Genre Part 2 – Pandering to the fans

Part one of this defined genre as follows.

A set of conventions that shapes the telling of a story and, in so doing, produces a film that meets an audience’s expectations in a satisfying way.

But does that mean you should pander to the fans?

Star Trek and Star Wars have both been in trouble recently.

Simon Pegg, when writing the last film, Star Trek Beyond, reportedly quit a few times because executives kept asking him to remove all the Star Trek stuff.  Fans have been up in arms about Star Trek: Discovery, because of all the changes to Klingons and so on.  (My opinion of Discovery is that it’s good, but it isn’t Star Trek and STOP PRESS – Klingons have their hair back in the second series.)

During and after the filming of Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, Mark Hamill kept saying to Rian Johnson “But what about the fans?” as the director went about killing the past, making a clean break (even from The Force Awakens) and doing his own thing.

This has been going on for quite a while.  To jump back in time from 2,000AD to 1995, there was Judge Dredd, the first film.  Sylvester Stallone was reported to be happy to keep his helmet on, but the director said something like “…the fans need to grow up”.

All of these were criticised for this.

Star Trek and Star Wars (and Judge Dredd and Uncle Tom Cobbley…) are sub-genres in their own right.  Gene Roddenberry wanted a show a future were diverse people got on with each other, the sort of world we’d want to live in.  Star Wars “…surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together” and isn’t about midi-chlorian twaddle.  (George Lucas was not true to the expectations he himself had set up.)

So, does this mean pandering to the fans?

No.

You do need to move things forward otherwise they stagnate.

But it’s still not that.

Fans are up in arms because of the deeper misunderstanding.  Their reaction is a symptom and not the cause.  It’s the expectations again.  They should not be taken out, killed, broken, or grown out of.  They are the very elements that create the sub-genre.

To put it another way, whatever you are writing, whether it’s in an existing sub-genre or something entirely new, you must be true to the material.

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