Beware the Social Media Trap

the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-posterIt’s fairly obvious that we are now watching a “controversy” about some of the dwarves not attending the London premiere of the Battle of the Five Armies. As for me, I’m not sure what I think about how all of this went down. Did Warner Brothers screw up and invite the criticism they’re now receiving by not making the game plan clear to all interested parties in the cast? Did John Callen really intend to create a groundswell of support for himself and his erstwhile cast mates, or did he stick his foot in his mouth by not realizing his words are more heeded than he may have realized? Was the L.A. premiere intended for the entire cast all along? Or is Warner Brothers really good at damage control? And to all of these questions, I say a big fat: I don’t know.

What I do know is whatever the intent of these individuals and corporations, one thing is clear: the first rule of social media is at play here, and I find it fascinating to ponder that some or all may have forgotten it existed or never knew it.

And here’s a corollary to the 1st rule of social media — its global power is directly proportional to the boredom of fandoms.


  1. YES, you’ve nailed it, Frenz. “Boredom of the fans,” i.e. those of us with waaaay too much time on our hands who spend hours and hours online with our internet “friends.” (I’m not being sarcastic or judgmental, by the way; I happily concede this description applies to me!)

  2. I am not online for hours and hours as I work full time, and I am not sure who screwed up here nor do I care…What I do care about is fair treatment to ALL THE ACTORS in these great films being treated fairly..How can you have a WORLD PREMIER in London with key players not there on the red carpet? Money issues? Oh come on, really? The entire “Company of Thorin Oakenshield should be at every premier! They earned it……….

  3. I’m not sure I get your comment about the boredom of fans, unless Besotted has it right, but, I don’t know, because this would assume that the boredom is related to RA or Hobbit fans, and not necessarily people in general using social media a lot – or too much. I assume it applied to the effort of fans to make their displeasure known to WB and hope for a 360 on the decision. ( 45 degrees is about all we got). But in this instance, most of the fans who expressed themselves, me included, are already on social media following RA developments, including everything Hobbit. So, where does the boredom fit in this instance? And how is this different from the groundswell to get the Crucible videoed?
    Not being critical of your post, just asking.
    I myself suspect John Callen may very well have hoped for a groundswell of support ( though no other Kiwi Dwarves chimed in), that WB did backpedal – by announcing the heretofore undisclosed L.A. Premiere earlier than they intended, and either way, I think the success of the damage control is minimal. Just IMO.

  4. And I am not criticizing your post or any others who have reported on this. I totally understand thinking it’s unfair that certain cast members were left out. I just continue to be fascinated with the global aspect of social media. I’ve been familiar with its power for a long time, but this ability still amazes me.

    As to the boredom aspect, I should have said people on the web interested in such subjects (which mostly includes people who are part of fandoms).

    As to John Callen, I wonder how he feels about what he started. I really would love to know how he perceives what is going on.

  5. I didn’t think you were criticizing me or my post at all. I just didn’t understand the boredom reference. Or maybe, we are all bored all the time if we are on social media ( though you can multi-task with it.)IMO, and it’s just a guess, JC is crowing. But quietly, because they’ve put the lid on him; influenced TORn to take down the article altogether, even though nothing in the article was incorrect, and apparently, they have quelled the masses.

  6. grandtess, You may well be right, but I don’t know if you are. If I knew that some of the cast had indeed been mistreated, I would have the same opinion as yours. But I don’t know what’s going on other than WB made a move based on TheOneRing’s reaction to John Callen’s remarks and the ripple effect from TORns story. Who knows whaT WB was already going to do — if anything. In other words, I don’t automatically think WB was right or wrong. I don’t feel I have all the facts and certainly, I doubt I will get all the facts.

    As to what the other cast deserve, I certainly would like to see the whole cast participating in at least one premiere, but I don’t think that necessarily has to be London. But then that’s just my opinion.

  7. Okay, glad you didn’t take it as a criticism. I wasn’t sure.

    As to TORn, I’m sorry they felt they had to take it down. IMO, this really hurts their credibility, but then I have to remind myself that they and most of us are not journalists.

  8. Regarding boredom, lots of people are bored. Lots of people surf the net ’cause they’re bored — at least from time to time, and lots of things go viral (not that this story was viral) in part because of boredom. That’s my opinion based on lots of things I’ve seen. Not very scientific, but that’s my assessment.

