Bandwagoning is Bad

noun: band; plural noun: bands
  1. 1.
    a flat, thin strip or loop of material put around something, typically to hold it together or to decorate it.
    “wads of banknotes fastened with gummed paper bands”
    a stripe or elongated area of a different color, texture, or composition than its surroundings.
    “a long, narrow band of cloud”
noun: wagon; plural noun: wagons; noun: waggon; plural noun: waggons
  1. a vehicle used for transporting goods or another specified purpose.
    “a coal wagon”
    • a four-wheeled trailer for agricultural use, or a small version of this for use as a child’s toy.
    • a horse-drawn vehicle, especially a covered wagon used by early settlers in North America and elsewhere.
Two seemingly unrelated words that, when put together, form the detriment of meaningful conversations on the internet. Bandwagoning happens when people forgo making their own informed opinions and opt for joining the popular consensus. This means almost nobody gets to make fun of your opinions because, odds are they’re the same. Plus, it’s always fun to collectively praise or trash something. However, it also means that often times people have no idea what they’re talking about. Take Fox’s most recent attempt at salvaging The Fantastic Four franchise for example. Before long into its production it became obvious to comic book fans that this was a disaster in the making. As soon as the average person found out that all the cool comic book reading kids said it would be bad, it was all aboard the bandwagon. When it finally came out, it was trashed by the critics and bombed at the box office. If you were one of the poor saps who paid to see it, it became popular to take a picture of yourself and the three at most other people in the theater. What those pictures, as well as the actual box office numbers proved was that next to nobody saw this movie. Yet at the same time, almost everybody holds it as one of the worst films to be made. I’m no mathematician, but if nobody saw it and everybody hates it, clearly something’s not adding up. Now I’m not defending the movie, I haven’t even seen it (though, in my defense you can’t really blame me, I heard it’s terrible.)

Plus, they blatantly ripped off my number in a title idea for the tenth installment of the X-Men franchise, simply titled X-Men

What I am saying is that a lot of people who shouldn’t really have a concrete opinion on something are more than willing to give you their concrete opinion on it. It’s because everybody wants to be a part of the conversation and nobody wants to be in the minority.
This brings us to the most recent example of bandwagoning. In 2013, the Zack Snyder film Man of Steel was released to very divisive responses. This should have come to no surprise, Snyder has that effect on people. His 2009 adaptation of Watchmen is still one of the most divisive films in recent years. However, after awhile the more negative opinions of Man of Steel seemed to have won and soon enough it was almost unanimously agreed that Man of Steel sucked. Flashforward a couple of years and all it took was a teaser before everyone who unanimously agreed Man of Steel sucked made a second unanimous agreement that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice also would suck. Then it came out and everyone made good on their agreement. Now, I may be exaggerating how this all went down, but I seriously did know people who hated this movie with a totally unrealistic passion based solely off of the trailer. And I did have conversations with people who claimed they hated it only to find out they hadn’t even seen it. I’m not saying that if you hated it you are wrong per se (yes I am,) but I am saying that a small fraction of its haters offer actual critical analysis as to why they think it’s bad, leaving the majority of haters shouting words and phrases like “Martha!” or “Jolly Rancher!” or “Batman kills!” and then pretending as if they actually said something of substance. I mean, why should they have to say anything of substance, if you disagree with them you’re arguing against the consensus. Because nobody feels the need to defend their hatred of this movie, people have become blind to the fact that the critically acclaimed film Arrival has a “Martha!” scene of its own. In both films, an antagonistic character makes a totally dramatic change which alters the entire course of the film all because someone spoke aloud the last thing said to them by a loved one prior to dying. Batman hears “Martha” and the Chinese general hears whatever it was that Amy Adams said in Chinese. Neither films offer any vocal explanation as to why they changed they’re minds, because both films require the audience have the ability to infer. If people who hated Batman v Superman so much actually had to back up their extreme hatred more, they’d see these similarities. However, once they saw them they’d be required to be consistent and either forgive BvS or hate Arrival, and it’s unpopular to do either.

And who wants to argue with those numbers?

I’m not going to only talk about the DCEU, because the point of this article isn’t to change your mind on BvS (yes it is,) but to point out the problems that hopping on the bandwagon can cause. Studio executives make no differentiation between actual opinions and bandwagon opinions. Whether you actually mean it, or just think you do because the guy next to you does, if you’re shouting your opinions about movies at the top of your metaphorical lungs on the internet, people in power will listen. Think about Iron Man 3 for a bit. Most of the hatred for this movie revolves around its treatment of Iron Man’s nemesis The Mandarin. I totally get why legitimate comic book fans hated this version of the character, I would be mad as well if something similar happened to a comic book villain I loved. However, people who hadn’t even so much as touched a comic book were acting like they felt personally betrayed by the change. Actual comic book fans could vocalize what they hated about it, but everyone else just said he was terrible because it was the thing to do. They weren’t actually giving any insight as to why they thought it was a bad decision. Think about what that’s done to Marvel’s villain department. They may not have been great prior to Iron Man 3, but ever since then it’s like they’ve all just been stepping off of the underdeveloped and cliché movie villain assembly line and onto the set. I’m not trying to pin Marvel’s villain problem entirely on the reaction to Iron Man 3, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say there may be a little correlation. The biggest criticism they had surrounded their bold treatment of a villain, and ever since then, the only good villain they have continues to be Loki, and he seems to be on the fast track to anti-hero status anyway.

I don’t blame him for not wanting to be labeled a villain either. Most don’t make it past their first movie.

All this to say, I think it’s important that our opinions be our own. That if we criticize something, we should be expected to back it up. I care so much about this because I want both the DCEU and the MCU to better themselves. Suicide Squad was a complete mess and Doctor Strange was psychedelic Iron Man. I want to make sure that the criticism both are hearing is both constructive and informed. The stakes are even higher for Marvel now that they have the rights to Spider-Man. His list of rogues is so good they’re second only to Batman’s and if Disney underdevelops one of said fantastic villains, so help me I just might lose it.

About jameslhamrick

I am a film obsessed college student who enjoys talking about geek culture in whatever capacity available. I think that DC and Marvel fans should unite, just to spite those pretentious Dark Horse Comics fans. I also co-host the podcast Underrated, where we defend movies that we think get a bad rap.
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