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April 11 2008

(SPOILER) The Flip, the Flail and the Flounce: When Fandom Implodes. Merlin Missy takes a humorous look at fandom. "This essay contains spoilers of Torchwood S2, episode one of S4 Doctor Who, episode one of S4 Battlestar Galactica, and Issue 12 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8".

Hee, that's pretty awesome. I have seen the flounce performed many a time. I, myself, have more moderate squee for shows I like and steer clear from more rabid fandom. That's one of the benefits of coming into Buffy when it was almost over—I accepted what had happened as what had happened. Perhaps that's why it was such a shock to read issue 12 and be completely thrown. I haven't flounced off, but I do admit to being disappointed by subsequent developments in issue 13.
I laughed so much at this I just had to link it here. My favourite part

When one is slamming the door on a fandom, the fans who happen to enjoy the changes you're descrying as being anathema to what you loved about the show are not going to be impressed with your bulletpoint list of why the show sucks, at what point the waterskis were strapped on, and your opinion on the personal hygiene of the showrunner.

Priceless :)
Huh... well, that was a new perspective for me. Or maybe not. As I write this I am reminded of when and why I stopped watching "Lost" - people started shooting each other and it just got all paranoid. So I stopped watching. Guess the author has a point and Joss hasn't made me immune after all.

Then again, the developments in AatF and Buffy S8 haven't bothered me much. Must ponder this...

Interesting use of vocabulary there - "bugf***".
Pretty cute (in a too-close-for-comfort sort of way I suppose.) Personally I like the linked "How to Be a Fandom Jerk in Just a Few Easy Steps" article better.
What is Firefox News and can anyone submit an article to it?
Great article. I've flailed more than once, and I can say that both flails can be attributed to do Angel. The first flail was Fred's death. Hell, I'm still flailing from that one. The fact that I just rewatched A Hole in the World yesterday isn't helping. And then there was Wesley. Joss had already pushed me into the mud with Fred's death; Wesley's was just the boot in the face. Still, their deaths weren't enough to make me hate Joss, the writers, the show, or anything. Both deaths were very, very, very saddening, but both episodes were great. I mean, you can hate and love an episode at the same time, right?

I'm proud to say I haven't flounced before, but I've seen other people flounce. If a show's hitting a rough patch, I just strap myself down and hope that things smooth out before long.

A funny article though.
I agree, Haunt - I absolutely loved "How to Be a Fandom Jerk..." Written also by Merlin Missy, it nails a number of points, of which this is just one:

"Whatever you do, don't research. Don't learn about coded sexist language. Do not verse yourself in racist stereotypes. Don't become familiar with the current statistics about violence against women or homosexuals, and be sure to claim that, while there may have been some racism in the past, violence against people of color simply doesn't happen anymore and shouldn't be relevant. Claim to be colorblind (a handy phrase invented in the '70s by anti-affirmative action folks) so that you don't even notice things like the race of a character."

And so much more. I'm impressed, and maybe even a little jealous. It's very astute.

(I also liked the originally-linked article, but the other spoke to me more, as I tend not to care as much about where the canon leads me - though I do think other sorts of fandom hazzerai have driven me bugf*ck insane.)
Simon - I don't know exactly who they are, but during the WGA strike, Leva Cygnet, the site's main editor was slightly involved at Fans4Writers, and also recruited some strike bloggers through F4W.

Go'wan, do it - be an author - the stories you could tell, and the way you could tell it, and not even be making stuff up...

(Sorry for double-post, but I saw Simon's question after I posted the above.)
Ah, if these walls could talk ...

(... i'd sell them off brick by brick and retire ;)

Not read the linked one because of the spoilers but "How to be a Fandom Jerk" was great. It gives you a lot of useful pointers, I think it's really going to help me up my game, learned loads.

(the bit about "harshed squee" made me laugh, "Don't harsh my squee" could be my new favourite admonition evah ! ;)
Oh gosh, guess we all been guilty of this a time or three. As for me....I'm running out of fingers and toes to count.

Good read, Furball:)
The author said that Firefly didn't have time for the "flip/Flail/flounce"... What about Wash's death? I seem to recall quite a bit of that going on shortly after the movie was released,
I was never tempted to flounce from being a fan of BtVS, but I've been sorely tempted to flounce from being a fan of its fandom on more than one occasion...
Whisper, that was Serenity, not Firefly. Firefly didn't even come out in order, so it was quite a bit different from other Joss shows.
I also add that I'm happy to be seeing the word "squee" in more serious print more often. Joss used it once here, I believe. I long to hear it said on Dollhouse. :)
Simon, they hire people from around the fannish corners of the internet to write articles for them. Merlin Missy has a new one every couple of weeks.

