If you’re unfamiliar with the folktale of “The Little Dutch Boy”, here’s a summary courtesy of the Encyclopedia Mythica:
Dutch legend has it that there was once a small boy who upon passing a dyke on his way to school noticed a slight leak as the sea trickled in through a small hole. Knowing that he would be in trouble if he were to be late for school, the boy pocked[sic] his finger into the hole and so stemmed the flow of water. Some time later a passerby saw him and went to get help. This came in the form of other men who were able to effect repairs on the dyke and seal up the leak.
According to the footnote this is not an actual Dutch legend, instead originating from 19th Century America. The moral? “This story is told to children to teach them that if they act quickly and in time, even they with their limited strength and resources can avert disasters.”
This story also long predates the Internet. This past week, San Diego Comic-Con happened, and there were a couple of bootleg recordings of exclusive trailer footage that leaked out onto the web, causing a small uproar of controversy as the studios involved expressed their “disappointment” at the breach of trust. Now, Comic-Con does make a point of asking people to please turn off all recording devices at the panels as per the wishes of these studios generously providing exclusive looks to Comic-Con attendees. The overhanging threat always stated is that the studios will stop bringing their footage to the show, and there were dark rumblings of just that from Warner and Fox in the wake of the leaks.
And really, I could have cared less, because I haven’t set foot near Hall H (where these bigtime presentations usually happen) in years. You could tell me Christina Hendricks is providing a personal lapdance to everyone who gets in and I’d still be weighing whether that was worth waiting in line for hours at a convention where there are a thousand other things to be doing. But I will say this: the studios, and tut-tut articles like the one that appeared on Wired, are thinking in terms of 19th Century fairy tales rather than the realities of the 21st Century. Displaying your footage in any kind of public setting of the size Comic-Con’s Hall H represents is not a dam you can police, sticking your fingers into any cracks that appear, there’s just too many cracks and not enough fingers. Are the people bootlegging these videos heroes? I wouldn’t go that far; but they exist, and every year high-quality recording devices get smaller and more unobtrusive, and there’s a lot of anonymity to be had in a darkened auditorium stuffed with 6,500 people. That video can be uploaded and shared a thousand times over before the panel even ends. A single boy might plug a leak, but now we’re talking a (sometimes literal) torrent.
I have heard that this sort of thing hurts because it breaks the marketing plans of studios or releases footage to the general public before it’s “ready”, but the Suicide Squad trailer looks awfully slick for something considered not ready for prime time. That trailer, by the way, now released officially by WB not a day after they swore they would never release it because the sacred covenant of Comic-Con had been breached. If your marketing isn’t taking the possibility of a leak into account, then you’re not paying attention to current events.
It’s 2015. You can’t stop it. Hell, we’ve had several cases where footage didn’t even need a massive public showing to end up ripped and spread all over the web, like the Batman v Superman trailer back in Spring. It’s gotten commonplace enough people accuse studios of doing it intentionally because the air of naughtiness helps it “go viral”. In a world like that, studios talking down at their audiences like disappointed parents doesn’t really help, does it? I find it especially ironic that Fox is upset about the Deadpool trailer leaking, when the Deadpool movie wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the test footage that leaked out last year.
“Will the person who leaked the Deadpool test footage please stand up? Ryan Reynolds really wants to kiss you. “And not just a little kiss,” he purrs. “But full on the mouth, sloppy, with tongue, for two straight minutes on live television — without commercial interruption. And then I’ll buy you dinner at Red Lobster, at least, and dessert.””
Deadpool was, by all accounts, well, “dead” prior to that leak, after Fox execs balked at the same footage that energized fans all around the world when they got hold of it. They couldn’t see any way such a movie would work. We couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t already in our eyeballs, and the acclaim and demands that erupted were what enabled the green light.
But hey, if the studios want to pull the plug and stop showing exclusive videos in Hall H, or even pull out from Hall H altogether, that’s their decision. My own reaction as I posted on Facebook when the news was breaking? “I look forward to the bluff being called. If it’s not a bluff then I look forward to Hall H pulling back from the insanity it’s become.”
I’ve got no real dog (or Dutch Boy) in this fight, but I’ll be interested to see the outcome of the flooding.