Is The Justice League Snyder Cut Release A Win For Toxic Fans, Art, Or Both?
There is little question that the release of the Snyder cut of Justice League on HBO Max gives DC fans a superior version of the film. Yet, an argument can be made that they don’t deserve one. At least, a specific subset of fans who took their passionate support of Zack Snyder’s vision for the DC Extended Universe to a harmful and hateful place. This is, of course, not a phenomenon unique to the Snyderverse. For example, the toxic fandom of YouTube creators focused on Star Wars became a very successful business model. Whether it’s an outrage grift or a by-product of social media, it is apparently very easy to take a thing people are supposed to love and turn it into a source of division, cruelty, and anguish.
Yet, in the quest to get this film officially released, the larger #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement arguably ignored the toxic voices in their chorus. It makes a cold, practical sense, the kind Ben Affleck’s Batman would appreciate. In order to convince the studio that releasing this film was worth the investment, they needed every number added to their total they could get. It’s just that a few thousand of those voices also would wish death on folks who didn’t like Snyder’s other DC films. So, the argument goes, releasing this film emboldens the worst in entitled fans. It doesn’t matter what you say, just so long as enough people say it. In not actively condemning the toxic fans in their movement, the non-toxic fans tacitly condoned their behavior.
When Warner Bros. decided to release the Snyder Cut of Justice League, the toxicity didn’t go away. If anything, those fans felt emboldened. However, with the debut a certainty, others in the movement finally started to speak up about it. Was it enough?
Why the Justice League Snyder Cut Release Is Personal for the Director
Image via Warner Bros.
This movie is as much about what happened off-screen as what happens in the picture. Famously, Zack Snyder won creative control of the DCEU in a desperate chase to catch Marvel Studios. He directed Man of Steel, which proved to be a controversial (but not uninteresting) take on Superman. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice followed, and it was heavily panned. A director’s cut home release delivered a more cohesive film. But this rocky road started problems for Snyder and the studio who placed their multi-billion-dollar franchise on his shoulders. Then, he and his wife Deborah lost their daughter. He left the project.
DC turned to Joss Whedon to bring home the film. The Avengers director put out a movie that looks nothing like what Snyder wanted. It made money but didn’t make anyone happy. Over the years, the director shared bits and pieces of what his version of the film would look like. Fans took it upon themselves to validate those ideas and petition the studio to let Snyder finish the film. To be clear, a significant percentage of Snyder’s fans raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity in honor of the director’s late daughter Autumn. The film is dedicated to her. So, the appreciation he feels for the fans who drove this movement is deeply felt. He would not have made this movie if not for their efforts.
However, both Zack and Deborah Snyder have offered only tepid responses to those who ask about toxic behavior. In these sorts of online communities, a few unequivocal condemnations of toxicity could go a long way. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it would help them reach a wider audience in the long-run.
Fans’ Bad Behavior Can Ruin the Audience’s Experience
Image via Warner Bros.
In fairness, neither Deborah nor Zack Snyder encourage the behavior. They are also fans of the Snyder cut, arguably its biggest. While we can almost never know what dwells in people’s hearts, it seems clear that their enthusiasm for this film is purely artistic. They think it’s dope, and they want to show it to the world. That’s the kind of enthusiasm one wants from their storytellers. The actions of people not involved with making a film shouldn’t affect the viewing experience. But they do. Ultimately, the release of the Snyder cut is a gift to fans, because it gives us much more cohesive Justice League.
It’s not the first version of that story to be put on film nor will it be the last. Since it is on HBO Max, the four-hour runtime is much more manageable than it would be in the theater. If you like superhero movies, you’ll get something out of watching this movie. Yet, it’s hard to enjoy something when your primary interactions with its most passionate fans was hateful. If you love something, whether it’s the Snyderverse or Star Wars or Rick and Morty or anything, shut down toxic fan behavior when you see it. If not, we’re not going to get quality stories in these universes. What possible motivation could a storyteller have to play in these universes when the only guarantee is that half of the fandom will eat them alive?
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is currently streaming on HBO Max.
What do you think? Did the Justice League Snyder cut release reward toxic behavior by fans? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.