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October 11 2008

How much should showrunners listen to fans? Buffy and Angel are mentioned in a question to Matt Roush, which argues that showrunners/ creators generally know best on the creative directions their shows should take. The question is just over half-way down the page. Possible spoilers for non-Whedon shows.

It was interesting to see the answer on this. I tend to agree with the writer of the question. Can fans have TOO much input? I think a prime example is Heroes. I believe the original first season arc had several characters slated to die. When these rumors leaked to the internet, fans were outraged and we were given this mediocre season finale instead. Now show runners are adding in more and more characters and with fewer characters staying dead (or being written into new characters Nikki/Tracy) the show is getting over croweded and losing focus. We're also not seeing a lot of character growth due to fan favorites (like Hiro) being stiffled back into their first season naivite.

Likewise also on Supernatural - while I'm not sure where they're going with the whole 'angel' storyline, I'm going to have faith in Kripke to not disappoint on a show that has gotten progressively better every year.

Now let's just hope that Friedman gets to share his arc with us on T:SCC, because that is a show that gets better every episode.

::sighs:: Ok. Rant done.
This has always been a juggling act between the show creator and the fans. Pretty much a "damn if you do and damn if you don't" matter.

Remember the outrage that arose when Tara was killed at the end of season six of BtVS? I seem to recall that Joss had planned on Willow having a difficult recovery during season seven. However, due to the fan angry, he decided to soften it up a bit. Thru, we received Kennedy and the rest is history.

Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.
How much should showrunners listen to fans?

Not at all IMO. Or rather, only as much as they themselves choose (that's part of the balancing act of producing TV - or any other expensive art-form).

Don't get me wrong, sometimes i'm happy to get what I want - Zach in a recent 'Bones' episode is an example (and that also felt, to some extent, like a creator either regretting his own decision OR bowing to fan pressure) - but that's because i'm as weak as anyone else and on one level just want the stuff I want (mostly, for instance, if you asked me ahead of time, i'd prefer a happy ending to a heart-breaking one - and yet unhappy endings have furnished me with some of my most memorable and powerful moments in film and TV).

Art's not about pleasing people IMO, if we want to see something new, something that captures a fundamental truth that we were previously unaware of (or at least, were unaware that we were aware of ;) then we have to extend trust to the creators of our fiction (and they have to believe - with writerly arrogance ;) - that they have something to say).
How much should showrunners listen to fans?


Well if Joss and co hadn't listened to the fans, Angel and Spike would have been footnotes in Buffy history.

Though on the other hand if they had listened to the fans, there would have been no Angel spin-off and Oz and Willow would still be together.
It will probably come as no surprise to anyone that I agree with the letter writer. Any writer, whether TV or novels, owes his audience exactly one thing: a good story. The writer's story, whichever way that falls. If I decide I don't like the way the author tells his story, then I have the right to not let the door hit me on the way out. For segments of the audience to demand that the writer should tailor his story to them, to cater to their wants and disregard the rest of the audience is selfish arrogance. Audience demands certainly swayed the writers on Buffy, but if the audience had gotten to call all the shots:

Tara wouldn't have died
...but Tara would also never have appeared to begin with.
Oz wouldn't have left
...but it wouldn't matter, because Oz and Willow wouldn't have gotten together to begin with.
Buffy would never have been resurrected
...but Buffy wouldn't have died to begin with.
But mostly, none of the above would have happened because it would have turned into The Spike Show in Season Three, and by Season Seven the show would have consisted of nothing but scenes of Spike and Buffy gazing soulfully into each others' eyes while the rest of the main cast sat in the living room mostly off-camera...

I've read quite a bit of fan-fiction from those who thought they had a Better Idea. I'll take Joss's version, thanks. All the parts I loved and all the parts I didn't care much for (can't say I hated any of it.)
It cuts both ways. You don't want a show by mega-committee but if you are going to try to have a successful show you have to cater to people to be successful. On the flip side, you want the creators to dare to create and go beyond the limits of ordinary imagination. On the flip side of that, more than one show, especially in fantasy/science fiction, has tanked because the creators get sucked up into their own egos and turn out something either too wacky or boorish.

So walk the fine line!
But mostly, none of the above would have happened because it would have turned into The Spike Show in Season Three, and by Season Seven the show would have consisted of nothing but scenes of Spike and Buffy gazing soulfully into each others' eyes while the rest of the main cast sat in the living room mostly off-camera...

