Screen Writer


DONALD CLARKEon the fanboys who rule the internet

GOOD GRIEF, Joss Whedon fans are sensitive. At time of writing, four days before the release of the director’s Marvel Avengers Assemble, there are 29 reviews of that diverting film on Rotten Tomatoes. Twenty- eight of those are positive; one is negative. The positives have drawn the odd smattering of comment. Some poor sap attracts half-dozen posts for referring to Joss as “Josh”. A few compliment Christy Lemire on her byline photograph.

Pity poor old Amy Nicholson. Some 279 people have gone online to berate the Boxoffice Magazine correspondent for daring to dislike a film most of them haven’t yet seen. To be fair, many are taking issue with her decision to rate a three-star review as “rotten”, but the fug of unrestrained fury is still quite terrifying. My favourite (such Neanderthal complaints are common in this place) is this one: “The 1st person to complain is a woman, go f**king figure”.

However, not all the fans are sexist. One remarks of the reviewer (whose name is Amy, remember) that: “This dude is retarded”. That’s right, sir. She’s the one with learning difficulties.

Negotiate your way to the page for Whedon’s recent The Cabin in the Woods and a similar pattern emerges. Virtually ever negative review attracts a stream of unrestrained wrath. You don’t get this sort of bile from Christians when some commentator writes a paean to Richard Dawkins’s school of evangelical atheism in The Irish Times. To say that Whedon worship is akin to a religion is, it seems, to understate the case. The cult is, if anything, more fervent than your average God club.

It’s not just Whedon (of whom I am an admirer) who attracts this degree of hysteria. Stephanie Zacharek, distinguished critic for Movieline, has written with some potency of the abuse she endured when, then writing for Salon, she expressed reservations about The Dark Knight. Depressingly, many of the commentators seemed to think that gender was to blame for her supposed idiocy.

The unattractive term for such zealots is “fanboy”. It hardly needs to be said that most such enthusiasts are no more intemperate than folk who don’t sleep beneath Buffy duvet covers or drink tea from Transformers mugs. Come to think of it, when it comes to certain pop-cultural emanations of the 1970s, your current, unendingly reasonable correspondent surely counts as a fanboy (well, fanfogey anyway).

But the cabal of super-zealots do their cause no good. They seem to be driven by an entirely unjustifiable sense of exclusion. Oh, these snooty reviewers on snooty papers! They just don’t seem to appreciate the value of the latest comic-book adaption or transfer from cult television.

Take a breath. You’ve won the argument. Most conversations about contemporary culture are driven by the internet, and that medium fell to the fanboys years ago. One can’t take a virtual breath without inhaling the steam from fiery sermons concerning the genius of Christopher Nolan or the saintliness of Joss Whedon. Give the heretics a break.