There are lots of reviews of tv episodes (Smallville, Torchwood, Moonlight, etc), obituaries of geeky people (Gary Gygax, recently), announcements of new stuff (like Dollhouse and Doctor Horrible) and interesting opinions of stuff that's happening on the internet.
Now, that's funny! Okay, biting lips.
Done pondering. I am clearly not guilty of any of these things. :)

Did anyone watch Gollum's acceptance speech? Hilarious!

[ edited by MysticSlug on 2008-04-11 23:39 ]
Delightful Friday afternoon reading!

Saje - I may just have to borrow that "Don't harsh my squee!" for dealing with some of my friends who just don't get my passions for fandom.
Simon, I applied to be a series reviewer for Firefox News last fall. It was all very professional... submitting writing samples, reading lots of guidelines, etc. They are definitely picky about the quality of the writing on the site.

Of course, I wrote one review and then the show went on hiatus, with no new episodes since November. Boo.
That was a great read. I also enjoyed 'The Sprog Effect', being someone who has made it a public service to turn other people's children into rabid sci-fi fans.

Though I don't remember seeing any fans that take issue with the WHOLE last season of Angel. I guess the author and I must hang out at different places.
jclemens I know it's from the movie but it's all part of the same fandom, so I would think it counts.
I came late to Buffy and Angel fandom so I missed most of the flipping/flailing/flouncing there, but I'm getting a loadfull of it in Bones fandom ... and much of it is about stuff that hasn't happened (and may not). There's a lot of 'if they do (insert some thing) it'll ruin the show even more and I'm going to stop watching' ... geez at least wait til they do it ....
I spent the runs of Buffy and Angel uninvolved in fandoms, and so was agog and aghast to find out about all the flailing mishigoss that went and goes on... Well, I was such a babe in the woods - a mere two years ago - that I had never heard of shipping, nor of fanfic. I know, huh? I was so much younger then.

I dunno - I can't, as a friend says, spend that much juice on everything I encounter, so my fandom floopy flouncing has been minimal, at best. I care a lot about the Jossy-creator of my fandom, and the people in it, and the causes it tends to espouse - but objecting to what happened when to whom in the creations themselves seems for the most part to have been left out of my DNA.

It's a good thing - I'm a fretter by nature, so I'm glad I didn't get a whole 'nother bunch of unchangeable stuff to fret about...

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2008-04-12 03:10 ]
Oh ha, those were some good articles.

I've certainly disengaged from forums (and discussions), but without notice. Everyone who says they're leaving (in a huff!), never stays away for long....then they just look silly.

Although I'm new to the Buffy fandom, I was part of the Xena fandom for 12 years. So, I'm certainly no stranger to flip, flail and flounce.

I dunno about other new Buffy fans, but I watched the series in a DVD marathon....which I know is totally different from having a week between episodes and months between seasons to flail. And the magic of the Internet allowed me to go back in time and read old message boards. I have a sort of time-lapse photography view of how attitudes in the fandom have changed. It's interesting.
I watched Buffy and Angel from the start (the UK TV start that is) but I actually avoided the fandom because, frankly, the fans seemed a tad banoonoos ;).

It was probably (bizarrely) 'Farscape' being cancelled that got me "involved" (however peripherally) in the online Whedon fandom because I came on to pledge money, sign petitions etc. for that. So when I first saw 'Firefly' and went online to check when the second series was due, it felt more natural to stay and commiserate with like minded others, i'd already broken my duck so to speak ;).

