The trouble for Ghostbusters started early.
Feig is no stranger to funny women, having laughed all the way to the box office with Bridesmaids and Spy. But none of that prevented the first Ghostbusters trailer from becoming the most disliked in YouTube history.
It’s all part of a changing dynamic as online communities go from being empowered to feeling entitled. Canadian Ivan Reitman directed the original Ghostbusters and worked on reviving the franchise for years. Speaking with CBC News, he noted the changing tone online,
Devin Faraci has written about what he sees as an increasingly toxic online culture in a widely shared and debated article titled Fandom is Broken, where he detailed fans’ increasingly aggressive behaviour.
Faraci pointed to the reaction by online fans over a decision by Marvel Comics to reveal Captain America as a secret Hydra agent. The plot twist led to death threats, an example, Faraci says, of a culture stoked with rage and aggression.
‘What had once been kind of a delightful way to keep in touch with fans has turned into something a little bit uglier and a little bit nastier.’ — Devin Faraci
“More and more of the creators that I know feel more uncomfortable and feel like they’re being attacked on the regular. What had once been kind of a delightful way to keep in touch with fans has turned into something a little bit uglier and a little bit nastier.”
When the creators killed off the character Lexa, it set off an avalanche of reactions. The popular supporting character had shared a kiss with Clarke, the lead on the show. No sooner were viewers warming up to the idea of a relationship between the women than Lexa was killed by a stray bullet.
Fans saw this as yet another tired TV trope where a character was punished for their sexuality. A petition demanded Lexa’s return, and a fundraising drive raised $ 130,000 US for an LGBTQ teen suicide prevention program.
In this instance, showrunner Jason Rothenberg wasn’t merely listening, he apologized, telling fans at Wondercon, “We never really understood the power of that relationship and that character. Knowing what I know now I would have done some things different.”
Canadian showrunner Daegan Fryklind had a similar experience diving into the werewolf series Bitten. She told CBC News, “You can’t help but get a little addicted to that kind of ability to communicate with a fan base so close at hand and instantly as you’re watching the show.”
Most Canadian shows shoot their entire season in advance, and so. Fryklind says, writers can’t address fan concerns in their scripts. But fan comments have encouraged her a greater sense of compassion,
“If you’ve unfortunately had to kill a character, a beloved character, how [the fans] respond to that, and you can really engage with them and explain choices that you’ve made.”
‘If you tried to make something trying to think about the negative voice, no one would ever make anything.’ — Daegan Fryklind
“If you tried to make something trying to think about the negative voice, no one would ever make anything.”
Whether the feedback is negative or positive, the industry is listening, increasingly employing the services of companies such as Fizziology.com. The social media research film monitors what fans are saying and sells it back to studios. Co-president Ben Carlson says since the company began in 2009 the relationship between fans and studios has strengthened.
“Studios are now paying a lot more attention to what fans are saying,” he says. “That’s at every point along the way. There is an appetite from leaders at studios and key executives all the way through to filmmakers.”
Evidence suggests studios and storytellers are listening. The next step is cultivating a better conversation.