The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Can Fans Love Too Much?

Well, the above answer is definitely yes if you talk about how far some fans get when they become obsessed, but that's not what I am talking about. If "Romeo and Juliet" was written by fans, they wouldn't have died.

When you get into the realm of fandom, and see what directions fans want a series and its characters to go in, I begin to wonder if some fans have a subconscious desire to make things less interesting. Let's take a look at "Gargoyles" for this entry, as it's the fandom I know best.

I used to read a lot of "Gargoyles" fanfiction, and I still mingle with a lot of the fans on various forums. But whenever we get into a serious discussion on what should happen next, I am honestly surprised whenever someone suggests something good, or even credible. Because almost all the time, fans throw up wish lists that would completely rob the series of its teeth.

Take Goliath and Elisa's love story, for example. It took them sixty-five episodes to even kiss, and almost as long for Elisa to acknowledge her feelings for him. When Elisa briefly got cold feet in "Invitation Only," a good portion of the fandom revolted. Weisman was accused of violating the integrity of the characters, people were angry, and accused Elisa of acting out of character. To which I ask, did any of you ever watch the sixty-five episodes of the series? Ever? This isn't just an interracial relationship, this is interspecies, and it has a lot of very real consequences.

What do most fans want? For Goliath and Elisa to quickly get married and have lots of babies together. As for the former, Weisman has said a commitment ceremony is coming eventually. As for the latter, gargoyles and humans cannot procreate together. May I add that the notion upsets a lot of fans?

And then these fans come up with these weird loopholes to try to get Goliath and Elisa to procreate, usually involving science or sorcery. The two names that get thrown out there the most are Puck and Dr. Anton Sevarius. You can tell that the fans who mention them don't stop at all to think. Puck is a trickster, not a genie. He'll do you no favors without something blowing up in your face for his own amusement. And as for Sevarius... um... he's only slightly less immoral than Joseph "Angel of Death" Mengele. Whenever someone suggests he help Goliath and Elisa, I want to smack them upside the head.

Goliath and Elisa are in love, but it shouldn't be easy. Why make it less interesting.

Next is Demona, who is probably the series' greatest villain. She has a lot of depth, she's very compelling, and you can understand why she is a genocidal bitch. She had a rough life, filled with tragedy. Of course, now she knows her daughter, Angela, exists. Does she love her daughter? Of course. And yes, she helped the clan defeat Thailog after he threatened to kill her. There is a large portion of the fandom who believe that Demona will reform and all it will take is a hug from Angela. Those people tend to forget that the very next time Demona and Angela saw each other, Demona tried to commit mass genocide on the human race, and that she risked Angela's own life to escape after her scheme was foiled.

Demona loves her daughter very much, which is why I scratch my head when people don't think that Angela will become Demona's newest excuse. Let's face it, Demona's entire life is one big rationalization. Nothing is ever her fault, it's either the humans' or Goliath's. If she can use protecting Angela as justification for future attempts at genocide, she will.

Demona is a tragic character, and while Weisman has said she will eventually have an epiphany, it shouldn't be a happy moment, it should be a tragic moment... when she realizes what she sacrificed because she is a fuck up. It won't happen until sometime during the "Gargoyles: 2198" spin-off, well after Angela is dead.

DEMONA - For over a thousand years, Demona has plotted against humanity, blaming them for crimes against the gargoyle race. Now that a greater threat, the Space-Spawn, has reared it's many ugly heads, Demona has reluctantly joined Samson's resistance cell. But no one, including Demona herself, is fully confident that she'll continue to fight on the side of the angels. This may be her last chance at redemption... or her final opportunity to annihilate the human race. Still, Samson felt it necessary to actively recruit her. It's hard to pass up the help of a warrior who's survived a millennium's worth of battles, a sorceress who knows how to combine ancient magic with modern technology. And then there's that bit about her turning into a human during the day. The only question is how she will use her talents. For now, she's siding with the resistance. But can that last?

