Apparently if you bitch hard enough in this country, people will just change anything they’re doing to meet your criteria. Throw away integrity, artistic license, unbridled creativity, or free speech and free markets. If you’re a content creator, just go ahead and give up on the idea that when you put something out there for the public to see, you’re finished with it. The ability to comment on websites, Facebook statuses, YouTube videos, along with the ability to talk directly to celebrities via Twitter and people’s incessant desire to start online petitions have emboldened every yayhoo with a keyboard to feel like they’re entitled to revise a work of art to their own liking (or at least make the person who had the original idea change it to their liking) without regard for the creator’s original intent or motivation.
Let’s start our parade of crybabies with Mad Men critics. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, Mad Men follows the exploits of advertising executives and their secretaries in the 1960s. The show has often been praised for its details of the era, thanks in no small part to the work of show runner Matthew Weiner. It’s coming back for a 5th season this Sunday and it’s going to feature Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love” in the end credits. Or at least it was going to until the critics who received advanced screener copies got their paws on it. Apparently “The Look of Love” was released 6 months after the episode takes place. Boo hoo. Matthew Weiner has issued a letter to the critics saying that the song will be replaced with a more appropriate one, but come on now. Can’t we give the guy a break? Can’t we say “ok, he was looking for a 60s song that is about a look of love?” Having not seen the episode myself, I can’t attest to the appropriateness of “The Look of Love” being in the ending credits, but I can say that Mad Men consistently has extremely appropriate end credit music in all of their episodes. It might have been a very compelling usage of the song that hit the story beats exactly as it needed to and it would be innappropriate to feature the song later in this season’s run of the show during a completely different story beat. I can’t make that call, but some one like Matthew Weiner can and did, until he had to roll over and cater to the critics. Time period should be ignored if contextual meaning is relevant. Hell, the title sequence for the show features a song by RJD2 and it was obviously not written in the 60s. I’m pretty sure the song wasn’t even written specifically for Mad Men. Are people going to bitch about that too?
If you shift from TV to video games, there’s currently a huge controversy over the ending of Mass Effect 3. [Note: this is a spoiler free analysis of the ending of the game and the fan reaction to it.] This is a narrative focused sci-fi game set in the distant future in which player choice helps dictate the course of events in the game. Over the course of 3 games which were released over a span of 5 years, players have been able to fully customize the entire universe based on choices they’ve made. Now fans are complaining about the ending of the game. They’re saying that the final decision in the game has no effect on the final outcome of any of the characters and that 3 games worth of choices should have paid off differently based on all of those decisions. Some fans are even starting online petitions with the express purpose of forcing Mass Effect developer Bioware into releasing a patch for the game that will alter its ending. This is just ridiculous. What gives these media consumers the right to tell a media creator how to do its job? If I think the Mona Lisa should have had a mustache and goatee, am I allowed to tell Leonardo di Vinci that he should change the painting? Maybe if I were Marcel Duchamp (who’s Dadaist movement was a whole separate issue entirely than having the original artist cater to the masses). If you don’t like the ending, sell the game and don’t play it again. Further, where is the regard for a media creator’s right to leave an intentionally vague ending? I think that if a game full of choices told you every little detail of what happened after you relinquished control, it might not be as good as one that lets you write the rest of the story in your own brain. If some of these crybabies on the internet would think for a second instead of being such gut reactionaries, they might realize that the game ends with literally infinite possibilities for the player to explore on their own, in their head. Bioware has remained silent on the issue of the ending of the game so far, but I fully expect them to release something to make fans happy again, be it a patch to the game or another novel from the game’s expanded universe. They might even be thinking about making a 4th game. We don’t know that at this time and to have the masses attempting to get a company to change the message of a work of art that they haven’t fully divulged all of the details about yet is asking too much.
Jay-Z once said, “fuck critics, you can kiss my whole asshole,” a line that I think is fairly appropriate given our current climate of seeing fans get catered to. That would be great if he weren’t guilty of opening up his own catering business last year. Back when Occupy Wall Street was still relevant, Jay-Z decided to test the market and see if people would buy a branded t-shirt from his Rocawear clothing line. It said Occupy All Streets (with a clever graffiti style adjustment to what had originally said Wall Street). Crowds and internet morons on Twitter complained that Jay-Z was just trying to profit from their struggle and that he didn’t understand the fundamental point of their issue, which was that corporate greed was getting rich off the efforts of the many, just as Rocawear was trying to get rich off of an altered slogan of this symbolic movement. Immediately after crowd reaction turned negative, Jay-Z removed the shirt from sale on his website. What happened, Mr. Z? Why are you now catering to the critics which you formerly had instructed to place their lips on your rectum? The shirt is currently now for sale again on his site and it has received much less media fanfare now that A) they actually finally did occupy all streets and B) the Occupy movement has pretty much petered out and/or become irrelevant. My qualm with this issue is that Jay-Z was doing the hip hop thing, which is to sample or borrow from one idea, alter it slightly, and make it his own. He wasn’t belittling their movement so much as he was wearing a shirt that might as well have said “Street Life” in terms of its political message. He wasn’t trying to represent a greedy company getting rich off of the poor, he was trying to sell some shirts, which has been a long standing staple of the hip hop industry (see also: Wu-Wear, Sean John, etc).
What strikes me as odd about all of these is that they’re actually effective. People have learned that if they bitch hard enough, loud enough, and often enough, they will get their way. The whole world is your slab of granite and you can whip Michelangelo until he sculpts a 6 foot long dong onto David. Life is great when you are part of an angry, reactionary mob. Get your pitchforks and your torches and your lynching ropes.