Fandom in the Social Media Age – Epilogue

I’ll keep this short. I promise.

If you’ve read all of the other posts in this series, I thank you for your time and attention. I know it was a lot to sift through to get to all of the salient points. Some of my conclusions around the stats I laid out for the social media accounts of the TV show ‘The 100’ were linked directly to those numbers. Other conclusions were far more experiential and anecdotal, with little empirical evidence to support them. You may feel that some of my conclusions are wrong. That would be fine with me. In fact, I would love to be proved wrong about many of the things I discovered, if only to better understand the reality.

Here’s the sum of my conclusions into one, big picture.

Today, no matter what creative enterprise you are involved in, whether it is film, tv, music, novels or comics, and no matter your role — producer, writer, artist, actor, director, musician, etc there is a minimum level of social media presence required to help sell your product. For some, it could be as small as a Facebook page. For others, it may require a lot of fan engagement on as many platforms as is reasonable to manage and with multiple accounts. The trick is figuring out just how much of a presence you want, but more importantly, how much you need.

A lot of creators would probably prefer to go back to how things used to operate: I make a thing, I sell the thing. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. No audience interaction. No hawking your wares on social media. But that is not the world we live in anymore.

Today, people can praise or pan your art with the click of a mouse. The mixed blessing of the ‘like/dislike’ — the knee-jerk binary decision process of what is objectively ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ But art is far from objective. We all have different opinions about even the definition of art. Most would define TV as mostly commerce…but what about shows that look more like independent films (something generally acknowledged as artistic) than big-budget blockbusters, (which many people consider artless)? The forms themselves are the art, yet the quality or impact of that art is purely relative.

You could let the audience just decide and stay out of it. Sure, that’s certainly a choice. But it’s a choice with consequences. Audiences want to interact with the creators of the things they like. In forging a relationship, even a tenuous one with those creators, they are more likely and willing to consume more of their content. If you decide to shut out the conversation, you risk alienating an audience that is getting that interaction elsewhere. You risk being made irrelevant.

That might seem extreme, and I certainly don’t think it applies to everyone — there are certain hermetic artists who will always be able to operate in their bubble because they are just THAT GOOD. Most of us will have to do what we can to stay in the game and keep building an audience for our work. You have to be in charge of your own fan club.

Social Media may morph into something else one day…it’s hard to even imagine what it will be. But now that it is here and fully entrenched in our lives, we must accept the reality that fandom thrives in the social construct. One can exist as a fan in isolation, but the fan will always want to share their experience with someone else, and as long as that desire exists, people will gravitate to social media to find their peers and enjoy the content together. As a creator, you have an opportunity to help guide the discussion about your art. All it takes is a willingness to participate and take the good with the bad.

And, there is bad. There are certainly people who exist only to broadcast hate for art that others love. I’ve no conclusions about these people, because I didn’t want to dwell on them, but they are out there. They are the ones who generate noise in an attempt to interfere with the signal and drown it out. Learning to navigate around these people takes time, but can be done, particularly if you can identify where the boundaries of your interaction are and stick to them. The second you step over your own boundaries, prepare for them to smell it, like a weakness to be exploited. The best thing to do is to identify who is being critical but in a way that is reasonable and even beneficial and who is just spewing hatred. The haters must be muted — you cannot allow yourself to be drawn into unwinnable battles with these forces.

Overcoming that, you’ll find that the majority of your fans are wonderfully positive people, who will bring you joy when you are experiencing darkness, and find meaning in your work that you perhaps even missed. Interacting with them can bring a great deal of satisfaction, both for you and the fans. So, why deny yourself that?

I hope those of you who find yourselves in positions which require you to interact with fans on a regular basis are able to draw from my lessons to develop a sound strategy for your social media presence. There is on ‘one size fits all’ solution, but trial and error will help you identify the right strategy for you.

Thanks, once again for visiting my blog and reading this series of posts. I hope to keep the blog going awhile, but if you are interested in me as a writer, there are plenty of archives here from the past 11 years to keep you busy until my next bout of revelations or drivel.

