stillane: (Default)
[personal profile] stillane
Okay. I don't actually do the straight-out meta thing very often, but this is something I've been thinking about for a while now. I've been holding off because I am possibly the most conflict-averse person in the history of ever, but... well, here goes.

First off, a little disclaiming. I have not seen Torchwood: CoE. While I do have certain opinions based on all the accounts I've seen of it, this post is not actually aimed at the show itself, or even necessarily specific to the reactions that are taking place in response to reactions to that show. (That... might make more sense in a minute. Sorry.) Additionally, while I've enjoyed Torchwood a lot, I've never been particularly vocal about it. So if you're inclined to shout, "But you haven't even watched it!" or "You're not even in the fandom!" you are completely correct. 

There aren't any specific spoilers in here, although there might well be in the comments but they're hanging out in the comments.

With all of that junk on what this isn't about out of the way, on with the show.

What this is about is the term 'fannish entitlement', and the uses thereof I've seen lately.

(Just to be clear, the earnest 'I hope RTD dies in a fire!' sentiments are not entitlement; they are batshit crazy. There's a difference.)

The concept of fannish entitlement is an odd one, for me. On the one hand, yeah, there are lines that really, really should never be crossed, and there are people who believe that those lines don't exist. Stalking an actor like a creepy unofficial member of the paparazzi? Entitled. Badgering show writers at cons during their bathroom breaks about how much you thought the B Plot in Episode 42 sucked? Entitled. Showing up at anyone's home, ever? Really, disturbingly entitled.

So, basically, I think there's no question there are definitely entitlement issues between fans and the actual people involved with media production.

What I'm not so sure of is this label being applied to matters between the fans and the show itself.

We don't get to make decisions about the future of the brand, any more than you get to choose whether Coke Classic is going to change its formula next year and ship all over the world as the Newest! Best! beverage since water met ice. We are, however, perfectly allowed to have an opinion on that action, and to voice that opinion both among ourselves and, in the appropriate venues and without going nuts, to the PTB. It's not ungrateful or whiny to do this; it's in the contract.

Yeah, that's right. I said it. The contract.

Media - and television and film in particular - is not by definition pure art. Can it be damned beautiful and transformative? Absolutely. Is it required to be to count as successful? Nope. The fundamental difference is that art is, at its core, about making you feel. There's not any value judgment attached to how it makes you feel; a piece that inspires abject fury is just as worthy as one that fires up every contentment center in your body.

Media is different. When was the last time you walked out of a theater feeling genuinely disgusted with every part of what you'd seen and the entire juggernaut that put it together and thought, Wow, that was amazing. Let's do that again. (Documentaries and based-on-true-story deals don't count, for the purposes of this post. They're greyer territory, and we're pretty much just sticking to the fiction end of the spectrum. Um. Because I said so.)

And that right there, that willingness to do it again, that matters. If you experience the piece once and remember it, art has done its job. If you see one episode of a TV show and remember it until your dying day, but don't watch the next episode, media has failed.

You can pretend all you like that television exists in a vaccum, sealed in with artistic integrity and high ideals. Doesn't make it true.

And we're back to that idea of a contract. Without getting too Rousseau-ian about the whole thing, there's a give-and-take relationship inherent in TV. We give our time and our emotions and our energy (and our spending money), and the PTB give us a show (and many commercials). That show, in the best cases, is woven through with their time and emotions and energy, too, and everybody breaks even or a little better.

Where it gets dicey is when the PTB decide to cut that tie and make the show for themselves, or for a different audience. They're perfectly within their rights to do this, of course; the whole matter isn't actually binding, and they can walk away at any time. The problem is, we're then perfectly within our rights to think this approach is crap, and to say so. We can walk away, too.

As much as we like to write about them, unrequited relationships in real life suck. Giving a part of yourself over and feeling like what you get back is lesser, that's both disappointing and painful. Having that exchange be dismissed or manipulated by the party with power in the relationship? Best case scenario, it makes you seriously unwilling to engage with that party again.

Fandom is all about the talking. We talk when we're thrilled, we talk when we're apprehensive, we talk when we're hungry and in desperate need of caffeine. We talk a lot when we're really, really pissed off. It's what we do. You can certainly be a fan and never discuss the show in question, but if nobody's discussing it, it doesn't have a fandom. (Or, put a different way: What is the sound of one hand clapping? Not a fandom.)

The thing is, I would argue that this is exactly what's special about this format. You don't get this kind of devotion, this kind of love, anywhere else. This relationship, this investment, is what has us learning languages and making costumes and flying cross-country to shake someone's hand. It's what has us writing our own stories, because we want to know what happens outside of the windows we're given.

