Friday, September 26, 2014

Change, Anyone? - Change in Popular Culture

Be Advised: The Following article contains an opinion.  If you disagree, feel from to express so in a civil manner.  If you cannot do so, then I'm sorry.  But I don't believe this is the site for you.  Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

I've heard variations of the following more times than I care to count:

"People are naturally resistant to change!"

Yes, yes we are.  And yes, yes we should be a bit more open to said change.  However, I've come to notice that the vast majority of people who fall back on that argument first and most adamantly are people who are the first to jump onto any and every bandwagon presented to them.  The ones who will embrace every single change, regardless of its merits or lack thereof.  So here is the problem with this little misconception.

You are correct.  People need to be more open to change.  But that does not imply that we must jump on board and accept every little change that occurs immediately as it is presented to us.  If we accept every single change that's thrown in our direction without 1) weighing it against what came before it and 2) taking the time to question/challenge it to determine its merits and shortcomings, then we are doing a disservice to our chosen fandom.

Change is not a one-sided topic.  There is good change and there is bad change.  This is why I am so compromising.  I believe that change is something that should happen as it is necessary.  Not just something to do every now and again to shock people or what have you.  In storytelling, as well as in anything, honestly, if you are going to change something, then make sure that change is honestly taking place for the good of the project or whatever the subject.  People who have gotten used to one thing will be more prepared to accept a change and get acclimated to it if a reason is given for the change needing to occur, and preferably a reason beyond just "keeping things fresh."  That statement is tired and unsupported.  What isn't fresh to you might still be fresh to someone else.  I'm sorry.  This is the reality.  Deal with it.

However, because this is misunderstood (or just because people are greedy. I don't know), change is relentlessly exploited.  If you change something without weighing these things, then it gives people (like myself) every reason to complain about said changes.  In many cases the changes are superfluous.  The stories could have been told without them, albeit with minor tweaks here and there.

But bad change goes beyond just being pointless.  There is also the nature of change that is just poorly executed.  For example: The Original Sin storyline the just passed (or may still be going on, I don't know) in Marvel.  That was a rather poor attempt at a change, the merits of which I can understand.  They wanted to shift attention from the Classic Nick Fury to the new guy, his son, who is based on Samuel L. Jackson's interpretation of the character.  That, in and of itself, is generally harmless.  I don't like it, but I'd have been willing to give it a shot and see where it went.


My understanding of the event (no, I haven't read it and have no intention of doing so) is that to do this, they vilified the old Nick and made him responsible for mass xeno-genocide.  Bad play, sir.  You do not urinate on people's memories.  Bad.  Bad Marvel.  No.  That is perhaps the easiest way to rile up those of us that society is quietly labeling "Stagnants."  Respect what came before.  Do not bastardize.

And for another example, turn to DC.  The New52, specifically.  At its core, the reboot was a decent idea.  Start continuity over so people who (for some reason) are having a hard time getting into the (totally not confusing) lore can have a jumping-on point.  Harmless.  Then there's the execution.  Taking Wonder Woman and reducing her to a pissy demigod who wants to beat up just about everyone and trusts almost no one.  Taking the humor and fun out of Barry Allen.  Darkening the overall tone of the DC Universe into something that just doesn't work for it.  Ignoring what the vast majority of the characters stood for prior to the reboot.  There's more, but I don't like to think about it too hard.  The point is that for every sliver of hope the New52 has brought there are about ten more things to complain about (I name no examples because, as I said, I don't like to think about it).  The idea had merit.  The execution was, however, terrible.

And now let's look in the direction of some GOOD changes.  Just to show you what I mean.  First and foremost, let's talk about Marvel's recent event featuring the Inhumans.  This was a good change...well, not so much the event itself, but the results of it.  The idea that all of these people exist and now their Inhuman abilities are being awakened and the Marvel Universe is going to have to deal with it.  This is a good thing.  It provides new story avenues and ideas.  It introduced the world to the new Ms. Marvel, with which the only problems I have are a dislike of the artwork (which is a personal thing) and that she couldn't be called something else so Carol could keep the name, but I digress.  My point is that this is the kind of change I welcome.

But now let's talk about one that's a bit more...personal.  Nightwing.  The character of Nightwing.  I assure you that numerous people probably whined for days when Dick Grayson dropped the monicker of Robin and became Nightwing.  And while that may have left us with Jason Todd (who many of you know I am not at all fond of), ultimately this was a good change.  It allowed the character to grow and come into his own.  It let him get out from under the shadow of his mentor.  And it added a new corner to the DC Universe later into the character's existence.  These were all good things.  Looking back, nothing bad could have come from this change.  It was a good decision.  Even if it did leave us with Jason, it introduced the idea of Robin being a role that could be occupied by more than one person, thus leading to Tim (my favorite Robin, for those of you that don't know).

But there's one more thing I want to bring up about this touchy little subject: abruptness.  Even with all that I've said on the subject so far, there is still one more crucial element to change in order for it to be successful, at least in my eyes.  Pacing.  Oh my god.  Pacing.  Pacing can ruin a movie, it can ruin a show, it can ruin a comic, it can ruin just about anything.  Pacing is key.  Don't just dump a change on people and expect them to accept it openly.  This is the biggest problem people tend to have with change.  If it's all just dropped in their laps, then they'll panic.  Even the "All Embracing Groupies" will at least do a double-take.

So where is my point?  My point is that change is, in fact, necessary.  However, change is something that should actually be reflected upon and considered, rather than just done and accepted.  Honestly, that's most of the point of it in the first place.  It shouldn't be something approached casually or without thought and certainly shouldn't be used purely as a shock tactic or, as the industry has taken to calling it, to "Shake things up."  I wholeheartedly support change that honestly turns out a better product in the end.  So I greatly hope that others can understand that and we can get out of this dark era of exploiting the word and the idea.

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