top of page

Fans Aren’t Morons

I should rate my days based on how much internet I can take. Today, it was only 5 minutes.

Someone posted about fandom and asked: “Should fans be consultants on TV/movie projects?” A benign, sensible question, I thought. If you bring in experts for costumes, lighting, sets and sword fighting, why not employ fans as franchise expert consultants?

To my surprise, most responses explained why you should not, under any circumstances, have fans involved in anything regarding the fandom they are supposed to consume. If this confuses you, too, read on.

"Fans aren't morons!" says science fiction author Bert-Oliver Boehmer; image shows fans at a convention
Image credit: Peter S. Giakoumis

A common negative was that “fan fiction s*cks”. I disagree with the statement, and it had nothing to do with the original post, which did not imply fans should write the TV show or movie, or be involved in the project management. The question was: should they consult? Weigh in with an expert opinion?

“Fans don’t know what they want.” Maybe, if they had to write the screenplay themselves, they’d struggle. But, if presented with a draft, they could easily discern between content that resonates with the fandom and stuff that doesn’t. “Do you like this?” is a much easier question to answer than “What do you want?”

What really took me aback was the number of responses stating that “Fans are morons.” Even adjusting for the inevitable sh*tposters showing up on any thread longer than 5 comments, an unnerving number of responses was very elaborate about how idiotic fans and fandoms are and how they “destroy everything.”

I had seen the toxic fan myth as a mostly corporate malfunction, but did not realize there seems to be support amongst fellow consumers. Well, let’s talk about consumerism then, and clear up some misconceptions.

It was argued that TV shows and movies should not be created by committee, and involvement of fans harms the singular artistic vision the product should have. In an ideal world, maybe. If studios would create something new, cool and groundbreaking, then definitely. But, the existence of a fandom is a clear indicator that the project you’re working on is not new, otherwise it wouldn’t have fans yet. So, if you made the decision to work with an existing franchise, you did so consciously. And that was a business decision, not an artistic one, to de-risk your project with a built-in audience.

"Fans are repeat customers" says science fiction author Bert-Oliver Boehmer; image shows fans at a convention
Image credit: Peter S. Giakoumis

Fans are repeat customers! If you eat at a restaurant once, you certainly helped that business, but not as much as if you became a regular, as if you brought family, friends, and recommended it for the tennis club’s Christmas party. If you watch that movie in the theater, you are a valued customer, but you’re not a fan. You didn’t watch the movie several times, bought the blu-ray, then the collector’s edition, then the action figures, then joined a local fan club. Fans do all that, and more. They try to meet the actors at conventions, cosplay their favorite character, and buy and consume just about anything the franchise has to offer. They are the most valuable customers one can have!

"Fans are experts" says science fiction author Bert-Oliver Boehmer; image shows fans at a convention
Image credit: Peter S. Giakoumis

They also know the lore of your franchise’s backstory, can recite entire scripts and know the timeline just as well as the original (screen)writers. In short, not only are they valuable customers, but they are also subject matter experts. You know, like consultants.

Fans aren’t morons.

If you want to create something new in an existing franchise, but then take the business risk of not consulting your most loyal customers, you might as well take the risk of creating something new entirely, a new story with new characters, in a new setting. We’d welcome that, and, you know, maybe become fans of that new thing. But, if you use beloved characters, re-hashing successful plotlines using iconic locations, you better do it right!

Not sure how? Just ask.


bottom of page