“I get it. The parrot’s dead. Can we move on now, please?”
DISCLAIMER: I quite like the humour of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. However, this article is about much more than the Pythons themselves. This is about how I think it’s perfectly valid to denounce a work for its fans rather than its quality. (DISCLAIMER: I do not think that is perfectly valid, chrissake’s dudes)
Monty Python are perhaps the most influential comedy troupe of the last century. They changed the taste of the world from stale, safe, punchline based comedy to a form of surreal, cerebral and unpredictable anti-humour. The Pythons were great because all of their work was built around doing something entirely unexpected at just the right moment. If they did this often enough, they could string together over twenty minutes of disparate sketches into a cogent whole that actually came off as quite funny. This was all well and good, until someone said “Hey, you know how we can reproduce that comedy? By quoting it verbatim to all of our friends.”
Quoting as a phenomenon is well-observed in my house. A particularly good line will be echoed around the room after it’s said. Watching The Matrix with us is watching it in surround sound, and that’s not because of our DVD set-up. We know that movie back to front. But that’s not what this article is about. This article is about any creative work that is entirely dead to me, solely on account of its fans.
Fight Club. The Dark Knight. Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The oeuvre of Kevin Smith. Actually, throw David Fincher and Christopher Nolan on that pile, too. If Queens of the Stone Age could write a better album, they’d be here. This is why I don’t wear Nine Inch Nails shirts in public. This is why I can’t stand to listen to Tool. All of these things and more have been utterly ruined by their fans. Oh, also, modern video games. As well as classic video games. Video games. All of these are things that I just can’t get behind because their fans are so obnoxiously missing the point.
With Fincher, the point has often been a slow and steady deconstruction of types of people we’re meant to find heroic. In Se7en, Brad Pitt’s new cop is supposed to be the hero cop we all fall in love with at first blush. Slowly, but steadily, over the course of the movie, we’re shown that he’s not the cop he cracks himself up to be, and is actually quite off-the-rails without any encouragement. In Fight Club, we’re again shown Brad Pitt as the hero character who improves the life of the nameless narrator. And again, over the course of the movie, his character is slowly broken down into its component parts until we realize that all he’s preaching is fascism in the guise of self-sufficient and self-empowering anarchy. This practice has continued into his later features, with Benjamin Button and Social Network both featuring ultimately less-than-perfect heroes.
However, his fanbase seems dedicated to the idea that Tyler Durden had it right all along. Whenever I talk Fight Club, I’m talking to the kind of meatheads that movie was taking the piss out of. It’s like talking to Beastie Boys fans who only listen to License to Ill, cos they hate the idea that anyone could find their way of life meaningless and awful. Every Fight Club fan I meet thinks that watching it is a prerequisite to manliness.
Quoting the life out of Monty Python is missing the point of Monty Python immediately, because to recite it perfectly is to rob it of its stock, trade and value–its unpredictability. When you saw an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus for the first time, you had no idea what to expect. Everything is entirely unpredictable. So what good does reciting Holy Grail verbatim do for the movie? I get it, you’re knights and you say “ni”, move on already. As such, I find it impossible to watch Holy Grail, Life of Brian or Meaning of Life without feeling like I’ve been deprived of something that should be a cultural touchstone.
Christopher Nolan… let’s just cover him and gamers together. Go ahead and read up on the storyline of any modern, high graphics quality FPS. Now, I’m not saying Nolan’s films are shoot’em up gunfests with little to no plot. In fact, quite the opposite. However, the attitude of the audience in both cases is one of twenty year old males who have seemingly forgotten that other people in the world exist and may be entirely indifferent to their problems. Within four days of The Dark Knight‘s release, it was number one on the IMDb Top 250. This is best films of all time, and this was almost entirely the votes of young men thinking that their movie was better than cinematic brilliances like The Godfather and Citizen Kane.
This attitude of entitlement and arrogance is entirely repulsive, yet I’m expected to watch this movie with a dispassionate eye. I can, and I will have to, but my analysis is likely to return the same thing as always: yeah, it’s good, but why are the women props around strong complex men? I can’t get behind that and the fans act like stuffing chicks in the fridge is no big deal. What’s Rachel there for, in Dark Knight? Oh yes. To die. While Bats and Dent get to have complex characters, motivations and flaws, all the ladies get in your movie is one character who does nothing but die to make the men feel worse. Screw you, fans. You blow.
I could go on and likely would for days if you let me, but dammit, the point is: screw fandom. Screw fandom royally up the butt. Fans of any work will likely make it suck for anyone who’s uninitiated. No matter how carefully you try to sell a series, a movie or anything to anyone, all you will ever do is screw it up and make yourself look stupid. So screw fans. Young men can blow themselves–or better yet, get lives. That way, they won’t put Inception over Citizen Kane.