By Kahini Iyer Mar. 22, 2021
United by passion, fandoms are so often the real reason we become fans of anything. Besides the mutual appreciation of a book, film, band, or team, there is the satisfaction of coming together to grieve and celebrate, argue and laugh, form connections and hold post-mortems. But like many things, the pandemic has taken the joy out of fandom.
The internet has been abuzz over the long-awaited release of “The Snyder Cut”, director Zack Snyder’s four-hour long version of 2017’s Justice League. Bringing together popular heroes like Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman, and the Flash in an attempt to create the DC Comics mega-franchise’s ultimate blockbuster, the film was an incredibly costly box-office flop. Despite an eye-watering layout of $300 million on its production — or perhaps because of it, as the ambitious project kept ballooning out of control — Justice League seemed destined for failure.
It’s the stuff movies legends are made of: Development started in 2007 and was constantly delayed; Superman actor Henry Cavill had a contractually obligated moustache for another film, and it had to be digitally removed; and Snyder was changed halfway through the project when his daughter tragically died. Worried about Snyder, whose previous effort Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) was widely panned, the studio had brought on Joss Whedon, who then took over the Justice League edit. Snyder claims only a quarter of what he shot was used in the final, disastrous release.
So for fans of Snyder and the DC Extended Universe, the “real” version of Justice League is a drop they have been looking forward to for years. Movie forums are buzzing, theories are being picked to threads, and already, the glowing reviews of the Scorsese-length extravaganza have vindicated Snyder. This is a serious moment for the comic book nerds — and yet, it is bittersweet. The Snyder Cut deserved all the excitement of a big premiere, the cosplaying diehards, and the electric, popcorn-scented energy of packed theatres. Instead, most fans are stuck at home, lying on their couches and scrolling listlessly through a remote watch party on Twitter or Reddit discussions.
Even if you don’t give a damn about the Snyder Cut, this sorry state will be familiar to anyone who is part of a fandom. This year, cricket fans have been blessed with a host of matches that will go down in history, from India’s stunning Test victory over Australia at the Gabba, to the nail-biting double super-over between Mumbai Indians and King’s XI Punjab in the IPL. Sure, it’s more than can be said for English Premier League aficionados who, due to COVID-19, hardly got a football season at all. But how enjoyable is it to watch even these iconic moments play out on the TV screen, without anyone to share in the adventure?
Even if you don’t give a damn about the Snyder Cut, this sorry state will be familiar to anyone who is part of a fandom.
For the past year, fans have been deprived of getting together in bars to take bets on the outcomes of sports matches and cry foul over bad umpiring. Although most of us have spent hours in lockdown voraciously watching new series and movie releases on streaming platforms, we have not been able to step inside cinemas, while the thrill of watching a hotly anticipated season finale with friends has been reduced to a couple of texts on the WhatsApp group. Music lovers have seen festival dates cancelled and concerts going digital — as if staring at an Instagram live could ever match up to the joy of dancing and jamming with other devotees.
United by passion, interest, and a shared language, fandoms are so often the real reason we become fans of anything. Besides the mutual appreciation of a book, film, band, or team, there is the satisfaction of coming together to grieve and celebrate, argue and laugh, form connections and hold post-mortems. Half the fun of being a fan is in the hype of planning get-togethers, and eagerly waiting for a new drop with hundreds of other people. As all fans know, we get to broaden our perspectives and go deeper into the worlds we have chosen, thanks to the fellow travellers who accompany us along the way.
And so, even though I’m more of a MCU fan, I have to mourn for the Snyder enthusiasts among us, whose big moment finally arrived, only to be dampened by the lockdown restrictions. I would probably have joined them in theatres, curious to see what the Snyder Cut has to offer, not wanting to miss out on a Justice League movie that has finally been done, well, justice. But the prospect of sitting in my room alone and watching Ben Affleck growl for four hours two minutes is far less inviting.
COVID-19 has shrunk down our fandoms until only the most zealous followers remain, going through an experience that was never meant to be solitary. Still, I don’t despair. Fans are by nature resilient creatures, who will protest TV networks against cancellations, create their own endings for unfinished books, crowdfund the movies they want to see, and assemble faster than the Avengers to defend the artists they stan. Get ready for week-long festivals, mammoth premiere parties, the raucous street parades of sports fans, and a Comic-Con that will go down in legend and song — because the fans will surely rise again and return to the fandom fold.
Kahini spends an embarrassing amount of time eating Chinese food and watching Netflix. For proof that she is living her #bestlife, follow her on Instagram @kahinii.