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.