Fandom shouldn’t have an entry barrier. Whether it’s Star Wars, From Software video games, or comic books, gatekeeping new people from becoming entranced with a beloved property because they aren’t “true fans” is a shortsighted dick move preventing more folks from enjoying the artistic mediums we adore so much. This toxic debate surrounding artistic accessibility popped recently over whether or not From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice should have an easy mode, but my interest in accessibility into fandom was piqued by an unlikely source: Shazam

First, a little background: Shazam is a new superhero film based on the DC comic book series of the same name. The movie follows Billy Batson: a troubled teenage foster kid who can transform into a superpowered adult. He was entrusted with powers such as super speed, flight, and strength by an old wizard desperate for a champion who would wage battle against demonic manifestations of the seven deadly sins. Billy doesn’t take his responsibility seriously at first. Like  you’d expect of any 15-year-old in similar circumstances, Billy misuses his super human abilities for mischief and selfish personal gain, only later understanding the weight of the power and duty charged to him.

I absolutely loved Shazam. Despite never reading a single issue of the books it was based on, I was swept away by the character’s charm, youthful spirit, and heart to such a degree that it aced my personal comic book movie test: the film motivated me to buy some comics, stat.

 

This practice actually goes back to summer 2004 for me. Before I reached the distinguished age of 14, I’d never flipped through a graphic novel or explored the vast treasures of a comic  shop. The whole world of comics, especially the retail experience, is intimidating!. After seeing Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 (the greatest comic book movie of all time), my need for more Spider-Man in my eyeballs was was strong enough to convince me to brave a comic shop. I had to act casual, though.  I’d rather let the clerk assume I’m shoplifting than let him realize I was a clueless customer who had no idea what she was doing. In other words: I was afraid to be outed as a “fake fan.”

After getting over fake fan anxiety, though, this became a ritual. Whenever I loved a new superhero movie, I would go straight to a comic book store (or Amazon if I was desperate) and purchase an interesting storyline related to the film’s star. The movies gave me a foundation for giving a damn about Spider-Man, Batman, the X-Men, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and many others. Enjoying the movies before reading the comics isn’t considered the “true way” a fan experiences the medium for the first time, but that’s irrelevant. I love reading comics because I became a fan my way rather than the more traditional rite of passage. I’m as true a fan as anyone else.

Shazam is no exception. In fact, the film confirmed for me thatmaking comics and games welcoming to new fans isn’t just preferable but a necessity. Shazam’s story explicitly explores the harm caused by gatekeeping. The wizard traumatized young children by screaming, “You will never be worthy!” at them. Doctor Sivana, the flick’s antagonist, is motivated to “Git Gud” after the wizard rejected him. Sivana purveys himself more worthy of the power than the Wizard and his chosen champion Billy. The villain even monologues about Billy’s worthlessness in a way that’s eerily reminiscent of the Sekiro meme.

 

Shazam’s anti-gatekeeping message echoes my belief that there’s simply no wrong way to become a fan or to enjoy the things you love. Comic shops and video game conventions are already intimidating without the added cruelty of being told you don’t belong there because your love is somehow less authentic than others’. Warding off newcomers is selfish at best and bullying at worst. In Shazam, Billy’s becomes the hero Philadelphia deserves by opening up to others, using his powers more responsibly, and generally being less of a little shit. He becomes a hero by being inclusive, not exclusive.  Fans across all mediums should follow his example.

One of Shazam’s best lines is when Billy says:“What good is all this power if you have no one to share it with?” It’s a great quote that summarizes the heart of the movie and is applicable to video games, comics, and movies. Afterall, what good is being a fan if you have no one to share that joy with?

Riley Constantine
Contributor. Riley Constantine is Iowa's third greatest export behind Slipknot and life insurance. She loves to review movies and games while examining how they often mirror the bizarre world we live in.

    Unheard and Outward

    Previous article

    Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic Might Live Again

    Next article

    17 Comments

    1. Okay, so I get that you find the gatekeeping fans atrocious which, fair enough, but that doesn’t actually address the core of the issue; is From Software remiss in failing to include an easy mode accessible to as many potential players as possible, or are they entitled to publish the game however they wish, and if that excludes certain players, so be it?

      Doesn’t map onto Shazam! as well I guess.

      1. The answer is both. They are remiss in failing to include accessibility options AND they are entitled to develop (not publish, Activision did that) the game however they wish. And people can have opinions on that, and From can listen to them or ignore them.

        1. Amen.

      2. The fundamental issue addressed in teh article, that so many people seem to be hilariously/sadly missing and then expressing angrily, is NOT that Sekiro doesn’t have an easy mode. It is that many people are so loudly and pathetically angry at the suggestion that it and games like it having one is bad.

        No one is telling FROM Software they have to add anything and most rational people would accept the premise that if FROM wanted to add one they could and would and that would be their choice. (as you stated) The problem being addressed in the article and with the metaphor of Shazam is the irrationality and toxicity of being mad about the discussion or possibility of someone enjoying a thing you enjoy in a different (and in your eyes lesser) way.

        Basically if the suggestion or discussion of Sekiro getting an easy mode makes a person angry, they are the problem being discussed not the the game itself. The Shazam metaphor maps pretty well when you consider Sivana acting as the butthurt fanboy who considers Billy to be not doing it right and not deserving of the opportunity. And quite frankly in this discussion alone there is a already way too many triggered offenders mad and posting, I mean this is one of those situations that if you are mad then you are the problem.

