By Kahini Iyer May. 21, 2019
We’ve come to see petitions as a way to be loud when we’re tired of Twitter. From disgruntled fans demanding Game of Thrones’ final season be remade and Robert Pattison be recast as Batman, to actual do-gooders trying to save the environment, the online petition is the new outdoor rally.
Game of Thrones has finally happened, and it may as well be considered a demise. After eight seasons of political intrigue, twisted romance, and shocking character deaths, the first five of which were adapted from George RR Martin’s incomplete fantasy masterpiece, the HBO series has come to a screeching halt.
The final season wrapped up on Sunday, and is already set to go down in history as one of the worst crash-and-burn endings for a beloved show. Understandably, fans were furious — so much so that a guy called Dylan D created a Change.org petition demanding to remake Season 8 with “competent writers”. The petition is on track to bring in 1.5 million signatures — a decent proportion of the 19 million-odd people all over the world who tuned into the final episode.
To put things into perspective, another top trending petition, a five-state policy to make air pollution a top priority, written by a Delhiite who felt choked by the city smog, has just over one lakh signatures. The population of Delhi is estimated at 18.6 million.
Despite the massive disparity in support for each of them, both petitions might be equally ineffective. The chances of Delhi cleaning up its act and of HBO investing further millions into a better finale are both pretty slim. Even Dylan admits that he didn’t really expect anything to come of his petition, but he wanted to send a message to the creators.
Is this how we’ve come to see petitions — as a way to be loud when we’re tired of Twitter? On Change.org’s list of the most popular petitions in India, few issues have garnered more than one or two lakh signatures. Issues like female genital mutilation, landfill in the Yamuna, and giving fathers paternity leave are, according to the numbers, nowhere near as pressing as telling Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and DB Weiss where to shove it. Americans on social media called out the signatories for caring more about a fictional show than the ongoing spate of attacks on abortion rights in several states.
GoT fans seem to have been triggered from the beginning of Season 8 and have complained that the writers have lost the plot completely, sacrificing years of careful development willy-nilly. And that now-infamous disposable coffee cup definitely stirred more interest in Indian millennials than the elections.
Not to be left out are rabid DC fans, who have started their own Change.org petitions against casting English actor Robert Pattinson as the new Batman, in a film slated for a 2021 release. One states, “There’s no way Robert Pattinson should play Batman… This would be the worst casting ever for the dark knight [sic].” The other simply insists, “The problem is self-explanatory.”
And the problem is also crushingly First World. The fact that some people don’t like Pattinson because he is the Twilight guy (even though his oeuvre has since expanded to include a host of critically acclaimed indie performances) is, according to them, just as worthy of attention as climate change and poverty. Together, these petitions against Pattinson have racked up over a thousand signatories — an impressive amount of hate for a movie that is yet to be made, and half as many as this petition urging Amazon and Flipkart to use waste-free packaging.
Together, these petitions against Pattinson have racked up over a thousand signatories — an impressive amount of hate for a movie that is yet to be made, and half as many as this petition urging Amazon and Flipkart to use waste-free packaging.
But, as with the all-women remake of Ghostbusters and the casting of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, it’s clear that diehard fans don’t need much provocation to engage in online activism.
Said one indignant commenter, “Supported DC through the ups and extreme downs. This is a step too far.” “This will ruin my childhood and my dreams,” cried another, who clearly hasn’t seen this innuendo-laden performance from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
The truth is, if the overstuffed, underlit atrocities of Batman vs Superman wasn’t enough to ruin DC forever, it’s highly unlikely that poor Robert Pattinson, the tenth in a long line of silver screen Batmen, wields that kind of power. But petitions do have the power to affect real change — at least, when they aren’t being hijacked by fans and their First World problems. Petition sites like Change.org and Avaaz have used the weight of signatures to pressure governments and international organisations, and often to bolster court cases.
Even satirical petitions make more of an impact than the whining of disgruntled fans, whose stakes exist only in a fictional universe. It’s enough to make you yearn for the good old days, when this kind of thing was restricted to Reddit threads and Facebook statuses, when petitions were meant to have a purpose — and when Game of Thrones was actually good.
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.