Spoiler Culture and ITV Soap Operas: Has it Gone Too Far?

As I sit here, writing this out, I am frustrated. Beyond frustrated with the Robron Fandom and Emmerdale fandom in general.  Some might be surprised at this statement. Others might be nodding along with me.  Fandom is a polarizing culture that isn’t for the faint of heart. Sure, it sounds like a broad stroke especially when I haven’t met everyone in fandom but based on my experiences, the Robron fandom is not for the faint of heart. It is full of different ages, sexes, sexual orientations and opinions that should make it a diverse and exciting.  It is interesting until something comes up that divides the fandom. Then it becomes a battlefield of hurt feelings and angry people.

There are two ways this happens. I will be talking about the one no one seems to talk about out loud. Spoilers. Ah, spoilers. We can’t live with them and can’t live without them.  However, lately, especially with Emmerdale, I can live without them.  According to a Slate article, “ the word spoiler was most often used in reference to the King James Bible, where it means destroyer…” (Brogan, 2015).  Oddly enough, that is what it feels like whenever a spoiler drops in the Emmerdale fandom.

Usually, it happens on twitter and sets the Emmerdale world on fire. Sometimes it turns out to be true, a half-truth, some information is missing or is completely wrong (usually from Digital Spy Message Boards). Either way, I cannot escape it. People DM me wanting my opinion, which I’m fine with but usually before I can form an opinion or even deal with it myself.  I feel trapped into giving an opinion. Usually, I go the outraged route because I don’t have time to think things through. Then, a few hours later, I’m feeling a lot better about the spoilers. That seems to be a huge problem. Initial reactions make things seem worse than they are. Instead of taking things with a grain of salt, the fandom rather light their tiki torches and burn down ITV Studios.

I don’t work that way.

I might be on my own though. There is an actual study from 2011 that found that people like to be spoiled. The test subjects were given spoilers about a story and then were told to read the story. They found that people still enjoyed the story even though they were spoiled.  The study found, “…that plots are just excuses for great storytelling. It doesn’t matter that you know the course of a narrative because a story that’s compelling will always be compelling…” (Percival, 2011).

Does that apply to soap operas and their spoilers? I think it doesn’t. The spoiler culture seems to be a toxic place especially when it comes to Emmerdale.

Spoiler Culture and Soap Operas

I looked for spoiler culture and soap operas and didn’t come across any articles but came across a ton of opinions of spoiler culture that relate mostly to movies and nighttime dramas. Some thought it was in a person’s right to not be spoiled while others claimed there were time limits involved. Some even cried out that spoilers are just part of life and that we should all just get used to it.

With a soap opera that changes. Not only are there no real breaks but there are over twenty people on the cast list. Filming is quick, and the writing is even quicker.  The rules of spoiler’s change.  Just like twists on the show the spoilers come out just as quickly and furiously.  The spoilers aren’t after the fact but before causing a dilemma. Does one spoil oneself for a future episode or does someone stay in the dark? One should have the option to choose, but it never seems to happen. Spoilers run rampant and will find its way onto one’s Twitter or Tumblr feed.

The spoiler culture in soaps is hard to run from once you join the fandom. It becomes a way of life which makes things rough.  Especially when people are reacting so violently towards certain stories. Taking everything at face value making the show hard to watch or even feels hard to enjoy when something goes right on the show. (for instance, Nell’s twist was a lot of fun to watch, but Twitter complaining about it just drove some of that enthusiasm into the ground).  Fandom becomes a slave to spoilers, and that turns the fandom into an unhappy place. Even worse? Some people get upset if you aren’t upset enough about what is happening, not taking into account that people have different viewpoints on different storylines.

I have a personal theory that soaps and their twists were ruined by the internet. On the one hand, the internet brought soap fans together to talk about the show and speculate about future storylines.  It was fun to talk to someone with a different point of view than you. Then, on the other hand, people fall into groupthink, things are leaked way too early, and people take spoilers to an extreme. It makes it less fun to watch.

