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Submitted on
December 27, 2012


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This has been a subject I've been interested in for years, and one which I personally struggle with on a near constant basis: Artist's intent versus fan criticisms. Before we begin I just want to make this clear that this journal is NOT about "ignoring criticisms" or any sort of endorsement of such an action. I'm gonna be accused of it, of course, but I just wanted to get that out of the way right now.


As I've been observing fan interactions over the years I've noticed a severe increase in a sense of entitlement: IE: that if you love something enough you have a "right" to force the creators to change their content to suit your personal preferences. We saw this play out to the extremes this past summer with the Mass Effect 3 ending debacle, and we see it play out to a much lesser extent here on DA quite a bit.

Artists need feedback and criticisms to grow and improve their work, but at what point does it move beyond offering suggestions to help an artist improve to outright demanding things be changed?

As a creator I've always felt that the voice of the artist should always be considered. If someone looks at your work and wants to know why you chose to do something a certain way, you should be allowed to explain yourself without fear of being attacked or seen as being defensive. Yet I've noticed that artists who do speak about their work are often criticized for trying to censor the fans, or can't handle criticism, or that they're being too defensive. It's happened to me, but It's also happened to many of my artistic colleagues, usually with predictable and similar results.

Using Mass Effect 3's ending as an example, the fan's outrage and intensity was like nothing I've ever seen before. No matter how shitty the ending was (and believe me, it was shitty), there was no need to file a complaint with the FTC over it. Being a fan of something doesn't mean you're always gonna get what you want. Part of being a fan means you need to accept the risk that you might get a downer ending, or a bad plot twist, or a character you don't like, etc. You have every right to be disappointed or annoyed at such changes/plots/characters... but going from being disappointed to demanding companies/artists "fix" and "change" things crosses the line in my opinion.

This does not mean that fan input is not important. Fan input is very important, and fan input is one of the reasons why there have been a number of really successful comics/shows/movies recently. But there's a fine line between offering suggestions because you're a fan and want to help, and expecting the creators to follow everything you dictate because you "know better" than them.

Being a fan of something doesn't mean you own it. You can love a series, a character, a property, a movie, etc. But if the creators chose to go in a direction you don't personally enjoy, you are not "entitled" to demand change. You can suggest it, and the creators are free to listen and even accept it... but offering criticism and advice is not a contract you are signing with the creators. They are not bound to please you, however right or justified you might be.

Again, artists need feedback both positive and negative to grow and improve. However, artists also need to feel that they're allowed to take creative risks, and fans need to learn that there is a time and a place for demanding change. You can offer your criticisms and advice, but after that it's up to the artist to use advice. If they chose not to, that doesn't necessarily mean that what you had to say was invalidated or wrong, and you shouldn't become angry or upset over it. Right?


That's my take on the situation, but I'm curious to know what you all think: At what point does it cross the line from being a fan giving criticism and feedback, to a fan expecting changes because of their criticisms and feedback? Do artists have any say in the matter? How much of their original intent should be considered? Do fans have more power over a creator's work? What's your opinion on this subject, I am very eager to hear your responses.
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shareyourworldwide Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013
The ending of Mass Effect 3 is a troublesome business.
As I suspect the ending of ME 3 was strongly influenced by the company in order to keep the ME franchise running.
Very strong evidence is the fact, that you have to play the multiplayer in order to get the "perfect good" ending. As I see it, ME has such a great story, it deserves a great ending and not something to keep the fans at bay.
I agree with you, that both sides have to be considered and I wouldn't disagree with you if it is about another topic than ME. Some movies and TV-shows didn't end like I would've liked or imagined how they would've, but it didn't bother me too much and I moved on.
ME on the other hand... Too great for such an ending. Too great.
kimyona123 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I think fans definitely have more power over an artists work than fifty, no let me say ten, years ago, but the thing is: This is only the power the artist is giving them.

I'm not so much into games, but the example you mentioned with Mass Effect 3's was changed after so many people complained about the ending right? And the company did have the choice to leave it as it is or change it, which was demanded by their consumers, who they want to please with the game, since they want to make profit with it, and the result was the change.

