Should one million signatures stop Uwe Boll making movies?

Film sites have been encouraging their readers to sign a petition to stop Uwe Boll. But why should we?

Uwe Boll

Petitions to stop Uwe Boll making movies have been around for a while now. It’s not exactly news to report that a lot of people don’t like his movies. But for some unknown reason, the current petition recently picked up a lot of steam, to the extent that someone interviewed Boll about it, telling him that some 18,000 people had signed it, and asking him if that was enough for him to consider giving up filmmaking.

He, fairly obviously, said no – but added that if a million people signed it, he might consider listening. And that’s when the Internet went crazy. Every other film site ran a news story about the petition, screaming from the rafters than if one million people signed this petition, they wouldn’t have to worry about any new Boll movies appearing on the IMDB ever again. The petition picked up steam, and at the current time of writing, there are 203,423 signatures registered on it.

Here’s what everyone’s signing their names to:

To: Dr. Uwe Boll

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We, the undersigned, respectfully ask that Uwe Boll give proper weight to the wishes of the video game community, the horror community, and the film going community in general and stop directing, producing, or taking any part in the creation of feature films. His distasteful handling of the subject matter and lack of acknowledgement of his failures simply cannot be abided any longer.

Mr. Boll has repeatedly shown a complete lack of comprehension regarding the videogames he has dragged, kicking and screaming, to the silver screen and his ham-fisted approach to horror has soiled future possibilities for anyone else who may attempt to bring videogames to film.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Over 200,000 people have signed that, so far. Supposedly, they represent the videogames community, the horror community, and the film going community in general – though, chances are, what that actually represents is the online community of people who hate Uwe Boll. It’s an interesting phenomenon, really, because Boll’s films aren’t actually that bad, yet he inspires a disproportionate amount of hatred. There’s a website, BollBashers.com, dedicated to tracking any and all Boll-related news. And while there are undoubtedly reasons to dislike Boll – his disregard for the plots of the videogames he adapts, his aggressive personality, his hard-to-pronounce name, etc – it seems that, at the end of the day, Boll-bashing has become an Internet meme. And as the huge success of things like LOLcats and rickrolling have proved, a bandwagon doesn’t have to make a huge amount of sense for hundreds and thousands of people to jump straight onto it.

The last time Boll-bashing reached a similar crescendo was in 2006, when Boll issued his infamous “put up or shut up” challenge to his Internet critics – essentially, telling them to put their money where their mouths were and step into a boxing ring with him. The process of choosing which, of the posters who applied to do it, actually got into the ring on the day seems to have been a bit of a hash, and of the four critics who took on Boll, one hadn’t even watched a single Boll film. (Which just supports my theory that it’s nothing more than an Internet meme.) I figured that, if anyone had a legitimate reason to hate Boll, it’d be someone who’d been punched repeatedly in the head by the guy, but that turned out not to be the case.

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Chance Minter, who at 17 was by far the youngest Boll-fighter, didn’t mince his words on the topic: “I think the petition is absolutely absurd. It’s sad that people have no life, so they spend their days trying to bring down a man whose movies may not always be great, but who is a far more successful person than these brats will ever be.”

Fangoria’s Chris Alexander, on the other hand, sees the petition as less of an outrage and more of, er, a marketing technique, almost certainly masterminded by Boll himself: “No matter your take on Boll’s work, the man is highly intelligent and passionate about film. He’s also an incredibly savvy businessman and canny self promoter. Knowing Uwe now, as I do, I’d be willing to bet that this latest oddball media manoeuvre is just that – a way to manipulate the ever gawky press to call attention to the release of his next batch of flicks,” he theorised. “What’s happening here is the same shtick he carved with the boxing bit in 2006 – he’s reading the blogs, he’s hearing the negative reviews and he’s publicly taking control of the situation.”

The fact that Boll has since issued a YouTube video in which he calls himself a genius and ridicules various other filmmakers supports this view – he’s clearly loving the attention. Lorielle New, one of the stars of Boll’s political comedy Postal, agreed: “I don’t think Uwe is upset by the community of hatred towards him that exists on the Internet. He knows that’s all talk – and talk generates interest and publicity! So all that energy his haters put into bashing him actually helps him.” Lorielle’s bang on the money there: it seems that if a film can garner enough bad reviews, it develops a sort of cult around it, becoming something of a status symbol; horror fans in particular will watch worse and worse movies precisely because they’re so bad. (The recent hubbub over the bloody atrocious Troll 2 will confirm there’s money to be made in promoting your film as something terrible, rather than something great.)

It’s frustrating, in a way, that a lack of quality can translate into popularity and monetary return (just look at the Saw franchise!); this good-bad doublethink can be difficult to navigate. I’m in two minds about the whole thing: on the one hand, I think bad movies should just be ignored, left to fester in bargain bins and forgotten all about; I don’t think terrible filmmakers should be rewarded. On the other hand, I don’t think Uwe Boll is a particularly terrible filmmaker – he’s made some stinkers, definitely, but he’s also made some decent movies, and there are innumerable directors out there working today who have far less talent than he does, and no-one’s calling for an end to their careers. It’s possibly because Boll has broken into the mainstream – ironically, mostly because everyone hates him so much – that he gets so much attention; if no-one watched his movies at all, then his name wouldn’t generate so much vitriol. So while I hate this culture of rewarding lack of talent and intelligence, I kind of love that at least Boll gets some return out of being so hated.

As Chris Alexander put it, “There is no one out there like Uwe Boll…no one.” So let’s all go and sign the pro-Boll petition instead. You know you want to.