Lately, Emmerdale has been leaking like a sieve. Magazines had/have heavy duty sources, and people are sneaking onto the set and getting big important chunks of dialogue on camera for the whole internet to watch.  People who have access to spoilers have been spoiling whole months’ worth of story while interjecting their own opinions which confuses the average twitter user who comes across this phenomenon. Then the ‘spoilers’ that come out of message boards that end up being crap but stay in the fandom vernacular until the episode airs. Same with the Tumblr anons that share real and fake information pending on what is happening within the fandom.

This spoiler culture that has been created is toxic and can drive a person up a wall if they pay attention long enough.

I know I spent a long time talking about how toxic is can get but there is always a silver lining to this. Spoilers can be a good thing especially if one needs to prepare for a certain event or choice a character makes. Sometimes that time to prepare can make an episode easier to watch. Spoilers can be a good thing. A positive event that can bring a fandom together (a wedding, a reunion or a truth coming to light) having that spoiler helps raise the spirits of fandom that things are starting change.

While I currently find it hard to enjoy spoilers, there is a good side to spoilers and what they provide for fandom.

You Don’t Have to Read Them!

Now, I bet you are thinking. You can always ignore them. Unfollow. Move on with your life. However, it’s not that easy. It still shows up on Tumblr in questions on other people’s blogs or even my own. Twitter yells and repeats it even when you mute the person spreading the spoiler. It will find a way to get to me, and it became more of a nuisance than a helpful look at the future of the upcoming weeks.

I want the choice to be spoiled in this fandom. I like when people come to me with a choice to be spoiled. It has happened many times, and I am forever grateful for that choice. Then the choice to be spoiled is in my hands and mine alone. That is how it should be, but I know it never will.

What Now?

All I can do now is grow a thicker skin against the fandom freak outs that send me over the edge. All I can do is take each spoiler at face value and wait for the episode to air before making any true judgments. Understand how other people feel without sacrificing my own thoughts and opinions on a storyline.  One doesn’t always have to play nice. Spoilers can be helpful and give us some idea of what to prepare for but sometimes spoilers are toxic, and some people need to step back from the freakout and just watch the show. Hope for a better turn in the storyline or a better outlook for their favorite character. Sometimes, it’s easier to walk away from the computer till one is ready to come back. No one will judge. We all, including the show, will still be around.

What do you think? Spoilers ruining your fun or do you enjoy knowing what is coming on Emmerdale? Tell me below or tweet me @AmandaJ718! Until next time, enjoy your time watching Emmerdale and don’t worry about the future too much. Sometimes a fan just has to go with the flow.

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Participatory Culture and You: Does A Fandom Ruin a Show or Character?

Fandom.

It is an entertaining, reassuring, annoying, downright scary part of loving a piece of art. Yes, this art does include television shows. I’m convinced we are seeing a manifestation of Andy Warhol’s art in reality shows. That is for another essay though.

Anyway….

Fans are there to celebrate the highs and the lows.  You develop friendships that go beyond just talking about the show. You find your creative center. You can overanalyze and criticize the show and not be considered ‘weird’ for doing so.  You can swap theories and inside jokes. Fandom becomes this community of sorts. A place to stop by when the real world is getting too rough.

It’s another version of the ‘third place.’

That is a lot of fun. Until it’s not.

Which leads me to the question that has been populating my fandom riddled brain.

Does Fandom Ruin the Enjoyment of a Show/Character?

This reminds me of an academic writer named, Henry Jenkins and his theory of participatory culture.  I used to read him in graduate school and I loved what he found out.  In case you are wondering what participatory culture is, “…an opposite concept to consumer culture — in other words a culture in which private individuals do not act as consumers only, but also as contributors or producers.” (Jenkins).  It is the way we went from being passive in how we enjoyed our art to be more active producers. It depends on where we affiliate ourselves (Tumblr/twitter/message boards), how we express ourselves (fan videos/fanfiction/Meta-analysis), how we work together to solve problems tasks (special events that are by the fans for the fans), and how we shape what we see while enjoying our art (reviews/podcasts).

