Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice may have been critically panned as the founding movies of the DC Extended Universe, but that didn't stop them from drawing a sizeable passionate fanbase that appreciated the style and tone director Zack Snyder was going for. The movies sought to create modern, relevant, and thematically rich versions of classic superheroes, promising an epic culmination in Justice League, but that conclusion never happened.
Before production was completed, Zack Snyder was fired from the project and replaced by Joss Whedon. Fans were promised that Whedon was only completing Snyder's original vision, merely adding some of his own connective tissue along the way, but things began to look more drastic as Whedon replaced fan favorite composer Junkie XL in favor of Danny Elfman and received partial screenplay credit, indicating his changes had a significant effect on Justice League's story.
While the movie was still marketed in the tone set out by Snyder, many fans were disappointed upon release when it turned out numerous rumors claiming Whedon was severely lightening the tone and simplifying the story had been true. Justice League's reviews were marginally better than Batman v Superman's, but the fans quickly turned on it. Just two days after release, a petition for WB to release Zack Snyders cut of the movie had already reached 32,ooo signatures.
The original petition (found here, courtesy of archive.today) was long, rambly, and full of errors, so it wasn't long before it got a rewrite from a volunteer ghostwriter to be something more concise that fans could readily get behind (the update can be found here, courtesy of web.archive). The petition would mostly maintain this form, seeing only minor updates on a periodic basis. After the revision, signatures skyrocketed to well over 130,ooo just one week after release, crossing over 150,000 sometime in December, and sits at 175,000 today. Due to the high level of interest, the petition creator also fielded some interview questions from the press, some of which were also handled by the same ghost writer that handled the original overhaul.
Some fans questioned the validity of change.org allowing revisions to be made to the petition after their signature was provided since, technically, the scope of the request to Warner Bros had been altered without their consent. The ask was still basically the same, but it definitely raised an issue that would become more pronounced later on.
As time went on and the furor of Justice League's release began to fade, disappointed fans began to express themselves through other outlets, such as creating a website dedicated to the "Snyder Cut," filling it with information about the production timeline, fan art, and blog posts about the Snyder Cut or examining other Zack Snyder DC movies.
But the petition wasn't done. With the ghostwriter and other fans having moved on to other creative endeavors, the petition was updated again sometime after February 17th to fall more in line with its original style and tone, with a new fundraiser attached for the creation of a documentary about the Snyder cut. Not long after the documentary portion went up, another update was added, claiming the petition had seen no outside assistance, calling out a number of DC fans who had reached out to support the petition after Justice League; however, Screen Rant has verified that the original updates were in fact provided from a ghostwriter, although a simple comparison of the various stages of the petition's writing style also makes this fairly clear.
While the petition had seen massive success and had 175,000 signatures, the documentary request didn't generate nearly as much steam, namely because fans didn't think it was a legitimate endeavor. The request states no previous experience, doesn't outline a plan for obtaining any of the necessary interviews, and the list of equipment is exhaustive enough to suggest the creator had little filmmaking experience.
The petition at this point lacked the support of the mainstream fandom, who had found other ways to campaign for the release of the Snyder Cut, once again calling into question the legitimacy of change.org's editing allowance. At this point, the petition no longer resembles the version that oversaw the collection of 140,000 of its signatures, yet the newest version of the petition and the documentary fundraiser claim the backing of all of the petition's 175,000 signatures. The cash donation is voluntary, and it has less than $400, but it's clearly still a major misrepresentation of what those signatures represent.
In an age when it seems every movie is met with a petition from fans demanding some sort of change, one would hope this situation serves as a cautionary tale to those flocking to petitions to settle fandom squabbles, as even the most successful example of fan petitions has now been rendered moot, with fandom no longer supporting the text associated with their name.
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