Clickbait Mentality: How the media is feeding off the DCEU

Date
Author
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Note: This article was originally published about two weeks before Ben Affleck’s resignation as the director of The Batman, but the key points discussed here still stand true.

It has become sort of a trend to make fun, to criticize, to take apart every quote and to make negatives headlines about any of the DCEU whenever possible. I don’t believe those conspiracy theories that say Disney actually pays off journalists to make positive comments about their movies while making negative ones against the DC films, even if they have enough money to actually do that. What I do believe is that it’s just easier and more profitable to lean on the negative aspects of whatever is popular.

For the so-called movie journalists both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were considered failures, even when those movies made tons of money, sold many Blu-ray and DVD copies and have kept people talking about them months after their releases discussing their positives and negatives. Failures don’t do that. You can’t deny that for example Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Will Smith and Margot Robbie owned their roles and people want to see more of them.

But every day what surfaces online are half baked articles about rumors from unknown sources or quotes taken from an actor or a filmmaker put in the most negative light they can and published like big news. Such scandalous news get clicks for the sites who publish, and get people spreading their rumors.

Director Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck on the set of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Director Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck on the set of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Take for instance Ben Affleck’s recent remarks about his upcoming solo entry in the DCEU. In an interview with The Guardian, when asked about the possibility of him directing The Batman he replied: That’s the idea. But it’s not a set thing and there’s no script. If it doesn’t come together in a way I think is really great I’m not going to do it. Since he’s the one actually working on the script with DC’s Geoff Johns it’s obvious he’s talking about getting the best possible script before committing to any date. However, what the headlines read later on said that Ben Affleck was considering pulling out from his Batman film.

In the following days a rumor started running around that originated from a so-called ‘authority on Batman’ website claiming that Wonder Woman and Justice League were a ‘mess,’ and that Ben Affleck (also an executive producer on Justice League) was considering leaving the DCEU altogether. Funny then, that that very same day Ben Affleck said on video interviews that they were good and going, with the Batman solo film, that there’s great stuff in it now. It just needs to get better and better, and we’re working, I think we’re ahead of the curve, and we’re excited. To sum up, unless something unfortunate happens, Ben Affleck is going to direct his own Batman movie when he feels he’s got the right story and the perfect script to execute it and that should be reasonably enough for anyone.

But is not only Affleck’s comments that are taken out of context and given whatever meaning the journalists feel like giving them. Sir Ridley Scott came out about why he’s got no interest in doing any comic book adaptations. Superhero movies are not my kind of thing — that’s why I’ve never really done one, the director said, adding that his own Blade Runner is the closest to a comic strip he ever did: You could almost put Batman or Superman in that world, that atmosphere, except I’d have a fucking good story, as opposed to no story! He was obviously using the two most famous comic book characters to make his point, not any particular movie. What movie website headlines wrote was ‘Ridley Scott trashes Batman v Superman.’ I doubt Scott has even watched it.

Another perfect example is one of Michael Shannon’s comments a while back. The actor who played General Zod on Man of Steel admitted that he fell asleep while watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. If you read the headlines you’d believe that he fell asleep because the movie was ‘so boring,’ when in reality he admitted he catched the movie during an international flight and that was tired. He also regretted watching it that way but he doesn’t get to go the movies anymore because he’s just too busy. He also added that he did Man of Steel because he though it was a beautiful story. No wonder that last part didn’t made any headlines.

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

With everything you read online, it’s hard not to think there is an obvious bias and an attempt to put everything about the DCEU in a negative light, and this whole thing seems to have started with Zack Snyder’s more grounded and serious take on Superman that many felt was a betrayal of the lighter, camp films with Christopher Reeve they grew up watching, combined with the announcement of the launching of the DCEU that many people thought it was just a desperate attempt to imitate Marvel’s success, when in reality Warner and DC had been trying to build their shared universe years before Marvel Studios even existed, but then got delayed by a writers strike and the incredible success of The Dark Knight.

There’s a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the filmmakers behind the future films in the DCEU. Understandably, these are characters that many people around the world have become attached to, and everyone has different expectations about how they should be portrayed. There’s a great hunger for every little detail of their development in the online community, but shouldn’t we leave the people behind their making focus in just doing their best for the properties? Ben Affleck has been trying to promote his latest directorial effort Live by Night, but every interview ends up being about The Batman. As a filmmaker and someone trying to broaden his body of work, you can understand that has to be truly annoying.

But nothing I might say or write can change the attitude of those big movie websites, journalists and all those smaller ones trying to get a piece of the cake that the DCEU is feeding them right now. They get to show ads, and they get their money from clicks of desperate fans looking for even the tiniest detail about something they’re really passionate about. But wouldn’t it be possible to drive traffic towards them without resorting to the kind of negative pseudo-journalism most of them use?