I would have taken a weeeee little bit of that. *sigh*
Hmm, so we're back at the beginning. I can live with that.
@redeem147 - Ha! :)

I agree with Simon that Joss and co. have done well to pay attention to which characters or story-lines were really grabbing the audience, and then running with that. Of course, that's different from turning the show into some kind of choose-your-own-adventure. I think any writer would probably be glad of feedback like "this character is so compelling, I wish they had a more prominent role" or "the villain is kind of boring" because that's important stuff to know when you're trying to take your audience on a journey. You want to bait your hooks for the audience, and once they bite, you drag them on the painful journey of your choosing.
As you note, catherine, some attention to feedback can be good, as it may let the writers know that some characters, arcs, themes, whatever, are more powerful or have interpretations beyond what they realized. Which insights may lead to additional creative inspiration/efforts. But fans don't get to vote, cause we are not on the committee. And that is as it should be.

If we want creative control, we should make our own book/show/song, as we think best.
MHO:
Listen, but do not heed.
Listen, because what people say can tell you something about how your story has touched them (though what people say does not correspond precisely with your story's impact -- sometimes, for example, a negative reaction is evidence of your story's power and truth and a positive reaction is proof that people still like puppies).
So do not heed. If you're not telling the story you need to tell, the one whose truth you cannot ignore because it comes out of everything you've ever seen and learned and been, then you're peddling watered-down committee-of-the-whole crap. Storyteller, to thine own self be true, because that's the only way to be true to your readers and viewers--even the ones who don't know it yet.
catherine:
I think any writer would probably be glad of feedback like "this character is so compelling, I wish they had a more prominent role" or "the villain is kind of boring" because that's important stuff to know when you're trying to take your audience on a journey.

I agree with the last part - if the audience finds the villain boring, it would be nice to know. Maybe it's something you could easily fix. But as for the first, then you do get into the realm of "choose-your-own adventure", and, as often as not, the show suffers for it. Dark Shadows probably benefited from Barnabas Collins' popularity; Happy Days, on the other hand, went downhill fast when it became nothing more than a showcase for "The Fonz" (and I actually liked the character.)

The thing is, I'm all about the characters - If I'm not interested in the characters, I can't get interested in the story. But the characters have to serve the story at the same time that the story serves the characters; pushing a character into storylines where they have no purpose just to please that character's fans is doing a disservice to the audience and the story, not to mention the other characters.

toast:
If we want creative control, we should make our own book/show/song, as we think best.

What you said...
I can think of one show that would have tanked ages ago without fan intervention, Lost. And it's also one of the more interesting and important stories of such. When fans saw a season erring they spoke out, it happened in S2, it happened in S3, the creators listened and got their act back on track. The fan intervention wasn't drastic, such as telling them what stories they want and what way to take the plot but to fix problems that were being run in to. The Niki/Paulo story is especially interesting because the fans were asking for more interaction with the background characters and when we got it we hated it. Darlton basically said, "look, listened to you even though we had said in the past that these people don't have stories to tell that you would want to hear." Incidentally, we got a very good episode about these characters that also brought their story to an end. There was also the whole fan outcry that Jack's tattoos have an explanation and because of that we got what is probably the worst episode of the show. You can also thank the fans for two character introductions, Desmond and Ben, and they've become two of the best characters on the show. Lost is the perfect example of how to and how to not listen to the fans.
I agree with Pointy, listen to what the fans say, then make their own decisions.
There's a difference between paying attention to your audience in order to improve and refine your storytelling and letting audience reactions direct the story.

Now seems like a good time to mention my Season 8: Needs More Clem campaign.
I get what you mean, Rowan Hawthorn. I don't think writers should let the audience pick which characters they want to see come to the forefront, of course, but I think any writer would want to know which characters are connecting with the audience. I think that's why the romance with Angel became such a big thing in the early seasons of Buffy, as Simon was saying, or why Spike came back instead of just being a season 2 Big Bad. Not "only" because audiences were responding so well, but obviously because the writers, too, fell for these characters. But if the unanimous audience reaction was, "oh, that Spike character? yawn" I don't think he would have been back, and that probably would have been the right decision.

But yeah, Pointy put it very nicely and succinctly. Any good writer will be able to listen to criticism and take from it what they will, while having the confidence to follow through on their own vision.