It's what has us saying, No. You know what? I don't think that was right, and here's why.

That's not entitlement; that's giving a damn.

Date: 2009-07-29 06:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] denorios.livejournal.com
I agree completely and whole-heartedly with this. I actually wrote a fair bit about this sense of entitlement and emotional ownership in my MA thesis - I've always found it fascinating. Because you're right, on one level the fans own nothing and have no say whatsoever.

But on the other, who are they making these shows and movies for if not the fans? I'm not saying that gives fans a right to decide how things should go, but writers/producers also need to recognise that without the fans they wouldn't be making a show or movie at all and that it's all very well making executive decisions about the direction a show/movie goes in, but if the fans voice their objections and vote with their feet there's no audience left and they've effectively killed their own product. And on the flipside, the fans can very often be the difference between survival and cancellation - look at Star Trek, look at Jericho, look at Firefly and Serenity. There are sometimes occasions when the very continued existence of a show is directly as a result of fan action, and when you have a circumstance like that...damn right the fans are allowed to feel a certain level of entitlement.

It's a fine line between artistic integrity and pandering to the fans by giving them exactly what they want - some producers are very good at it (I'd say Kripke is a good example of this) and others (RTD) are not. A devoted fanbase is never ever a bad thing, and pissing them off by deliberating mocking them, disregarding their feelings and stressing their unimportance as RTD has done is usually something that will come back and bite you in the ass in the long run.

Date: 2009-07-29 07:44 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
but if the fans voice their objections and vote with their feet there's no audience left and they've effectively killed their own product.

What kills me is what a no-win situation that is, at least for anyone emotionally invested in the show. When any production team can say, "Hey, if you didn't like it, go elsewhere," (Hi, RTD!) or "But we're giving you something newer and shinier!" (Stargate folks, I am looking at you), it just kind of screams of a lack of affection for the show in question.

Speaking generally, I want to feel as though the writer is just as affected by what they've written as I am as a fan; otherwise, it's got that weird taint of manipulation. I can respect an author who aches for a day after writing a death scene. I have a much harder time with one who does it clinically.

It's a fine line between artistic integrity and pandering to the fans by giving them exactly what they want

I've been thinking about that a lot lately, too. I think it comes down to that same distinction between intentions, whether the fan is someone you're in league with or someone you're using. Blatant fanservice, again, has that creepy manipulation vibe. What works, though, is when the PTB recognize what it is about their show that works, and roll with that within the universe they've created.

Possibly the best and worst examples of this are both from Stargate. The 200th SG:1 ep was... okay, walking the fanservice line, but self-deprecatingly and with humor. They knew what they were doing, and why it was funny. On the other end of the spectrum, you have pretty much everything involved in the marketing of SG:U, which took something with a lot of potential and managed to position it in every way guaranteed to alienate the existing fanbase. While I'd normally consider marketing studies to be a little icky and inorganic, in this case, I think these guys need one. They don't seem to have any clue anymore what it was about their franchise that fans enjoyed, and what was just tolerated. At the very least, they ought to have a long talk with their PR division.

Date: 2009-07-29 07:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabile-dictu.livejournal.com
I'm not big on meta, but it was you so I read this and I'm glad I did. Of course, I read it through my SGA goggles, and this passage hit home:

Where it gets dicey is when the PTB decide to cut that tie and make the show for themselves, or for a different audience. They're perfectly within their rights to do this, of course; the whole matter isn't actually binding, and they can walk away at any time. The problem is, we're then perfectly within our rights to think this approach is crap, and to say so. We can walk away, too.

Oh yes. See me walking? I am walking away from the SG universe (that's a pun! I made a pun!) even though SG: Universe might be good (HA!) because I'm furious at how terribly SG: Atlantis was treated: the concept, the characters, and the actors.

CoE: I have seen it and, though it broke my heart, I understand why everything was done. I doubt I'll watch any future series of Torchwood but I don't feel the anger at the show and its producers and writers that I do at SGA. Partly because I wasn't as invested, true, but also because I understood why they did what they did. (Trying not to be spoilery here is awkward.)

Anyway. Well done. I agree.

Date: 2009-07-29 07:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hebrew-hernia.livejournal.com
Thread-crashing!

I understand why everything was done.

Really? Can you PLEASE explain it to me? I saw it, and I just... I honestly don't get it.