    Yes, I include myself in the sea of the bored at times.

  9. Movie actors have various clauses in their contracts for publicity /promotional obligations for their films. They can be required or options which I think might depend on importance to the film. Just a thought, no haters please, I won’t respond anyway. :)

  10. I did wonder whether WB had “reached out and touched” John C lol, and whether he would write the same thing again if he could.

    I also found it disturbing that a deliberate statement was made in the “big announcement” video that “the cast and collaborators from all 6 movies” would be at the London premiere- then to hear that the 6 Kiwi dwarves would not be there, apparently for budget reasons?? What the heck?? If not for budget reasons, but re: scheduling or something else, why not say so, WB or someone? As it was, following so close on heels of the announcement, it did raise questions.

    I personally wouldn’t expect every cast member to be at every premiere- that’s completely unnecessary & not even feasible. I’m sure RA and MF won’t be at every premiere. But with such a statement deliberately made in the London premiere announcement, the kerfuffle (word of the day :) shouldn’t be a surprise to WB.

    “You make your bed, you lie in it.” – Everybody’s Mother

  11. “Everybody’s Mother”. LOL!

    Yeah, someone stuck their foot in it, but it sounds like they did intend for all the people to be at one of the events. Maybe it was misstated that it would be London. That’s what it’s sounding like. Whether John C. got “touched,” I’d lay money down that someone in the WB office did. :D

  12. ArmitageBesotted, I just wanted to say that you can surf the net and leap tall buildings with one hand tied behind your back, so I wouldn’t sweat it too much.

    I need a new guest post sometime. Any subject. You choose. :D

  13. We the plebes might think attending a premiere sounds like a fun party, but it looks like work to me. Maybe we’re wrong in assuming all the Kiwis want to go to London, and maybe there’s more to the expenses than hotels and airfare. Doesn’t a studio need to pay actors to appear at these events? Wellington to London is 27 hours on a plane (which, right there, sounds like torture to me). So you spend a day-and-a-half traveling each way, plus a few days on each end recovering from jet lag. In between, there’s a day when you dress in pretty clothes and stand around in a street for a few hours listening to photographers shout at you and another day or so looking excited while barely informed interviewers ask you inane questions. This to help a studio sell a how-many-billion-dollar movie? Sounds like work to me. A week’s worth of shitty work, actually. I wouldn’t do it for nothing. Are these appearances built into actors’ contracts? Do they get separate fees for appearances? How much? Enough to cover giving up a week of your life? I’m genuinely curious. Does anyone know?

  14. I have some of the same questions. I sent you an email with my ponderings about it.

  15. Great points, ABesotted, as usual. If the Kiwi dwarves are just as happy to go to LA, it really shouldn’t matter to us. Because you’re right, it’s work time for all these actors. Probably less time / money from Aus to LA vs. London… surely common sense will work it out. I just would hate for anyone to actually FEEL slighted (vs. our perceptions which may not be correct).

  16. First, I object to the phrase “boredom of the fans” which I find slightly demeaning.
    I think this has little to do with social media per se and a lot to do with the nature of geek fandoms. As a long time follower of TORnet and member of Tolkien fandom, Star Wars and Star Trek fandoms and even Marvel, I can assure you that this sort of thing could easily happen with ST as well, and possibly with the Marvel franchises. And why should fans of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies be bored? Mostly of them are excited at the release of DOS EE, and waiting with mingled excitement and sadness for the final installment of TH next month. From the inside, it seems to me that this happened not because the fans are bored, but because they are passionate about every single aspect of the films and the universe (but perhaps in a different way from Armitage fans).

    Secondly, I’m with SH and Perry in criticizing WB for once again trying to screw over the lesser-known actors in a multi-billion dollar franchise on the grounds of lack of money. They did the same thing with LOTR’s last 2 movies, crying poor, and (it being the days before social media pressure) it took some inside wrangling by a few of the lead actors to get their colleagues’ fares paid to some of the premieres and other events.

  17. I’ve got more to say on the issue with the Kiwi actors being left out. I’m just not ready to publish.

    I’ll give you that there are fans who are passionate about every aspect of these movies. But I also think there is an element of boredom among some that can fan the flames of something like this even higher.