 

Posted under analysis, blogs, writing

This post was written by Shawna on February 18, 2015

Tags: , , , ,

Fandom in the Social Media Age – Conclusions, Part Three

Fandom and the Changing Landscape

Fandom is always a grass-roots thing. It is nearly impossible to manufacture a fandom for a new show, comic, movie, book, etc. Fandom generates from the audience finding that content, connecting with it in a very personal way and then seeking to evangelize about that content with like-minded individuals (other fans) or new recruits. Fandom in its early stages, from my experience is all about finding more people to love the thing, so that thing continues to flourish and thrive.

Early on I stumbled on a real issue for our fans — what they were to be called. Generally speaking, fans find the perfect group identity — “Doctor Who” fans became ‘Whovians,’ “Star Trek” fans are ‘Trekkers/Trekkies,’ even “Harry Potter” fans had identity as ‘Potterheads,’ or even more specifically by the Hogwarts House with which they most identified. Our fans couldn’t quite come up with a name — Calling themselves ‘The Hundreders’ is just nonsensical, so they looked for identifying clues in the show… Delinquents? After all, the kids sent to Earth (the show titled ‘Hundred’) were all prisoners/juvenile delinquents… but then, what about the Grounders? But that felt divisive, rather than inclusive as well. They looked to the writers for guidance, but we weren’t very helpful either. While other show fan groups had identity, our fans felt they lacked one. Thankfully, the debate waned over the months, and I think everyone agreed that a group identity wasn’t necessary… at least, not right now.

It may seem a trifling issue to an outsider, but group identity is really important in fandom. It’s a badge of honor, a way of telling others ‘I love this thing and I want to associate myself with it, even if it is merely by taking on this label.’ I see it in Twitter bios all the time — Whovian. Browncoat. Gleek. Gladiator. (That last one is for “Scandal,” of all things). A group identity isn’t a requirement, and there are just as many shows without a name for the fans as those that do, but it certainly allows fans to coalesce around that identity far easier.

If you want a sense of some of the most devoted fanbases for TV shows right now, I found this article at TV.com highly amusing and mostly valid, given it was written last year.

The way that fans are able to connect and interact with each other today is a miracle compared to even 10 years ago. Of course in the stone age of 20 years ago, if you wanted to find fans of far flung TV shows, like “Doctor Who” (and yes, 20 years ago, you were a complete oddball if you were a Whovian) you had to hope you could find a local club/chapter or travel to a convention to find others of your kind. I once got a pen pal after writing to a club newsletter and connecting with another fan in Virginia who was also a fan. We were pen pals for years, finally met about 8-10 years after our correspondence began (through the MAIL!) Today, it’s as easy as tweeting “hey, anyone like #the100?” and probably a dozen people will pop up in your feed. Or on Tumblr, say “Hey I just started watching this show…” and hashtagging it appropriately and others will find you and you will find blogs of others. So easy.

This ability to find and connect with others means that fandoms spring up far more quickly. The fandom for “The 100” was pretty small throughout the first season, and didn’t really find a footing until the show finished the season and was headed to Netflix. The old formulas still apply — one person will convince their immediate friends to try out the show and either succeed (in which case, they can get together to watch) or fail (in which case, they go online to find like minds). It was easy to see the sparks begin to really fly and the blaze to grow, once there were artists in the fandom to create fan fiction and artwork.

Fan fiction has been around forever, it seems, and yet we are now in an age where you don’t have to write your fan fiction and hide it from the world — you can share it, have others read it and comment on it! You can take requests from people for situations and characters you want to read about, whether within the canon of the show or far, far outside it — mixing and matching romantic pairings to your liking, resurrecting dead characters and giving them perpetual life, and crossing over between shows, and the latest trend in fan fiction, creating alternate universes for the characters to experience whether it is present day high school to another show entirely (A fan fiction where Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia and Jasper are in ‘Glee’!) The possibilities are endless in fan fiction, so long as there are fans to write it. Within the last couple of years, Amazon and others have found ways to monetize fan fiction. A publisher/author sanctions fan fiction in some manner, allowing the use of the copyrighted characters/story/etc to be used for that purpose and be sold. It’s a limited area, but not completely out of bounds, given the origins of “50 Shades of Grey” from “Twilight” fan fiction.