Date: 2009-07-29 09:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabile-dictu.livejournal.com
Ah, I was speaking specifically about Ianto, but trying to be spoiler-free (though surely no one in the world doesn't know? at this point?), so I kind of overstated. I certainly don't know with any certainty, and I certainly don't know the reasons for everything.

But about Ianto: I felt that Jack would not have been able to do what he did (how's that for vague and non-spoilery?) if Ianto had been at his side. After so many centuries of life-without-death, Jack isn't quite human anymore, but he isn't yet the all-seeing Face of Boe. His investment with specific individuals will keep him from that, uh, growth, I think.

I found a much better explanation at rm's LJ, here, in case you haven't read that.

Date: 2009-07-29 10:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hebrew-hernia.livejournal.com
I hadn't read that. Thank you for the link!

I just don't understand it from a writing/producing perspective: how can you have an ensemble show with two cast members? (Well, I guess three.) How can you expect that your audience can return? Season 2 definitely felt different from season 1-- darker, less irreverent-- and CoE just went to a completely different place. I miss goofy Torchwood.

Date: 2009-07-30 12:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabile-dictu.livejournal.com
Yeah, goofy Torchwood was pretty charming, I agree. And as I told Stillane, I don't know if I'll watch s4. Because I do love Ianto *sniff*

Date: 2009-07-29 08:15 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Of course, I read it through my SGA goggles

This was definitely written with a fair amount of SG drama on the brain. There wasn't really anywhere to work that discussion into the post, specifically, but it's certainly lurking around in my head, too.

I am walking away from the SG universe (that's a pun! I made a pun!)

Hahaha. You know, I've come to the conclusion that you can only talk about SG:U in written form. Otherwise, the lack of audible capitalization makes things all kinds of confusing. (Also, you could do a whole post on anti-pickup lines based on that title. Just sayin'. *g*)

I'm furious at how terribly SG: Atlantis was treated: the concept, the characters, and the actors.

Yeah. You're not alone. I really want to like SG:U, because hey, more scifi is never a bad thing and there is Lou Diamond Phillips. I'm kind of in the minority, but I even like the visuals so far. I don't want to take it out on the new kid on the team, just because my best buddy got kicked off, you know? On the other hand, the coach is an ass, and I don't trust him in the least. The marketing behind SG:U hasn't done anything to make me think the PTB have clued in at all to their fanbase, and the continued screwing over of everything SG:A isn't helping with my resentment. Ten bucks says LDP bites it in the first ep anyway. *sigh*

CoE: I have seen it and, though it broke my heart, I understand why everything was done.

I am a happy ending person, by nature. I can certainly handle dystopian outlooks, even enjoy them from time to time, but I think my limits are all about the length of the source. Short stories, or limited-run things that I can get through in a brief time, I'm fine with getting a bleaker ending from. It's when I feel like I've invested for the long haul that I get traumatized by the downer stuff.

Knowing that about myself, though, I can chalk it up to personal preference. Personally, I'm not a happy bunny about how things went down. On the other hand, I don't feel invested enough to discuss the larger idea of whether or not this is the direction the show should have taken. It doesn't work for me, but then I'd have to watch it to form more of an opinion than that, and I'm not willing to do that.

On the other other hand - and this one was the impetus behind the original post - I kind of think we all have every right to discuss it, if we so choose. We can't change it, of course, but what's so wrong with talking about it?

(Trying not to be spoilery here is awkward.)

Feel free to be spoilery. I'll edit the post accordingly. :)

Date: 2009-07-29 09:27 pm (UTC)
ext_3572: (doctor who - up up and away)
From: [identity profile] xparrot.livejournal.com
Quite agreed here. I think, too, that there is an important distinction (that you define clearly) between having an opinion about fiction and harassing the creators of that fiction. But there's nothing wrong with expressing your opinion to your fellow fans. And I don't think it's out-of-line for fans to feel betrayed, when they don't get what they thought they were going to get.

In the case of CoE, I suspect that "fannish entitlement" is being bandied about (presuming it has been, I haven't been following any such discussions) because some fans hated CoE, but some fans liked or even loved it, so are getting cross with those who disagree (similar effect happened in SGA, with Keller supporters cranky with detractors). It's not actually about media creators vs fans but fans vs fans; "entitlement" is the latest buzz-word for devaluing your opponent's opinion. (Unless the media creators themselves have been using it? I haven't seen this, either, but it wouldn't surprise me. Especially from the likes of Mallozzi...)