    As a business person, it’s hard not to think that the picture may not be exactly as its being painted. There is always more to the story.

    Anyway, that’s all I’m going to say at the moment, because I have come to a conclusion (at least to some degree) about the series of events and will weigh in on it sometime soon.

  18. With studio accounting, there is always much, much more than meets the eye. It’s axiomatic.

  19. Which is the case with most business, but unfortunately, not everyone realizes it making the self-evident aspect not nearly so ubiquitous.

    I do tend to think the Kiwi actors were left out, but I’m sure they had contracts that were entered in order to participate in the filming and render other duties. I’m wondering what kind of agreement their agents forged for them.

    None of this above is to say that these are the sum of my conclusions about what’s going on. Not at all. I have many more thoughts.

  20. @Frenz, re: TORn taking down their first article: I don’t blame them because I assume they were asked to. As amateur “journalists” or bloggers, website admins, whatever we call them, they are fortunate to have some connection with Warner Bros, PJ, whomever and at times they have a dialogue and get information – from which we all benefit. So, it was a small enough request, if indeed WB made it, to take down the original post – in exchange, I guess for the scoop about the L.A. Premiere. As non-journalists, I think it OK that they decided not to bite – or continue to chew – the hand that feeds them.
    I guess I’ll never for certain whether Warner Brothers asked them to take down the first post. I suspect that, but I don’t know.

  21. @Frenz As a friend of mine said, it’s the business of studio accountants to make it look like the studio isn’t making money when it comes to payments of royalties and profit sharing, but to make the same studio look fabulously successful when investors come round. It looks like someone might have slightly mis-stepped on this.
    I can’t really blame TORnet for taking down the post. It’s essentially a fan site.that made good, not investigative journalism or social activism.

  22. I don’t blame TORn for taking down the piece either, but it still makes the point about credibility, which brings me back to the initial reason I did not take the “Kiwigate” incident as much to heart as some strictly based on John Callen’s remarks. He’s not a journalist, and his site, albeit run by him, is still a fan site and both of those aspects make it something I would not hang my hat on for a good reading on the situation. Maybe a clue that there was a situation but not something to launch a campaign from. That is not a criticism of anyone else I’m just stating how I read things and react. I guess the net of it is that I’m a little more conservative in reacting.

    And like Besotted, I couldn’t help but wonder about the contractual agreement between WB and/or Jackson and these actors.

    Regarding WB, I’ll be giving my thoughts soon. : D

  23. Cill, regarding the studio accountants, they’re in good company with a lot of businesses. LOL!

  24. @Frenz: Whatever contractual agreement exists was obvioulsy written a long time ago, when obviously the site of the premieres had not been decided. Maybe there was an agreement or promise by WB (even as they trumpeted in video) that they would bring all the actors to the premiere of the last movie and they just didn’t specify the *world* premiere of the last movie. I’m assuming that this was case. I also (as I said) have clear memories of things like PJ having to sue for some of the profits due him under contract.

    I’m sorry to say that in some parts of social media this has in fact become a bit of an excuse for trouble making, with some people using nationalism or claiming that the fans will be hurt by this yadda yadda.

  25. I’ve been pondering this situation off and on for a couple of days, and also reading on the history, and I’ve definitely come to a conclusion about it. Will try to post today. I’ve still got to get out my piece on Graham McTavish. LOL! It’s done, but I’ve been holding off in light of all of this.

  26. Just to add that neither TORnet or the people who first started to spread the news after John Callen were doing either of these things but as with everything it attacted some attention seekers.
    But then, this sort of thing is hardly limited to social media. Read the comments in any online newspaper (or talk radio show callers) and try to not want to kill yourself in despair for the future of humanity over the outpouring of racism, sexism and homophobia and general hatefulness that is bound to show up in the comments.

  27. That kind of negativity just goes with the territory.

  28. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this and also the amazing Graham :)
    And hope your dam(p) basement problems get resolved quickly & (relatively) painlessly today!

  29. I love hearing your comments, Cill, because you have such a great long-term memory about lots of fan stuff :) It makes a fantastic perspective for me, knowing virtually nothing!

  30. I agree that Cill brings a helpful perspective!

  31. It’s scary how quickly social media can ignite (or inflame) controversy, or even create it!

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