Weekend Superhero: January 21, 2017 – The Problem of Press and Superheroes

Weekend Superhero: January 21, 2017

Last week, I saw a few headlines about Ben Affleck that caught my eye. Whilst promoting his new directorial effort Live by Night, Affleck apparently became increasingly frustrated by reporters consistently breaking off conversation about the film to talk about Batman. In certain reports, it was even speculated that Affleck is considering abandoning the idea of directing his own Batman movie due to the pressure enforced by press and fans alike. Does Affleck have a legitimate gripe here, or is he being a brat?

Let’s first take a look at this from Affleck’s perspective. Here he is trying to promote a film adaptation that he’s probably spent a total of two years writing and directing, and conversations keep turning to a movie that is still not guaranteed to exist. The only confirmation that there will be a solo Batman movie directed by Affleck is the overwhelming fan demand for such a thing to coalesce. There is no script as of yet (though with DC movies, I wonder if they ever have a finished script), and Affleck doesn’t seem passionate about committing to one.

If I were in Affleck’s shoes, I don’t think I would behave much differently. For Affleck, Batman was another role, another job. Perhaps he did love doing it, but being Batman is not his entire life. He has other works that are probably much more personal to him, and to have professional journalists disregard those works to his face so they can talk about Batman must be infuriating.

Of course, the press is only doing their job. Unfortunate as it is to say, a killer interview about Live by Night will probably garner significantly less traffic than a single throwaway comment about Justice League. The press is just giving their audience what they want. In a field that is struggling to survive thanks to self-appointed gurus on YouTube, journalists have to do what they can to stay relevant. Logically, this means asking the questions about the movies that are going to make over a billion dollars.

However, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating for the artists themselves. I recall something similar happening to Jason Momoa when he was making the rounds promoting his show “The Red Road”. It was a series Momoa was very passionate about and spent a lot of time helping bring to light, but during the press tour the journalists only wanted to ask about Aquaman. Keep in mind, at the time of “The Red Road’s” press circuit, Momoa had only been recently announced as Aquaman. I’m pretty certain we hadn’t even seen a still image of him in character. When an artist pours their heart into an original project that they really care about, but then are bombarded by questions about a role in a movie that doesn’t even exist yet, how could you fault them for getting irritated?

It’s very easy for us as an audience to balk at actors when they display this type of behavior. “Just be quiet and entertain us, you delicate snowflake”, we might shout at our computer screens, our cheeto-dusted fingers hammering away angry comments. But that’s because the vast majority of us, myself included, don’t know what it’s like to create. We sit safely in our homes and pass judgment on others who were bold enough to make something of their own. If Ben Affleck wants to talk about his passion project, we should not only let him, but encourage him. We’ve become so ferocious of a fan base that journalists have to cater to the demand, rather than shape their articles to the supply. This may work in economics, but in the arts it’s a severe detriment. If we just keep meeting the demand, our art will cease to be daring and bold. It’s art’s job to point our culture in a new direction; not the culture’s job to point art in the same one.

I absolutely understand why any actor would grow weary of hearing the same questions about the same role over and over again, especially when they’re trying to do other things. But I also understand why the press is asking those questions in the first place; to meet the frothing demands of an insatiable audience.  Which side do you fall on? Please let us know in the comments section.

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About the author

Nick DeNitto

Nick DeNitto graduated with Honors from Adelphi University. He began writing movie reviews in middle school and has worked tirelessly to mold his own unique critical voice. He is currently affiliated with the National Board of Review and hopes that one day he is remembered as “The People’s Film Critic.”

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