I rest my case on this one. So, I think I'll pimp my friend, Rob's excellent Demona on Christmas Eve story that completely subverts what most fanfiction would do:

Check out "Tis the Season"

Then there are other examples, such as fans wanting to restore Coldstone and Coldfire to flesh and blood... without logically thinking of how. Puck and Sevarius get trotted out again for this one, and I need not repeat why that's just stupid. Not to mention, it would cheapen their original deaths.

There were even a few examples of people preferring David Xanatos's depiction in the non-canon "The Goliath Chronicles" to the in character depiction in the comic book. TGC emasculated him by turning him into "Mr. Sappy Good Guy" while the comic depicts it as an uneasy alliance, and Xanatos still willing to use the gargoyles to his own ends, even if he's learned he needs to give a little too.

Even the GargWiki engaged in this misconception at a time. The opening paragraph for David Xanatos' entry originally read:

David Xanatos - The founder, owner, and CEO of Xanatos Enterprises. Once the gargoyles' greatest enemy, but now their current protector.

Eventually, Greg Weisman himself edited this paragraph to read:

David Xanatos is the founder, owner, and CEO of Xanatos Enterprises. Once the gargoyles' greatest enemy, but now their... host.

Alas, many fans still don't get it. And to some, that means he's either a good guy or a bad guy, and some have trouble grasping nuances.

And finally, one of the big ones. A lot of fans hate the gargoyle species itself. Hate them. Okay, maybe not the species but the cultural identity. So many of them work very hard to strip gargoyles of everything that makes them culturally unique and turn them into little more than "humans with wings." Looking different is cool. Thinking fundamentally different is not. So, these fans are, well, little different than John Castaway and the Quarrymen in my mind, except instead of wanting to destroy them, they want to "civilize them." They're like Spanish Conquistadors. Wait, maybe that's a good name for the "Gargoyles" revisionists. Gargoyle Conquistadors.

There are plenty of other examples out there, and while I think it boils down to wanting to see your favorite characters happy, well, happy characters seldom lead to good drama. So, to all the fans out there who want to see the series continue, please don't wish to rob the series of its teeth, because if you had your way, it would be very dull. It would not be the series we fell in love with.

Hmm, I wonder if any "Transformers" fans want Optimus Prime and Megatron to be friends?


  1. Yeah, I have to agree with you--a lot of folk seem to want to...simplify things for their favorite characters. Fan-fics in which Demona made nice with the clan, however grudging (TGS included), never quite sat right with me, and probably for this reason. That's just not her, at least not at this juncture in time. On your plug, I read that "Tis the Season" fan fic, and I do have to give it props for not going the traditional "redemption" route. In fact the only "Demona Christmas Carol" stories (and why is it always her in the Scrooge role) that work for me are ones where she does NOT make a full Heel-Face-Turn (you can have her rethink a particular scheme, fine, but she doesn't find redemption!). On the subject of "Tis the Season"...
    Did Santa Claus HAVE to suffer a fate worse than death? Seriously, that damn fic's ending will keep me up half the night! Also, Future lost all "cool points" by letting himself get tricked by Demona.

  2. I think the problem here is that many fans are looking to their favorite shows or books for wish fulfillment rather then drama. People want to escape to a fictional world where they can vicariously live out there fantasies via their favourite hero.

    Escapism is of course perfectly healthy in moderation but left to grow unchecked it neuters the drama and becomes mere wish fulfillment.

    Wish fulfillment requires that life be easy for the protagonist, it requires that everyone loves them and that they achieve all their goals with a minimum of effort.

    Drama on the other hand demands that our hero suffer for their cause, it requires that they struggle and sometimes even die in the attempt.

    And there's a reason why I used the word hero for the last paragraph instead of protagonist. I can't think of a single real world hero who didn't suffer, who wasn't spat upon by his peers, who didn't sacrifice.

