Every Eyeball Matters

This isn’t going to be a particularly popular post. (Good to know that going in, right?)

But something’s been bugging me for a long time, and I got another reminder of it yesterday. And yes, the vehicle in this particular instance is the Bones fandom, but I’ve seen similar behavior elsewhere, so just substitute your show’s followers and go with me, here, okay?

A few months ago, I had a dialog with a couple of other fans. I interact with people in a variety of places (Twitter, Bonesology, the comments section of TV sites, Livejournal, real life) so the where and the who don’t matter, (particularly since I’ve been having variations of the same conversation for years.)

They were unhappy that a given episode of the show had not focused enough on Booth and Brennan to suit their tastes. I noted that the show does have other characters, and their stories have to be told as well.

And they explained to me that yes, there are other characters, but ‘everyone knows’ that ‘most people’ watch for Booth and Brennan, and therefore they should be the sole focus of every episode.  I responded that I know plenty of people who watch the show for other reasons: the cases, the humor, the team.

They didn’t believe me. Bald-faced told me I was wrong. After all, everyone they know watches for the same reason they do. They don’t know anyone who watches for another reason, so those people don’t exist. (The fact that while I love Booth and Brennan, they’re not the only reason I watch completely escaped them. I’m just another invisible viewer of the invisible show, I guess.)

Since I don’t think it’s all that hard to find people who love the show for other reasons, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a willful blindness toward everyone who doesn’t value the same thing they do. (And for the record, I see the same kind of blindness from people who watch for other reasons as well. It doesn’t matter why you watch – if you insist that you represent the majority, I’m talking to you.)

It’s a harsh term, I know, but regardless of which camp they’re in, they come across as threatened by the idea that someone could love the show for another reason. And after thinking about it for a while, I finally figured out what might be behind it when someone else (yet another fan, in a different conversation) made a comment along the lines of, ‘the writers owe us – they have to keep us happy.’

Ah. Well, That explains a lot, doesn’t it? If you believe the writers work for you, then it matters deeply that all those ‘bosses’ – the audience – be in agreement about what it is the writers should do.

I understand the logic here, actually.  If no one likes the story being told on a TV show, it won’t remain on the air. So it seems like that should march hand in hand with the idea that the writers have to write just to please the audience, have to tell only stories the audience wants to see, exactly the way they want to see them. And if that’s the case, then we all have a vested interest in believing everyone wants to see the same thing we do.

But it doesn’t work that way. Writing doesn’t work that way, with a committee of some seven, eight or ten million people determining what happens next. It can’t. (This image keeps popping into my mind of a bus with a whole bunch of people all shoved into the driver’s seat, fighting over which way to turn the wheel.)

And if the writers try to please someone else rather than telling the story that’s in their head, it winds up being a disappointment because it’s no longer what the fans fell in love with in the first place.

Fortunately, most professional writers understand that quality stories do not come from committees formed of millions of viewers; they also know that people watch for a lot of reasons, no matter how loud one group can be. So where’s the harm?

Yesterday, one of those people who does not watch exclusively for the leads commented that some of her excitement for the show has dimmed because she feels she can’t share her thoughts about it publicly anymore. And I know what she means, because I’ve repeatedly seen the views of those who enjoy something else about the show dismissed, or, occasionally outright attacked.

Frankly, it pisses me off. Why? First, because these are human beings with feelings who have as much to contribute as anyone else.  (I never fail to find it ironic that I quite often see tweets about anti-bullying posted by people who I’ve seen attack others for not agreeing with them about a TV show.)

And second, because the show needs every eyeball. Yes, it’s doing fine. Yes, it’s been renewed for another season. But still, everyone who watches, whatever the reason, matters. No fandom, for any show, no matter how many people are watching, has the luxury of essentially saying, ‘we don’t want you to watch, because you don’t like it for the same reasons we do.’

How can we be so desperate to limit the story to only the scenes we want to see that we essentially tell others who love the show that they’re not welcome? That we don’t want to hear their thoughts, or why they love it? Why can’t we celebrate that so many people love what we love, even if for different reasons?

It doesn’t matter to me why you love it. If you’re part of the audience that’s kept it on the air for so long…I want to hear your thoughts.

Forum plug: Over at Bonesology, we try very hard to make a place for everyone who sincerely loves the show (including shippers! this post is not intended as a slam on those who love Booth and Brennan), no matter why. We may not always succeed, but we keep trying. 

9 thoughts on “Every Eyeball Matters

  1. I agree with you. the thing is that we are always the minority (or the majority) of a point of view.

    the other point is that people forget there is human beings behind writers showrunners or actors. some “fans” (and I use the ” ” because actually this word is losing its sense ) think they are allowed to criticize and even insult everyone who disagree with them..and it’s sad. really.

    people aren’t free anymore to share their thoughts about a show. because they fear (like me) to be insulted, or worse, cyberbullied.

    OK my post doesn’t make sense.. sorry.