It’s how we contribute in our participatory cultures that have us enjoying the art on a deeper level. That includes a few more ideas that came out of studying participatory culture. Jenkins came up with a phrase called, textual poachers from his 1992 book, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. Textual poachers are:

How fans construct their own culture by appropriating and remixing—”poaching”—content from mass culture. Through this “poaching”, the fans carried out such creative cultural activities as rethinking personal identity issues such as gender and sexuality; writing stories to shift focus onto a media “story world’s” secondary characters; producing content to expand of the timelines of a story world; or filling in missing scenes in the story world’s official narratives order to better satisfy the fan community. (Jenkins; 1992)

Whew. That was just me nerding out (Look Ma, that graduate degree came in handy) but what does this all mean towards my question? What shows have some of the strongest and largest fanbases that stretch generations and have recently turned to the internet to join forces with others?

If you guess soap operas, you are right!

Soap Operas have fans that have grown through the years through the generations that watch.  This is very true for two soaps I love, Emmerdale and The Young and the Restless. One from the United Kingdom and another from America. Two different worlds, same participatory culture, and textual poaching.

I’m going to compare these two soaps I enjoy. Emmerdale and The Young and the Restless.

Emmerdale Fandom (As I See It)

Emmerdale has a powerful fandom. The fans are protective and opinioned which makes for a fun time.  Not kidding. Having so many different feelings and views gives you more to talk and think about. There are more people to talk to about theories, favorite characters and even how we feel about certain writers.  The fanfiction and fanart are heavily available for any character you want (even the characters who are long gone). The meta is outstanding and people knowing the histories of every family is aplenty. You can always ask a question and get an answer.

People are taking the art in front of them and putting their own spin on it, poaching it if you will.

With that said, poaching the material and making it our own is when things get messy. Head canons become fact for people. Shipping outside the norm becomes a sore spot for the fandom. Some even think the poaching goes too far. Some want to participate but feel left out of the well-established groups already formed. Some even take those discussions we have and take it too far letting opinions upset or get them.

How people shape and view the characters or a storyline on the soap can affect how others see a storyline or character.  While you think, ‘I’m not that easily swayed’ you would be surprised how strong group think gets while everyone is in their little online worlds.  Fractured fanbases make it hard to participate in this fandom and still be respected for the contribution. It comes in waves and right now, we are surfing on a fractured wave.

For instance, I’m heavily involved with the Robron fandom. The current storyline and split have caused a fracture that always happens when a soap couple ends things. Except, this time, there seems to be a war going on. In fact, I found that I’m starting to hate Aaron when I know I don’t hate him. Not for a minute. However, being constantly shouted down for pointing out faults, not understanding someone’s head canon or letting troll take over the fandom space makes the character harder to love. Which, for the lack of a better word, sucks. I think I can argue that a lot of people feel that way.

The Young and the Restless Fandom (As I See It)

The Young and the Restless. The fandom has a smaller social media presence but still as loud and opinioned as the Emmerdale fans. One could argue there is less textual poaching in this fandom. There isn’t as many theories or meta.  There is participation through reviewing and using social media to talk about the soap.  People know their character histories and are well-versed on showrunners and producers. Less on the writers.

With that said, things can be angry fast.  Usually around the showrunner. The biggest drama isn’t always who should be paired with who but who is running the show and if they are doing a good enough job.  That starts the showrunner wars.  We are in the middle of another changeover, and the fans are arguing over who should be picked next. It is less about what is happening on screen (it’s there) but what happens off screen that effects the fandom and how they participate within the fandom.

The ship wars are never bad. The storylines are usually mocked and tolerated. It is the fighting about behind the scenes drama that does me in.  I really don’t want to care about the showrunner. I don’t care who is running the writers room. I just want to see my favorite characters every day at noon dealing with the craziest of problems. I want to see who gets thrown down a volcano not who said what to whoever in the dressing room last week.

What was the Point of That?

What was the point of comparing the two fandoms and shows? There are two different fandom and two distinct ways they participate in their shows.  Emmerdale is intense about what is happening on screen while The Young and the Restless is passionate about the behind the scenes that what happens on screen.

Which brings me back to the original question. I’ll remind you. Does fandom change how you feel about a show/character?

