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How Misery Predicted Toxic Fandom

How Misery Predicted Toxic Fandom

“Avengers: Endgame” was a critically as well as popularly beloved franchise-ender, and became the highest-grossing picture of all time, yet it still was vulnerable to pressure tactics by unsatisfied customers. There was even a petition to film an alternate ending so that Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) lived. Iron Man’s fate was meant to certify the end of Downey’s 11-year tenure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the conclusion of Iron Man’s character arc. But some fans were as bereft and betrayed as Annie, who shouted “Misery Chastain cannot be dead!” after reading Paul’s new manuscript.

These fan actions were shrugged off by the intellectual properties’ owners. But DC Films and its distributor and studio, Warner Bros., were powerless to stop the onslaught over “Justice League.” Released to widespread fan dissatisfaction, the movie amplified the arrogance of toxic fandom. Zack Snyder left the project during post-production due to a family tragedy and was replaced by Joss Whedon, a writer/director with a markedly different tone and style. 

This is where the #ReleasetheSnyderCut movement took shape. It was a call to release an alternate cut from Snyder that may not have even existed and involved harassment and cyberbullying towards critics and execs such as former DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson, who deleted her Twitter after DCEU fans accused her of opposing Zack Snyder’s vision because she praised early footage of “Joker.” The movement also involved, of course, another petition, created after the picture’s release, that garnered over 100,000 signatures. When it was announced early this year by Snyder himself that fans would be getting a “Snyder Cut”—even though it would cost the studio tens of millions in reshoot and additional footage costs—journalists worried that this would be read as a toxic fandom victory that could embolden those who treat storytellers as employees. Collider writer Drew Taylor worried that the Snyder Cut greenlight set a dangerous precedent and would send the worst kind of message: If you resort to harassment to get your way, it’ll be rewarded. 

Additionally, if throwing such temper tantrums on social media causes creatives to say, in effect, “Here you go, now leave us alone,” it also forces the numerous cast and crew members to be tied down to a property they thought they were finished with, and redo work they already put in, and that they might be perfectly happy with. 

People like Annie have no empathy for an artist’s creative process. At one point in “Misery,” she even forces Paul to light a match and burn his own book. He tries to hold onto his vision by promising that his novel won’t see the light of day, a tactical move that would’ve saved him from having to write yet another manuscript (either Annie’s version, or a recovered version of his own). Sadly, Annie doesn’t budge, and makes him throw the match anyhow.

Instead of using sledgehammers or matches like Annie, 21st century fans use petitions, DMs, and 280 tweet characters as their own form of hobbling, hoping to tie artists to their favorite artworks and bend them to their will. This twisted form of devotion becomes overly integrated into their daily lives. “Misery” remains a shattering reminder that this line between admiration and obsession is one that shouldn’t be crossed.

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