I’ve been part of the Bones fandom for a long time now. I’m used to periodic meltdowns. (In fact, I’ve long thought we should have t-shirts for the old timers saying, “I survived the sixth season of Bones.”)
But in the past couple of weeks, I think we’ve even surpassed the insanity that was season six. I’ve seen meltdowns, major malfunctions, rumors, hate, and general stupidity building to epic proportions – and that’s just on Twitter.
TV shows are entertainment, which means that they should be fun. Connecting with other people to discuss them should be fun. If you’re not having fun, it might be time to re-evaluate.
Much of the turmoil seems to stem from a variety of false beliefs, so here are five realities that are true even when people pretend they’re not. (And no, I’m not setting myself up as Empress of TV – common sense says these things are true of the world; I’m just drawing attention to them.)
1) Criticism is not the same thing as endlessly bashing the show
I know, it feels like a subtle distinction. It’s really not.
Criticism is the act of evaluating a literary or artistic work. It’s limited in scope: you express your views and then you move on to whatever the next thing is you’re going to evaluate. (I know of no professional critics who give the same review over and over.)
Hating on something is just that: it never has an end.
Within fandom, criticism can lead to interesting discussions between people who disagree; it can also lead to new insights about the show.
Repeating the same negative views over and over? Nothing good comes out of it. Right now, some of the same people who are obsessing about ratings and begging for a season 11 are spending most of their time telling people how much the show sucks. Do you see the irony there? If I followed these people on Twitter or Tumblr and didn’t watch Bones, why the hell would I want to, when everything they say is trash talking it?
Not just about things they’ve seen and not liked, mind you, but also upcoming story lines, which is another issue: criticism requires familiarity with what you’re criticizing. Sure, you can say, ‘I don’t need to see this to know it’s going to suck’ but you know what? You’ve lost all credibility when you do so. If you want me to take your opinion seriously, at the very least it has to be based on having seen what you’re ‘evaluating.’.
It’s one thing to express reservation about an upcoming story. But if you really are dead certain that there is nothing the writers and actors could do to make the story worthwhile for you, then it might be time to find a new show.
It’s their story, you see. They come into our living rooms and say, ‘we’ve got this tale we want to tell you about Booth and Brennan.’ We either say, ‘oh, cool! I like those stories,’ and hang around to watch, or we say, ‘Nah, I’m not interested. I think I’ll watch something else.’
When we get to the point of saying, ‘I already know I’m going to hate whatever story you’re telling this week,’ …it’s time to change the channel.
The same people who created Booth and Brennan in the first place, the same ones who wrote/acted the scenes and episodes you first fell in love with…they’re the ones telling the story now. That doesn’t mean you have to like everything they do – but at least give them the benefit of the doubt and watch the story before deciding to hate it.
2) Your opinion counts, but you are only part of the audience
Let’s assume that eight million people watch Bones each week. (Five million or so live, plus more on DVR, plus more who watch streaming on Hulu or buy the eps from Amazon or Apple) – and that’s U.S. I have no idea about the numbers for other countries. I assume the number at least doubles.
Of that number, how many are, realistically, discussing the show online? Granted, it’s only one platform, but as a starting point, less than 700,000 people follow the official FOX account on Twitter.
Eight million vs. 700,000. And the eight million is US only, while the 700,000 is international.
The online fandom is a fraction of the audience as a whole. Off the top of my head, I can name six people I know in real life who watch the show every week – and not one of them has ever gone online looking for information about it.
All of them are part of the audience. I’m sorry to burst bubbles, but to the network and studio, they matter just as much as we do.
It’s human nature to surround ourselves with people who think the same way we do, and then pretend ours is the only perspective. But it doesn’t make it true.
The showrunners, writers, actors, networks? They know that even the online fandom as a whole doesn’t represent the whole audience, let alone a subgroup.
I once had another fan say to me, ‘Everyone hates Sweets. Everyone. I see it on Tumblr.’ She wanted to sound authoritative, but instead just sounded stupid.
If you hate a character or story direction, have the courage to speak for yourself. I respect someone who says, ‘I hate this,’ and I suspect the network and showrunners do, too. But I just get pissed off when someone speaks for me.
3) The problem with committees
If the audience is made up of eight million people who all want different things, the writers cannot possibly write to please ‘the audience.’ (Seriously – can you imagine a committee of millions trying to tell a story?)
Even a casual pass through Twitter shows competing wants: this person wants more humor, that person wants more angst, this person wants to see more of Brennan in the lab, that person wants to see more of Brennan in the SUV (i.e., not in the lab) – who should they write to please?
All they can do is tell their story to the best of their ability. We either watch, or we don’t.
(Me? If the Bones crew were writing just for me, we’d have more scenes between Booth and Hodgins. But see, that’s the thing: I get that I’m not the freaking center of the universe, and enjoy the show anyway.)
4) Verbal attacks are not the same thing as expressing an opinion
Last week, a fan made a rude, mocking comment to the Bones writers. If asked, she’d say she was only expressing her opinion, which she’s entitled to do.
But I found the comment disrespectful, offensive, petty, and mean-spirited. I said so, and was promptly criticized, even though I made it a general comment, i.e., I didn’t name the individual.
The idea seemed to be that it’s okay for these fans to say anything they want, no matter how offensive, but reacting negatively to their rudeness isn’t allowed.
Communication doesn’t work that way. If you say something, it’s out there, and you don’t get to control how people react to it.
The phrase “I’m entitled to my opinion” is used to justify all kinds of hate and ugliness, and it seldom accomplishes anything good. Why? Because people who are merely expressing their views in a polite and respectful way don’t need to be defensive.
Back when Hart Hanson interacted with fans on Twitter, I more than once saw him engage with polite fans, even when they were saying, “I don’t like how you’re telling this story.” But those who attacked and then excused themselves with ‘I’m entitled’? Very different response. As is his right.
Being entitled to your opinion does not come with a guarantee others will listen, particularly if you’re rude in expressing it.
And no, there’s no exemption clause that makes it okay to abuse writers and actors because of what they do for a living. They’re human beings. Tell them you don’t like something, but don’t attack them.
5) Don’t believe everything you see online
Friday night, someone started a rumor that Bones had been canceled. Some people bought it, and then responded in a totally mature fashion: they attacked both other fans and the showrunner/actors. (Because yes, if a show is canceled, that’s exactly a response that makes sense.)
The show’s not been canceled, and the comments being made by the writers and actors (the people who actually have the best intel) that same night indicate that they’re expecting a season eleven. But why let a little thing like logic stop a good panic?
Sites like Variety, Hollywood Reporter, TV Guide – if it’s posted there, it’s probably trustworthy. Something you’re seeing only on social media? Ignore it until a reliable site confirms it. If you panic, you’re letting someone manipulate you. Don’t do that.
A final observation:
If watching a show is making you unhappy, find a different show. As a member of the audience, that’s the most powerful thing you can do.
If being part of a fandom is making you unhappy, find a different group of people to hang out with.
In either case, do whatever it takes to be as happy as possible. Life’s way too short to be unhappy over a TV show.