The Fandom Life-Cycle

I’ve always been interested in the evolution and longevity of fandoms. Some show fandoms slowly peter out over time, but others burn forever. Managing social media for ‘The 100’ gave me a front row seat to the early stages of fandom and allowed me to discover how it developed to where it is now. I’m sure someone has actually done this before, but contextualizing it for myself really helped me understand my own past being in various fan groups as well as how that fandom acts.

Fandom is a bit like a hive-mind at times — it’s a collection of vastly different people oftentimes but they are all drawn together by this one specific show. The differences between people make it fun, but also provide the most danger and conflict — what feels like a perfectly reasonable thought or action to one person could be construed as offensive or out of line by another. And don’t even get me started on what constitutes a ‘spoiler’ and the window within which something can be considered such. (For the record, it appears to be the amount of time until there is a new episode). The hive-mind of fans can be a powerful force, and often it can be a majority or a highly vocal minority of fans that can really overwhelm the uninitiated. Fortunately, I am familiar with the ebb and flow of fandom and was able to weather most of the sturm and drang with minimal psychological damage (at least, as far as I can tell).

The Introduction Phase

The Life-Cycle itself follows the natural life cycle of any organism or group — There is the Introduction, the spark that starts a fandom. In our case, it’s ‘The 100.’ No show = no fanbase. (Note: I am well aware of the books on which ‘The 100’ is very loosely based. There certainly could be a fanbase for the books, but for the purposes of this demonstration, let’s assume there isn’t, since that is a typical scenario.) Once the show premieres, the fans begin to pop up, one by one.

The are the Early Adopters.

The early adopters are the canary in the coal mine. By their actions and words you can start to see where you will draw most of your fans. The fanbase for ‘The 100’ cropped up mostly from the CW’s core demographic — women ages 18-34, with outliers on each side of the age range and gender. The pilot, which is generally acknowledged even by Jason, is very likely the worst episode of the entire show, which isn’t great for creating a fanbase. Early Adopters tend to be able to see past the deficiencies to give the show another chance to impress. Generally, I give a show four episodes beyond the pilot if I find it interesting. If after 4 I’m not invested, I cut it loose. Two exceptions: “Fringe” I gave 6 episodes to, because I actually loved the pilot, and once they figured out what they were doing after 6 episodes, I knew I’d be a lifer. More recently, “Gotham” I have been giving a very large allowance of episodes. It is only at Episode 14 I have begun to really waver. It’s the first episode I have been dragging my feet to watch, because I’m just not sure I want to continue on with it.

For ‘The 100’ it is generally accepted that if you can get through the first 4-5 episodes of the show, you will stick with it. The first three are rocky, but the show begins to take shape at episode 4, moreso with episode 5, and by 6, the show is pretty well on its way. That’s a lot of good will, but the Early Adopters are the ones who make it through those episodes and start recruiting others to watch the show.

This leads to the second group in Fandom: The Evangelizers.

Most people in a fandom exist in at least one category and more often multiple categories. The Evangelizers and the Early Adopters are generally the same people, the difference is that The Evangelizers are the ones drawing new people to the show. There are plenty of Early Adopters who continue to watch but aren’t recruiting more viewers. The Evangelizers are the ones going on social media and shouting from the rooftops that they love this Thing and other people should really try watching this Thing, because they think new people will love it too. These are the fans you want to nurture and support on social media the most. They are the ones putting extra time and effort into building the fanbase.

Throughout the Introduction Phase of the fandom, it’s chaotic. Fans haven’t coalesced, they exist in pockets, but as more people begin to watch and more pockets form, the more likely they are to go on social media and talk about the show. The main benefit of social media to fandom as I’ve said before is the speed and ease with which fans can find each other and really converge into an entity — THE FANDOM. In the past, this process could take years, sometimes even occurring after the show is long gone (original ‘Stark Trek,’ ‘Firefly’) and sometimes the fervor of a fandom can even resurrect the dead. Now of course, the fandom is almost immediate. A show exists, the fandom exists, virtually simultaneously. The question is whether your show will have the ability to grow.