Or, "what Sunfire said." Re. Clem, I mean ;).
The thing with retrospective "what if"s is, we can't possibly know what other things they might've come up with. If Joss et al hadn't listened to the audience at all then we may have had even better stories and characters and Spike would be "just" another Big Bad we look back on. That's why the example based, "We wouldn't have had X", approach doesn't seem particularly applicable to me - looking back on a great series like BtVS, all the good choices seem to be the only choice, when in fact they were one among many possibilities (some of which may have been even better).

And also, there're surely a limited set of situations where we actually know for a fact that the creators were responding to fan desires (i'm assuming all the examples people are giving have interviews/commentaries etc. wherein Joss or another producer talks about choosing based on audience reaction, otherwise we just have correlation, not necessarily causation).

And also also, we're talking about "what the fans want" as if "the fans" are one monolithic entity united in one coherent desire. Which obviously isn't true (and raises another problem with following fan desires in that you tend to hear from the most vocal, not necessarily the most people).
Clem! Clem! Clem!

If Spike were 'just' another big bad, I probably wouldn't have watched Buffy. My kids tried to get me to watch, and I only paid attention during 'Something Blue' from whence I was hooked.

I was already watching Angel.

Personally, I believe creators should tell their own stories, and let their hearts be their guides. Doesn't necessarily make it something I want to watch...

[ edited by redeem147 on 2008-10-11 18:45 ]

[ edited by redeem147 on 2008-10-11 18:47 ]
Tv shows do need ratings to survive. As much as the ideal of artistic integrity may be following your own ideas, I think the reality of it is following your ideas in a context when you're going to have to make some compromises to be successful. I think everyone involved adapts, it's just a question of how and what you're willing to adapt.
Then again, we can always kick back and watch CSI like the rest of the oblivious. Just think, simple life, same show over...and over, and repeat again.

I think I'm going to be ill, please excuse me!
Of course you're right, Saje, that we have no way of knowing to what degree the writers are influenced by fan response (regardless of what they've said in interviews, since fan response to Spike or Angel may just have been mirroring the writers' own enthusiasms anyway) or "what might have been" if they chose different story-lines.

But that said, as a general rule, I think writers should be open to feedback / audience response and the possibility that they can learn from it, without going too far and letting it dictate the story. I mean, novelists, who work (usually) according to slightly looser schedules, generally seek out readers and criticisms to help with revisions. No author can take every piece of advice they get, but the opinions are useful even when disregarded, I would think. And having considered the feedback they get, of course the writer will and should do what they want.
In a recent discussion (maybe even here on Whedonesque, I forget), someone summed it up in a way I thought was just perfect:

Fans know what they want.
But the creator (if he's a successful one) knows what they need.
That's more or less a paraphrasing of Joss dispatch (he's said in the past that he gives the fans what they need, not what they want - which is a slightly contentious idea among some fans).

But that said, as a general rule, I think writers should be open to feedback / audience response and the possibility that they can learn from it, without going too far and letting it dictate the story.

Yeah i've no issue with giving writers feedback catherine, especially in the sense of giving them an idea they also think's good (i.e. one they'd have used themselves if they'd only thought of it). That's not the same (IMO) as fans changing the direction of the story or bringing characters back from the dead because of what they want to see happen. Telling someone they should take a paragraph out because it's unclear or maybe too verbose is a far cry from telling them they should take it out because Jake dies in it and you like Jake.

As I say, if they choose to keep track of what people respond to (and part of working in an expensive medium is, they have to to some extent) then great. It seems fine for them to think "Wow, they like Spike, we like Spike, we've got a guy here that can play the hell out of him, let's run with it". But that's a long way from (in writer's room) "C'mon, Willow's gay ?? The fans want Spike and i'm not seeing a lot of Spike in this script. Couldn't Spike be gay ? Or maybe bi-curious ? Where's the Spikeness, what's the Spikosity Quotient ?".

I guess I see it sort of as Pointy said it too, except i'd say don't even listen (i.e. watch their/our moods in a general sense but don't listen to specific requests. And at least some of the time, just do what you think's best anyway, no-matter what the fans want - that's the main/only way to avoid hackdom IMO).

Tv shows do need ratings to survive.

Producing TV that people want to see and producing TV based on what people tell you they want to see aren't necessarily the same thing though Sunfire (in fact, some of the time, they may even be mutually exclusive).


ETR a 'far cry' too far ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2008-10-11 19:49 ]
If Spike hadn't come back, I wouldn't be on this board right now.
But is it fan reaction that brought him back? Or did the writers just notice that they liked the show with him in it. Hard to say.