If we are truly fans, instead of focusing on whatever negative thing we read online, we should be celebrating this time we’re living on, with so many beloved characters making the jump to the big screen and, as I discussed on my previous article about the DCEU, we should be more open about the way those stories are adapted. Let’s stop feeding the negative media chasing and spreading rumors. When the filmmakers or studios are ready to show us something, of course they will do it, until then, let’s just be patient.

  • Teguh Prihantoro

    Thank you!! You just read my mind. Now journalists are trying to trash Wonder Woman and the movie hasn’t come out yet.

  • JR Stevens

    I couldn’t agree more, what a great write up.

  • Nick Owens

    Great article. I wish more journalists would think this way instead of cowardly jumping the bandwagon and hating the DCEU.

    I’d like to see how people would react if this kind of stuff happened to a Marvel movie.

  • rosie1843

    The crap has now turned toward “Wonder Woman”. An “DC Comics or Warner Bros. insider” has commented that the movie is a narrative mess and the media is spreading it like wild fire. Director Patty Jenkins had expressed her displeasure at this news release and many are dismissing her reaction.

    I don’t know who is behind this systematic campaign against the DCEU films. But if I had bothered to accept these negative opinions as fact, I would have missed out on three films that I ended up enjoying very much.

  • jaxon

    It’s funny how nobody ever talks about MCU films. If Civil War was so good as claimed why aren’t people still talking about its themes and action pieces etc. Because at the end of the day people deep down know it’s disposable garbage that was good for a viewing or to.
    And those who havd their brains switched off simply don’t get MoS and BvS because it asks you to think like the characters think and not just switch off to watch shiny things. But the fact that almost 4 years later Man of Steel is still in the conversation while stuff like Avengers and Avengers 2 are sitting in the trash can of people’s memories shows you the great impact that Snyder has delivered. Eventually he will be remembered as a genius filmmaker and I’ll be able to say, what took you so long?

  • Xeph

    Great piece, this kind of thing needs to be HAMMERED in.
    I do believe that Disney is employing a very effective marketing strategy that keeps bloggers and critics much more highly involved in their movie marketing, they have even referred to them as “partners”. Add in a little red carpet treatment. Things that WB hasn’t entreated to. Fight fire with fire. Look at how FOX approached Logan marketing (after seeing how reactions to an auteur BvS darker story), they let them preview 1/3 of the film already and prepared them for the disparate tone of the movie. 2016 was a bitter pill to swallow in movie critiquing, vastly disappointing and largely out of touch with general audience perception. I hope WB gets the memo and fix the marketing to compete for better critical reception. Let’s be honest, MOS and BvS were truly exceptional movies, granted that is just my opinion, but it’s also shared by many. They afforded me some really meaningful examination of film in a genre & characters I am simply in absolute love with in a way that Superhero films have not affected me before.

    Keep up the good work.

    • J.O. Logan

      The lingering effect of MOS and BVS is something that really stays with you if your mind is open to what’s on the screen. MOS blew me away with its weight because it actually turned me into a passionate Superman fan after merely loving and respecting his place in the comic book pantheon as the first superhero. The work of Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan really made me sit down and figure out why I liked Kal-El by understanding exactly what it must have been like to live thirty-three years without being truly able to live. That’s deep.

      Snyder then followed it up with BVS, a movie that had my head buzzing for nearly twelve hours after I saw it the first time and that was the Thursday night general audience showing that let out after 10pm so I got no sleep that night. There was so much to break down before I could even give the film a negative or positive review but I knew that it had touched me because I felt a lump in my throat when I actually thought Batman was going to kill Superman. By the time the heroes took out Doomsday I was an emotional wreck seeing Superman laying dead on top of the rubble.

      The work critics have to do with Snyder’s movie in a disreputable genre is what drives the resistance to his vision. MOS and BVS demand your attention and investment which is something many movies, no matter the genre, don’t ask of their viewers. The DCEU is a mental workout and the negative reactions to it from some corners show that many brains are flabby and out of shape.

    • JoyDC4Life

      I couldn’t agree more if I tried. Beautifully spoken. I’ve heard from many people I’ve spoken to that MOS made them care about Superman, and what a powerful statement that is for a 75+ year old icon. Although I’ve been a Superman fan for 38 years, avid comic book reader, I can attest that, I’ve been waiting about that long for this kind of screen adaptation. I’ve never been more excited than I am now to be a DC fan. I could watch these films 100s of times easily.

    • …you just expressed almost my exact sentiments. Batman has always been my favorite superhero, but Man of Steel made me love Superman to the point I actually was rooting for him during the big fight in BvS and begging in my head that Batman just stop for a moment and let go of his rage.