The Growth Phase

The fandom exists, but is still in a delicate state. If the show’s quality falls, it can kill a fandom quickly, before it ever really takes root. The Early Adopters and Evangelizers lose interest and fall out. The fandom falls apart.

But if you can sustain the interest in the show by providing great content, the fandom will enter the Growth Phase. This is where you start to really gain traction. Most of the growth of ‘The 100’ fandom happened after the show arrived on Netflix in the U.S. and premiered its 2nd season, which just happened to be the same day. Let me remind you of this chart:

The100Writers Twitter Followers

The100Writers Twitter Followers

While it’s true that we picked up a lot of followers to the Writers’ Room account after I took over running it, the largest spike of followers happens on that line between early August and late November. Hmm, let’s parse that… oh, yes, that would be October 22nd, the day it hit Netflix and Season 2 premiere. From that moment, the fandom had fully entered the Growth Phase. The show had been picked up for another season. Fans had reason to invest time and energy into the show, since they knew there would be more of it. That can be a huge decider for a fanbase. If a show gets canceled it could enter Cult Status, the ‘canceled too soon’ syndrome of many shows, that are beloved long after they’re gone. Or, it could just vanish, almost as if it never existed. I tried to find a good example of this and came up with “Heroes,” the NBC show, but ironically, it’s coming back years after its cancellation.

In the Growth Phase a few other types of fans emerge. The Artists and The Critics.

The Artists are the fans who are so inspired by the show, they are compelled to create their own art, whether it is visual, written, even aural! These are the fanart creators and the fan fiction writers. Their love of the show feeds their creativity, and gives them license to play in the world that the show has created. Until the last few years, these artists might have feared copyright infringement issues, but studios and networks have come to understand the value of fanart and fan fiction to the success of a show. We encountered the issue surprisingly early of fans wanting to purchase merchandise. The writing staff submitted design ideas and suggestions to the studio, but as of yet, no major brands have signed on to produce anything, despite the demand from our fans. Fortunately, in the new landscape, there are plenty of sites where designs can be created and produced and sold. WBTV has very smartly partnered with Cafepress to evaluate fan designs and authorize them for sale, taking a small cut of the profit and allowing the fans to profit as they sell these items to other fans. What an amazing new world — no longer are marketers dictating what should be made and sold — fans are!

The Critics can be a force for good or ill within a fanbase, usually both. There are the professional critics, of course — TV critics who publish reviews and recaps for the masses and amateur critics, who post their own analysis and reviews of the show. Critics are incredibly valuable as well for helping to draw new fans of the show, and if you happen to have very well known and respected critics love your show, it’s a Godsend. The downside to The Critics usually comes from the amateur branch. This is where the dark underbelly of a fandom brews (and every fandom has one). These are The Dark Critics.

The Dark Critics are fans who, for reasons known only to them, watch the show, but can’t seem to find anything they like about it. It’s one step removed from hate watching, because these fans actually do like the show… but an outsider cannot for the life of them understand why. The Dark Critic picks apart the show to minute detail – looking for gaffes, errors whether they be scientific, logic, continuity. They sometimes disguise themselves as the Social Justice Fan, but it isn’t with the same goal of improving the show, but rather to tear it down. These are the people you need to be able to identify and AVOID AT ALL COSTS. They are toxic, and can draw you in to endless debates without any hope of convincing them they are wrong. They don’t care. They won’t admit defeat, they won’t change their minds, and even if you can prove them wrong, they’ll just move on to some other defect they find in the show to exploit and blow up. Almost all of my missteps in social media came at the hands of the Dark Critics, who I either didn’t identify early enough or got lured into the conflict, like a trap. They are wily, and willing to do anything to prove their point. I’m sure there’s a psychological study in here somewhere of why these fans are the way they are, and if someone ever wants to do that study, I’d love to see the results.

Let’s be clear, The Dark Critics aren’t just critics posting negative reviews. Negative reviews are fine, and completely understandable. But most critics post the negative because they love the show and they just had a problem with this episode or this character — they are generally positive and like the show, and are just showing their disappointment or disapproval of story, not wholesale condemnation of the whole enterprise.

