Watson likely stories

England expects that every man will do his duty.

txvoodoo asks, "Does fandom expect too much" from its TV shows?

My short answer: No.

My longer answer: If you don't have expectations, or don't express them, nobody will rise to meet them.

The question is asked in the context of recent fandom flamewars discussions about sexism in shows like Supernatural. The implied question is, do we expect too much when we want our TV shows to reflect our core values? Is it too much to ask for from staffs that have their hands full meeting the demands of the production schedule?


The sexism criticism, by the way, I have sympathy with. I watched the SPN season opener this year and was put off in the extreme by the sell-the-show opening montage of the stars killing women in sexy lingerie to an AC/DC soundtrack. (AC/DC would be annoyed: they'd want to be having sex with those women, not killing them.) And I started watching the finale to see for myself, and was also put off and shut it off.

That was my reaction. Tastes vary, as do core values. You might have liked it. I don't mind if you did. (I prefer to put my energy into convincing people to like things, not to dislike them. Positivity is more fun for me.)

I voted with my feet, which is what I suggest everybody else does. Support the shows that feature things you like. Avoid the ones that feature things you dislike. Have opinions. Express them. Demand what you want, and reward the writers and producers who move in the direction you want. Be prepared to wait to get it, but for pete's sake, keep on wanting it.

Don't make excuses for shoddy craftsmanship.

Sure, scriptwriting is a hard job to do well. How many balls can the juggler keep in the air? The rigidity of the 5-act TV script structure. Telling a good story in a single episode. Developing a story arc over a season. Building character. Exploring deeper themes. Weekly deadline pressure. Competing demands from networks and producers. Not a lot of production teams juggle them all. That makes it all the sweeter when somebody does.

Demand great storytelling. Reward it when you get it. That's the way to get more of what you want. Don't reward mediocrity, because it only encourages them.
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After much reading (& not a little Buffy re-watching) I am sure Joss Whedon will be America's Shakespear. His plot twists, emotional stirage and language creativity - these are study-able. I understand not all TV writers can do that, but I do believe they would like to try. To write something that will last is the hope of any writer innit? A good writer is a joy forever! (I stole that.)
I am beginning to wonder how much working with writing staffs contributed to Whedon's success. BtVS was not a solo show. Sure, it did way better with him at the helm, and it foundered with Noxon on the quarterdeck. But he had help from people like Jane Espenson and David Fury.

The writing he's done on his own, like the comics writing, has been... less good.

Counter-argument: the Serenity script. Standalone item, with time to polish it. Can he write a series on his own, Sorkin-style? I doubt it.

But Buffy is great stuff, and it'll last.
Sure, it did way better with him at the helm, and it foundered with Noxon on the quarterdeck.

This is where I think most arguments about Buffy go wrong. UPN gave Joss carte blanche over Buffy for the last two seasons. I believe that he is fully to blame for season 6 and 7 fiasco. (See comics.) He was in charge, made decisions, created the mess. Maybe that's what you get when Joss has no one to censor him. (See comics again.) I'm also not convinced comics won't come together in some fabu way. I'm just not sure I'll still be on board when they do. He's certainly taking his sweet time getting there.
If people report he's pulled off something good with the comics, I'll buy a collection later. That way I can read them in a clump, without being driven mad by having five minutes of story titrated out to me once a month. I matched deeds to words and canceled my subscription, 'cause I was rewarding mediocrity and that was dumb.
Can he write a series on his own, Sorkin-style? I doubt it.

Possibly not. But then, so far as we know, he's never had to resort to cocaine to do it.
(stands up and applauds wildly)

If a show offends me, I turn it off (with the exception of the scads of wedding-related reality shows I feel obligated to watch in aid of the bridal blog I write for...in which case I tend to deconstruct the messages and offer alternate points of view in the blog, as well as point out the few stories told in those shows that actually point in a positive direction).

When Battlestar Gallactica fell into an abyss of failing to tell a story in favor of meandering off on side trips to nowhere for half a season, I made a vow to myself that if the final season didn't start telling the frakking story, I was going to stop watching. Luckily for me and for my marriage, they got back on track and are now hurtling at breakneck pace in fascinating directions...but if they'd opened the season with one more random 'day in the pointless life of this character that won't affect anything else ever again after this episode' I would have stuck to my guns.

I have to watch enough bad television for my job (even though that's a self-imposed burden that I can choose to put down when I can't stand any more of it). I won't watch it when I don't have to.
I try not to expect to much from TV. There are certain things I watch for in certain shows and that's about it.

Now I've tried to stay away from the wank in the SPN fandom, but I want to yell and say "It's just a show" sometimes. For me SPN is about the trials of the brothers. I think some of the people tend to forget that men get killed on the show too, not just women. They want to focus on the women because there are no women in leading roles. It's a show about the brothers, if the creator wanted lead women he would have put one in.

Okay, getting off the soapbox now. Anyway, there are things I want to see in other shows, but I'm realistic enough to know that I more than likely won't get to see those things and if I do, hey great!
People get passionate about art, I guess. And the root of "fan" is "fanatic". We're all a little bit bent about the stuff we read and watch, and we get invested.

Also: creators are fallible.
Absolutely. I was invested in Buffy. It not only ended up disappointing me but downright offending me as well. I stopped watching. Ratings seem to be the only thing most take notice of.