(if it wasn't for here and the .org, I probably still wouldn't have bothered - other sites from the little i've seen seem to have a much lower signal/noise ratio. And by 'signal' I mean the amazing protracted discussions we have over absolutely bugger all which, to a non-fan, would probably seem 'a tad banoonoos' ;)
I've responded to flips with the occasional flail or squee, but I've never flounced. I've drifted away gradually without really meaning to (this happened to me and Star Trek in the 90s, my attention to it just ... slowly faded away) but I've never shut the door in a huff. Actually, i've done the gradual-fade thing several times, now that I think of it ... I faded away from comic books in the late 80s over the course of two or three years ... I've faded away from some specific pen-and-paper RPGs over time as they were gradually supplanted by others ... No flounce, though. I think I just like to always keep the option open to wander back in :)
Saje said

I watched Buffy and Angel from the start (the UK TV start that is)

Was that on Sky TV or the good old BBC? I watched all of BtVS on the Beeb when they originally aired. I seem to recall we had a very strange first "season" which ran for the entirity of Season One and then the first five eps of Season Two, breaking in early April on "Reptile Boy" to return with "Halloween" on, wait for it, the night of Halloween. Clever chaps, them.

I started watching AtS on C4 when that aired, but gave up after the third episode, not due to the show, but for the appalling number of edits made to the episodes to fit them into that totally unsuitable timeslot they had (6pm on a Friday, as I recall). So I just waited for those to come out on VHS and watched them all there. C4 made a total mess of that situation, if memory serves. Maybe that's one of the reasons I never connected with AtS as strongly as I did with BtVS. Waiting a week for a new episode breeds more loyalty, I guess.

I never avoided the fandom as such, used to go to various websites and pick up news and tidbits while trying to avoid major spoilers. The BBC Cult website was great for BtVS stuff at that time. Shame they shut it down a few years ago, that site was amazing.

I only ever got majorly spoilered one time and it wasn't from the net. A 'friend' of mine, knowing how big a fan of the show I was and how I deliberately avoided spoilers, decided it would be 'funny' to tell me about Joyce's death well in advance of it happening on terrestrial. I was gutted. Until I got to the episodes in question, and found out that actually we learn about Joyce's death in the episode previous to "The Body" and that, knowing she had in fact died for a whole week prior to watching "The Body" did nothing to detract from the power of that story. I learned something important about spoilers from that, and have never bothered avoiding them since. I do avoid that friend, however, like the plague.
Now, that was a mouthful! Excellent points were raised that should be discussed. Here or flickr?

Great topic, Sir Furball, nice to meet you:)
Thanks Furball, great article and interesting follow-ups. Thinking about what might define a "flip" -- a development in canon that fans can't go with -- and maybe it's the sense (in jazz) of no longer hearing the background chords so we can't follow the changes in a solo. We love the variations, they astonish us and stretch our conceptions of the characters and setup of a series, but if something happens that makes us lose our belief in the series premise for a moment, that's a flip and it flips us out. Or not. And the flip point is different for different fans. No problem with anything in Firefly, and I could take every change that Joss threw at us in Buffy -- but in Angel, I rebelled at some of the things Cordy went through toward the end of her arc. On BSG, I'm not yet with the program on latest developments; maybe I'll get used to them but so far they seem all wrong to me, a definite flip. So far so good on Sarah Connor Chronicles. Can't wait to learn what Joss puts us through in Dollhouse.
Blimey, good memory Furball ;). Yeah, I watched Buffy on the Beeb (including the late night repeats in later seasons) and, like you, started watching 'Angel' on C4 then stopped and swapped over to Sky when I moved somewhere that had it, never watched Buffy on Sky though for some reason lost to the mists of time (it must've been something to do with where they were in the run because when i'd switch over to watch Angel I had to be careful not to catch the end of the Buffy episode shown before it).

Re: spoilers, to me all that says is, your friend didn't spoil you for 'The Body' but for the episode before it Furball, mileage varies of course ;). Personally I avoid them plague-style and, for instance, if i'd known Wash was going to die a lot of the power and shock of that moment would've been lost (also, i'dve spent the entire film waiting for it to happen - if I know what's coming up I can't help trying to second guess the writer and that makes it harder for me to just sit back and enjoy the film/show).
Yes, Saje, I guess you are right about the spoiler thing, but I just remember it seeming a huge deal to me at the time, and in the event, having that foreknowledge didn't ruin either episode for me at all. But of course, spoilers are a huge deal for most people and I would never disrespect that.

I guess one of the things you have to deal with being a UK viewer of US TV is that there is such a massive window of time after the US airdate where you can get spoiled on plot points. At the moment, I am really enjoying HIMYM, but I've only watched as far as the finale of the first season, since we don't seem to be getting S2 on the BBC anytime soon and as yet no word on when we will get S2 on DVD either (any news on either of these appreciated, by the way). I pretty much know the HIMYM story developments that are upcoming from reading about them on the net, but it hasn't diminished my interest in seeing the episodes. Hmmm, maybe I'm just odd.

