I really do think the biggest problem about show runners, authors, and suchlike responding to fandom—online or otherwise—is that they’re fundamentally misunderstood what fandom is.
They see a group of fans and they assume that they, the author, is like unto a god for these fans and that they can send decrees down to them from on high.
That’s not what fandom is at all.
No one is more critical of art than fandom. No one is more capable of investigating the nuances of expression than fandom—because it’s a vast multitude pooling resources and ideas. Fandom is about correcting the flaws and vices of the original. It’s about protest and rebellion, essentially. Fandom is the voice of a mob that can do better than the original, that often flies in the face of the original, that will accept nothing less than the best the medium (and the human at the helm) is capable of. Fandom is about putting debate and conversation back into an artistic process—-especially if the artist or author in question has become so vain that all criticism falls on deaf ears. (Moffat, I’m looking at you.) Fandom is about mutual creative expression—-there are no gods in fandom and every time someone thinks they’ve become a god of fandom, fandom corrects them again. (Cassandra Clare, I’m looking at you.) Fandom doesn’t need permission and it’s certainly not waiting for it. (Robin Hobb, I’m looking at you.) And fandom doesn’t actually want your attention; often, they’d rather you left them alone to get back to what they’re doing better than you anyway. (Supernatural, I’m looking at you.)
I would bet dollars to donuts that most of the people who run into this post could name five fics off the top of their head that could go head-to-head with canon any day of the week. I could name five fanvids with more biting commentary than a NYTimes review of the same film. I’ve definitely—and this is the easy one—seen hundreds of thousands of better fanart than the promotion materials for a lot of mainstream films and television shows.
Fandom is not worshipping at the alter of canon. Fandom is re-building it because they can do better.
Pretty sure I haven’t reblogged this yet - frankly, it’s too hot for me to be fucked to go and check - but whatever, I think it’s worth reading again. I totally agree with this, as far as saying that a lot rather than all of fandom consists of improving or reworking or otherwise expanding on the original work. Of course the caveat of “well no not all fandom is like this, some people really like putting flower crowns on cannibals and that’s cool too” (although I’d argue that that improves “Hannibal” quite a bit) holds in this as in all cases.
As a fan, I read this and… it does seem “arrogant” (the second OP’s word, not mine), but… I can’t really argue with it, either.
As a writer trying to finish original (i.e., non-fan) work, I’m… kind of terrified? Almost like, why am I even here, why am I even bothering to try to create something, if the reaction (if I’m lucky enough to have an audience and get a reaction) is “Stand back now, we’re gonna make it better than you ever could have”? And yet… I can’t argue; fandom often does that. Particularly with problematic things.
It’s more the idea of it as an aggressive all-purpose attitude than the (often very affectionate) fanwork that actually results from it that unnerves me, I guess. Maybe the best-case scenario is that a creator tries to bring their very best game and the audience approaches it as “Let’s have affectionate fun with this” rather than “Let us show you how you could have sucked less” right out of the box.
I guess things do suck sometimes, though. And I’d be a hypocrite not to admit that, as a fan, I’ve played with headcanon and alternate interpretations.
I don’t know. When in doubt, I tend to fall back on “I am large, I contain multitudes" for every occasion—in this sense, ideas and opinions and feelings that coexist despite contradiction. The very nature of writing world-expanding fanfic and creating multiple AUs while still enjoying the source material is “containing multitudes," I guess.
I like this commentary a lot. (Cleolinda speaks the truth, as usual.) I think there should be a balance, always, in how we are fans of things: I think large fandoms tend to crop up around art that is flawed in some way, or simply doesn’t give the audience enough emotional satisfaction. But I never find myself in a fandom of property I think is genuinely bad. I think Teen Wolf is great - like, really. It isn’t perfect, but I think the writers do a lot of things really well.
At the same time, I love a lot of things - and would consider myself a fan of them - that I don’t feel any compulsion to engage with in this way. I fucking love Breaking Bad and Mad Men - I am huge fans of both those shows - and I don’t think they’re perfect, exactly, but I don’t really feel the desire to play creatively within those universes, because I don’t really think I could improve upon them, and I’m satisfied emotionally by the content they are giving me.
I am leery of creators who are actively disdainful of their fans, and of fans who are actively disdainful of the creators of the things they like. I guess my basic point is that my general inclination, as an intellectual being, is toward all things in moderation. You can like a thing and not think it is perfect, and love a fandom while simultaneously appreciating and respecting the original work. And also, sort of adjacently - I saw something about this going around earlier today - I absolutely think writers shouldn’t pay too much attention to what fans want. Not none, but often fans don’t really know what they want. Because good art is usually difficult and often upsetting, and that is what we all want even if we don’t necessarily acknowledge that consciously (I mean, I do, but that is because I love misery, AS WE ALL KNOW). I don’t mean writers should never consider criticism (obviously I don’t think that), but as a writer, you can’t think too much about your audience at all: you have to just think about what you are doing and what you are trying to convey, and try to be as truthful as you can.