You have to respect directors that, after being on the receiving end of an epic cascade of online abuse, continue to be nothing but charitable and understanding of audiences that, at the end of the day, they still hope to win over to their way of thinking. That’s optimism, that’s perseverance, and that’s also a recipe for talking around how damaging toxic fans really are.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout’s Christopher McQuarrie had strong words for the nastier sides of fandom, though he didn't go so far as to burn bridges. In an interview with Collider, the director (after swearing off Star Wars thanks to the problematic section of the fanbase) explained that he understood where these fans were coming from.
“A movie like Star Wars or movies like Marvel where you’re dealing with comic books, this is stuff that’s coming from their childhood,” McQuarrie said. “It’s the same thing as campfire stories, and in some cases it’s the very fabric of their growing up. It’s something of which they’re hugely protective.”
This protective impulse leads to strict expectations and, accordingly, lesser filmmaking. Movies that hold your hand. “What I did in The Way of the Gun was I was asking you to figure it out instead of telling you what I wanted you to feel,” said McQuarrie. “Mass audiences—I’m not saying everybody, but mass audiences tend to reject that sort of thing. It’s very upsetting [to them]. They’ve come to be entertained and they find themselves doing the work, and you confront that sort of thing at your peril.”
With movies like this, movies where they walk you through everything step-by-step to a foregone conclusion built by a demanding, complaining audience, there’s no room for artistry. If fans rightly complain about films built by committee, as many blockbusters are, then this is the biggest committee to avoid.
So when McQuarrie cuts to the core of the problem, which is that “the reactions are pretty extreme,” he finds that after engaging with some of these fans, “what they were not able to separate was their being upset from their choice of how they were expressing it.” The director understands people not liking a movie. That’s fine. No movie is perfect. But how they’re expressing this discontent - months of targeted harassment towards directors and actresses (not actors, curiously enough) - is the real issue.
“People are so busy defending their point of view that they’re not really looking at the way they are defending it,” McQuarrie gently puts it. But really, toxic fans aren't doing anyone any favors, and the franchises they love so dearly will only suffer.