The online movie community has been quivering with excitement over the last few days over something referred to as “fan-baiting”. As our Outposters are a relentlessly cynical bunch with many miles on their movie-going clocks from nearly 30 years of internet movie fandom, many of you had called this out already in Disqus for quite a while.
So what is fan-baiting? Well, the online flap started when a Twitter commenter going by the handle of Dr Thala Siren started a thread.
“Fan-baiting” is a form of marketing used by producers, film studios, and actors, with the intent of exciting artificial controversy, garnering publicity, and explaining away the negative reviews of a new and often highly anticipated production. 1/10
— Dr. Thala Siren (@DrThalaSiren) September 9, 2022
A Thala Siren is actually the name of the large pinniped that Luke milks in The Last Jedi. Dr Thala Siren’s bio states they are a cultural critic with a PhD. According to the thread:
“Fan-baiting is a form of marketing used by producers, film studios, and actors, with the intent of exciting artificial controversy, garnering publicity, and explaining away the negative reviews of a new and often highly anticipated production.”
Sounds unbelievably familiar, right? Way back, back before even Ghostbusters 2016 and The Force Awakens, many Outposters in their former communities were calling this out. Saying that controversy seemed whipped up, almost confected, around certain movies.
Outposters were pointing out loudly that they had no issue with the genitalia of the Ghostbusters or the color of Finns skin. What they objected to was lazy writing, re-treads, a total lack of jokes in comedies, gender and race swapping that made no narrative sense, a failure to respect source materials and just generally poor quality.
However according to the narrative being pushed back by the studios, you were just a misogynist, a racist and all round villain, and that is why you didn’t like their product. Against the backdrop of the culture wars, the voices of a very small number of wrong ‘uns in any community are elevated by those watching. This was the case with some people who really did have issues with skin tone or gender, who were suddenly held up as representative of entire online communities.
And here is where studio pulled their greatest trick – they created and then blamed “Toxic Fandom”.
So far, so familiar. In the Twitter thread, Dr Thala Siren then goes on to detail what we all know happens next.
“Actors who are women and/or BIPOC became props & shields for craven corporate laziness and opportunism. The studios save money both by avoiding expensive veteran writers as well as by offloading publicity to news outlets and social media covering the artificial controversy.”
So Fan-baiting provides a bullet-proof shield to substandard work while, at the same time, creating all sorts of headlines, buzz and free publicity around the upcoming movie. The inference here is not that the world has simply splintered along these lines. It is far worse.
Fan-Baiting As A Deliberate Tactic
This is now said to be a deliberate marketing tactic being deployed by publicity and PR professionals around these productions. Stirring up conflict and hatred just to excuse sub-standard workmanship while trying to sell a piece of entertainment. It’s brilliantly despicable. It’s only a short hop, skip and a jump and suddenly you are in Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies territory.
It creates false narratives and then shapes them to the advantage of the studio. It alienates core fan bases while bringing in a nouveau woke audience who virtue signal rather than ask core questions about quality, thus meaning the value of the art is undermined by the value of the signal, the message.
Finally, what you have effectively done here, is monetized racism, sexism, and any other kind of ‘ism you can think of to your own advantage.
Meanwhile, reviewers who are within the system become enablers of the system and its continuation. They dare not break ranks or they will potentially be cast out, rounded upon by the nouveau woke who have gathered around the cause célèbre to signal their virtue, not because they support the art. Or, even worse, lose privileges. This is where we see the schism growing further between critic and audience scores on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.
Something is fundamentally broken, and it has been broken deliberately by studios peddling shit, while screaming at you that you are a monster if you don’t like the shit they are peddling.
We are not the only ones in the online movie community who have grown wise to this. Not the usual suspects, they are too far gone. However in corners of the movie web as cynical as we are, there have been rumblings for a while.
Hollywood. We see you.