  3. I actually had the exact opposite reaction to Elisa and Goliath's brief break-up; I thought the whole thing went by too fast. Maybe it's knowing and thinking about this storyline for years, but I had seen their attempt at dating lasting a couple of weeks and their separation taking a few months instead of the whole thing happening over a few nights.

    All that said, I thought that the explanation for why Elisa concluded that she had to break up with Goliath was very believable. Even as I thought she was wrong, I completely understood why she thought it was the right decision. I guess part of my disappointment is that there isn't any corresponding scene that shows how Elisa decided that she and Goliath had to be together. I know that thinking Goliath was dying probably put her issues with their relationship into perspective, but I would have liked to see a little more of what she was thinking after it became clear that he wasn't that led her to resume their relationship. Maybe a conversation with her parents or remembering that they may not have had the easiest time as an interracial couple but still stayed together?

    I think Angela will be a factor in Demona's reform, but I agree that Angela will not live to see it. In fact, her daughter dying without the two reconciling may be one of the steps on Demona's path to redemption. But it's a long journey and I can't even begin to imagine what the last step might be.

    I remember having a conversation with someone who wanted Coldstone and Coldfire to get real bodies again. When I said that this would cheapen the deaths of the other Wyvern gargoyles, this person - clearly not getting what I was saying - suggested that it could be mitigated by having a character say something like "But it's still sad that the rest of our old clan is dead." A "get out of death free" card would wreck the show, so Coldstone and Coldfire have to have to have major drawback to their second chance at life. Otherwise, , the only tragedies are when someone forgets to save the gargoyle fragments. Since you brought up Transformers, it's kind of like how I wish the movie (animated, not Bay) had a line explaining that the Junkions could repair Ultra Magnus because - as bad as he may have looked, that damage was largely structural and superficial and not fatal for a robot. (It would have also helped if he had been drawn and quartered as originally planned instead of unconvincingly blown apart.) As it stands, all I can think is "Pity you guys weren't around before Prime died; then we wouldn't be in this mess at all."

    The current status of Xanatos is a place where I think balance is called for. On the flip side of the fans who want everything to be easy for the character are fans who want everything to be constantly, excruciatingly grim for our heroes. In the case of Xanatos, while there certainly are people who want to believe he is now a complete "good guy," I feel like there are also people who want to act like he hasn't changed at all and is still the exact same person he was at the beginning of the series. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. His priorities have shifted and while I don't think he's going to go out of his way to be the clan's friend if it doesn't suit his interests, I think he has realized that they are more valuable as allies than as enemies and that his initial approaches to getting them on his side were not exactly effective. I don't think Xanatos's road to true redemption is nearly as lonf as Demona's, but I still believe he has a ways to go before anything like trust and friendship can develop between him and the gargoyles. It may never come to that, but it's not impossible.

  4. I think there's a line between what can happen in fics to what should happen in canon.

    Most fics are about ideas first and canon second. Let’s face it they're never going to be canon so why pretend otherwise. I'm not saying these things should be completely out of character and bordering on original fiction, just that it's sometimes fun to read something that can't happen in canon.

    I've read many fics where it can't be done in canon, from characters being gay to stuff like Demona's redemption, and while some can be bad some can be extremely good, if not great.

    I think it's mainly due to the fact that a fic is going to be finite story whereas something like Gargoyles is an ongoing series. The fic writer will think short term character moments rather than a longer series that has to deal with the consequences of their actions.

    If someone is obsessed with things being canon all the time then what's the point of reading fanfiction because you might as well just stick with the actual canon. No fic, no matter how well written, is going to be canon.

  5. I think it's actually funny in an ironic sense. When it comes to fanfiction based off something like Kim Possible or Darkwing Duck, you have stories that drastically suck out the lighthearted and humor feel of the show.

    Yet Gargoyles which has more of an edge sees more toned down fanfics.

    1. I'm working on some new fics with some collaborators... a shared universe. We tone nothing down.