There’s another group of fans that are there all throughout the Growth Phase, and frankly they are the majority…the silent majority. I call them The Wallflowers.

Online they are known as Lurkers — they are the fans that enjoy the show immensely, and might even tweet now and then. They might even be Evangelizers within their social circle, but they generally sit on the sidelines and just enjoy the show for what it is. They are the fans who buy merchandise, but don’t produce it. Who read fan fiction, but don’t write it. They follow the writers and or the actors but don’t tweet at them much if ever. They are the heart and soul of the fanbase. These are the ones you forget are there, because they aren’t visible, but don’t forget them — they ARE there. I probably only interacted with .5% of our total Twitter followers — The other 30,000 of them had to be there too though, just watching the show and reading our tweets. They are the ones I appreciate just as much as any Evangelizer, and they tend to reflect the fandom that is just happy to have the show to watch, and don’t get involved in any inter-fandom conflicts that might erupt. In truth, I identify with this crowd, because I’m usually a part of it. I’m the kind of fan who loves a thing but doesn’t go up on a mountain top to preach the gospel about it. These are my people, and I love them.

One of the greatest moments of working on the social media came from interacting with a fan who was very much a Wallflower. The fan sent a private message to the Tumblr account indicating that he/she was a depressed teen, who had found some comfort in watching the show and thanked us for it. I could sense from the tone of the note that this person was someone prone to self-harm, and it alarmed me. I felt an obligation to reach out to this fan and tell them that they could contact us any time they were feeling down, and we’d be there for them. They thanked me for that too. It was profound to feel I had helped someone or at least made a small impact on their life that particular day. It isn’t often we can say that, and this job gave me that opportunity. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

This is the kind of fan that represents a Wallflower. There are so many disaffected, cut off teens, and they all find each other for solace on Tumblr. Because of that Tumblr is a very tricky place to navigate, and everyone is warning about “triggers” and violent content that could disturb some less well-adjusted people. It certainly made me aware that there are a lot of teenagers out there experiencing severe depression and isolation. It worried me greatly.

I have more to say about this and other societal shifts at another time (Part 4? ) But there were things I experienced while managing social media that significantly changed my world view.

The Growth Phase can last months or years, depending on the longevity of the show. Shippers will ship one couple, then another. Fans will join and drop out, some maybe rejoining. A lot happens during the Growth Phase. Frankly, I can’t really discuss the last two phases in relation to ‘The 100’ specifically because it is still very early in its life-cycle.

But I will discuss them generally…next time. Yep, there will be a Part 4: Maturity and Decline of Fandom and the future of social media and fandom.

 

Posted under analysis

This post was written by Shawna on February 9, 2015

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“Glee”ful no more.

I’m done with GLEE.  This may be the most controversial thing I’ve written in awhile.

Yes, I started out on the train, right from last fall.  I was inspired by their rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin'” but since the break, I feel the show has gone 0 for 3 in making me feel as charmed as I did a few months ago.

Problem #1 TOO MANY SONGS

I know.  It seems blasphemous on the surface to even say that, but the last three episodes have been nonsensically stuffed to the gills with songs.  The Madonna themed episode can be somewhat excused, but really – what the hell did the “Vogue” video have to do with telling that story?  NOTHING.  It was there because the writers wanted it to be.

As we (should) all know, you don’t put things in a story just because you as the writer want them to be there.  It has to make sense for the story and for the characters.  The Sue Sylvester video, while cool and interesting, didn’t serve any real purpose for the show. 

I wouldn’t mind the number of songs per episode if they didn’t feel so obviously jammed in there now.  For some reason they’ve felt the need to really try to tie the songs together thematically much closer to the story, so now you get “here are some songs about saying ‘Hello’ while we are meeting new characters” or “here are some songs about ‘Home’ while our characters try to figure out where their homes are’ (metaphorically, of course.  Rachel didn’t suddenly get lost in town and couldn’t find her house).  The Madonna theme was even a stretch, though I understood why they did it.