Back on topic. Doghouse, as far as AtS flips go, the thing that I remember bugging me on AtS was, in S4, when the Beast got killed off so early in the arc (episode 12 or so?). I thought he was a great adversary and should have been around a lot longer, and the remainder of that season seemed a little empty for me afterward. But, despite my disappointment over that development, there was little flail. I think I am too lazy to indulge in excessive flail.
Funnily and entirely coincidentally tonight I got talking to someone who is kind-of mid flounce from the Harry Potter fandom (personally, I've never read the books or seen the films, nor know nor care to know anything about them).

Personally, I feel with Joss's work, so far I've never felt any need to run away from any developments he's given us: if he chooses to kill of a character he's made us care about, for example, I've just taken the deep emotion he gives us from that as part of the experience, rather than being annoyed it happened. If he hadn't given us such great characters, and made us care about them, it wouldn't have hurt. And if Buffy and the rest of the 'verses didn't make us feel things, and sometimes things we didn't want to, then they'd really be "just telly" and not worthy of the attention we give them.

The nearest I've got to a flounce I can think of is probably with The Shield, which I think is good telly, but not in the same camp as truly great TV shows. Certain character developments / plot devices a couple of seasons ago made me so wary I even read the web for information on what was coming (I am the world biggest Spoiler-phobe, so that's no small thing). But I'm not really part of a The Shield fandom (assuming there is one): just the occasional discussion in a more general film discussion board (this is the only real specific "fandom" place I hang out). As it happened, the flounce was avoided anyway, and I'm still watching The Shield (or will be when we get the final season in the UK).
Does watching a series from behind a pillow count?

Furball and Saje, what you said about the BBC's airing of Angel makes me wonder if it was some sort of plot to make it impossible to follow the series. TV2 did the same thing here. Chopped it up, showed bits and pieces, then showed nothing at all for months. First it aired at 11:30 at night, then progressively later until it actually hit the 1:45 timeslot for a first airing of a show. It was incredidlbly difficult to follow. I caught most of the first season, snippets of the second, completely lost track of it and found it again during the fourth. Because of the time slot and the fact that by then, I had no idea what was going on, I just gave up, but it wasn't because of the show itself. I remember Connor bothered me, but mostly it was because I just couldn't figure out where he had come from. When I think about it, it was just really odd because Buffy had aired early Sunday evenings every season it ran.

I missed the BBC fansite and also wish they had kept it up. Even with what's left, I still think it's good and spend time there just mucking about for a little diversion.

Other than that, I've only seen Serenity and I'm still not over Wash's death. If the Buddhists are right and it takes five years to get over a death, I've still go some years to go. It won't keep me from watching Firefly though. I'll just watch it a little differently, I guess.

Good post, Furball. As I'm relatively new to participating in fansites, I learned a lot from it.
Me personally I've flounced all the way to my own personal ficverse and am buying the comics in case he comes up with something new I'd like to steal.

I have the genes of a drama queen (from my father and his mother) but not the moral courage, I suppose. Sigh-um.
Never flounced but i've done the "disappointed fade" several times ;).

Furball and Saje, what you said about the BBC's airing of Angel makes me wonder if it was some sort of plot to make it impossible to follow the series.

'C4' is 'Channel 4' MysticSlug, it's not a BBC channel though it is one of the five main terrestrial (i.e. not cable or satellite) channels in the UK - completely understandable mistake BTW, just thought i'd point it out because I think folk not from these fair shores sometimes assume all British TV is from the BBC ;).

Yeah, the old Cult fan-site was aces. Pity they had to take that down.
Well, Saje, that's a sore point, because the BBC didn't have to take Cult down. At the time they ran a survey of their website usage and found that Cult, after BBC News, was the most visited part of their site. And they decided to can it anyway. One of the most ridiculous decisions the BBC ever made, in my opinion, right up there with deleting old episode masters of stuff like Steptoe, Likely Lads and even Doctor Who so they could save space in their store rooms.
Oh I agree, I wish they hadn't taken it down (though I remember at the time they were facing pressure for spending licence fee money on stuff better left to the commercial sector) for me personally it was certainly "adding public value".

