As I have mentioned many times over the years, writing about DC Films and the Snyder Cut can be loaded, because it comes attached to a very toxic fandom. There were plenty of instances over the years where I passed on writing about some new wrinkle in the Snyder drama because I just didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to have that toxicity in my life on that day, but at times it was unavoidable and by now my social media and email filters are precise enough to filter out the worst of it. But it’s not just writers and critics who have felt the brunt of that toxicity, over the years employees of Warner Brothers were subject to abuse and harassment, too. Now, WarnerMedia CEO Ann Sarnoff addresses the Snyder Cut, the toxicity, and the Quixotic dream of #RestoreTheSnyderVerse while speaking to Variety. Let’s go through some of her comments and see how her corporate-speak lines up with the actual practice of fandom around DC films.
About the toxicity, Sarnoff says, “We’re not tolerating any of that. […] We want DC to be a fandom that feels safe and inclusive. […] We are about positivity and celebration.”
I have seen no evidence of this. Perhaps that will change as DC introduces a new slate of diverse heroes to draw a wider audience beyond the Snyderbros that dominated the 2010s, but from 2005-2021 the story of DC film fans has been one of increasing toxicity and abuse. They’re quick to remind you that they have raised money for charity, which is nice in and of itself, but it still allows the toxic element to hide behind that like a shield and continue being toxic. One good deed doesn’t cancel out ten bad ones. Zack Snyder recently echoed Sarnoff’s sentiments on a livestream with prominent Snyder Cut fans including toxic YouTube page “Geeks + Gamers”. He said, “There is no room for hate,” and declared that “we’re not really affiliated with Geeks + Gamers”. On the one hand, this was a boss-level move because hosts from G+G were on the stream with him at the time; on the other hand, he waited to make this declaration until AFTER he got what he wanted out of their fan support. This is the whole problem with anyone connected to DC Films saying they’re not about the hate. They were happy to cultivate this fandom—a not insignificant portion of which is toxic—when their Batman movies ruled the world. They were happy to nurse that fandom along in hopes of translating the Batman success to other characters. And when it came to the Snyder Cut, no one official had a word about the toxicity until it was all over, and now we can move on.
On the subject of moving on, Sarnoff offered this: “We won’t be developing David Ayer’s cut [of Suicide Squad],” and, “We’re just so happy that he could bring his cut of Justice League to life because that wasn’t in the plan until about a year ago. With that comes the completion of his trilogy.”
The fans have already moved the hashtag campaign to #RestoreTheSnyderVerse, wanting Zack Snyder to complete his vision of multiple Justice League films to come. Walter Hamada, president of DC Films, has previously called the Snyder Cut a “storytelling cul-de-sac”, and Sarnoff is now backing that up. They don’t have plans for any more Snyder movies. I GUESS that could change, but in this interview, Sarnoff goes on at length about plans to revamp DC for a cross-platform strategy that she seems adamant won’t include Snyder. We’re already seeing the first wave of this strategy with James Gunn spinning off an HBO Max series based on Peacemaker, John Cena’s character in the upcoming The Suicide Squad, a movie meant to replace a previous and widely disliked misfire from the Snyder era. Still, the toxic fans are pissed and doing tweets about it.
And on the subject of Ray Fisher, Joss Whedon, and the investigation into improper and/or abusive behavior on the set of Justice League, Sarnoff holds the company line, saying, “Our investigator, Judge Katherine Forrest, has issued statements specifically about Walter Hamada, saying that there was no evidence of interference by Walter in the investigation. […] We took it very seriously, so we hired one of the top investigators out there and gave her a tremendous amount of leeway.”
I just don’t think there will ever be a satisfactory resolution to this. The studio is taking the line that they found no misconduct, yet Joss Whedon mysteriously left his HBO show. Ray Fisher is no longer Cyborg. Walter Hamada is still president of DC Films. Sarnoff points out that Hamada had nothing to do with the production of Justice League, and that is true. He wasn’t made president of DC Films until 2018, after Justice League had been released in theaters (prior to that, he was producing films like It, Annabelle, and Tag for Warners). But Fisher has clearly never been happy with the result of this investigation, accusing Hamada of interfering to protect the studio, and in the end, “the studio”, by way of Ann Sarnoff, responds: We looked into us, and we did nothing wrong. I doubt we ever have a full accounting of what went on, or who said what when, or what Hamada or anyone else at DC Films did or did not do.
It’s clear that everyone connected to the Snyder Cut at the studio level is ready to move on. Some of that era will linger with Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, and Ben Affleck’s Flashpoint return as Batman. But they also have a new Batman coming next year. And a new Superman, eventually. And Emerald Fennell’s Zatanna (more on this in an upcoming post), and Angel Manuel Soto’s Blue Beetle, and Sasha Calle debuting as the new Supergirl. They are clearly diversifying the ranks, trying to do a 180 and become a “safe and inclusive” fandom. But for over a decade they nurtured the worst impulses of the worst fandom, a large swath of whom are explicitly NOT interested in diverse, inclusive storytelling, so I will be VERY curious to see how this all plays out. I’m not sure you can put this particular genie back in the bottle.