Fan Cultures Die Under "Read Only" Restrictions, Live Under "Read/Write" Permissions

I saw this article recently, in my Facebook feed, "Warner Brothers Gives their Blessing to Fan Film telling Voldemort Origin Story."  If you are familiar with fan films, you probably know that this isn't typical behavior for a film company.  For instance, in 2015, Axanar Productions started crowd funding to make in independent Star Trek film, using professional actors and quality special effects. That December, Paramount and CBS launched a lawsuit against the company stating that their production was in infringement on their property rights, namely the settings, characters, species, and themes connected to Star Trek.

George Lucas is another example. He had become so enamored with the newfound powers of CGI that he spent a decade adding ridiculous characters and scenes to his original film. He basically transformed it from space-drama to space-camp. All fan request for a re-release of the original 1977 version have all been refused. According to Lucas, 
The special edition, that's the one I wanted out there. The other movie, it's on VHS, if anybody wants it. . . to me, it doesn't exist anymore. 
The result of Lucas's refusal, a bootleg copy of the original, "The Despecialized Edition" meticulously refurbished by devoted fans and distributed underground.

What Warner Brothers is seeming to get right, and Paramount, CBS, and Lucas get wrong is that Fandom is language, and a culture with a shared mythology. And for a culture to be truly viable, it has to have a "Read/Write" language. A "Read Only" language is Dead. Those who know it cannot create new culture, they can only consume -  like zombies.

Property owners of things like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Trek are constantly farming their fans for profit - but in most cases they seem oblivious to what is actually sustaining the fandom that they profit off of. The very laws that they think are protecting their "artistic integrity" or their "property rights" only force fans to meet their cultural needs underground. If they ever could really squash this self-expression - they'd be killing their own food supply.

Now I'd like to point out the relevance this has for the church.  Because I think this is the same reason why its attendance has been dwindling. In many ways the creation of a professional ministry class has made Christianity a "Read Only" culture. Causing the members of Christ's body to become an audience of spectators, instead of a community of active participants. It has also stymied the expansion of the church - as an inactive laity sees Evangelism as work for professionals.

People in "Read Only" church environments can only be kept by spectacular preaching and spectacular programs. They only come to church to consume, and they go home completely impotent to serve Christ in the world.

The church was designed for each person to participate according to their gifts, a "Read/Write" culture.  In such a church people find their place in community as they learn to serve according to their gifts. They are not just consumers of religion. And when everyone is using their gifts - the whole church is empowered to serve the community. A church like that would not dwindle, it would thrive.

We could learn a lot about nourishing Christian culture from Fandom.  I hope we can look beyond the obvious differences and recognize the dynamics at play.  I welcome your thoughts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've always been of the mindset of "Do your fan fics/art/films all you want, but no smut, don't portray characters Out-Of-Character, no crack or OOC pairings, stay true to the source material, don't profit off it, and give full credit where it's due (especially to the IP owner)." Follow those simple guidelines and you're good to go.

Too bad so many fan fic writers have ruined that for the rest of us with their slash fiction and OOC smut stories since it started with 1960's Star Trek slash fiction of Kirk and Spock giving all fan fiction a bad reputation... **facepalms** That SO does not help studio/author attitudes towards fan works at all... Just look at Robin Hobb's vehement hate rant of fan derivative works (let alone CBS's attitude) and you'll see what I mean.