The internet has brought us many wonderful things, from the spread of democracy to the late, great Grumpy Cat. But the internet has also brought us many horrid things too, including the rise of online petitions.
I don’t like the term “outrage culture” because I feel that it too often shields people who have some truly offensive and backwards views. Cretins will spout horribly racist opinions, then claim those upset are just “too sensitive” or “too PC” or “part of the outrage culture.” I don’t buy that. But I will admit that the popularity of online petitions over the last few years is troubling and a symptom of people believing they always know better than everyone, especially artists trying to deliver a vision.
The latest example of the petition problem revolves around two of the biggest franchises in pop culture. The first is this petition started by fans of Game of Thrones. They have requested that HBO completely re-write, re-shoot and re-release the final season of the hit fantasy show because, in the opinion of the petitioner, creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have “proven themselves to be woefully incompetent writers” and season eight of the show has been a complete disaster. The petition has gained signatures from nearly one million people. Now, I don’t watch Game of Thrones so I don’t have an opinion on the claim. However, I am a fan of the arts and I can tell you that no matter your view on the show’s concluding episodes, they are part of the show. This is the ending, for better or worse. The petition won’t change that nor should it.
The other petition quickly making the rounds online is in regards to Robert Pattinson being in final negotiations to play Batman, news we reported on yesterday. Just like I said, there have been people coming out of the woodwork to claim that Pattinson is the wrong choice to take on the dark knight. The petition to remove him has only amassed 800 signatures but will definitely gather more and won’t be the only petition of its kind. Its demands are simple: “Don’t make the Batfleck mistake again.”
Everyone is entitled to their opinions. And I mean absolutely everyone, even the people who think Star Wars has been co-opted by the feminists and Barack Obama is a gay Muslim atheist communist. Everyone has the right to speak their minds. The thing is that an opinion usually ends at it being stated. You get to say your piece, yes, but you don’t get to alter the world because of it. When it comes to democracy, stating your opinion may in fact lead to change and that’s terrific and ultimately the final goal of our system. Opinions are tools in that case. But when it involves art, your opinion only goes so far. That’s the way it is, that’s the way it should be.
Anyone who views art signs an unspoken pact: the artist can create however they please and you are able to view it and like it or not. But unless it’s an improv show, your input is unnecessary to those creating. That may sound harsh but it’s a basic rule of creativity. Actors, writers, directors and others cannot truly craft something if they are living in fear of how it’ll be changed by mob mentality. Why do you always hear directors complaining about studio executives poking their heads into the creative process? Because it’s bastardizing their vision. Now, the studio executives (and petition signers) may be right sometimes. Hell, the final season of Game of Thrones might be terrible and there’s a chance Robert Pattinson is a horrendous choice for Batman (but let’s be honest, he won’t be) but these are choices the creators have made, for better or for worse. Petitions like the ones listed above may come from a good place with the best of intentions sometimes but the principle behind them is wrong. Let artists make art. It may be fantastic, it may be God awful but they should be able to express themselves as they see fit and no one — even people who are correct — should be able to change that.
I’ve seen my fair share of things that ended poorly. In fact, I lived through the Seinfeld finale. But my reaction wasn’t to write NBC when the credits rolled. Instead I sighed, grumbled about how crappy it was and moved on. But even something as bad as that — or the many other cinematic missteps I’ve seen in my life — shouldn’t have been tweaked because I said so. If you don’t agree with something, you don’t agree with it. If a movie or TV show or casting choice is bad, it’s bad. That’s that. Either watch it or don’t. Complain all you want but don’t expect something that isn’t owed to you. There’s only one type of art that you should have control over: your own.