On Creative Vision…

If you believe the general thrust of the Internet, creators and their audience are at war.

Whether its games taking away things that “fans” loved (like the illusion of choice in Mass Effect 3… or the lack of dungeon content in Guild Wars 2… or the recent decision to ban flying in expansions for World of Warcraft), authors not acknowledging a fan groups “ship” (like anything in Harry Potter) or killing a character they liked (pick a page at random in A Song of Fire and Ice).  TV shows changing their focus or direction (I’ve heard so much grumbling about Supernatural on this score)… fans seem to be convinced that creators want to make them cry and ruin their fun.

Now, on that same score, I’ve heard a plenty good number of creators grumble about “entitled”, “whiny” fans who don’t respect the creator’s vision, who just want to complain about something, anything, and want to drag creators down because the “fans” are jealous and don’t want to be reminded of their talentlessness or want to be catered to.

Now, sure… a great deal of this is the nature of the Internet, the place in the words of Kevin Smith via Ben Affleck is
” … where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another.”  But there is a considerable bit of animosity, especially when change happens to something we are creating or care about.

I think one thing we all need to remember in the fan/creator dynamic is that none of us are really invested in each other, we are all invested emotionally and financially in the same intellectual property.  As a result, the decisions made and the things said really aren’t targeting people, it’s targeting our shared investment in this created work.

But in addition to that, here are some more things I think should be considered.

To Creators: Change is something of an anathema to your fans.  No matter what you do, you’re going to upset people.  But that’s not an excuse to just say “fuck it.  I’m gonna do what I want because people are gonna bitch anyway.”  Whenever you make a change, I think you should ask, “Is pursuing my creative vision worth the good will and the money I will likely lose?  Which is more important to me?”

Believe it or not, there is no wrong answer to that question, regardless of what some scoffing hipster might tell you about the pursuit of “art.”  The thing to remember is, that your fans aren’t necessary blind, or despise your “vision” or are too ignorant to understand.  People like what they like, and getting angry over your changes simply says, “I don’t like this.”  They really aren’t attacking you or dismissing your vision necessarily, even if it sounds like it.  They often don’t know any better way to express their distaste.

Getting angry or curt is understandable, but it doesn’t actually accomplish anything.  At some point in the entire process, someone has to be above the pettiness, and that responsibility pretty much has to stem from the creator, because it’s rare that a creator who acts so immaturely maintains any fans for very long.

To Fans: It’s important to remind yourself that regardless of your individual investment, there is no special relationship between a creator and his or her fans.  There is absolutely no obligation whatsoever to cater to your whims or desires.

Outside of a commissioned work, your money only entitles you to the product you received.  If you don’t like that product in the end, that’s fine, and it is entirely within your right to not support the product in the future.  It is even acceptable to try and explain what it is you don’t like, and what you’d rather experience.

What it doesn’t entitle you to is the right to behave as poorly or maliciously as you can to try and “convince” the creator they are making a “mistake.”  If a creator has decided to pursue his or her vision over your wants, that is final. Becoming rude and/or violent is terrible, juvenile behavior that has no place in acceptable interaction.  You do not make your point when you cross that line… if anything, you prove why you shouldn’t get what you want.

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