I believe it depends on how intense the fandom can be.  Emmerdale has an active, intense young fandom out there. Opinions are shared and misheard, and people take those meta/fanfiction/gifs and love or hate them.  Fights happen easier and the longer you stay in that world participating, the easier it can get to feel like what others feel like (group think sneaks in again as well as wanting to agree, so you don’t have to fight with someone anymore). It makes it hard to enjoy a character or show on your own terms.

The Young and the Restless has an older fandom that tends to stick to discussing or reviewing the show than getting deep into the meta/fanfictions/gif making.  They don’t textual poach but there is a culture of participation that can affect how you see things but easier to walk away from seeing as things never get that intense over what is happening on screen.

So, yes, I think a fandom can ruin a show or character, but only if you stay too long and stay unhappy.  Meaning, this can all be fixed by walking away for a while. Watching the show and its characters on your own terms. Get a better footing before jumping back into that culture of participation and the groups that form.  It is easier to do that with The Young and the Restless seeing as it isn’t as intense and the participation is small (I have walked away too. For a year and it was the best decision. I can watch the show with clearer eyes now).

Emmerdale is harder to walk away from. The show itself has been one of best things I stumbled upon in a long time. It’s a different look at how soap operas could be running, and the fans are passionate and lots of fun. That fun can turn on you fast though when a story doesn’t go the way the fanbase wants, and their poaching of the material doesn’t help lessen the blow. People arguing can get old and hard to ignore. Like I said, I should walk away but I can’t. I’m too rooted here now. I have met many smart, talented and fun people in this fandom.  I love the fanfiction. I love the gifs. I love the jokes and I love how people try to make the best of a bad situation. Even though things are rough and people are getting more and more cynical, I see hope there. A positive that is on the horizon. It’s just rough to see it for long right now.

So, how do I fix this feeling? Tell me below or Tweet/Tumblr me @AmandaJ718. I’m very interested in getting opinions on this. Until next time, I’ll see you around in Overthinking World. It lives next to Denial World and Theory Land (THEORIES DON’T GET A WORLD?).  If you got that reference, you get a cookie and a trip to St. Olaf. Enjoy.

Geeking Out: Geeks and Nerds Finally the Popular Ones?

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Welcome back to the randomness! What is on deck today?

Is Being a Geek Cool Now?

This question has been bouncing around my head lately.  With all the Comic-Con coverage and the general merriment and celebration of DC and Marvel, being a geek is considered cool now. This little group of people that joined forces in comic book stores, friend’s basements and school clubs are now ruling the internet with their love for all things geek.

Alternatively…nerd? Nerding out?

I have found so many websites talking about the differences between nerds and geeks, but I have decided that it is really semantics. We all are passionate about something.

I have strong memories of geeking out over Archie Comic books, I Love Lucy, Beanie Babies, Baby-Sitters Club books and figure skating.  I was teased for many of those things (ok…ALL of those things). I hid some of my geekiness away from friends and classmates. I even tried (tired being the optimal word) to ignore classmates that made fun of me during my obsession with Danielle Steel novels in the ninth grade. I wanted to enjoy what I enjoyed.

The mass consumption of the internet and social networks that developed from that has made it easier for people to enjoy their favorite things (or geek out) freely.  Enjoy what they enjoy.

Which leads me to the question again. Is being a geek cool? All the things people loved back in the day are now considered mainstream. Does that negate the geekiness or does it just make it a stronger, cooler and even more accepting universe? Yes, I consider geekdom a universe. Just go with it.

If I had twitter and Tumblr when I was in high school (I had message boards…crappy message boards) would I have been less secretive about my geekiness? Would I be more open to showing off my love for Archie Comics? Maybe I would not have had to hide away my love for Baby Sitter Club books. Which answers my question…I guess. Being a geek is cool now. Right?

I feel like that answer reminds me of a quote from Simon Pegg:

Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.

Being a geek is liberating. Being able to love what you love whether it be Iron Man or One Direction. We all are obsessed with something that makes us feel like a kid again. The internet just made that easier to do without feeling like a loser for being part of the geekdom.