    2. Gatekeeping is so old that it has another name: “No true scottsman fallacy”. Everytime someone says “Real gamers…” you can point them to this very helpful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zzSqL–d_I

    3. Shazam is literally the best DC comic book movie.

    4. There was a time when the internet was a seperate place from the real world, but interpersonal interaction was still based on real world norms and expectations. Then means of interaction developed specifically for online systems of communication.
      Now we’re at the point where behaviours that developed in the online environment are starting to bleed into the real world, and this is leading to a jarring shift for people who spend either no time online, or way too much.

    5. Fandoms do have an entry barrier in the sense, that people are expected to familiarize themself with the gameplay, before interacting with old fans. You cannot just expect existing fans to let you join them on their mission to kill a raid boss, if you cannot play the game properly. That is not gatekeeping, that is you thinking you’re entitled to take up someone else time.

      And it seems to me the only people wanting an easy mode for Sekiro are game journalists. Are you sure you, you aren’t just using handicapped people as an excuse for the studio to make your job easier?

    6. People are weird on the internet. They just don’t understand intent and prefer to just map whatever nefarious motive they can come up with onto your statements.

      Personally, I don’t care if From Software’s games have an Easy mode. I don’t play them. But I’d prefer all games have as many difficulty options as possible. For instance, I love Borderlands but find it a bit too easy.

      But when you say that people say shit like, “You can’t control them. They can make their game anyway they like! How dare you try to infringe upon their creative process!?”

      Like okay, slow down buddy. What I am doing is making my desires as a consumer known and hoping that if enough similar consumers make a similar desire met, then the designers will see fit to meet that request. Supply and demand. That’s just fucking capitalism.

    7. News just in: games journalist wants a From Softwere game to be more easy. More news at 11.

      In all seriousness if you start to make niche stuff like From Softwere games more accessible to a wider audience it will eventually become homogenised schlock that loses it’s previous rich atmosphere and challenge. A few examples of this trend are
      -The Thief franchise
      -The Mass Effect franchise
      -The Fallout Franchise
      -The Resident Evil franchise (at 6)
      -Splinter Cell
      -Deus Ex
      And many other franchises, some that just outright died as a result of homogenisation.

    8. That was a brilliant reading. I hadn’t even considered the gatekeeping aspect, and I already loved this movie to bits for how fun it was and how inclusive of unconventional family it was. Thank you for sharing the piece with us!

    9. I’m kind of surprised by the love for Shazam. I thought it was okay, but Aquaman was better.

      I may be biased because I’m a teacher at a 6th – 12th grade school, so many of the “kids doing dumb stuff” jokes were too much like work and the school stuff was absurd. Two kids hit another with a car, then get out and beat him, and no one bats an eye? An adult in spandex and a trench coat, with no ID, is allowed to pick up kids from a school?! Again, I think my biases worked against me liking it more.

      Also, that wizard is an idiot. Literally every single other person in that foster home was a better person than Billy.

      1. Yeah they were basing it more on the New 52 version of Billy that was more of a little shit, but they definitely did it better than the comics.

        Still the point there tended to be that with the oncoming threat of the sins, Shazam didn’t have any other options and let Billy take the power out of desperation. For as bad as it was, “good enough” was good enough.

        Honestly they characterized Freddy as more Billy’s best personality, sans the liberal use of middle fingers. Superhero fanboy, good kid, happy to have a home. More characterization from the Superman/Shazam First Thunder comic would’ve been appreciated, but I liked what we got.

      2. I liked Shazam but it did feel like they made a goofy kids movie and a horror starring Mark Strong then they mashed them together at the end, the switches between each story thread were jarring. Seeing your own profession in movies is always weird, I spend every hospital scene in films trying not to scream no you’re going to kill the patient at the screen.

    10. I don’t understand how people expect the thing they like to get new fans if they don’t want to give anyone an entry point to become one. It’s like those gatekeepers themselves forgot that once upon a time, they weren’t fans of their favorite things, until they were once being introduced to it.

      Sure. some of that is them not WANTING new people to join in the fun, but it’s still annoying and goofy nonetheless.

      1. As far as their/we’re concerned, the ‘entry point’ is the new installment itself. Sekiro doesn’t require any knowledge of Bloodborne or Dark Souls to get into – it’s a new way into the Soulsborne genre, which is defined by its set challenge and basic gameplay instead of story or lore (Though they can play into it.) You don’t need a version that cuts out what makes a game stand out to be able to get into it.

        Without the signature challenge, Dark Souls is just a medocre RPG that you’d hack through in an evening and then forget about. The skill gates are what make it memorable and engaging.

      2. To play devil’s advocate a bit, why should something (or someone) change in the hope of pleasing someone who isn’t willing to change in return? It’s considered a rite of passage to spend your first week (or month) playing Counter Strike getting shot dead in the first twenty seconds of each round. That’s just how it is, an investment in time and attention is required to progress, then it starts to click a bit and the game becomes fun as you learn what you’re supposed to be doing.

        .
        Souls type games are the current focal point but it’s always frustrated me when people encounter something new and instead of engaging with it, demand that it be changed to suit their pre-existing tastes/ability. If that’s really what they’re asking for, then were they really interested in the new thing to begin with?
        .
        Going back to CS I’ve played with thousands of noobs (because I’m old and crap) and you can always tell the ones who are going to get into it. They’re the ones who start asking how do I/what does this/why did that type questions and they’re the ones who get proper answers. The community is surprisingly friendly if you can ignore the trolls endemic to every big game series. From the outside looking Souls type games seem to have a very similar vibe going.

    Leave a reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *