On Fandom Reactions and Reacting. And why the request to "...just stop watching" is difficult.
Please note that this is not in response to any one person's comment. My husband said it to me recently and it got me thinking. Also, I started writing up a disclaimer for my reaction posts and realised I had some things I wanted to say about negativity and episode reactions. I've also been tussling with Twitter and trying to figure out how to successfully "play" over there.
After episode 10.09 ended I went on a verbal tirade around the house and my husband copped most of it. After carrying on a treat he stopped me and said "why don't you just stop watching it then?" (rather too hopefully I might add!). I looked at him and said "Are you mad? How could I do that? You can see how passionate I still am. I wouldn't be ranting like this if I could simply walk away. I still ADORE these characters and I am still heavily invested in their story" (I'm sure he thinks I'm mad, but loves me anyway…*g*).
The thing is, I've also seen this reaction from fans to fans. I understand the sentiment and appreciate how frustrating it must be for fans who have nothing but praise for an episode to then read a heap of negativity about it. It must seem strange that fans could watch a show that they have negative feelings for.
Unfortunately, the option to simply "stop watching" is not that simple. In fact, I'd say the very nature of how difficult it is, is the reason why negative comments and reactions exist. I know that for me, the only reason I will be negative about the show is because I can't (and don't want to) tear myself away from it. I WANT the show to keep me engaged and be everything I love about it. I WANT it to live up to my expectations and be of a high standard. It's when it doesn't do those things that I will find myself reacting negatively to it.
Much of that negatively comes about because of the pain that is felt when the show lets you down. It's about loving it with all your heart but seeing things in it that annoy you or you think are just plain stupid. It might even be a way of trying
to let go. Being negative and posting about it could be a way of doing some self convincing…this
is why I should let go. Kind of like death throes. I admire the fan who can suddenly cut ties and not spend years lamenting it. I am intrigued by fans who say "I haven't watched the last few episodes and I really don't care". That, for me, is a sign that the passion has gone and therefore the ability to cut ties completely is so much easier. The day I don't care if I miss and episode will be the day I truly know the passion is fading. Just because I am angry at an episode (or permanently pissed at Carver) should not mean I should stop watching or stop sharing my feelings on it (not that I've directly been accused of this).
Having said that, I don't consider myself really that negative. In fact, I'd say that I'm pretty positive most of the time. Of all my reviews this season the latest episode is the only one I've been annoyed with. I've rated most episodes either "awesome" or "pretty good", so being critical on ONE episode in a season does not make me some sort of a "bad" or disloyal fan. It makes me a frustrated fan who needs an outlet. I've always seen fandom as a place to be able to discuss all elements of the show - be them positive or negative.
I think it's possible to be a loyal "good" fan AND be critical about the show. I don't mean out and out character bashing or stomping all over someone else's squee. Nor do I mean sending hate to the writers or jumping hatefully on someone's tweet/comment because you disagree with them. I mean being able to say "man, that sucked" or saying "what's happening to my show?!" without the backlash.
Which brings me to another area that I've been wanting thinking about lately.
I try very hard to not dump negativity on other people's journals but it gets trickier on places like Twitter and Tumblr. On LJ we have a space that we can create cut-texts to hide content. Followers can decide whether to click on your thoughts and read what you have to say and by doing so take responsibility for what they are about to read, but on Twitter they can't make that choice (unless blacklisting tags, but I'm not sure that's very successful).
I have realised that posting random (negative) thoughts on Twitter is problematic. There are people who just don't want to see that. I have been trying lately not to dump negativity on Twitter because I am conscious that some of my followers just don't want to see it. I know I could accept losing them as followers and I probably need to toughen up in that regard - but the connections I have with many of those people are more important to me than using it as an outlet for my frustration. The problem with Twitter is that it is SO easy to just jump on and post a random thought that pops into your head. It takes a lot of strength (for me) to NOT do that, so I've made a choice to stop visiting there as much as I was. My problem is, I don't really have an outlet for random frustrations, observations or even squee anymore. I don't see LJ as a great place for one off random comments and twitter means that you're likely to offend someone. I suppose it's about control and not giving into the feeling of needing
to shout things out to the world. But damn it, sometimes I just want to post random observations or worries or excitement about stuff without the fear of pissing someone off. Unfortunately I have the kind of personality that worries about being at odds with people I've met in fandom.
Mostly this is about saying that criticising the show, the writers, the show runner etc. does not automatically make you a disloyal or bad fan. I think it makes you a fan who, for whatever reason, still wants to be involved with the show and the fandom but needs the freedom to complain about it or perhaps make fun of it, or find a way to enjoy it despite it's failings. I find in many cases the complaining ends up being a way to reconcile problematic aspects of the show in order to move on. That's my personal experience of it anyway.
On the flip side, I think positivity has to be utterly respected also. Nothing is better than having a positive reaction to an episode. I love seeing people's positive reactions to ones I feel negative about. If I'm feeling positive about an episode I tend to avoid, or skip past negative ones and accept that we each view things differently. I'm always thrilled to come off of an episode full of joy and usually I don't care if there are others who are negative about it. Over the years I've come to trust my initial reaction to an episode. If it didn't work for whatever reason I will be true to that. If I felt squeeful (even when others didn't) I will be happy that I was lucky enough to experience it the way I did. We are all different and even though we may never see eye to eye, I think it might be possible to respect each others reactions. No matter what they are.