That said, it didn't sound right that it would be the second most visited part of their site (depending on how broadly you define "news" I suppose) so I checked and it actually wasn't the second most visited part of (though it did come in second in an audience appreciation survey - which you'd have thought would've been incentive enough to keep it) and of course, back in the 50s, 60s and 70s ITV also destroyed a lot of programmes ('Callan' being one of the ITV shows i'd really like to watch in its entirety). Hard as it is for us to appreciate, back then TV (and cult TV especially) was seen as disposable entertainment and not the sort of thing that had much rewatch value. Boy did they call that one ;).

(course, any large bureaucratic organisation is going to do stupid stuff but some of their decisions really beggar belief)
Is this, then, just a remnant of the BBC Cult section - a mere shadow of its former self? I've have spent many a pleasant moment in there, rummaging in its trunks and bins...

I watched a BBC documentary on lost and recovered TV episodes of Dad's Army that I found quite sad - a worker happened to rescue a few film canisters and stored them unopened and crumbling in his garden shed for many years, where they happened to be re-found (and almost thrown out again.)

On this side of the pond, I think we are every bit as lacking in foresight as you guys - we destroyed countless hours of irreplaceable kinescopes and videotapes, and let film crumble in rotting and deteriorating cans. Well, what am I saying? We're much worse, about some things... Even now we're busy ripping down Hollywood landmarks like the Ambassador Hotel, which housed the Coconut Grove - and in about 10-15 years, we'll get all sad and sorry and nostalgic and wish we hadn't, yet we'll be in the process of ripping down another landmark... and so on.
BBC Cult wasn't taken down - it is just no longer maintained. I am scared that one day I'll go there and it will be gone - no Buffy cast and crew interviews, no Ghosts of Albion, etc.

And short sightedness and a lack of overall responsibility in organizations regarding preservation is very sad - the missing Louise Brooks and Alfred Hitchcock silents are testament to that as well as Garbo's The Divine Woman.
Saje, thanks for the clarification on the details of the survey, I must have remembered the info a little awry - see, my memory isn't that brilliant after all.

QuoterGal, yes, that's what is left of the Cult site. But it used to be regularly updated with news, trivia, quizzes, chat interviews, as well as all the program related stuff like episode guides and cast info which is still there. It was a great site, testament to its greatness that people are still visiting it three years after it was abandoned.

Couldn't agree more, moley75, it was just a really bad decision on behalf of the BBC to stop supporting the site. Hopefully they won't hit the delete key before they realise they want to reinstate it.

Back on topic. Regarding BtVS, the nearest thing to a potential flip for me was the introduction of Dawn. I think that could have gone badly for the writers, given the downturn suffered by some other shows that introduced new characters late in their lives. But I think it was written and acted so well, and the mystery of who she was and where she had come from was so compelling, that it worked out really well. And of course it led us to Glory, who was an amazing villain.
Haven't read the article because of Spoilers, but only for Torchwood, so I'll just have to wait another week to read it. But the gist is obvious, and I've never understood it.

Joss and Co. have ripped my heart out numerous times, and seriously pissed me off on occasion, but if they don't get the extreme emotional responses, they aren't doing their job.

I've never understood fans who seem to have a sense of entitlement to the outcome they want. Their loss, I'd say. You can bitch and moan a bit, but if you aren't willing to go along for the ride no matter where it takes you, you're missing a lot of the richness of the experience.
What Shey said, especially in regards to BtVS and AtS. I like being taken on a ride, but only as long as it's emotions I want to feel. Take Lost and 24, for instance, I stopped watching because they made me feel things -like paranoia and aggression- that I really didn't want to feel. Not at all like BtVS and AtS. Watching them was like a really good roller coaster ride, sometimes it was slow anticipation, other times a quick drop and a tickly tummy.

[ edited by MysticSlug on 2008-04-13 22:51 ]
This is a great article, I really enjoyed it (and I'll have to read the others linked there). Like others here, I've never given up on anything from the Whedonverse, but I did leave a fan website once, although I didn't so much 'flounce' out, as much as leave as the door was already slamming on my behind (I had gone ahead and posted what I really thought about the direction of the fan site and the members they were attracting.
And short sightedness and a lack of overall responsibility in organizations regarding preservation is very sad

Luckily we have as a backstop - see for example a snapshot of the BBC Cult site from 2003...

Perhaps someone could siphon the existing site and house it somewhere as insurance? I have plenty of hosting space and bandwidth if needed.
Going to have to explore that site a bit. Thanks for the link, crystalsinger.

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