"Lost" however...doesn't just meet my expectations of what good storytelling should be...it blows them out of the water. If it suddenly jumped the shark tomorrow and went all shite...I'd probably still keep watching. They've EARNED my attention.
Ratings seem to be the only thing most take notice of.

Yup. Ratings and demographics, because that's what translates into advertising cash.
I inspired myself: I'm gonna vote with my feet on the Buffy comic and stop my subscription to it. Sigh.
That bad, huh?

I'm not too keen on it myself, as you may have noticed. I keep telling myself I should at least stop reviewing it and not rain on the parade of those who do enjoy it, but it's all we have left of the Buffyverse beyond our memories (which sounds way more melodramatic than I meant it to) so I can't make myself do it.
I think that reading lots of fanfic has changed my perspective on this: Whedon's different-medium continuation of his own TV show is just one among many possibilities, and I judge it standing next to those other continuations. And since it has no Giles and is full of comic-book conventions I don't care for and seems to have forgotten the canon it continues and doles out five minutes of frustrating story once a month, I'm bored. I can always pick up a collection if somebody reports Whedon stepped up his game.

If he'd kicked off the TV show again, with the same live actors, I would feel much more strongly about its canonicity. Which is probably inconsistent and unfair, but there it is. It's also true that if it were stunningly good and satisfying, I'd also feel more willing to take it as canon, which is definitely inconsistent of me.
I think that reading lots of fanfic has changed my perspective on this: Whedon's different-medium continuation of his own TV show is just one among many possibilities, and I judge it standing next to those other continuations

Agreed, and it's come up wanting almost every time. I've read so many fanfics that make, IMO, better use of the baby Slayers than the comic does. And as for Giles - well, I'm not expecting to see him back, and that depresses me no end. Not to mention the complete lack of anything expressed by anyone about Ethan's death. I think Joss, as so often, completely failed to understand how popular that character was.

And all the waiting certainly doesn't help. I like the AtS comic more because Spike and Angel are in it, but I still get fed up waiting such a long time.

Also, how you feel about the comic's canonicity or lack of may not be consistent, but IMO it's a perfectly reasonable attitude to take.
WHY has no-one talked about Ethan's death? Why haven't we at least seen Giles being told? What the hell is wrong with Whedon?

Oh, I know what it is. He's too busy letting Xander play Nick Fury and ret-conning away Willow's act of murder. Man, I love Xander, but I love him as ordinary Xander, not as some uber-cool comic book hero.
I'm not madly keen on Xander myself, but what's happened to him in the comic does seem like fanboy wishfulfilment, have to say.

As for Ethan, I suspect Joss just thinks no one would care, and I don't think he's much interested in Giles either, seeing as he isn't young and doesn't wear spandex.

Which is not to say he wouldn't be interested in Giles in other mediums (I believe him when he says he'd like to make the Ripper TV movie, though I suspect he never will), just not in the comic - which is a shame, because Giles belongs with the other characters.

I'm a big Spike and Angel fan, as you know, and I can see Joss's raison d'etre for 'using them sparingly, if at all.' They're larger than life characters, both of them, and have a tendency to take over the story, especially as they look so distinctive (telling one person from another can be a problem in comics when everyone is just ordinary looking). However, none of that applies to Giles.

Implicit in txvoodoo's question seems to be some sort of texual "merit" too, which in my opinion is the bastard child of elitism in critical thinking - why on earth is it more ok to look at the sexism in French film but not in Firefly?

and i completely agree with you - we should not only vote with our feet but also ask for more/demand craftsmanship. It's a worthy thing to ask.

but just because a text isn't well crafted doesn't mean it shouldn't be studied - it can be studied for what it *does* and what it *reflects* whether it's "good" or "bad" anyway.
Fandom often likes its source texts a little rough around the edges-- it's where we can find our own stories about the characters. But I find it a little weird to say we can't ask for more, that the creators are doing what they're doing and we can't ever question it if we want more.

We might not *get* more, especially not right away, but it seems entirely cool to me to ask.
The original question is quite broadly defined though, and if you take it just at face value, and not based on her expansion of the question, then I would have to say yes. And here I would like to give a timely example, courtesy of cleolinda's linkspam:

Fans preemptively saving a show before it has even begun

I ask you, is there a better example than that of asking too much of a show?

edit: this works better when I make the links work!

Edited at 2008-05-26 02:27 pm (UTC)
And while I agree with you on demanding great writing rather than mediocrity, sometimes uneven storytelling can be even better because it gives room for fandom to step in and 'improve' the scripts through fiction.
That's a whole nuther can of worms. sahiya and I have chewed over this one a lot. What makes a show fanficcable? That's not the same thing as mediocre or bad. Great television can offer lots of hooks for fanfiction too. That's my contention, anyway, when I see all those people writing fic for BtVS and The West Wing.
Okay, that's pretty absurd, and an example of fandom in its more, er, fanatical mode.

If the question stays broad, I can give lots of counterexamples as well. For instance, the House fans who were upset that the show didn't recently move in the direction of textual House/Wilson. Which is, again, an absurd expectation, given the setup and the obvious actually-happening-in-canon ship. But a more general version of that expectation-- "prime-time network shows should show positive examples of same-sex relationships"-- is entirely reasonable.