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Published: Friday, 7/20/2012

COMMENTARY

Batman fanboys go too far

BY KIRK BAIRD
CULTURE SHOCK

Please don't kill me, ransack my home, and burn my place of employment. I liked The Dark Knight Rises.

I thought the finale in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, which opens today, is brilliant and flawed, a minor masterpiece with noble ambitions that falls short of its lofty goals.

I gave it four out of five stars.

But Dark Knight fanboys, please spare me the same venom and threats you've anonymously posted to message boards, the ones directed at other film critics who either dismissed the film altogether or gave it less than glowing reviews. I'm on your side.

For those who haven't heard, the bile directed at The Dark Knight Rises naysayers got so bad that film review aggregate site Rottentomatoes.com suspended its comments system earlier this week.

"The job of policing the comments became more than my staff could handle for that film, so we stopped the comments altogether," Matt Atchity, the site's editor-in-chief, told the Associated Press. "It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn't even seen."

The site planned to reopen the comments today, and possibly move to a Facebook system that prevents anonymity and therefore should lead to more civilized discourse online. The Blade did that as well, as have many other news organizations.

Meanwhile, Nolan defended those who have taken to the Internet to champion a film they haven't seen from those who actually have seen it and didn't care for it.

"I think the fans are very passionate about these characters the way a lot of people are very passionate. Batman's been around for over 70 years, and there's a reason for that. He has a huge appeal, so I think you know people certainly respond to the character," the filmmaker told AP at The Dark Knight Rises London premiere.

We fanboys are a crazy lot. Yes, I used the inclusive pronoun because I am one of them; the hard-core fan who is as passionate about popular culture -- movies, TV, music, comic books, video games, etc. -- just as sports enthusiasts are religiously devoted to their professional and/or collegiate teams.

There's no difference in either group, really, other than one is a numbers geek who wears his favorite player's jersey and the other really likes Doctor Who, or Star Trek, or Lord of the Rings.

Fanboys can be temperamental, though, with little regard for anyone who challenges their belief structure. The difference is that most of us mutter insults under our breath and leave the physical threats to Ted Nugent. But some treat subjective and contrary opinion as personal insult and lash out accordingly.

This isn't a new phenomenon, of course, and certainly isn't limited to fanboys. But what once used to be passionate discussions or heated exchanges in a basement or bar has spilled over into massively public forums. The ubiquitous Internet has given voice to hundreds and thousands of ugly and childish fanatics who are screaming from atop their lonely mountain at the public below.

And in the case of The Dark Knight Rises critics, for what?

Because a film geek who is paid to see, think, and write about movies and who didn't like the summer blockbuster you are just so sure you're going to love and that everybody else MUST love equally as well or your validation is rendered moot?

Good luck with that. And good luck fitting in with the rest of us in normal society.

I am a fanboy. I am passionate about movies, video games, and other nooks in popular culture. And I make no apologies and excuses for it.

And until this week, I didn't feel the need to.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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