Let’s break out the songs from one of the first episodes and compare with the songs in the most recent episode: 

Episode 2 (we’ll start with it, since it’s more indicative of the show I came to enjoy than the pilot):

“Say a Little Prayer”
“Take a Bow”
“Gold Digger”
“Push It”

That’s, on average, one song per act.  Yes, there are one or two other songs used in the episode, but not as full songs or only in the background.  Now, here’s what we got this week with Episode 16:

“A House is Not a Home”
“One Less Bell to Answer”
“Fire”
“Beautiful”
“Home”

On the surface this doesn’t seem like a big difference (only one additional song, right?) except that “A House is Not a Home” also got a HUGE reprise in “One Less Bell to Answer.”  Also, think about it from a number of minutes standpoint.  In episode 2, they spent, approximately, 12 minutes in songs.  Of course there’s some story stuff going on while they are singing, but at least two of the songs are just sung in the classroom or on the stage as show numbers, not as part of the narrative.  In episode 16, there was singing for nearly 18 minutes!  Out of 42 minutes, that is a HUGE chunk of time your characters are not talking or furthering the story.  There is so little dialog in fact, that the episode feels loosely strung together as opposed to intricately weaved.  Storylines which should all come together seem to wander off.  The strongest story for Episode 16 was regarding Kurt and Finn’s single parents dating each other (which, I like the idea of, in theory, but there being absolutely NO setup for this narrative thread was annoying and distressing).  That story kept getting bogged down with songs that really seemed to not deal with the issues of that story – that is, Finn moving on from mourning his dead father and Kurt feeling left out of the male bonding Finn has with Kurt’s dad.  Those are powerful, interesting character reactions, and yet they are given short shrift because, at least by the show’s logic, it’s more important that we find a way to work Kristen Chenowith back into the story (after her one and done episode felt pretty played out already), and allow her to sing 2 duets with Matthew Morrison.  Really?  I like the adults, but I thought this show was about the kids??

Problem #2 THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN WHO THEIR CHARACTERS ARE AND HOW THEY SHOULD BEHAVE

The bigger sin than there being too much singing, is that the characters aren’t acting like their established selves, and they haven’t actually been given good justification or reason to suddenly act differently.  Detailing all of the ways the characters have shifted in just 3 episodes could take all day, but I’ll just point out one: There is no way on God’s green Earth that Diana Agron’s Quinn would reach out to Mercedes.  Suddenly the evil cheerleader is nice to her?  NO. WAY.  They’ve established that Quinn’s a conniving itch with a B, and yet now she’s all sunshine and light because she’s pregnant?  What the hell planet are the (male) writers living on?  She may have some sympathy, but it’s almost character whiplash to change her so significantly so quickly.  If there hadn’t been a 3 month long break halfway into the season, I think the character differences would be even MORE noticeable.  Not to mention, there’s always been a certain level of silliness to the show (which I happily accepted) – like somehow Mr. Shue not uncovering Teri’s fake pregnancy for as long as that went on (I mean, come ON), but I gave the show a pass because it had been pretty entertaining anyway.

I guess I’m all out of passes now.

I like Sue Sylvester – she’s my favorite character of the show – the writers obviously love writing her lines, and she always has the best ones.  In fact, when they gave Shuster a “good” comeback for Sue, it actually felt out of character for him (worse they couldn’t settle for one comeback, they gave him two about her hair).  Worse, it didn’t work for HER character — she’s hurt that he made fun of her hair?? Seriously?  That is NOT how the character has been established.  I love the depth they’ve given Jane Lynch to work with, but the blackmailing story is so silly it isn’t even dignified for her to play it for more than one episode.

Problem #3 SOME CHARACTERS HAVE COMPLETELY DISAPPEARED (SO FAR)

Ken Tanaka?  MIA except for a brief mention in Episode 14, the first one back from the break.  The man was LEFT AT THE ALTAR!!  And they haven’t dealt with that?  This is the problem of not keeping track of all of your characters in an ensemble and giving them fair treatment.  What about Teri?  She was also in Episode 14, but nowhere to be found in 15 or 16.  That’s a long time to not have any contact with a character who played a pretty vital role in the first half of the season.  Even Emma (Jayma Mays) had no lines in Episode 16, and she has a pretty big story going on herself – she left Tanaka at the aisle and started (almost) dating Shuster.

