I like chocolate milk, my brother does not. We both, however, like milk.
You’re probably reading this because you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, or maybe someone linked it to you — because, like me, you’re part of a rather prestigious club of like-minded nerds. Because you belong to the fandom. That all-encompassing group of Warhammer enthusiasts that participate in the hobby in some capacity. You might have been playing the tabletop wargame for its long and illustrious history, just picked up the recent video game, or burn through the many (many!) excellent novels that are produced on the topic. The constituent parts of the fanbase are as varied as the stories within the setting itself, and participating in any of these segments makes you an equal-share partner in the club. We’re going to move forward in the assumption that any level of participation in the Warhammer community earns you a say in its matters – no room for gatekeeping in this discussion, yet. Let’s just look at the fanbase as a whole as equals.
Mention Rian Johnson around a Star Wars fan, or discuss Game of Throne’s apparent deviation from A Song of Ice and Fire in the closing seasons of the series. Does that make you wince and brace for a verbal assault at the very thought of doing it? These fanbases have notoriously toxic elements online. And while we are all (hopefully) aware that this is just a vocal minority, their negative impact on the perception of the film or show is extraordinary. Star Wars fans are [insert adjective here]. Game of Thrones fans are [insert equally inflammatory adjective here]. This is the parlance of our days — fans are boiled down to the actions of the visible and vocal element, which are all apparently terrible, and there’s nothing more to do about it. What are Warhammer fans?
When the big announcement came from Games Workshop yesterday regarding the imminent production of an Eisenhorn television series, I was simultaneously ecstatic and anxious. A Warhammer 40,000 series was always something people wanted, perhaps on a premium cable or streaming service to do it the justice it so deserved, many often insisting it get the “Game of Thrones treatment.” This irony in this particular discussion is not lost on me. I was hesitant when considering Eisenhorn, of course, because of the aforementioned minority toxic elements of every fanbase in existence. The Warhammer community, while amazing, still has a significant number of absolutely hell-bent people who make it their life’s work to broadcast their misery to the world at every turn.
Can someone not like how a show is handled and still be a die hard fan of the source material? Of course they can; I’m sure you all have something you don’t like about Warhammer, but enjoy it regardless, I know I do. But never allow that dissatisfaction to turn into a crusade against those that do like those aspects of it. I read the A Song of Ice and Fire books. I grew up in a pre-prequel, Holiday Special Star Wars era. I’ve been there since the beginning, and never once did I gloat about being a superfan to those that jumped on board in 1999. Because everyone has their reasons to like something, and I’ll be damned if I feel it necessary to determine if that appreciation is “lesser-than” what I once held.
I lamented at the highly polarizing Rose Tico outrage which caused the actress to delete her social media accounts, because there was no justifiable reason to believe this damaged Star Wars canon in any way besides having a personal opinion on liking a character. It wasn’t even a misinterpretation of the source material, there was no source material to mess up, people just didn’t like it because its not what they envisioned it should have been.
And this is the danger.
Eisenhorn is perhaps the most beloved series in the Warhammer 40,000 setting. You can ask any member of the community and they’ll all have different reasons why they like it — and they’ll cite this series as one of the best, among a select list of other highly esteemed publications. It was written by Dan Abnett, who is responsible for Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men, and several instrumental Horus Heresy novels. To say that this series has a built in fanbase-within-a-fanbase is an understatement. And, because of this, people will be upset about the adaption. There’s no getting around it.
And here’s the thing. We can’t be one of those communities that is fueled by hatred. We can’t start throwing pejoratives around and stamping our feet just because it isn’t our vision of what we thought it should be. “That’s not how [character X] would behave!” “This isn’t at all what it looked like in my [entirely subjective interpretation of a work enjoyed by perhaps millions]!” The worst part is that it’s already happening, to varying degrees, and we’ve just seen a few paragraphs from a press release. I skim through the myriad facebook posts and read comments like,
“SJW’d… Sucks how instead of being excited we have to think ‘how will they piss on the thing we love now,’ fantasy is about escapism. Not political propaganda.”
“I had the same experience with Transformers..was excited then I saw Michael Bay at the helm.. final result? 5 films of absolute robo-piss”
Both comments illustrate my point in saying that our own perceptions of what it should be are viewed through rose-colored glasses. I’ll use the Transformers example, as the former argument using “SJW” as an argument is beyond untenable. The Michael Bay film adaptions of Transformers are awful, yes, I agree. But the Transformer passion, which I can only assume was stoked by 80’s and 90’s era cartoons, action figures, and lunchboxes, is a product of our childhood. We latched on to it in our youth, and developed a complex love for the material as we outgrew its target audience (and there is nothing wrong with that!). Now, show these Michel Bay explode-o-rama spectacles to an 8-year-old boy today and he’ll shit his pants in pure excitement, and praise them for being the Citizen Kane of his generation, as any 8-year-old boy should! One of these fans thoroughly enjoys the film, and one does not. Who has the more valid opinion? If your argument involves the length of time someone has been a fan, you need a better argument. They’re both appropriate responses, and none invalidate the other.
We cannot hold a globally recognized brand (be it Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Transformers, Games Workshop) under the scrutiny of our singular perception of what we ourselves want. We can’t be that selfish to assume our own disappointment is exactly the same reaction everyone else is having, nor is it more valid than any other opinions on the matter. Even finding a cluster of vocal naysayers online doesn’t justify it. You just happened to find a few people that think the same thing in a massive sea of others who just haven’t spoken up. Have an opinion, be outraged at specific aspects of things — but never to the detriment of others who have differing opinions.
To the community, I challenge you to be good fans. I know you all are, deep down, even “SJW Ruins Everything Guy.” Continue to comment on why you don’t like stuff, there’s nothing wrong with that, just use facts to back up your opinion and always remember that it’s your opinion. People with different opinions aren’t the enemy. It isn’t an “us versus them” struggle every time you make a post. There is no line in the sand.
They’re part of the exact same fanbase as you, they just don’t like chocolate milk.