Heroes has lost my interest a bit. Too many characters I don't care about. Some work, some don't. But do we all feel the same way?
I hated that constantly crying South American girl on Heroes, almost to the point of fast forwarding through her bits. Bad idea, badly executed. But that's just my opinion I assume, I also hated Nikki, but enough people liked her that they brought her back. Nikki's husband though, I thought was an excellent character and they never brought him back.
So again, are the writers listening to anyone? Just the loudest people? Or do they just have their own opinions of what works.
"C'mon, Willow's gay ?? The fans want Spike and i'm not seeing a lot of Spike in this script. Couldn't Spike be gay ? Or maybe bi-curious ? Where's the Spikeness, what's the Spikosity Quotient ?".

Ha!

Yes, "they like Spike, we like Spike" is an easy one. What if it was "Hmm, we like Spike, but nobody's responding to him, everybody seems kind of bored with him." They need to take that into consideration, right? Not necessarily write him out of the story, but figure out how to get the audience on board with him. As with Oz? I just think it would be foolish for any writer to completely ignore audience reaction, though I don't at all think stories should be written or altered to please a particular group of vocal fans. Basically I agree with you Saje, I'm just in a chatty mood ;). Why do some people give their emoticons noses, ie. :-), whereas others have noseless emoticons, like mine ;). Does it mean anything?
It's known that Joss enjoys reading our room and, occasionly, adds a word or three within the sentences.

Wait! May have gotten that backwards.
I know that my opinion isn't an original one here, but I wanted to add my two euros (Because the Euro is worth more than the dollar.).

I think the writers/creators should take the audience concern's into consideration, but it's their story, and they should tell it how they want to. We as fans have a right to voice our displeasure or happiness to creators about a story line. We need to voice it in a calm, respectful manner instead of demanding what we want to the creator. I believe the creator would listen to the fans when we voice our opinions in a civilised manner, and if we screaming lunatics with pitchfolks, the writers will tend to not listen to our opinion.

Anyways, if they don't listen to us, that's why we have fanfic. :D
I think with the Demon Writer of TV, the key has not been compromising between what he loves and what the mass audience loves, but finding the common ground of his loves and theirs.

Most of the TV/movies/novels he's loved and been influenced by have also been loved by millions. (I know he often mentions obscure movies, but that's just to enliven my Netflix Q.) He loves character development and explosions, horror movies and tragedies, fight scenes and quiet emotional moments, the familiar pleasures of genre and the surprise twists that come from crossing them (as Capra, Coppola, Craven and a host of filmmakers whose last names start with other letters have done). Not to mention feminism/heroic women characters and hot chicks in leather pants. Superpowers and vulnerability. The list is endless, like this paragraph.

All these things have mass appeal. The art is putting them together in new ways so the rest of us can find new ways to love them. The truer he is to all the things he loves, the more people will love the things he creates.

Is my theory. (I'm trying this myself with nonfiction video, and so far larger numbers of people are loving my in-depth archival research when combined with TV newsmagazine journalism -- both things firmly planted in my heart.)

[ edited by Pointy on 2008-10-11 20:47 ]
You might not believe this, as I've gone on and on about having switched from obsessed Jossfan to casual Jossfan because of how the stories "shaped out," but I agree. If it wasn't his vision then it wouldn't be what were watching it for. Maybe Fan X or Fan Y's ideas would have actually made for a better story, but that's "hindsight with one eye shut." When/if he pushes me too far, I'm willing to walk away. Until then, it's still of some interest.

Egotistical note follows below.

Heck, I can even credit Joss for killing off the characters I still liked (except for harmony, Faith, and Lorne) and leaving only the rest. My original fic idea (a SLayer in 2026 with too much adult involvement) wouldn't have led to much output from me*. But now I have to write prequels to bring back 60% of my cast and it's inspirational.
*After the intial "Everyone, Autumn is the Slayer" tears that was about it.
Producing TV that people want to see and producing TV based on what people tell you they want to see aren't necessarily the same thing though Sunfire (in fact, some of the time, they may even be mutually exclusive).

I think I agree with this. I'm just saying that you can't ever execute a creative idea in a bubble. You have to take practical aspects into consideration. For a tv series this means weighing what you want to do against how what you're currently doing is registering with your audience. It means compromising to a reasonable degree with what the studio wants to see and what you're hearing the audience likes. I'm not saying that the "I will boycott your show if you kill Jake" letters should be driving the decisions. But neither can the show be made without some consideration of the audience's reactions to things. I think it's possible to listen to fans and respond to them without caving in to them.
Ooh, yes, what Sunfire said, put way better than my rambly attempt.

