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[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.
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July 2012

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