poorly received PS2 game). And then it happened yet again with the Tomb Raider games. What do these all have in common? Well, they all received new installments or reboots that brought in a lot of new people to the fanbase. However, in all cases, I have a hard time welcoming the new blood in the fandom.

The new installment is always different enough from previous installments to be able to say “we swear, it doesn’t suck as bad as the last one!”. In the case of Batman Begins and Casino Royale they at least tangentially resembled their un-rebooted series’ before they’d gone off the deep end; while Fallout 3 and Tomb Raider 2013 both pretty much scrap everything about earlier installments. But both in either case, I remain ambivalent about the new fans brought in. There’s often something of an arrogance to these, considering the version they got into first (almost always the newest one) to be the best and being incredibly dismissive of both other fans that claim otherwise (“That’s just nostalgia talking! The newest one is the best because *x reason*”). Funny enough, I can find examples of this behavior across all four franchises. Whether it’s referring to the Tim Burton Batman films as campy (ignoring that they were unlike any other superhero film yet seen), criticizing Fallout 1 and 2 for a clunky interface, or…well, 007 has been around long enough that if you want to nitpick something there’s certainly an available target.

I guess I don’t like when the new fans come in and start acting like they own the place, with all its attendant swagger. There were fans before you, and there will be new fans after you. I guess there will always be conflict between the new arrivals and the old guard. Maybe part of my ambivalence comes from the fact that when you liked those things in the past, you didn’t have the internet as a place to discuss it. Among friends there was always disagreement and a lively debate. We all had different opinions. A few of us might have even uttered the heresy that The World is Not Enough N64 game was better than GoldenEye (it wasn’t me, I swear!). I think that maybe on the internet it’s easier to reach a large number of people quickly, so it’s easier to form a single-minded group that claims SKYFALL IS BEST BOND FILM, YOU AGREE OR YOU GET SENT TO SIBERIA.

I suppose I have no right to complain since I was new once, too. But I don’t have to like the new blood.

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