    • Oh,believe me – I have a rant for another day on how so-called fans treat the people behind the show. All manner of hateful disrespect is justified under the header of “criticism.”

      I know of some instances of cyberbullying in the Bones fandom, and it disgusts me. I will always do all in my power to prevent it from happening to someone around me.

  2. On writers “owing” viewers: You nailed it. In my (admittedly limited) interactions with TV writers (in hopes to become one) I have heard that they write for themselves. TV creators are the show’s number one fans and they write to where they think the story should go.

    On fandom bullying: It’s everywhere. I see especially in the Sherlock and Elementary fandoms. There is a rivalry between the two and then even more division between fans of both. Elementary especially was a volatile fandom at the beginning with people claiming to be fans protesting Lucy Lui’s existence in the series.
    For all the acceptance that fandom claims, it is often harsh in it’s rejection of other people’s opinions.
    In the opposite, one fandom that I have found to be mostly accepting (or at least I have not seen examples of rejection) is that of Once Upon A Time. I’m not heavily involved in it, just to know what’s going on. From what I’ve seen there hasn’t been any major spats there.

    • I’m not at all surprised that it’s happening in the Elementary and Sherlock fandoms (I watch both shows, though I’m not really involved in the comms.) And now that you mention it, I’ve not heard of many problems in OUAT.

      I have a psych background, and it’s always interesting to me how communities form and behave.

      As to writers…they have to write first for themselves. Certainly the network/studio has a right to weigh in, but if a writer is writing something they’re not interested in, a story that doesn’t engage them, just to try and do what someone else wants to see…it seldom results in anything worth seeing/reading. IMO.

  3. Ryn,
    You may not be loved by all, or even by most, for this post (didn’t mean to rhyme like that). However, you will be loved by those, like myself, who are life long holders of minority opinions. It seems as though some shows just have a knack of polarizing the fandom. It seems to me that telling the writers how to write are the same as someone who tells his/her lover that they could do it better themselves.
    I am particularly piss by those who compare writing a TV show to writing fan fics. In what universe are the two remotely the same? Do I love everything about “The Show”? No. Are there plots or ideas I would rather have been handled differently? Of Course. Do I sometimes want to vent frustration to the high heavens? Sure. However, at least I realize that the writers and showrunners are telling the story they want to tell. If and when I don’t want to listen to them any longer I will stop watching. What I will not do is complain ad nauseum on any and all forums available about how the show was ruined for “everyone” because XYZ didn’t listen to the “real fans”.
    Advise I try to follow, and admit I often fail, is “Don’t read the comments.”

    • Oh, yeah. I have yet another rant about fanfic writers who think they’re better than the show’s writers. (Note that I write FF, and thus aren’t criticizing all FF writers!)

      As to your comment about people complaining forever – some fandoms just seem to attract people who live to make others miserable. I’d like to figure out why some day…

  4. I will say that while I am one of those who mostly watches for the Booth and Brennan story, I do enjoy the other characters a lot and I am interested in their stories as well. I also understand that while Emily and David are the leads of the show, having four other regulars means they have to tell stories for them too or the show would get incredibly boring for those who might not be interested that much in the Bs. I wish the show were written to cater to my likes and tastes, but I realize that is not how TV works. There are things that I love about the show, there are things I don’t enjoy as much. So far, the good out weights the not so great and I am loving this season. Sometimes I do feel like Booth and Brennan get the short end of the stick during an episode but I know it’s not the norm and I just wait for the next one.

    • Of course you wait. You’re sane! (And a decent, lovely, interesting human being, to boot.)

      I want to emphasize again that I was not, in any way, criticizing people who watch the show solely for B&B. Truly, truly was not. My comments were directed at everyone who assumes their view is the only one and dismisses (often rudely) all those who feel differently than they do. That’s all.

      In the Bones fandom, that’s quite often the shippers…but it’s not exclusively so. I’ve seen people who watch for the cases be quite rude to the shippers. (Particularly before B&B became a couple.)

      I just want everyone to be allowed to watch, enjoy, and, should they desire, participate in discussions without being told they don’t count, or are wrong.

  5. I know this is an old post, but I agree totally. I like that on Bonesology those bullies get shot down fast. I love B & B, but I’ve grown to love A & J almost as much. I also adore Hodgela and the squints. I love the mix of everything. Do I wish there was more of A & J or B & B at times? Sure, but you have to share the love with everyone. There are a handful of episodes that felt like clunkers to me and I don’t watch them again. On the other hand, there are others that I will watch over and over because I love them.

    Having different things to love is what helped Bones stay on the air for so long. People need to realize that. If a show has storylines that annoy me, at times I do write my fanfic for that, but I do not criticize others and I will just stop watching the show. I had to shoot down someone recently on Twitter who had a fit when I went after someone who was just being cruel to Aubrey fans. Don’t like the character, fine. Focus on other things or just stop watching.

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