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What do you think? Is being a geek cool or do all the geeks in geekdom live in a bubble. People are still making fun, but we refuse to listen. Tell me below or shoot over a tweet! For now the randomness has ended. Hope you enjoyed!

Inmates Running the Asylum? Fans and the Showrunner Relationship

Welcome back to the randomness. What is on deck today?

Showrunners and the fans that love them. 

That sounds creepy, but I have been thinking about how easy it is for fans to give real-time feedback to the showrunners of their favorite show. I have been around fandom land for quite a long time (Ok. I will admit it…I am old).  I have seen how that relationship has evolved from message boards to every social media platform imaginable. I can remember a time where you would have to physically write in to get the attention of a showrunner or the networks interns.

Things seem like they have changed but they have really stayed the same.

We now have an instant connection to the actors, crew, and showrunners through social media. In my experience, having that ability to read how the cast, crew, writers, and showrunners approached a scene or plot point in a show is fun. It is a bit like nerd porn for us television and writer lovers.

There is a dark side, however. It has been well documented. Fans losing their minds and going after showrunners and actors. Showrunners losing it and fighting back and in the process themselves looking and making the show they represent, look bad. For instance, when a “fan” that regularly took shots at Community creator and showrunner Dan Harmon he took the fans name and put it into the show as someone who the main character dumps to do a bottle episode. While I found that funny. It was not very professional.

This has been discussed so many places. How close is the showrunner to the fan base and is that a good idea?

Many people have used showrunners to answer that question. I want a fans perspective. So, I looked into the fandoms I am involved in. My point of view.

The craziest fandom I think I am apart of right now is the Young and Restless fandom.  This is more one-sided than anything else. One thing CBS is good at is social media.

Many fans have campaigns to tweet all facets of CBS daytime social media accounts with whatever they are unhappy with, which is fine. It is ok to be unhappy about a storyline or a character acting out of character. The extent of these tweets has become angry and slightly threatening. Yes, the show has extremely questionable storylines on screen right now but being rude or even attacking showrunners will not get anyone anywhere. In fact, in an article showrunner Shonda Rhimes said that the instant reaction to storylines is great, but the audience’s input on what happens next does not affect the story.

(Let me say the main people I talk to about Young and the Restless do not act like the crazies. I only surround myself with smart, thoughtful people.)

That quote reminds me of how Matt Weiner, creator, and showrunner of Mad Men, would love to hear what fans were thinking but made sure to tell them that all their opinions or reactions don’t change how he wanted to write his story. He appreciates the fans, but those fans are not running his show.

While that is the craziest, I have been a part of fandoms that are somewhat healthy in nature. That would have to be The Blacklist and Elementary fandom. I have noticed that the showrunners, John Eisendrath and Rob Doherty, are friendly and play along with the fans but draw a fine line when it comes to talking about future storylines or getting involved in fandom drama.  The Elementary and Blacklist fandoms are not drama ridden, but little flair ups happen. I noticed the showrunners do not engage in the negative and stay with the positive, which has given the fandom a reason to stay drama free. I truly appreciate that.

Then again, the positive showrunners might be using fans to measure how their stories are coming across to the highly engaged audience. Like how some showrunners use fan reaction as a dial test in a non-experimental setting. To see what can be improved down the line for other seasons.

Which leads me to my final assessment. That delicate relationship that makes or breaks television shows is not as one-sided as other articles make people think it is. Both sides are needed to make this relationship work. Both have to be less critical and more open to hearing what each other has to say. This idea may work better with cable, streaming or paid television show than network (network shows have a lot more to answer to than just fans).

What I guess I am getting at is, from my experience, having that outlet of hearing about a world I only dream of working in, is fun. However, if I, as a fan, do not abuse that outlet that delicate relationship will remain intact. It goes for the other side as well.

I am sure as social media evolves and new platforms emerge that relationship between fans and showrunners will grow stronger, it is really up to all of us to make it a positive growth instead of a negative one.

I really want to hear some thoughts on his topic. Do you agree with me or do you want to throw flaming arrows at my head? Write your thoughts down below or just shoot over to my twitter. Either way, the randomness has ended. I hope you enjoyed the ride.