Eppler: Stop crowdsourcing art
We're seeing a disturbing trend taking shape: Artists being forced or asked to alter their work at the whim of online backlash.
It was announced at the end of last week that the new "Sonic the Hedgehog" movie is being delayed for release until next year so that graphic artists can redesign the title character. After the first trailer debuted, there was a slew of complaints, especially on Twitter, about the way Sonic looked - most notably that he appears to have human teeth.
Within hours, the movie's director, Jeff Fowler, posted a tweet bowing to the pressure: "Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear... you aren't happy with the design & you want changes. It's going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be..."
Poor guy. This is Fowler's first feature-length movie - a studio tent-pole release featuring a beloved character steeped in nostalgia making his first appearance on the big screen. That was already a lot of pressure. Now he has to go back and do the work again because Sonic's teeth are weird?
In another recent example of online outrage, more than a million "Game of Thrones" fans signed a petition to have the final season remade with "competent writers." It's an incredible insult to the many people who worked on that series, but can you really blame the petitioners? They saw the "Sonic" movie studio cower to whining fans just days prior. Why wouldn't they expect to get what they want?
It's because in this digital age in which we're living, positively everything is tailored to our personal preferences. So, why not our art? But here's the problem: art isn't yours until it's finished, and it's not a restaurant dish you can send back.
We're seeing more indications that studios are letting their artists get bullied by Twitter trolls because fan service has never been more bankable. We can see them testing the waters like with the leak of Robert Pattinson likely becoming the next Batman, reportedly the guy writer/director Matt Reeves wants. Make no mistake - that was a carefully orchestrated leak, and studio heads were carefully watching the response online.
But even that is not quite the same as the Sonic or "Game of Thrones" situations. This was completed work that artists were being told to fix. And the thing is, I don't believe the Sonic opening weekend box office would have been hurt that much because of the teeth tweeters. My five-year-old son gives zero craps about the character's teeth. He's pumped to see that movie.
So why are studios bending over backwards for these cretins? They'll still show up just so they can complain about it.
The new "Aladdin" movie isn't good, but I give Disney a lot of credit for sticking with their artists' vision. The initial reaction to Will Smith revealed as CGI Blue Genie was brutal online, but the Mouse House didn't flinch. They stuck with the bad choices, and made $100 million on opening weekend anyway.
Eat it, critics.
That brings me to my last point: fair criticism is not the same as demanding artists' acquiescence to your preferences. Pointing out problems in a completed piece of work based on your view of the material can be valuable for the artists and other viewers.
Art isn't something to be crowdsourced. That's an entitled way of thinking, and studios need to stop reinforcing it.