Ever since Suicide Squad rolled into cinemas in early August, David Ayer’s superhero outing has enjoyed mixed fortunes: it’s raked in over $700 million at the box office, while also garnering scathing reviews from critics. Predictably, this has caused online uproar among devoted DC Expanded Universe fans, and Ayer himself has now declared that the film was made “for the fans” and not for the critics.
This sort of sentiment is nothing new, particularly where the superhero subgenre is concerned, much less the DCEU; after Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice copped critical flack, DCEU mastermind Zack Snyder made similar comments. And yet this line of logic’s prevalence makes it no less wrongheaded – or toxic.
Here, I’m going to unpack what makes the “for the fans” mentality such an issue, and why fans need to stop using it as an excuse to turn on critics (and each other) every time a new superhero movie hits theatres.
Why the “for the fans” mentality is so problematic
The most obvious problem with the “for the fans” ethos is that it’s inherently divisive. Whenever filmmakers like Snyder and Ayer say these words, they’re effectively drawing a line between “real” and “fake” fans: if you like their take on the source material, you’re a true fan; if you don’t, well… I guess you aren’t. Intentionally or not, they’re pitting fans against other fans.
More than that, though, it’s a weak crutch to lean on when addressing professional critics; a catch-all way of dismissing any criticism – no matter how well-founded or constructive – as the opinions of someone who doesn’t “get” superheroes or like the genre.
And look, I get it: filmmakers have put a lot of time, effort and creative energy into making these projects and want to defend them. But painting critics at large as opposed or unsympathetic to superhero movies in general, DC movies in particular, isn’t just unfair, it is (as illustrated by the recent critical acclaim of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy) demonstrably untrue, as well.
This really is something fans need to take on board: that critics aren’t out to destroy any given superhero movie; on the contrary, they want to be entertained by them, just like the rest of us. Sure, they’re a little more jaded, maybe (it comes with watching hundreds of movies a year), but in the end, when something they watch or read doesn’t engage or move them on a personal level, it’s just that: a matter of personal taste, and definitely not something malicious.
That their response to the material doesn’t align with your own shouldn’t matter (much less be cause to lash out), simply because a well-adjusted person doesn’t rely on other people’s opinions to validate their own. And really, what else other than insecurity can explain fans or critics who voice their less than glowing opinion of Suicide Squad being bullied off social media, or people who clearly don’t understand how a review aggregation website works calling for Rotten Tomatoes to be shut down?
But any way you slice it, what it comes down to is this: just because someone doesn’t like something you love – including a superhero movie – doesn’t give you the right to make their life horrible.
It’s okay not to like Suicide Squad (or anything else) – but don’t be a jerk about it
At the same time, liking DCEU movies isn’t something anyone should have to apologise for either, which brings me to my next point: fans need to realise that not every film is made specifically for them – and that that’s totally okay.
See, it’s perfectly acceptable to dislike the current crop of DC films (for the record, they’re not to my taste, either). The same goes for the superhero movies cranked out as part of the rival Marvel Cinematic Universe, or any other movie for that matter, whether it’s a popcorn blockbuster showing on a gajillion screens or an indie effort playing at like… one arthouse theatre.
What’s not acceptable, however, is taking your views about a movie (or any pop culture, really) and cramming them down other people’s throats at every available opportunity, and in the most vitriolic way imaginable. Say you hate Suicide Squad with a burning passion – that doesn’t mean you should then target people on social media who love it, just to vent your own disappointment. Because ultimately, the movie wasn’t made for you, it was made for them, and chances are no amount of ranting is going to change their (perfectly valid) opinion about it.
Can it be hard to bite your tongue when someone is professing their love for a flick you can’t stand? Absolutely – especially since you were probably looking forward to that movie yourself, only to find it wasn’t what you were hoping for. But part of life is learning to live with disappointment, and if that’s a bitter pill to swallow, remember: Hollywood – and superhero franchises most of all – are built around a cycle of regular rebirth.
So, even if you despise the Suicide Squad and the rest of the DCEU with every fibre of your being, rather than wasting your energy attacking strangers online or creating petitions to have Zack Snyder fired from the upcoming Justice League movie (that’s a guy’s livelihood people: not cool!), stop, take a breath, and wait five years. That should be more than enough time for the franchise to be rebooted, and who knows? The new take might be more your speed, instead.
Whether Suicide Squad was made “for the fans” or not, one thing is clear: it’s not everybody’s cup of tea (nor should it be). But whether you love the movie or hate it, like every superhero movie – like every movie period – it’s not worth turning on your fellow fans or critics over…