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JMS - Cult of Personality?

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  • JMS - Cult of Personality?

    Over in another discussion, the allegation was made that:
    I can't quite help getting the impression that finding oneself in disagreement with anything JMS does is considered just short of a sacrilege on this particular board.
    In the interest of full disclosure, I took that fairly well the first time it came up but when somebody else joined the conversation and it came up again, I handed the poster hir head.

    Now, the idea of JMS fans being 'worshippers' is hardly new. JMS himself has always said that he's wary of fostering a Cult of Personality. I happen to disagree strongly that there is one in B5 or JMS fandom in general, but let's take a look at it.

    First off, let's make sure that we all have the same understanding of what it is we're discussing. Since we all should have access to Wikipedia, let's look at their definition:
    A cult of personality or personality cult arises when a country's leader uses mass media to create a heroic public image through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are often found in dictatorships but can be found in some democracies as well.

    A cult of personality is similar to general hero worship except that it is created specifically for political leaders. However, the term may be applied by analogy to refer to adulation of non-political leaders.
    Emphasis added by me.

    Some questions for examination:

    Does there actually exist a cult of personality around JMS or are there just fervent fans of his work?

    If so, has JMS fostered that cult? If not, has he done enough to discourage it?

    If the enthusiasm is for his work can it actually be considered a cult of personality?

    At what point does fandom or general acceptance of what he does become adulation and whose place is it to make that judgement?

    Those are the discussion points I can think of at the moment and it should be enough to open the discussion if people are interested. I'm going to post my responses in a different post so that this one resembles an editorial at least a little bit less.

    Jan
    "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

  • #2
    It feels silly quoting myself but I do prefer to quote exactly what I'm answering for clarity.
    Originally posted by Jan View Post
    Does there actually exist a cult of personality around JMS or are there just fervent fans of his work?
    In my opinion, no there doesn't. What I believe is one major reason that the perception exists is the phenomenon of his online conversation with the fans. For the first time that I know of, a creator made himself accessible to the fans to have a dialogue and that dialogue was expanded by mailing lists for those who might not have access to it and his part of the dialogue was archived in many places, not least of all this site.

    Because of this, when discussion of show points or show history comes up, it's traditional, especially on these forums, to quote what JMS has said about something in the past. Given that it was his singular vision that drove the show, it's generally accepted that he's the final authority on what did happen even if one doesn't necessarily agree with whatever decision was made.

    There were many others involved in making the show but whatever they may have said is simply not available as easily as JMS's so his point of view is most often the one fans are most aware of.

    If so, has JMS fostered that cult? If not, has he done enough to discourage it?
    I've been reading his posts and going to cons where he appears for quite a number of years now and I can't think of anything he's ever promoted except the concept that the people who read and see him can do exactly what he's done and that they should hold on to their dreams and work toward achieving them. If ego ever creeps into what he says it's that he's aware of his talent as a writer.

    If the enthusiasm is for his work can it actually be considered a cult of personality?
    Not in my opinion. There are plenty of other writers, actors etc. whose work I enjoy a lot but who I wouldn't cross the street to spend time with. On a personal level, I've disagreed with and questioned JMS on non-B5 related points many a time as have many others. It may not be completely apparent to those who only read his archived posts but the people on the moderated newsgroup don't generally accord him any more respect than any of the other posters.

    At what point does fandom or general acceptance of what he does become adulation and whose place is it to make that judgement?
    I'm not enamored of the idea that it's anybody's place to make any kind of judgement about a person or even group of people without a fair body of experience with them.

    In my experience, many times the 'shipper or cult of personality label gets thrown into the discussion just as the person making the accusation is stamping out the door. There's an atmosphere these days that everybody's opinons should be respected without question and I don't happen to agree with that. As Harlan Ellison has said, (paraphrasing) you're not entitled to your opinion, you're entitled to your *informed* opinion. Other instances are:

    --JMS does something the poster doesn't like but perhaps gets shouted down by people who disagree. An example of this is JMS garage sale a few years ago. Some fans thought that if he wanted to make the items he had available that he had an obligation to make the opportunity to acquire them equally possible for all fans. At least a few thought that JMS selling memorabilia somehow tarnished or cheapened the show itself.

    --Something is done in the B5 universe and JMS gets blamed even though there's no real reason to believe that he had any say in the matter. An instance of this was the Lost Tales mini-comic that was only available at the San Diego Comic Con and in a few specially marked packages at Best Buy. A number of fans felt that they were being penalized for having pre-ordered Lost Tales and blamed JMS for not ensuring that the comics were included in all of the packages.

    These are the examples that come readily to mind but there are probably others. So if you discount those who don't have an informed opinion, those with an inflated sense of entitlement and those who just want to blame JMS for something they don't like, does that really leave many who honestly believe that there's a cult of personality around JMS? My experience says not. I'll be interested to read other opinions.

    Jan
    "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

    Comment


    • #3
      Not a cult in my humble opinion

      Originally posted by Jan View Post
      It feels silly quoting myself but I do prefer to quote exactly what I'm answering for clarity.

      In my opinion, no there doesn't. What I believe is one major reason that the perception exists is the phenomenon of his online conversation with the fans. For the first time that I know of, a creator made himself accessible to the fans to have a dialogue and that dialogue was expanded by mailing lists for those who might not have access to it and his part of the dialogue was archived in many places, not least of all this site.

      ...

      Jan

      Jan,

      I cannot speak for others, but what attracts me to these forums is that Joe Straczynski and the other participants are first and foremost fans of good science fiction. As such he is subject to the same good natured teasing that anyone else who participates.

      It frequently amazes me that despite the highly heterogeneous nature of RASTB5.mod and the wide diversity of points of view, that more virtual fist-fights do not spontaneously erupt.

      Regardless, if I thought even for a moment that this had become a cult of personality, I would have departed long ago.

      Sincerely,
      Dan Dassow

      Comment


      • #4
        I believe that JMS has made an effort to make all of this about the work and not about him. He has side-stepped personal questions and generalized about politics. He has spoken of religion, but only in reference to his work and how his beliefs (or lack thereof) have a relationship to the work. It can't be a cult of personality when the person in question defers to the work every time....

        Comment


        • #5
          I think Karen has summed it rather well.

          From my own perpsective, JMS is an excellent writer yet even good writers occassionally have average days [see Grey 13 is Missing as case in point ]

          If someone isn't happy with his work, well that's their opinion but it shouldn't affect the way we see him nor should it bother us.

          I'd also add that I get the impression that JMS would be a bit appalled if there was this cult that idolised him and saw that he was capable of no wrong.

          Interesting discussion Jan, it certainly makes you think about the people you look upto and examine what it is about those people that you connect with and what level of connection you feel as well.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Talwyn View Post
            I'd also add that I get the impression that JMS would be a bit appalled if there was this cult that idolised him and saw that he was capable of no wrong.
            The G'Kar worshippers in Season 5 were no coincidence.
            Only a fool fights in a burning house.

            Comment


            • #7
              This thread has touched many good points. I don't feel people are particularly enamored by JMS [cough] Jan [cough], but rather the work that he produces. As a result there is a focus on him is only as it relates to his work.

              I don't think his favorite color, house address, or how he likes his coffee has ever really been major centers of interest on this board. True we do hang on his announcements and comments as it relates to his body of work, but I don't think he tries to make those center on himself. I would say Shatner more truly approaches the concept of cult of personality we are talking about. In comparing JMS to him, the differences are clear and pronounced.


              On the other hand if JMS did push himself and have a large cult following we probably would have had a B5 movie in the theatres by now.
              What a wonderful world you live in. -
              Yeah, well, the rent is cheap, the pay is decent and I get to make my own hours.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by glindros View Post
                I don't think his favorite color
                Purple
                house address
                221b Baker St
                or how he likes his coffee
                The same way he likes his women .. with a spoon in them.
                "Jan Schroeder is insane" - J. Michael Straczynski, March 2008

                The Station: A Babylon 5 Podcast

                Comment


                • #9
                  I may have to rethink this whole cult thing after that.
                  What a wonderful world you live in. -
                  Yeah, well, the rent is cheap, the pay is decent and I get to make my own hours.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Or, maybe we should just smile and slowly move away from Omaha? (No sudden moves!)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Karen View Post
                      Or, maybe we should just smile and slowly move away from Omaha? (No sudden moves!)
                      "Can't you take a joke?"

                      Purple, cuz it's obvious ... 221b Baker street - Sherlock Holmes ... and the spoon/coffee bit is straight out of Eddie Izzard's standup routine.
                      "Jan Schroeder is insane" - J. Michael Straczynski, March 2008

                      The Station: A Babylon 5 Podcast

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think we were just trying to play along. Can you take a joke?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Obviously you're all just members of the Church of Joe and think that hijacking the thread will just make people think that there is no Church of Joe! And the misinformation?! Everybody knows that JMS lives at 14B Heresford Lane, his favorite color is green and he likes his coffee with two sugars and cream. It's all in the show.

                          Jan
                          "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jan View Post
                            Everybody knows that JMS lives at 14B Heresford Lane
                            Jan
                            Is that on the east end or the west end?
                            Only a fool fights in a burning house.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jan View Post
                              Obviously you're all just members of the Church of Joe and think that hijacking the thread will just make people think that there is no Church of Joe! And the misinformation?! Everybody knows that JMS lives at 14B Heresford Lane, his favorite color is green and he likes his coffee with two sugars and cream. It's all in the show.

                              Jan
                              I'm scared now. Someone warn JMS before Jan and Omaha find him !

                              Just out of curiosity what's pictured on the stained glass windows in the church of Joe?
                              What a wonderful world you live in. -
                              Yeah, well, the rent is cheap, the pay is decent and I get to make my own hours.

                              Comment

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