In the secret cabal where the Fangirls of Fangirl Nation work, there has been a great deal of discussion. There’s been talk of movies, TV series and comic books. But recently, it has begun to mirror a growing divide that started innocuously enough and has grown into a bit of a Hydra in the fan community. When a non-fan of a work loves an adaptation while fans of the original source material don’t.
And before we even get started, this is a great place to say: I’m not saying anyone has to be a fan of something to comment on it. In fact, having little to no context for things reveal many of the cracks in a body of work. Comic book fans ignore a lot of things because that’s just how comic books are but that doesn’t always make for satisfying cinema. I love diverse voices but I do think there’s something in this topic worth talking about. It would be ignorant of me, however, to not comment on the fact that we need people of all walks of life and level of fandom to review, comment and have opinions.
For the Fangirls, it started with Death Note. The trailer for the Netflix adaptation seemed to go over very well with the girls who didn’t like/never saw the original manga and anime. Me and another fangirl who did love the original anime/manga were horrified by the Netflix trailer. You can see that in the review written for it. And that sentiment was echoed by a coworker of mine who thought the anime too scary but was someone less frightened by Willam Dafoe.
The next contention point was Castlevania; another Netflix property. One of our writers loved the anime but never really played the games and me as someone who is a dedicated fangirl of Castlevania took some issue with the series. And if you haven’t read that review, it’s great so you should look at it here.
Let’s back up because I think touching on the problems I had in Castlevania really brings the point home.
So Castlevania the anime features a 4-episode long season centered around mostly Dracula and Trevor Belmont (characters that to the game series are seldom seen but often spoken of aside from Dracula who is your main antagonist most of the time). The main conflict is that Dracula is mad that the humans killed his wife,Lisa, and now he’s out for sweet sweet R-Rated vengence. The first episode features what I’m assuming is just Beauty and the Beast with science and some banter that I’m assuming is meant to be foreplay but ends up not endearing us to either Lisa or Dracula. Lisa in the games is a figure that is almost never directly spoken of. She is just the reason Dracula is the way he is. Her relationship to her son, Alucard is much more important in the games and that’s been totally glossed over in the anime. Trevor Belmont goes from being a proud but exiled badass to a Jack Sparrow-knock off in an IKEA rug cape and though it’s beautiful, it plays fast and loose with the canon of the series while ignoring some of the cooler aspects of the franchise like the vampires’ relationship to technology, all the monsters and why vampires don’t have belly buttons. I do know it’s only a 4 episode season one but the way it was hyped (especially by non-fans) was that this was perfect and it just wasn’t. It was beautiful and the action scenes almost make up for how bad the writing is in places but it has structural problems.
Any of this sounding familiar?
It sounds a lot like the debate many of us have been having over recent DC movies. Batman vs. Superman was critically panned by anyone who touched a comic book but fans of just the movies are fine with it. BvS especially was written “for the fans” so it gave us no time to learn this version of Batman or this version of Superman. We were all too busy being distracted by how bad the Lex Luthor was and how long the movie was. And we were supposed to be satisfied by the action set pieces. But again: fans of the comic book, mostly didn’t care for BvS while the casual movie-going audience thought it was great.
Marvel during Phase 1 had almost perfected the superhero movie. It gave us time to learn all the version of the heroes it was reintroducing to the world and helped explain the lore while also just making great movies. Sure, things had to change in adaptation but the changes were mostly negligible until Civil War. We empathized with Tony Stark and we understood Steve Rogers while also being part of movies that the universal audience can appreciate. I put it like this: my aunt, who isn’t a big nerd culture anything, can at least watch an Avengers movie but I doubt she could sit through Suicide Squad.
Who movies and TV shows are made for is gonna start mattering a lot more. Guardians of the Galaxy is a widely popular franchise despite almost none of the movie going public actually knowing its comic book origins. We’re getting even more live-action anime adaptations (I wish we weren’t, but we are.). And the conversations around why fans don’t like something and why non-fans do is a conversation worth having. But I think I can come down to at least one reason: attachment and investment.
I spent hours learning the lore of Castlevania. It ran through my veins like blood and salt and influenced how I write vampires even to this day. I drank the water of comic books early on and I am passionate, knowledgable and opinionated. So when I see a property I love not be represented in a way I know or enjoy, I take immense umbrage with it. And my opinion is often shared by other fans. We take it personally, for better or worse. Sometimes it’s valid like in the case of Suicide Squad and other times we didn’t give a movie a fair shake like in the case of Castlevania for me.