On Fans and Fandom

As I've mentioned before around here, I have written fan fiction. Quite a lot of it, in various fandoms over the years. I do it (or did it--I don't have much time anymore) because sometimes when I watch a movie or a television show, there are things I want to see that the creators of the show aren't going to show me.* It's my (humble and unscientific) opinion, that that's why most people write fan fiction, to create things that they want to see.

Which, that's the reason for all art, isn't it? Fan fiction or Picasso. The creation of something to express something.

The reason I'm thinking about this is because, in this interactive world, there's been a sort of blurring of the lines between creating something and critiquing something, a blurring that Linda Holmes points out in her recent blog post about the NBC show Chuck.** Here's part of what she says:

But here's the thing: When a storyline isn't going in the direction you prefer, it is not a betrayal. It is not a personal slight made by a show's writers against its fans. If fans of any show wrote the show as a group, by voting on where the story would go next, the show would be unwatchably terrible and boring. It's counterintuitive but true: The most satisfying stories almost always involve one development that, when it happened, was not what fans would have voted for.

A little background: apparently, in Chuck, Chuck and main his love interest have broken up adn are seeing other people now and some fans are ticked off about it and are threatening to boycott the show and writing angry comments on the NBC website*** and et cetera.

Linda's point is that, hey, guess what? You fans don't get a vote. This is not a democratic process. In her parlance, we can't all drive the bus.

My suggestion is that these people need to get themselves to a fan fiction writer, stat, because you know where all your little fantasies about Chuck and his spy ex-girlfriend can come true? On the Internet. You can even make requests!

Bringing this around to writing, however, the point is that you, the author, can't please all the readers all the time. Let's take an obvious and hugely popular example: Twilight. Well, the series, actually, not just the first book. In that series, Meyer sets up a love triangle between Bella and Edward and Jacob, and, if she's done her job right**** some readers are going to want Bella to end up with Edward, and some are going to want her to end up with Jacob. And guess what? Some of those readers are going to be disappointed.

That's just how it goes. That's it. Meyer sets up a situation where someone wins and someone loses and the people on the losing side aren't going to be happy about it. Can you write a story that doesn't have winners and losers in it? Sure, but then you can't have a love triangle.*****

And people were mad about Meyer's resolution to the story. Really mad. And disturbed, actually. And creeped out. But that doesn't mean that they get a vote.

Don't get me wrong, I have thoughts and feelings about a number of series (book and television). I've bailed on both because the characters I liked weren't going to get together or their relationships had become too corrupted for me to enjoy (I'm looking at you, West Wing). I've walked on shows that were good, but not good enough (to me) to keep me interested (Chuck, Dollhouse). And don't even get me started on Lost.

But it never occurred to me that the creators of those shows, or those books owed me what I wanted to see. They don't. I get to hope for it and wish for it and anticipate it, and then I get to see what happens. But the only way I get to influence what happens is by supporting (or not supporting) the product. Buying (or not buying) the book. Watching (or not watching) the show. Because on their buses, I'm the rider. If I want to drive, I'll write my own damn bus.

To quote Linda again:

If you, the viewer, are going to get everything you want at the moment you request it, then you might as well write the show yourself. If every line is going to be what you want to hear, if every step is the same next step you would have chosen, then there's absolutely no need to watch the show. You might as well just take a shower and imagine the episode in your head while you're washing your hair.
I would add this--if you expect this level of service with your television, or your movies, or your books, then you really should be writing fan fiction and not making angry comments on websites. At least in fan fiction, you'll actually get what you want.

~~~

* Usually in fan fiction, those things are romantic or sexual relationships. Name any two characters on pretty much any television show and I bet you someone has written a story where they have sex. Josh and Toby on The West Wing? Yep. Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson on American Idol? Undoubtedly. Everyone on any show written or created by Joss Whedon? Oh, for sure. The Internet can be a scary place, my friends.

** Full disclosure: I don't watch Chuck. It's a fine little show, but after a season and a half it started to seem like the same show over and over again and, as much as I like Adam Baldwin, it wasn't worth my while anymore.

*** Really, are there any other kind of comments on public boards nowadays? I routinely ignore all comments on non-moderated blogs and websites just because most of the time the comments are so stupid and/or annoying that it's not worth my time.

**** And the immense popularity of these books suggests that she's done something right.

***** Except, of course, in fan fiction, where the conflict would be resolved by all three of them falling into a big sexy heap. Fan Fiction: The Cure For All Plot Conflicts.

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