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The Problem with Canonization


Lyichir

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The recent trend of fans petitioning Greg to canonize details of the story has been controversial. But I've been upset to see that devolve into a bunch of Greg-bashing.

 

Let's be clear: Greg's not the problem here, or at least, not the main one. The fans are.

 

They're the ones who decided, after Bionicle's end, to consider Greg the sole arbiter of canon. During Bionicle's run he may have been the "mouthpiece" of the Bionicle story, but he was only one member of a team. And that team, for the most part, did a great job of keeping the overall story on-track. Back in those days, there were questions that Greg DECLINED to answer simply because it was not his position to do so—some decisions could only be made with the input of the story team, to avoid conflicting with the overall thrust of the story. There were checks and balances. All that went out the window when the theme ended, the story team disbanded, and fans decided that they would rather let Greg string the story along indefinitely than consider it a closed book.

 

And now, they're the ones badgering Greg to canonize every single ambiguous detail from the Bionicle story. So far, at least from what I've heard (and I lost interest in the minutiae of the classic Bionicle story long ago), it's not a case of him canonizing terrible suggestions. The problem is that he's canonizing suggestions that never needed to be made. The Bionicle story isn't any better for knowing so-and-so's mask, or weapon, or what this character or that would look like as a set. If anything, it's worse—fans are continually eating away at all the mysteries in a story that was characterized by mystery, and the little details that used to be open to actual creative interpretation in a brand that was intended to allow for creative play. Let's be clear: every time Greg canonizes a character's mask, it DECANONIZES every other possible mask that character could have worn. Every time he canonizes a weapon, it DECANONIZES every other weapon. To petition Greg to include your headcanon in the story is to exclude every other fan's interpretation of the story.

 

Now, some may argue that this doesn't matter. If the canon disagrees with you, just ignore it and come up with your own headcanon! But there are problems with that idea. Firstly, the organized Bionicle community has an obsession with canon. It's why we have to deal with these idiotic suggestions in the first place—a lot of Bionicle fans CARE about the actual canon, and it leads them to want to make a mark on it. Secondly, the fans that don't like suggestions? They DO ignore it! They do like I did years ago and divorce themselves altogether from the canon—but that, of course, means divorcing themselves from huge parts of the community that they used to enjoy. I used to love coming up with theories in S&T, because it was neat to try to figure out how the Bionicle universe worked, or try to predict the twists and turns of the story. But now I can hardly follow the discussions there, because discussion of the story often relies on a shared interpretation of the story—a singular canon—and the more of that canon you ignore, the less common ground you have with other fans to base discussions on.

 

I'm very glad that Bionicle is being rebooted next year. The old story, at this point, is a lost cause. It should have been ended definitively years ago, but fans opted to keep it alive long after the point of death, and now I hardly get any joy from it. Bionicle 2015 is a much needed fresh start, and I dearly hope that it can learn from the original theme's ample mistakes. And the biggest mistake I want it to avoid is letting the inmates run the asylum, as the original theme did.

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Firstly, the organized Bionicle community has an obsession with canon. It's why we have to deal with these idiotic suggestions in the first place—a lot of Bionicle fans CARE about the actual canon, and it leads them to want to make a mark on it. Secondly, the fans that don't like suggestions? They DO ignore it! They do like I did years ago and divorce themselves altogether from the canon—but that, of course, means divorcing themselves from huge parts of the community that they used to enjoy. I used to love coming up with theories in S&T, because it was neat to try to figure out how the Bionicle universe worked, or try to predict the twists and turns of the story. But now I can hardly follow the discussions there, because discussion of the story often relies on a shared interpretation of the story—a singular canon—and the more of that canon you ignore, the less common ground you have with other fans to base discussions on.

 

If a community ostracizes individuals simply for having an interpretation of a fictional work that does not agree with your own over what seems to be implied are insignificant, irrelevant details, is it really a worthwhile community in the first place?

 

I have admittedly never paid any attention to S&T because I never saw the appeal, so I have no idea the context of who's saying what and why it's causing a rift. so maybe I'm missing something here. But until I'm clued in, it doesn't make sense to me. I have not seen any outrage or squabbling beyond some playful jabbing over this sort of thing in any other fan community I've been a part of, the idea that this is some serious issue where people are excluded from discussions or treated with hostility because of their interpretations doesn't make any sense.

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[bionicle] should have been ended definitively years ago, but fans opted to keep it alive long after the point of death, and now I hardly get any joy from it. ... And the biggest mistake I want it to avoid is letting the inmates run the asylum, as the original theme did. 

 

 

Just one little thing - although we don't know that BZP's continued existence played any part in LEGO's decision to reboot Bionicle, if it had any impact at all, it was a positive one. In other words, maybe if the inmates hadn't kept running the asylum for a few years, Bionicle wouldn't be returning at all.

 

But aside from that, yes. This is a very good entry indeed.

 

-L

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And the biggest mistake I want it to avoid is letting the inmates run the asylum, as the original theme did. 

 

snoop.gif

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One of the most intelligent blog entries I've seen in some time. I would give you a blog approval in a heartbeat if those were still a thing.


Takuma Nuva

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This boy needs some more upvotes. Get me 50 ccs of approval, stat.

 

that this is some serious issue where people are excluded from discussions or treated with hostility because of their interpretations doesn't make any sense.

The problem is, as summarily as possible, that some peoples interpretations are then being forced on others without them getting a say. Is it wrong to be intolerant of intolerance?

 

(I can't find a way to make that sound less dramallama, but you get the picture)

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[bionicle] should have been ended definitively years ago, but fans opted to keep it alive long after the point of death, and now I hardly get any joy from it. ... And the biggest mistake I want it to avoid is letting the inmates run the asylum, as the original theme did. 

 

Just one little thing - although we don't know that BZP's continued existence played any part in LEGO's decision to reboot Bionicle, if it had any impact at all, it was a positive one. In other words, maybe if the inmates hadn't kept running the asylum for a few years, Bionicle wouldn't be returning at all.

 

But aside from that, yes. This is a very good entry indeed.

 

-L

 

I'm not at all alleging that BZPower is the problem. In fact, the fact that they're trying to create an organized consensus about what exactly should be canonized BEFORE submitting it to Greg sets them apart from the madhouse that is the Lego Message Boards.

 

But I am saying that letting the fans have such a profound impact on the story was a mistake. Back in the day, it seemed harmless, or even positive—the idea that your entry in a contest could become a canon story or character was one of the coolest things about Bionicle! But that should have all come to a close when Bionicle ended. Instead, we collectively decided that GregF should continue to add to and modify the story on his own (without the guiding force of the main story team shackling him any longer), and the result was that now Greg is the only barrier between the canon Bionicle story and the pseudo-anarchic idea engine that is the internet. And the result has been that slowly but surely the empty spaces that used to make the story inspire imagination are being filled in.

 

I noticed something to that effect back when the theme was still running. Every attempt I made at fanfiction that could conceivably fit into the gaps and cracks of the Bionicle story inevitably got decanonized by one development or another, because the canon was a living, breathing thing that would expand to fill those spaces. But that could and should have stopped when the theme ended. At the time of the theme's end, I had thought that it was amazing that anyone who wanted to add to the story, tie up loose ends, or fill in gaps was free to do so without fear of their stories becoming obsolete or inconsistent with the main canon. But thanks to the general fandom's abhorrence of anything that might be considered "incomplete", those gaps are being filled in one by one. And the net result is a story that is less open to imagination, addition, or interpretation. I think that's a darn shame.

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