Now, I think there is a small but certain difference between companies creating games, movies etc. and artists. An artist does not do his or her work to only please people but to express his-/herself in various ways. And since, at least most of the time, art is not solely created for the viewer (in comparison to a game, which is made to be used and played with) but for it being art itself, may it be a piece of writing, a comic or a photograph, there should be a limit on how a viewer has the right to influence this piece of art. And here I am talking about power again: As an artist one can choose to follow their audiences will, or he/she can choose to ignore it, which is their right, as well as it is the viewer's right to voice his/her opinion on someone's work. :)
Sarliene Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2013  Student Writer
Speaking your piece is fine, making demands is not. Ultimately, the decision belongs to the artist. However, I do think it is unwise to ignore the issue at hand when there are so many complaints.

Additionally, I find it interesting how many people I have heard criticizing ME3 and haven't even played the game. It makes me wonder how many outraged complaints were from people who created opinions out of second or even third hand information. Humans are weird.
Izzi1313 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2013  Hobbyist
Well i can relate to both sides.. On the one hand, as an artist, i'd hate for someone to dictate to me how to write my own stories.. I tend to write stories with sad endings, and i really don't want people complaining that they hated the way the story was concluded, because they envisioned it another way. I usually know from the beginning of my story that the ending will probably be extremely disappointing..
On the other hand, there's been some stories that had had very disappointing outcomes, that had me wishing that there was a way to get the artist to change it.. And hesitated to recommend it to friends, in case they weren't big fans of disappointing endings..

So i guess it's about moderation, the artist should keep their audiance's reaction in mind.. Remembering that when posting or publishing or whatever, the it's not only about them.. They're inviting the masses in to enjoy the story -or not- and give their opinions..
And the fans should always remember that these are pieces of art that belong to the artist, and so they have the right to the whatever the heck they want with their story\characters.. Even if they -the fans- have invested time\emotion and probably money supporting the story.. the last word should always be up to the artist.. And if they -the fans- wanted to, they could write their own stories with their own happy endings.. or support another fandom that gives them all the fluff and/or happy ending they want..
Iylish Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Also, there is a difference between peer critique and fan critique (though a fan could be a peer). If you're a prominent graphic designer working in a specific studio, the input of your co-workers might weigh-in differently than the input of relatively anonymous people on the internet.
Steeve-the-Fox Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wait, Mass Effect 3 had an ending?
Alexander-Brandt Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2013   Writer
No, it just had deus ex machina.
chibisrule943 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Student Photographer
This is a difficult situation and I truly do wish we could've spoken of this while I had my Art class during high-school. I can only hope the technical school I apply to will speak of the subject at least once or twice. On that note, my first experience with seeing an artist stuck in this dilemma definitely has to be this person: [link] (not the original tumblr but oh well.) Where people loved the art-work until they looked at the description and declared war on Tumblr. 'this artist is a fucking dumb-ass.' quote from said person who decided to not comment on the artwork itself but like others mock the artist's view of THEIR piece. I think the line is drawn simply when it goes from a small critique such as: "I love the piece, but I think such-and-such is drawing away from the subject." To something insane, like a blog/comment/general attack of everything not helping the artist make the painting better. As for the artist: They.Created.The.Piece. You cannot expect them to change something, even something minor just because you say so. The only exception to that could be when you commissioned the artist to create the picture and gave them specific details you wanted. Of course, if you commission them and tell them 'Yeah, I don't know what I want. Just do whatever you like' but then yell at them for making a horrible picture; You have no right.
gilotyna815 Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I agree with your opinion :).
Paladin343 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
It's a difficult line. There's something to be said for keeping an eye out for good suggestions, particularly if someone else happens to have a better idea for how to handle a character, plot twist, etc. But at the same time, it's my story (I write) and I know my characters, or I'm getting to know them, and making them do something that's not like them is like pulling teeth.

So I suppose it's mainly a matter of situation.
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