Welcome to SYFY WIRE's Year in Review, a series of articles that will look to catalog the best, worst, and weirdest cultural and entertainment moments of 2019 as we look toward the future. Today, we analyze what fans were most collectively mad about in 2019!
While there were plenty of kerfuffles this year in the geek world — it wouldn't be fandom if someone wasn't starting something somewhere — there were some fights that were louder and more raucous than others. They lit up Twitter, Reddit, comment sections, and anywhere else fans could debate in public, and we're pretty confident they took up a whole lot of space on text threads as well.
Rather than making this an insanely long list, we're gonna do deep dives into four enormous fights that wracked the internet in 2019. These span the year and levels of ferocity, but all come down to one simple fact: Fans were, as always, mad.
Sonic the Hedgehog’s initial live-action design…
You might not remember that this happened in 2019. Honestly, I forgot. In my mind, the live-action Sonic drama happened like two years ago. But I'm here to remind you that it happened this spring.
Here's what went down. When the first-look trailer for Paramount's upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie premiered, fans got an eyeful of Sonic's 'realistic' likeness. That realism verged heavily into the Uncanny Valley, though, and inspired memes — so many memes.
Of course, everyone was comparing Sonic (voiced by Parks and Recreation vet Ben Schwartz) to the Pokémon in Pokémon Detective Pikachu, which had gotten its first trailer late in 2018 and been lauded for its beautifully rendered creatures. Whereas folks immediately fell for Pikachu and his friends, those same people went all-in on Sonic.
In large part, the critiques were warranted. The character, so iconic in so many fans' minds, has always had a very particular look; this live-action version looked nothing like the Sonic fans had grown to love over time. Perhaps because the character did look so wonky and because the complaints were rather deserved, the creators actually did something.
Unlike the other controversies on this list, fans' complaints actually… had an effect.
Not that long after the trailer premiered and the internet had torn it to shreds, director Jeff Fowler tweeted that he and the other creatives and executives behind the film wanted to get Sonic right. So Sonic the Hedgehog’s premiere was pushed back to 2020 and the film underwent extensive redesigns.
Fast-forward to November and Sonic the Hedgehog got a new trailer to show off the redesigned titular hero. And you know what? It worked! Sonic looked like Sonic — or, at least, much more like how people imagined Sonic would look.
The next day, Sonic Mania Adventures director Tyson Hesse popped his head up and outed himself as the man behind the character’s redesign. He was praised by fans and heralded as the film’s savior.
Some fans have since taken Paramount’s redesign as a sign that complaining online will get production companies to bend to their wills. Let’s be clear: That’s very much not a thing. I don’t want anyone to get their hopes up.
Sure, sometimes a company will swoop in to save a show another company canceled and sometimes Sonic gets non-creepy legs — but, more often than not, no amount of complaining will ever change something fans don’t agree with.
Game of Thrones Season 8…
So, I don’t know if you heard, but Game of Thrones ended this year. Sorry if I’m the first one to break the news.
The good news, though, is that everyone was really happy with how it ended!
(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)
Obviously, fans weren’t just mad — they were pissed over how Game of Thrones ended. If you somehow escaped the discourse online, you likely still heard all about it from your friend or your grandma or your roommate’s ex via their Instagram story. Which is to say that the Game of Thrones finale was all anyone could talk about for what seemed like a very long time this year.
People are still talking about it! People are so mad! All you have to do is go search "Game of Thrones" on Twitter and you’ll see that people are very much still mad.
What, exactly, were they mad about? It’s sometimes hard to discern but the main points seemed to be: Daenerys’ fall from savior to Mad Queen and, specifically, a Mad Queen who would wreak havoc on King’s Landing to achieve her goals was seen as a betrayal by many; her death at Jon Snow’s hands was bulls**t; King Bran was bulls**t; the final battle against the Night King was bulls**t...
There were few things people were happy about, to be honest. Arya going off on her own adventure? Pretty cool. Sansa, Queen in the North? Also cool.
