Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sneering at your own fans.

I love them. Fans. I love being a fan, and being part of fandoms. Fans fascinate me so much, I consider them my favourite group of people - even if they're fans of something I'm not a fan of at all.

The Twilight Saga is famous for a whole lotta critical labels that have been gleefully stamped on it: mediocre, shallow, self-indulgent. I'm not going to try and review any of it, because I'll just shrug and sigh and eat Jaffa Cakes; though I did read the final page of the final book a while back. Besides, the whole thing concluded years ago, to the shuddering relief of millions. But there's a major part of the Twilight Saga that's still going strong. A very major part.

The fanbase. And it'll be there for a long, long time, passionate and wild and devoted, like a headless squirrel in love. Stephenie Meyer - the one responsible for the Twilight books and movies - should be proud of her fanbase; even if she's not proud of her work.

But yesterday lunchtime, when I was stacking Chewits on my keyboard and clicking rhythmically through Guardian articles, I read this:
Stephenie Meyer is "so over" Twilight and will steer clear of future instalments in the series of romance novels that spawned the blockbuster film saga. The novelist told Variety she would only consider returning to [Twilight] if it meant writing "three paragraphs on my blog saying which of the characters died". [...] "I get further away [from Twilight] every day," said Meyer. "For me, it's not a happy place to be."

Meyer is tired of Twilight. Who can blame her? Who could even blame her if Twilight was a masterpiece? Nobody wants to go their entire life with a sign stapled to their forehead, even if you're a lamppost. But imagine being one of these:

Twilight feels like your reason for breathing. At least, for now. Then the one who created it all suddenly turns her back on it in a very demeaning manner.

If your extremely famous book/movie franchise was accused worldwide of being shallow and mediocre, you'd want to distance yourself, right? You'd want to shuffle away, all bashful-like, and clear your throat awkwardly when asked about it. You'd want to move on to other things and leave it behind you.

Problem is, it's not about you. It's extremely famous for a reason. Your book/movie franchise has a suffocating army of famously devoted fans. Your fans!

Stephenie Meyer has effectively just said "fuck you" to her fans. Which is a shame, because that sounds remarkably similar to what the rest of the world says to them.

Meyer has millions of hardcore fans, and she's insulted them all in one fell swoop. As someone who belongs to a number of fandoms, I feel for them, I really do.

And it happens all the time. Many celebrities on Twitter turn on their fans after a whiff of implied criticism. Don't tell Ricky Gervais you adored The Office but didn't like Extras as much, or he'll gnaw on your skeletal remains.

Switch on any DVD commentary and you're going to get the cast and crew laughing at you for being geeky enough to love them that much. Simon Pegg - a prince of geeks, allegedly - wonders why the hell you haven't got anything better to do than listen to the Spaced commentary.

And Justin Beiber (what is he, like, 50 now?) keeps wriggling around in the news for disrespecting his famously devoted fanbase by turning up late for gigs that they've paid hundreds of quid to attend. Oh, and he spat on one. He spat on a fan. He didn't even bother with symbolism.

Hardcore fans can be demanding, frightening, invasive and exhausting, but they're also fascinating, inspiring, and... the whole point in all of it, surely? Without fans, you're just working for the benefit of an echoing void. A bit like this blog. Or my tower of Chewits.

In insulting her enormous fanbase, Stephenie Meyer is being either very stupid or very bold. Either she doesn't know what she's done, or she's confident she can successfully move on with an even bigger franchise. I wish her luck with that. And maybe, at the beginning of her next book, she should include a little disclaimer: "please don't take this crap seriously; because I won't."

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