Do Fans Have Too Much of a Sense of Entitlement?

PetitionThe last couple of weeks saw two big casting announcements: Ben Affleck as the new Batman and Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson as the leads in the feature film version of E.L. James’ steamy book 50 Shades of Grey.

Both set off fan firestorms of epic proportions.

This is nothing new. Fan displeasure with casting of movie/TV versions of popular books has been around for a very, very long time—almost as long as film and television have existed. I previously wrote an article about fan casting. But the reactions to these two announcements took things to a new level.

Fans—or to be more accurate, SOME fans—actually started PETITIONS to get the casting decisions reversed.

I’m not going to slam people for caring about this rather than, say, Syria, or hunger in America, or crime, or climate change—because, you know what? People can actually care about those issues and care deeply about their favorite books, movies and TV shows. Or sports. Or what the Kardashians are up to. Human beings can care about a variety of things at the same time.

But petitions?

That really smacks of a sense of entitlement.

To be fair to both Batman and 50 Shades of Grey fans, many are NOT getting up petitions, or threatening to jump out of windows, or burn all their copies of Batman comics or 50 Shades books. I’ve seen a lot of “I’ll withhold judgment until I see the movie” comments, even from those with initial negative reactions. I’ve seen positive reactions, too, as well as some flat-out defending the casting decisions.

But petitions?

Come on.

I think part of this comes from simple ignorance of what goes into casting decisions in the first place. There are several reasons why fans’ favorite choices are not picked:

1. The actor turned the part down. This happens for a variety of reasons:

  • Not enough money was offered.
  • They couldn’t work it into their schedule.
  • They’re simply not interested in the part, either because they didn’t care for the material or didn’t feel the part suited them.
  • Their agent/manager/significant other/mother advised against it.

2. The studio didn’t want them for the part.

  • The reason is usually because they don’t think the particular actor will attract a big enough audience.

3. The producers didn’t want them for the part.

  • Ditto

4. The director didn’t want them for the part.

  • Usually because the actor doesn’t fit their “vision” for the part. Oh, yes, directors have a personal vision of what the characters should look and be like, just like fans.
  • They had a poor audition, or didn’t seem to have chemistry with other already cast actors.

5. They were never considered in the first place. Because:

  • They’re so A list their salary would be prohibitive. (This would be more the case for 50 Shades of Grey rather than Batman. Hollywood has more faith in action blockbusters than dramas, and is probably worried about the racy nature of the story and afraid that will hinder its box-office somewhat.)
  • They aren’t well-known enough to movie audiences. (More the case for Batman. Unlike Superman, they’ve usually gone with stars over relative unknowns.)
  • Some personal bias on the part of the casting director/studio/producers/director.
  • They have a reputation for being difficult.

There’s a saying that 90% of a director’s job is casting. There’s a certain truth to that. Poor casting can sink a movie or TV show faster than the Titanic.

(If you don’t believe me, here’s a way to prove it to yourself: watch both the early-talkie version of The Maltese Falcon and the more famous 1941 version. Both movies are almost line-by-line identical adaptations of the book. One is mediocre. The other is a classic. One big reason: casting.)

Could they have screwed up the casting for these movies? Sure. But there have been many instances of negative fan reaction to casting that turned out to be brilliant (or at least good) choices. The people who make movies have a lot on the line and know that casting is important. Sure, they can blow it (coughJohnnyDeppasTontocough) but many times, they make the right decisions.

It’s fine to vent. We feel how we feel.

But put down the petitions. It will do absolutely no good and only reinforces the notion that fandoms are full of wackos who need to get a life.

If the casting does turn out to be a huge misstep, what’s the best way to retaliate?

Simple. Don’t give them your money.

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