Few filmmakers lean on their fan base quite like Kevin Smith.
Twenty-plus years ago Smith was an indie film darling following “Clerks,” the no-budget charmer that jumpstarted his career. His subsequent films fell into the “hit or miss” category, but after a while even indie types lost interest in his storytelling.
Not his fans, though.
They followed him on tour, gulped down every installment of his “Smodcast” empire and kept the faith that Smith’s creative spark was just one film away from re-igniting.
Clunkers like “Yoga Hosers” and “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” stretched that faith to the limit.
Now, Smith is literally cursing out parts of said fan base following the backlash over “Masters of the Universe: Revelation.” Smith is the showrunner and executive producer behind the five-part Netflix series. The director said over and again the saga would focus heavily on He-Man, the franchise’s main character.
“I’m Eternia-ly grateful to Mattel TV and Netflix for entrusting me with not only the secrets of Grayskull, but also their entire Universe. In Revelation, we pick up right where the classic era left off to tell an epic tale of what may be the final battle between He-Man and Skeletor! Brought to life with the most metal character designs Powerhouse Animation can contain in the frame, this is the Masters of the Universe story you always wanted to see as a kid!”
He also called the series a “continuation of the story,” with no indication the main character would play but a minor part in the production. Yet rumors swirled that the story would focus far less on the main attraction, much like “Mad Max: Fury Road” did with Charlize Theron’s character over Max.
Smith repeatedly denied those claims.
As showrunner, I really could’ve used these story suggestions *before* we locked the scripts. However, no – He-Man does no stepping aside and Teela has no girlfriend in our show. The storyline is pretty dark and way metal. Before REVELATION we were calling it END OF THE UNIVERSE….
“I’ve read every @MastersOfficial script for our shows (plus wrote a few) and viewed 4 amazing animatics. While Teela is as present as she’s always been in the MotU adventures and she plays a big role, our series is LITERALLY all about He-Man.
Smith also tweeted:
With all due respect to @screenrant, I’ve read every @MastersOfficial script for our shows (plus wrote a few) and viewed 4 amazing animatics. While Teela is as present as she’s always been in the MotU adventures and she plays a big role, our series is LITERALLY all about He-Man. https://t.co/1rOjbLDfHe
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) May 29, 2020
The animated show, picking up where past “He-Man” adventures left off in the 1980s, sidelines its main character in favor of Teela, voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar. He-Man, according to press reports, dies not once but twice in the series and is upstaged by his female colleague.
The re-imagining, to many, felt like Hollywood’s latest attempt to woke-ify a beloved brand. That may be the new normal, but Smith devotees didn’t expect the director to not only join that movement but baldly lie about it.
Smith took a polite approach to his critics via a New York Post interview July 26. He changed his tune on the blowback, though, slamming those who don’t appreciate the new show without owning up to his lies.
“I know there’s some people that are like, ‘Hey, man, this show’s woke,’” Smith told Variety about the backlash. “I’m like, all right, great, then so was the original cartoon we’re f***ing sequel-izing. Go watch it again. There are girls in every episode. Deal with it…”
“It’s been interesting, seeing who truly is a hardcore fan,” Smith added. “Because anybody that’s like, ‘Oh, man, there’s not enough He-Man’ or something like that, doesn’t understand the show that we based it on. There were episodes where he lost the sword and he never became He-Man. It wasn’t like He-Man always saved the day. His friends helped him. That was the f***ing point of the show.”
Of course, media outlets rushed to Smith’s defense. They dubbed the blowback the latest example of “toxic fandom,” a charge levied against critics of the female “Ghostbusters” reboot, “The Last Jedi” skeptics and more. They also used the phrase “review bombed” to explain why critics love the series and many fans loathe it.
Ignore that spin.
Smith spent two decades building up, and caring for, his small but loyal fan base. Now he’s lying both to those fans and anyone who loved the original “Masters of the Universe” property.
Hollywood remains a brutal business, but it’s a bit less cruel when artists have a devoted fan base to fall back on in harder times. Smith may soon regret trashing his fans to curry favor with woke Hollywood.
UPDATE: The Critical Drinker weighs in on Smith’s re-invention with some sobering thoughts on modern Hollywood.