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The Hollywood Reporter’s review of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters describes the film as “tacky pastiche” that’s missing “a genuine sense of wit,” with an “awfully thin” script. “There isn’t much here to entice anyone with a bit of maturity,” it says – but the sub-heading for the review suggests that the “campy, violent version of Grimm’s fairy tale should entice fanboys.” Isn’t it time that everyone gave fan boyishness a break, already?
On the one hand, I get it; fanboys historically haven’t been known for having the most discerning palette in the past. You only have to look at some of the things that have been embraced so passionately by nerddom as a whole that, perhaps, didn’t quite deserve it, after all (I’m not pointing any fingers here, but we can all list off projects that everyone else seems to adore that leave us cold, I’m sure). For years, as science fiction, fantasy and horror were genres that were far less popular – and definitely less respected – than today, the idea of a fanboy was popularized as someone whose tastes were lower than low brow, and easily led by the appearance or even hint of tropes and ideas so rare that everything would be eagerly accepted and treasured.
(I wonder if there’s some level of truth to this; in less geek-friendly days, it’s true that a lot of SF and fantasy was championed by fandom regardless of its quality under the belief that, if it failed, it would lessen the chances that there would be more genre projects, hopefully better, in the future.)
These days, however, the idea of making cheap fanboy jokes feels lazy, and worse, old-fashioned. Genre movies and television are the biggest things around, and comic book culture has overwhelmed mainstream pop culture; from Marvel’s The Avengers to The Walking Dead to Doctor Who, Star Wars and Star Trek, everyone is a fanboy of sorts now, to some degree. Complaining that you wanted something more out of a movie called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is, in itself, a fanboyish impulse; it’s called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunter, after all. How good could it actually be? Saying “Well, maybe the fanboys will like it” as dismissal feels like some weird example of projection more than anything else.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t still fans of particular things that seem inexplicable to others, finding favor in that which just confuses and appalls everyone else (Exhibit A), but that’s the case in every culture, genre or otherwise, isn’t it? There are fans – boys and girls – of everything whose devotion to their favorites seems a thing of wonder and confusion to everyone else… which is the other reason why “fanboy” jokes rub me up the wrong way: Isn’t there something kind of great about having such love for something that it allows you to love it despite its flaws?
Perhaps it’s just me, but I find myself increasingly envious of that level of excitement and adoration for a show or movie, comic or whatever. Instead of making jokes about it, it’d be nice to celebrate it and admit that, just maybe, we’d all be a little bit happier if we had something to be as excitedly fannish about ourselves. Hardcore fanboys: On behalf of all the cynics out here, I’m sorry for the weird and occasionally bullish teasing. When it gets down to it, it’s possible that we’re just a bit jealous, really.