On the flipside…

Problem #4 THERE ARE TOO MANY CHARACTERS

The mix they had going into the break was good.  The snarky cheerleader spies Santana and Brittany were great for small bits, but now they are getting expanded roles.  Why?  In part, because they were so great in the small bits, the writers want to use them more.  The downside is the more ‘gay shark’ lines you let Brittany say and the more you let Santana take over the Quinn bitchiness, the less time you have for all those other characters.  It’s no wonder they are starting to get lost in the shuffle.  Like the poor Asian girl (who, I actually couldn’t remember her name as I was typing this) – Tina!  She already has a tough time establishing herself as one of the ‘minor’ characters.  She certainly doesn’t need anyone else eating into her screentime.  The actress, Jenna Ushkowitz, was the one person on the Paley Festival panel WHO DIDN’T GET ASKED A QUESTION. AT ALL.  That’s just wrong.  You don’t make the person sit on the stage with 10 of your coworkers (or however many were there) and then not ask her at least one question.  I felt so bad for her.

Problem #5 STOP WITH THE TOKENISM

It’s one thing to have diversity.  It’s another to consciously choose that diversity so that those characters become emblems or symbols…poor Tina is ‘token Asian girl’ and as much as the show would like to say, ‘hey, she’s not REALLY the token Asian girl – look! We didn’t give her good grades or some other horrible stereotype!’ She’s still there to make use of the fact that she’s ‘the token Asian girl’ in stories.  It’s ridiculous.  It all needs to stop.  Focusing an episode on each person’s issues/problems/whatever is fine, but when it gets to the point that we don’t really know who they are and what they’re doing there, it just gets stupid.  Finn is a great character.  Did he have to be white to be that character?  Nope.  But that’s who he is.  But Artie? — so far, Artie is defined by his wheelchair.  What’s weird is that the characters sometimes know this about themselves (as do the writers – they put it into their dialog all the time).  In the Madonna episode, Mercedes felt she was only being given small solos in songs so she could sing the power notes at the end… AND SHE’S RIGHT!  She’s had one or two solos on the show now, but usually her singing is to hit a particularly bluesy/soul/ power phrase in a song.  So, if the writers know this is how they are using their characters, why do they keep doing it?

I think they want to stop.  I think that’s why they’ve started changing up the character reactions to things…but unfortunately, those reactions aren’t organic to the characters as they have been established (see Problem #2).  It’s just a mess.

Problem #6 SUBTLETY IS NOT AN OPTION

This show doesn’t know nuance.  It doesn’t know how to make a theme interesting and tie together multiple storylines without hammering you on the head.  As I mentioned earlier, the theme of ‘Home’, that is, finding your own sense of home was so muddled and weird and made no sense, the characters had to keep saying ‘Home’ in lines of dialog just so it would make sense.  The effect: Like someone striking me repeatedly with a SLEDGEHAMMER.  When your characters keep stating your theme, it is no longer interesting, clever storytelling.  It is insulting your audience.  I don’t care if the themes are good or powerful – I know the show wants to be a positive force for kids – but kids are smarter than this show gives them credit for.  Hell, Disney Channel shows do theme better than this!  Kids do not need to be texted (modern telegraphing) WHAT THE EPISODE IS ABOUT.  They’ll figure it out without the characters telling them.

I thought my annoyance at the first two episodes back was an anomaly, but when this week’s episode was EVEN WORSE than the two before it, I knew I was ready to jump off the GLEE train.  Which is sad, because I really enjoyed it, but I think they learned the wrong lessons as to what was making the show work and what wasn’t.  Maybe this will change in future episodes and they’ll find their rhythm again.  All I know is I’m not going to jump to watch GLEE on my DVR as I did before — it has moved down the priority list pretty far.

So, what say you?  Do you still love it?  Did you EVER love it?  Am I out of my skull?  Inquiring minds and all that.

Posted under analysis, writing

This post was written by Shawna on April 29, 2010

Tags: , , , , , ,