Series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss didn’t much help their case, throwing some salt in fans’ wounds.
When Benioff and Weiss made an appearance at the Austin Film Festival to talk about writing and producing Game of Thrones, things were said. A Twitter thread recounting partial quotes from the pair was, for a time, the only source the internet had to go off of. So everyone laid into them. It later came out that they were being far more facetious than serious, but the damage had been done, and the bottled-up rage had been released.
It boiled down to this: There's long been a debate surrounding exactly how qualified Benioff and Weiss were for the job of adapting the series in the first place. Many have accused them of not acknowledging their privilege as straight white men in a space that, historically, rewards straight white men by allowing them to "fail upward" — meaning, they either fail at their jobs or do so-so work and still manage to be promoted and praised.
Whether or not you agree with that is your business, I just know that everyone’s gonna be mad no matter what.
Martin Scorsese vs. the MCU…
In terms of neverending sagas in 2019 — a year packed with endings, beginnings, and seemingly endless headaches — the ultimate neverending saga was the one Martin Scorsese set off in October.
Leading up to the premiere of his Netflix movie The Irishman, the auteur filmmaker gave an interview to Empire magazine. Naturally, he was asked his thoughts on… the Marvel Cinematic Universe and superhero movies in general.
Here’s what he said:
I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.
Now, if you somehow escaped the resulting madness 1) I commend you and 2) the internet’s collective reaction upon this quote’s publishing was one of the weirdest, most horrifyingly fascinating things I’ve seen in a while.
Suddenly, everyone cared about whether or not a superhero movie could be considered “cinema.” What even is "cinema"?Who gets to define that? Is there one specific way to define it? Of course not! But that didn’t stop people from trying.
Plenty of outlets and journalists stoked the fire by asking other notable directors and creators — time and time again — whether or not they agreed with Scorsese. Many were happy to provide the answer and folks subsequently lost their minds each time.
Francis Ford Coppola agreed that Marvel movies aren’t cinema, going so far as to say, “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.” And Ken Loach said Marvel movies are “made as commodities like hamburgers.” David Cronenberg called MCU movies “boring,” Terry Gilliam had previously deemed them “bulls**t,” and Pedro Almodóvar has said he doesn’t think they’re “sexy enough.”
I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
In November, Scorsese penned an op-ed that ignited the flames once again — not long before everyone settled down for, hopefully, the final time.
One day, this controversy may return to haunt me. Until then, it will simply live on in my nightmares.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (still)...
There's something else that lives on in my nightmares… Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night, screaming, thinking of the Discourse that continues to this day.
In the eternal words of Luke Skywalker, no one's ever really gone — and neither is the Discourse around Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
You likely already know all of the arguments surrounding The Last Jedi. Those arguments will certainly rear their heads again once the world gets a gander at Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Even before the film’s premiere, The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams and Last Jedi director Rian Johnson were indirectly butting heads by way of media drama.
Abrams said Star Wars fans want their questions answered, not left up to interpretation, a statement many took as Abrams talking down to Johnson’s work. Which, fair. Different Star Wars fans have different opinions — and that’s okay! If you disliked The Last Jedi for some reasons, that’s cool. If you disliked The Last Jedi for other reasons (read: sexism, racism) or spend your time online bullying actors, creators, and people who like The Last Jedi, that’s not cool.
The Last Jedi discourse made this list of 2019 gripes because it, without a doubt, severed the Star Wars fandom. Even though it premiered in theaters in 2017, the glut of new Star Wars content in 2019 — The Mandalorian and all the Star Wars movies and shows now available on Disney+; the new comics and books; Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opening; The Rise of Skywalker — definitely reopened old wounds.
Or, I guess, those wounds never really closed in the first place. The Star Wars fandom will always be a passionate one. So many fans see the movies as part of their identities, which often leads to hurt feelings.
Hopefully, 2020 will be a more peaceful time for Star Wars.
I mean… I don’t have high hopes that’ll be the reality… but a girl can dream.