An Editorial by Ethan Dunlap
Trigger Warning: Mentions of rape.
Picture this scenario: It is the height of the summer movie season, in any given year in recent memory. A blockbuster, based on a highly popular and beloved cartoon / comic book / video game (most likely from the late 1980’s or early 1990’s), has just been released. Directed by a largely disliked gun-for-hire director (we will call him “Michael Bay” for the sake of this hypothetical scenario), the movie was released to exceptionally high box office fare, but middling-to-scathing reviews. Taking to the internet, hordes of entitled fans, feeling personally betrayed by this less-than-stellar piece of cinema, proceed to unleash a mass verbal beat-down on the film, even going so far as to say it “raped my childhood”.
If this completely hypothetical scenario seems even remotely familiar to you, then congratulations, you have had internet access for the past few years. I would say it seems like an annual event, but that implies that this reaction is only seen once a year, when in fact it is seen almost year-round, like clockwork. An adaptation of some beloved nostalgic property comes out, it turns out to be terrible, cue the “raped my childhood” sentiments.
I understand the disappointment, I really do. I was born in the 90s, and practically raised on cartoons and comic books; I understand the immense letdown one feels when something I loved as a child is adapted into a mediocre Roland Emmerich clone like Dragonball: Evolution, Michael Bay’s Transformers quadrilogy, and this week’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. But can we all collectively stop pretending that the mere existence of these movies somehow destroyed the sanctity of our childhoods? And furthermore, could we stop equating that to the sexual assault of said childhoods?
There’s a disturbing trend prevalent on the internet to equate any mundane issue (such as, off the top of my head, disappointing movies) to rape. “This movie raped my childhood” is almost guaranteed to show up in the comments of any discussion about such recent adaptations as the ones I listed above, and much, much more. Normally I don’t mind the use of hyperbole to illustrate frustration, something which I myself have partaken in many times before, and likely will many times in the future. But equating it to rape is simply too far. Rape is an incredibly sensitive topic; in my personal opinion, it is among the worst atrocities human beings can possibly inflict on one another, and I’ve been hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t share that sentiment. Victims of sexual assault suffer from grueling psychological trauma after going through such a heinous act, trauma that they will likely never get over for the rest of their life. In some cases, the mere mention of rape (be it in an actual discussion on sexual assault, the casual dropping of the word, or even through hearing/reading a rape joke) can trigger post-traumatic stress in the victim. To trivialize something as deplorable and psychologically damaging as rape by comparing it to a disappointing movie adaptation is not only incredibly insensitive, but it’s also unbelievably childish.
Furthermore, even if we were to ignore the rather disgusting trivialization of rape, the entire concept that one of these films ruined your childhood makes absolutely no sense. Take Dragonball: Evolution, for example; a movie that, without a single shred of doubt, is one of the most trite exercises in blockbuster filmmaking that I have ever seen. Dragon Ball and Dragonball Z were two of my absolute favorite shows when I was growing up; they (along with Yu Yu Hakashu, Lupin III, and Rurouni Kenshin) were my introductions to anime, and an enormous early inspiration for my art style. When a live action movie adaptation was announced, I went in hoping for nothing more than a fun 90 minutes of Goku being hilarious, Roshi being additionally hilarious, and hopefully a climax which involved screaming blond men punching face with other screaming blond men whilst preferably not wearing shirts. Instead, I was treated (and I use that term as loosely as humanly possible) to 90 minutes of excruciating boredom and visuals that could only be described as “eye feces”.
But, despite how insufferable that viewing experience was, I never thought any aspect of my childhood was ruined. The memories I had of Saturday nights in my bedroom, watching DBZ on Toonami and reenacting the fight scenes with my action figures and trying to color my hair with a yellow highlighter so I could be a Super Saiyan, were still there; the entire original series that I loved was readily available on home media, and no matter how trite the movie was, it did not take that show or those memories away from me. The same goes for the recent TMNT; it was by all means a mediocre blockbuster without half the heart or endearment of any of the three cartoons or 90s movie trilogy (yes, I am including the third movie in there, because that piece of shit is hilarious), but I never felt robbed, or my memories of the TMNT cartoons sullied, by this movie’s existence.
I believe that a large part of this mindset comes from a sense of entitlement that we, as fans, have. “This was my childhood, dammit,” the furious fanboy screeched as he raised a fist to the computer monitor, “And I am owed a good movie!” However, we have to come to the collective realization that, contrary to what we believe, Hollywood does not owe us shit. These movies may be based on properties that we grew up with, but do not think for a second that they are making them for us; they are making them for themselves, to make more money. It is a tired statement, but a universally true one at that. Filmmaking, while mostly an art form, is also a business, and directors like Michael Bay simply do not give a damn about making the fans happy, and more than likely do not give a damn about the properties they are adapting; their entire priority is to make dumb, loud movies that will make inhuman earnings on their opening weekend, which general audiences will proceed to forget about in a month’s time. They should make a good movie, yes; that is common sense. But they do not owe us a good movie.
Adaptations, no matter how unfaithful or insulting, will never ruin our childhoods. Our childhoods are still there, they happened, and they are stored securely in the safe confines of our memory until the day we die (unless you are a soap opera character that recently got amnesia, in which case I offer my deepest condolences). These movies do exist, and I may not like them, but instead I simply push them off to the side and ignore them, where they cannot touch the originals that I loved.