There's art that's like a gourmet meal, to be enjoyed as intended.
And then there's the stuff you kind of have to throw together like IKEA.
Let's be real: makers make mistakes. Even the best writers, artists, film-makers, musicians, painters, poets, priests (ok - forget priests) - sometimes they need a helping hand from the audience.
That's fine by me. Because meaning exists somewhere between them and us. They give us the pieces, we bring the feeling. Reading a book, thinking about a film - alive in our imagination, all of those things can be creative acts.
In that sense, art is malleable. Ours to mould.
But it doesn't always feel like that.
Books made oral stories canon. A human tradition from caves and campfires got stuck on pages. Tales which had travelled far, that were part-memory part-improvisation, innately designed to be recreated in the telling - they were replaced by a fixed narrative. You pick up a book and everyone reads the same story. The consistency is the point.
Music, too. Records froze performances - live music was no longer a chance to create anew, not entirely. A performance couldn't exist outside the context of the record. It's why people complain about Bob Dylan being shit live, because he'll mangle his own tracks, still trying to find new expressions.
This all reached a head for me when I realised how modern film and TV has a canon-obsession. Canon really pays when you're trying to <checks press release> build a multi-billion content franchise of persistent storytelling.
When Disney bought Star Wars, they scrapped most of it; instead of drawing from decades of great stories, they used their superpowers to make up shit new ones. The comics failed, the actors griped, the toys didn't sell. I enjoy the old ones, imagine a brighter set of sequels I just didn't see.
Warner Bros waterboarded a Wachowski for a Matrix sequel - clearly produced under some level of duress, and let's not be hasty, it's terrible - but that's ok! because... I've just thrown it onto the pile of Matrix sequels that I pretend never happened.
You can probably tell: I love headcanon. The tweaks you make to a fictional world reshape it to your liking. Tie up loose ends, fix errors, exploit untapped jokes and beats, extend beyond the told story.
For me, The Flintstones really is a post-apocalyptic sequel to The Jetsons. The Rock stars Connery as Bond. It's a bisexual Captain America. In Middle Earth, some bad shit happened to all the black elves.
This isn't about fan-fiction, but reimagining the story and its connections in your mind and memory.
When I think about a film like Passengers I don't remember the mediocre one everyone saw - I recall this version, where a subtle edit elevates the story by magnitudes. (One of my favourite Youtube sub-genres is attempts to improve a story through making the fewest changes possible). Obi-Wan was meh on Disney+, a bored editor kinda made it far better.
Sometimes creators ask it of us - like having to imagine that Maggie Gyllenhaal and Katie Holmes are the same person in The Dark Knight sequels. Even film-makers encourage it - Tarantino positioned Kill Bill as a film inside the universe of Pulp Fiction.
The bigger and badder the franchise, the worse-run, the greater the opportunity to add value. Skyfall fucked up every female role - but I don't mind, because in my version, Moneypenny is M's chief analyst, not his desk bitch. I watched No Time To Die and enjoyed it, but prefer it with my added notes; tighter lines and sequencing to punch up the script, a subtle rewrite on the villain, and in the final scene, Daniel Craig lighting up a cigar.
Glorious works of art that we love are great. But unfinished ones, flawed masterpieces, have far more potential - mousetraps that leave room for the mouse.
Armchair critics get a bad rep, but you can be an armchair creator. A hobbyist with a headful of stories.
Like Bob Dylan, reworking old Woody Guthrie songs; change a few words, you make a new song.
The first step to making for yourself.
Not bullshit: a remix.
Consumption that creates.