(For what it's worth (with the disclaimer that I did not hate CoE, and think RTD has issues but a lot of talent) I think comparing RTD with the SG creators is, hmm, inaccurate...RTD by and large *does* understand fan opinion; he knew what he wrote was going to rile people up, and he's pleased to get that emotional reaction, pleased to know he can affect people so powerfully. Whether that makes him an ass or an artist is a matter of opinion, but he's not utterly tone-deaf to fannish sentiment the way the SG people seem to be...)

(But then, I also didn't feel that CoE was a "breach of contract"; Torchwood always promised to be a darker show than Who, and after s2 I wasn't expecting anyone to get a happy ending. CoE was...sudden, but I'm kind of surprised that anyone thought Jack/Ianto was ever going to end well; that's just not how Jack's relationships go!)

Date: 2009-07-30 01:59 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
when they don't get what they thought they were going to get.

I think the promo materials on CoE really didn't help in this regard. A lot of people seem to feel rather mislead, and there's definitely a case to be made there for that being deliberately done.

I don't know. *sigh* Such a muddle.

so are getting cross with those who disagree

Where I've seen it most, honestly, is coming from those who didn't particularly care about it either way, although there's definitely some conflict between the Yays and the Nays. In any case, yeah, everything I've seen has been fan-to-fan crankiness.

Especially from the likes of Mallozzi...

Hahaha. Oh, Mallozzi. We'll believe pretty much anything of that man. *g*

I think comparing RTD with the SG creators is, hmm, inaccurate...RTD by and large *does* understand fan opinion

That's a really interesting point. I'm not quite sure where I fall on the How Plugged In Is RTD scale. He does certainly seem pleased with the emotion he's generated; I do wonder, though, how well he really estimated the backlash from certain quarters... or, more specifically, the reasoning behind it. He does occasionally have a habit of misreading the nature of fans' reception of his characters (naming no names, of course *looks shifty*), and I wonder if there isn't some of that at work here.

We can most all agree, though, that the SG people continue to be out of their ever-loving minds. If Brad Wright digs himself any deeper with the fans, he's going to need spelunking equipment. *headshake*

Date: 2009-07-30 09:42 am (UTC)
ext_3572: (dw master cheers)
From: [identity profile] xparrot.livejournal.com
He does occasionally have a habit of misreading the nature of fans' reception of his characters (naming no names, of course *looks shifty*), and I wonder if there isn't some of that at work here.

Hmm, which characters? In Doctor Who, at least, most of his characters have passionate fans - and passionate haters too, but pretty much all the Who leads are somebody's favorite. With Torchwood, RTD didn't actually write any TW except CoE, so I don't know if that's as fair an example.

With RTD, I get the feeling that he is a genuine fan himself, and writes stuff that appeals to him, and fans who share his tastes - though it really turns off fans who don't. He writes like a BNF; he's good at hitting the buttons of a lot of people, but in the doing squicks or annoys others. And in true BNF style he doesn't really give a damn about those others.

...as compared to the SG people, who hit a lot of buttons but seem to do so entirely by accident, judging by the way they talk. Oh, Brad Wright...why must you open your mouth in public? I almost feel guilty for liking his episodes, these days...!

Must admit, I'm curious, if there's a TW s4, what kind of ratings it will get. A lot of people have said they're swearing off the show - but a lot of people really did like CoE. At least on my flist I had more who liked it than those who didn't, but I don't have that many OTPers... I also heard that it's been well-received by critics...related to what you said about media, if something turns off a lot of fans, but is popular with the wider audience, then it's still successful TV.

That being said, I can't think of any TV show that has done something unpopular with the majority of fans but still did well with the general public - fans are more vocal and emotional than the average viewer, but we tend to be a decent bellweather for how a show is received.

Date: 2009-07-30 12:54 am (UTC)
ext_1175: (Free by aesc)
From: [identity profile] lamardeuse.livejournal.com
You don't get this kind of devotion, this kind of love, anywhere else. This relationship, this investment, is what has us learning languages and making costumes and flying cross-country to shake someone's hand. It's what has us writing our own stories, because we want to know what happens outside of the windows we're given.

I love that, right there. Brilliant.

Date: 2009-07-30 02:05 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thanks. It still boggles me sometimes, when I take a step back from it all, how much sheer joy goes into fandom. No matter how much crankiness and occasional disrespect enters into the mix now and then, at the heart, it's still pretty awesome. :)

Date: 2009-08-03 07:21 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thanks.

Also: *hugs* It sound like you could use some, right about now.

Date: 2009-08-04 03:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krisomniac.livejournal.com
n'aww, thanks. It's an awesome internship. Just got slapped by a bunch of hard luck cases last week :-/

July 2012

S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
2223 2425262728
293031    

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 22nd, 2017 04:43 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios