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JMS - Cult of Personality?

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  • phazedout
    replied
    but Jan as our officially appointed high priestess, it's your job to re-educate our lord and masters self belief, the great maker et al.
    Phaze
    on the "I can worhsip at your feet can't I Jan? " ID

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  • Jan
    replied
    Originally posted by DGTWoodward View Post
    Now, I don't know what the '...these' are that he refers to, but I think this sums up his attitude quite well.
    "a whole bunch of theses to the
    front door on the way out.... "

    ...refers to Martin Luther and his supposedly nailing his '95 theses' (theses being the plural of 'thesis') to a church door in protest of the church's policies. So in this case, JMS is saying he'd have to split with the 'Church of JMS' in protest of the policies of the church which, as an atheist, he couldn't believe in the deity...himself.

    Easy for him to say!

    Jan

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  • DGTWoodward
    replied
    Googled Ford Thaxton, followed another couple of links and found this....

    From: [email protected]
    Date: 3 Nov 1994 18:38:47 -0500
    Subject: Church of JMS

    Speaking as an atheist, if there is to be a church of jms, then I
    must become its first apostate and refuse to believe in myself (adding
    further insecurity to my life), and nail a whole bunch of theses to the
    front door on the way out....
    Now, I don't know what the '...these' are that he refers to, but I think this sums up his attitude quite well.

    http://www.midwinter.com/b5/Usenet/jms94-11-usenet

    It's quite a way down though.
    Last edited by DGTWoodward; 01-28-2013, 09:59 AM.

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  • Ubik
    replied
    Originally posted by Jan View Post
    BEGONE BLASPHEMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    NO! Wait! I didn't mean it!!!

    Seriously, I think the main thing is that JMS created something that allowed us (presumably) humans to form communities. It's a facet of human nature I'd never given any thought to until Delenn brought it up and then, once aware of it, I see it all the time now whether it's B5 or Trek or sports or anything. Definitely a really cool thing, in my opinion.

    Jan
    REPENT!

    Haha! Jan, that made me chuckle. Absolutely agree on the community forming aspect of fandom, be it around music, a humble SF TV show, or practically anything that inspires intelligent conversation.

    B5 and the forums here helped stop me going stir crazy when I broke my collar bone last year. The cult of B5 fans is a good thing!

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  • Marsden
    replied
    I will only say that I've liked much of his work, B5 and not, but there are other things I haven't seen yet and have no motivation to do so. I went to see Changling in theaters on the strength of his writing it, but if it sounded bad I wouldn't have seen it anyway. I haven't read any of his comics and I'm not about to buy any because I gave up on them years ago, not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with them, I just don't want to spend the money on them. So, he is certainly a factor in my decison to want to see something, but not an overwhelming factor that cancels out genre and form of subject.

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  • Garibaldi's Hair
    replied
    Originally posted by Jan View Post
    ... (presumably) humans ...
    Speak for yourself.

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  • Jan
    replied
    Originally posted by Ubik View Post
    So, clearly I enjoy much of JMS work, and I consider myself a fan. However, hopefully the above will illustrate IÆm very far from being a mindless acolyte of the Church of JMS.
    BEGONE BLASPHEMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    NO! Wait! I didn't mean it!!!


    Seriously, I think the main thing is that JMS created something that allowed us (presumably) humans to form communities. It's a facet of human nature I'd never given any thought to until Delenn brought it up and then, once aware of it, I see it all the time now whether it's B5 or Trek or sports or anything. Definitely a really cool thing, in my opinion.

    Jan

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  • Ubik
    replied
    Looks like IÆve arrived a bit late to this one, but hereÆs my take...

    Where someoneÆs work is successful, I think there will always be some deification of the creator in question. That æcult of personalityÆ will emerge regardless of whether the creator in question wants it or not. Any show that develops a devoted following like B5, will inspire a bit of fan worship. Of course how you propagate it, or negate it, speaks volume about the creator in question. That JMS makes light of it all is definitely a positive! To go back to JanÆs original post, which focused on the suggestion that it was tantamount to forum suicide to post anything negative regarding JMS. I definitely donÆt feel that way, and I think scouring the forums here will turn up as much debate and criticism as it will praise for JMSÆ work. Sure people will fervently defend those things they love and cherish, but IÆve never felt that the inhabitants of JMS news were disproportionate or over the top about it.

    If examples are needed, IÆve voiced criticism of certain B5 episodes and some of the spin off shows. I havenÆt yet met with a tirade of negativity or irrational fandom. Sure, people have asked me to quantify my opinions, asked me why I dislike certain things. Thankfully I have not encountered any æJMS is GODÆ style fandom here. Sure, those who post here are clearly BIG fans, who take their fandom seriously, but thatÆs all. ItÆs been very interesting to share in the wealth of knowledge here regarding B5. Personally, I post here because I enjoy B5 and quality SF in general. I would hope we can all participate in quality debate regardless of how our opinions differ.

    Do I think JMSÆ creative output is flawless? Nope. Is B5 perfect? Absolutely not. (Although, I do find that those flaws give it a great deal of charm).

    Another pertinent example: I was dead set against the entire Before Watchmen series, and really didnÆt agree with some of the justifications given by JMS regarding his involvement with a project that, morally speaking, I found objectionable. This, of course, says nothing about the quality of his output on the project, but just that I sided with Moore as I too felt he was swindled out of the rights to Watchmen by DC.

    So, clearly I enjoy much of JMS work, and I consider myself a fan. However, hopefully the above will illustrate IÆm very far from being a mindless acolyte of the Church of JMS.
    Last edited by Ubik; 01-22-2013, 06:48 AM.

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  • sftv
    replied
    Online jerks

    I agree Ford, Theron, Cronan and their ilk were definitely mean-spirited jerks and such. In the case of the "Straczynski OUT Kricfalusi IN", though, it was definitely an over-reaction by fans to that "announcement" the led to Joe going overboard (tracking down Woody's (what turned out to be old) phone number and leaving a message on Woody's ex-wife's answering machine.

    That was right after Nickleodeon removed John Kricfalusi from Ren and Stimpy and anyone who thought that there was any truth to that report really should have known better. I was really surprised at how many people believed it. At the time, Woody had just done that as a joke, but Joe's response to it is what cause him to occasionally post things. In the case of Woody, he was just having fun at Joe's expense, not anything like the bitter stuff coming from Ford and Theron.

    Lee

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  • Jan
    replied
    Originally posted by Susitcha View Post
    Plus having Jan online is like having a B5 encyclopaedia to hand Very useful when you just can't remember if something has been referenced before!
    ::bows to Susitcha:: Why, thank'ee!

    Jan

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  • Susitcha
    replied
    I like to think of the fandom here as a cult of personalities rather than personality. Yes we are drawn back to JMS for his insight and commentary, but for me it is only because in many cases he has the definitive answers. He created the personalties of the characters I love. He brought them to life and in that respect he is the "Great Maker"*

    With the aid of some excellent casting he brought us G'kar and Londo, Delenn and all the other wonderful, flawed characters that came from his mind and into our hearts.


    Do I think he is infallible? No. He is a man who brought a lot of joy to my life, and I like to see his opinions but I do not always agree with him. I have too seen many of the regular posters here question JMS opinion or action in some way at some time.


    I enjoy the access he has given to the inner workings of B5 and l appreciate the time he has committed to do that.

    Plus having Jan online is like having a B5 encyclopaedia to hand Very useful when you just can't remember if something has been referenced before!


    *Tongue firmly in cheek

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  • Jan
    replied
    Follow-up to Lee's post, not really answering anything either.

    Originally posted by sftv View Post
    At the height of Babylon 5's popularity, Joe was very much worshipped and idolized as any fans of a current show would do, but his accessibility also drew some of the negative people (just do a search on Ford Thaxton) and Joe, at times, maybe responded a bit too harshly to things (see "the Straczynski OUT Kricfalusi IN!" post by Woody Harper - which was a good April Fools joke, unfortunately posted in November) at times.
    Ford Thaxton, Woody Harper, some person (and I use the term loosely) with 'vixen as part of hir screenname, Cronan, another Harper, Theron Fuller...and any number of drive-by posts saying how much JMS, his show, the actors, the effects, his comics, his novels etc., etc. all stunk, should be spaced or weren't suitable as toilet paper, claiming he'd had a heart attack, been fired from his show...and don't forget the one who impersonated him and went out posting on porn sites. Reacted a bit too harshly? How much of that should anybody take without ripping the miscreant several new orifices? Granted, with JMS's writing talent it was sometimes like shooting fish in a barrel but I don't think I ever saw him react all that disproportionately or inappropriately.

    I've never *ever* seen him go after somebody who simply disagreed with him about something and who stated it as an adult to an adult. I've never seen him dispute somebody's taste, either, assuming that it was stated reasonably politely. But the stuff I've seen posted sure explains why the moderated newsgroup became necessary and why so few of the other creatives on the show ever stuck around online for long.

    Jan

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  • sftv
    replied
    A Historical Perspective

    More a collection of thoughts related to this subject as opposed to specific replies, having known Joe online since the early days.

    Joe has really tried his best to discourage worshipping type behavior, usually responding with a joke or something or making references to "my people" when more fans showed up for a panel or presentation than the organizers expected. The "Great Maker" references came primarily as joking, just as Roddenberry was called the "Great Bird of the Galaxy" at times.
    At the height of Babylon 5's popularity, Joe was very much worshipped and idolized as any fans of a current show would do, but his accessibility also drew some of the negative people (just do a search on Ford Thaxton) and Joe, at times, maybe responded a bit too harshly to things (see "the Straczynski OUT Kricfalusi IN!" post by Woody Harper - which was a good April Fools joke, unfortunately posted in November) at times.

    In regards to the Trek vs B5 issue, remember that at the time when B5 debuted, what existed of filmed Trek was the original series, the movies at that point and around five seasons of Next Generation. Babylon 5 was able to be sold in large part due to the success of TNG and how it opened up the syndication market. Joe was vocal about what he saw as the flaws in Trek and how it was being done and when Paramount announced their own space station series on the heels of the Babylon 5 announcement, most people still thought B5 was a knockoff of Trek. Joe and the early fans were always having to defend the show against Trek fans who weren't willing to give it a try. Joe made it clear that he was trying to make a series that drew inspiratoin from classic SF literature, which did get it labeled as "smart" while Trek was looked down upon as something lesser. I came to the show from being a Trek fan and Doctor Who fan and a reader of SF/F but also had liked what I'd seen Joe do on things like Captain Power and the Twilight Zone. I also started up and did the distribution of the early Babylon 5 Frequently Asked Questions List, which got me lots of flack when I cross posted it to the Trek Groups before there was any Babylon 5 specific groups.

    Prior to B5, Joe was very active online, especially Compuserve and GEnie, joining in the discussions about Next Generation and other shows both new and old. He came into this as a fan and has held onto that mantle in spite of becoming the hot new hollywood screenwriter.

    Joe has definitely kept the focus on his work, only occasionally talking about personal things or his own life experiences (which he has done a bit more in the script books, in the process of giving some background to what has gone into the script). What he's talked about online personally has been fairly minimal. His wife hasn't been mentioned much at all, aside from her specific involvment with B5, and probably the biggest personal thing that he's talked about a length was his rescue of Buddy, which probably did more to getting him idolized on the net than anything else. So, now in addition to being the Great Maker, he's also the Saviour of Kittens!

    There probably is a small cult of personality, but its pretty much in check and pretty civilized for the most part and hangs out together in places like this.

    But, a lot of the rabid Babylon 5 fans have moved on to other things with the lack of new B5 stuff to feed their habit. It hasn't really spawned much in the way of long term fan groups like some shows have. The advent and popularity of the DVDs definitely has helped make it available (especially since it hasn't been airing anywhere for a few years) and, as JoeD80 has shown, bring more fans to the show.

    Trying to look back at all the online history can be a bit duanting. Having been there as it happened, I'm glad I experienced it that way as sort of an ongoing side story to the show. I still keep in touch with some of the fans that hung out in the message boards during the show's heyday, but a lot of my time now is spent in other areas (running conventions and such). I've seen how fans of other shows and writers act and they can be a lot more rabid and cultish that I've seen any Babylon 5/Straczynski fan act.

    This has definitely gone on too long, though. I should get back to work...

    Lee Whiteside

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Jan, the interpretation of the term "cult" may be a cultural (no pun intended) matter - it may be that Americans or generally native speakers interpret the term "cult" different from non-natives. For me, "cult" implies some degree of, how shall I put it, "deification" of the object or person in question, which, to me, is never a good thing. I saw the expression of a "cult following a person", as the interviewer put it, versus "a cult of personality" as a difference in degree. But as I said, that may have been a misinterpretation on my part.

    A fandom, as heterogenuous as it may be, is a group of people who have one thing in common: they are fans of a writer, producer, artist, or whatever. That's how they are identified and perceived as a group. All groups consist of very different people, starting from the local sports club to the global informal group of active Rolling Stones fans. And each such group, whether they like it or not, gradually is attributed an image. That image is influenced by the experiences people make when observing the members of the group, or getting into contact with them, and of course more visible fans have more impact on that image. And sometimes that image may reflect back and affect the image of the creator and/or the work. These things simply happen, whether the group likes it or not, and whether its members feel responsible for it or not.

    Triple F: I think that the personality cult thing is always a danger with a product, be it book, movie or TV show, that has one specific person who's "in the driver seat" (which is most evident for book authors, but it's also true for TV producers who are the sole creators and are perceived as having the greatest share in the execution - whether that perception is correct or not). It's also clear that the more visible such a person is in public, the more likely it is that the personality cult reproach will at some point emerge.

    Something that clearly doesn't help to keep people from thinking a personality cult thing is going on is when fans post in forums, blogs or on message boards that a creator is "a hero", a "god" or "demi-god", the best writer ever or in the last 100 years, no inferior work will ever come out of their pen, or that no-one will ever be able to surpass their work. I've seen many posts like that, not only referring to JMS, of course, but also to other creators - and unfortunately, like I said, there's not much the subject of that reverence can do about that. The more posts and comments of that sort show up, the more suspicious people reading them grow, and the more wary they get when reading other comments containing unconditional reverence or enthusiasm. The more these things show up with reference to a specific creator, the more likely people will think there's a cult of personality.
    Last edited by mandragora; 04-24-2008, 02:06 PM.

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  • JoeD80
    replied
    You made the contention that "some might view the likes of this interview as jms separating the B5 fans from Star Trek fans on the basis of intellect and maturity" and I was answering specifically to your quotes as a Trek fan that didn't see it that way. Sorry I didn't talk about exactly what you wanted me to talk about, but that's how discussions go. Someone brings something up, and someone else answers. Sometimes it's not in a direct line. That's how many other interesting topics come up.
    Last edited by JoeD80; 04-24-2008, 12:37 PM.

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