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Oakdale Confidential:
An As The World Turns Novel

Friday, January 12, 2007


In the mid to late 1980s, at the Academy Awards, Chevy Chase (you know it was 20 years ago because not only was Chevy asked to present, he was allowed a couple of minutes to ramble freely) did a bit pondering whether film-critics, as children, were told, "Son, when you grow up, I want you to spend all your time going to the movies, then telling people what a miserable time you've had."

Well, thanks to the Internet, "everybody's a critic" is more true now than it's ever been before. And a majority of these newly minted experts do seem to get off on telling people what a miserable time they're having.

Take the "fan" message boards for every television show in existence (and a few that were cancelled seasons ago). Easily eighty percent of the messages are people going on and on and on and on about how much they hate, hate, hate watching the show in question.

I'm sorry, are they all at Abu Grahib and this is their daily torture session? Does their television set only broadcast one channel for one hour a day? Are they under house arrest wherein their ankle bracelet offers electro-shock if they attempt to exit the reach of their cathode ray?

Why are people watching shows that make them so unhappy? (For the record, these are the same "fans" that cheer when the show's ratings go down -- for it proves what they've been saying so insistently, the show sucks and fan fiction is obviously the only way to save it; and are downright glum when the ratings go up; but -- but -- but, how could that be? How can anyone anywhere be enjoying what's being broadcast? Don't all people want exactly the same thing out of their entertainment?).

All this carping not only makes "fan" message boards a bummer, it does something far worse: it makes them dull. The same people posting the same thing, often three, four, five times a day, beating the same horse until it's not only dead, but stripped and reduced to powder, isn't my idea of a good time.

But then again, I'm one of those weirdos who, when a show I love goes bad, at least for me, (Chicago Hope, Buffy, Desperate Housewives, Battlestar Galactica, Seinfeld), I simply switch the channel.

Or delete a message board's URL from my favorite places.


thesoapgoddess said...

Oh gosh...do I see myself in your post?
Well, I am usually not a Negative Nelly when I blog. I do usually comment that a particular storyline is boring me. I sometime point out issues (e.g. didn't Emily drink a glass of water from the poisoned Snyder well?).
However, I do try to accept that sometimes with soaps you have to suspend reality. In addition, I would never, ever, ever be happy about low ratings. I am always so nervous they are going to cancel something that I would jinx myself right into this fear with such hopes of low ratings.
I do see the attitudes you are talking about all over the internet. It's one thing to voice a little dissatisfaction. It's another to gripe yourself out of one of your favorite shows.

Good topic!

6:38 PM  
Sam Ford said...

I tihink you make some good points about the negativity of those who write about soaps on these boards at times, but I have to disagree with you about part of your premise. All the examples you point to of primetime shows that you tuned out of when they "jumped the shark" for you don't work quite the same for daytime, when these fans have invested years into these characters and stories on a daily basis. There's a reason that people stay around and gripe for long periods of time, because they've sunk so much into that show that they will lose a lot if they quit watching. So they're willing to sit through a period of the show that they hate because they believe it is going to get better.

Further, the social networking aspect is a value-add for a lot of these fans. I've seen the opposite happen on boards very often, even boards that are complaining heavily about a show. When one of the posters say they've finally had enough, the rest beg them to keep watching so that they don't lose them as part of the commuinnty they've formed on the message boards.

That's not to say there isn't a lot of unwarranted negativity on these shows, and I don't know why fans would ever want the ratings to go down, other than that they think it may "finally" get the attention of TPTB regarding what they think is wrong with the show. And I think that fans far too often, to borrow an idea from DC Comics' Paul Levitz, confuse sincere and insincere mistakes. What I mean is that, when trying to maintain a story world as expansive as the ones for these soaps that have been on the air for decades, it's often easy to make a mistake when it comes to historical accuracy, remembering a past event, etc. Other times, writers blatantly rewrite or have no interest in learning about the past of their own shows. For fans, there is a sense that sincere mistakes should be forgiven, while the latter angers them.

I've written about this phenomenon of how fan communities try to keep each other involved and the potential values for shows to have these fans who keep watching even when they don't like a show here. Suffice to say that, even though I agree that too much negativity is a bad thing, when the show starts losing the hardcore fans who have stuck by it even when they aren't happy, then the franchise is really in trouble.

12:29 PM  

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