Gatekeeping gets a lot of flak and, to be sure, there have been people out there who attempt to use putting others within a subculture down as less because they’re trying to make themselves seem more like true fans. This is true for all subcultures.
You especially see it in political circles…
But gatekeeping, like a gun, is really just a tool that can be used for good for ill and is sometimes very necessary to make sure the spirit of the thing isn’t perverted or corrupted to suit the needs of outside forces.
The reaction by Tolkien fans to Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings series is a perfect example of gatekeeping done right.
J.R.R Tolkien envisioned a universe with specific logics. The world was created by characters, cultures, events, following a specific order. Amazon has broken this logic in various ways, and I encourage you to watch Nerdtrotic’s video on the subject as he lists various ways Amazon has done this, as well as words from Tolkien himself on the matter of altering his creation.
Fans are the best people to understand any world’s logic. When a world as detailed in lore as Tolkien’s is has its logics treated as if they don’t matter, fans are going to let you know and they will not be happy about it.
Things get worse when these fans are either ignored or, as is the case recently, insulted and put down as “trolls” and “fanboys” with all the accusations of isms and phobias attached. It is clear that articles are published which make it appear like those perverting original works or the intentions of works’ creators are the ones who suffer. Fans are considered fringe people.
Cotton, a bold move
The issue is that you’ve effectively ousted the audience that would have formed your work’s foundational support. With the original fandom gone, you’ve got a palace built on sand. It may attract good money at the start but very quickly you’ll notice the returning customers shrink to unsupportable levels.
This was evident with Star Wars. Star Wars treated its fan base with so much disrespect that people quit coming to theaters to watch Star Wars films. Solo did so poorly that it effectively took Star Wars movies off the docket for a while, and the only thing keeping the franchise alive right now are Dave Filoni and Jon Favraeu’s work on Disney+. However, even that’s testing the fandom’s tolerance limit.
Star Wars is in decline and it doesn’t look like it’s going to pull out of the nose dive anytime soon.
This is a failure that Disney deserves. As the attention and money drop, bad blood grows, this should be a clear indicator. Even though Disney holds the intellectual and licensing rights, Star Wars fans still have the Star Wars universe’s soul. With its owners evicted from the picture, this pathetic husk is only going to deteriorate.
Tolkien has, more or less, gone untouched but as it is one of the staples of western fiction, there was no way it wasn’t going to stay unmolested. All things that the west grew up on have to be “reimagined” (i.e. perverted) in modern times, so modern ideas are packaged and sold via a well-known and established IP.
Amazon learned nothing from the failure of Star Wars and we’re going to see the same thing happen to the Lord of the Rings. This new series that bears the name of Tolkien’s world, characters, etc., has already begun the process of pushing out fans in order to make the franchise into something its not. Fans will bring the heart of the work along with them, making the property a shell of its former glory.
Amazon will be punished for its failure to adhere to advice and love of Tolkien fans, the people in whom Tolkien’s vision lives on. Without them, Amazon will fail. It’s the logic of This world.
At some point, corporations looking to capitalize on popular IPs are going to have to understand that the gatekeeping fans aren’t doing so out of spite, but because they love and cherish the property more than everyone else. While they would all love to see more fans, it is important that they keep the original universe in mind and not alter it or adapt it for the modern times.
Inability to please the gatekeepers will result in property destruction and each subsequent attempt at making the property better.
It is good. As long as gatekeepers keep true to the soul and spirit of the creation, it never dies. The creation can always be brought back by someone who truly respects its source material.
Sometimes gatekeeping is right and sometimes it’s good.