But seriously, is there anything to noseless vs. noseful emoticons? I'm thinking of experimenting with noses. ;-)
Agreed with what a lot of you already said, re: the not knowing how things would've turned out and also not being certain of how much fan reaction influenced certain writing decisions (if at all). I can't pass up responding to these though, if only out of curiousity for a few of 'em. And yes, keeping in mind that everyone's had a different experience while following the fandoms online...

Simon said:
"if Joss and co hadn't listened to the fans, Angel and Spike would have been footnotes in Buffy history."

Why, was Angel only ever intended to be a recurring character (like in Season 1) that would eventually exit ? Seems more likely to me that the writers were watching to see how his arc played out and...well then again, I do remember The WB playing up the Buffy/Angel thing hugely in the ads for Seasons 2 and 3...I dunno. The progression/inclusion of the character felt pretty organic. Which doesn't mean fans had no influence, but I can't remember the writers specifically saying that fan demand had a big role in his continued appearances and return either.

As for "listening to the fans", which fans ? The majority, I guess we're talking about here, since they would naturally have the most influence. 'Cause as well-loved as Angel was, I remember back in the day there were also a whole lotta fans making fun of David Boreanaz for his weaker acting (in comparison to the rest of the cast though, and IMO not an issue as he improved over the years), awful Irish accent, and of course there were just people who didn't love the Buffy/Angel melodrama (I did, except for parts of it in Season 3 where it kind of ate the show at times).

Angel the series happened because he was a popular character, there's no doubt of that.

Was Spike's Season 3 "Lover's Walk" appearance talked about as if it was brought about due to his Season 2 popularity ?

Did he come back in Season 4 specifically because of fan-demand, or because the writers loved writing for James and that character ? Either scenario seems plausible, could be a combination of both.

I might've used to have know these kind of Buffyverse behind-the-scenes-details, but I forget a lot.

We know his resurrection after Season 7 and being shipped over to Angel Season 5 was wholly because of The WB's request/condition to renew for another year. A network demand, IMO, feels a heck of a lot more intrusive than writers occasionally playing to the majority of their viewers.

"Though on the other hand if they had listened to the fans, there would have been no Angel spin-off and Oz and Willow would still be together."

Fans didn't want the Angel spin-off ? I remember a whole lot of skepticism in some circles, but I also remember a whole lotta nerds loving that the universe was expanding.

Oz and Willow wouldn't still be together, even if both fans and writers wanted it that way. Seth Green decided that storyline for everyone, it was out of the writers' hands.

Much as I liked and sometimes loved Willow & Oz, I wasn't too broken up about Green's exit, especially when they gave us more satisfying wrap-up in "New Moon Rising" and threw him into "Restless" just for the heck of it.

Rowan Hawthorn said:
"if the audience had gotten to call all the shots:

Tara wouldn't have died
...but Tara would also never have appeared to begin with.
"

Were there that many fans saying beforehand that Willow & Tara were untouchable though ? I always had the impression that there were a whole lotta Buffyverse fans who were simply willing to be taken for a ride. Not to say those fans didn't have the criticisms and bitch about when they didn't like something, but...I don't ever remember being all "Joss can never kill this character off, or I will stop watching the show and/or like it a lot less" and it seems like you're just setting yourself up for disappointment when you do get to be having unreasonable expectations and "demands".

I know the aftermath was rather ugly, but since it's impossible to have a head count...I dunno if it was just an extremely vocal (and sizable) minority, or if th majority of BtVS fans were enraged.

"Oz wouldn't have left
...but it wouldn't matter, because Oz and Willow wouldn't have gotten together to begin with.
"

Why, was he hated ? I wasn't aware there even was much fan crazyness back when Season 2 aired. I liked Oz a lot, thought his gradual introduction was very cool (although I do remember that he wasn't intended to be in more than two or three episodes when they started him out) and was way more interested in seeing Willow lead away from her childhood crush on Xander (heh, though Season 3 showed us that wasn't quite out of her system even with perfect-boyfriend-Oz) than continue with just Willow longing after Xander longing after Buffy.

Really, the majority of fans would've nixed Oz ? That's a pretty big surprise, if true. I dunno, maybe I just didn't hang around the bigger Buffy communities and have all that good a pulse on the fandom back then.

"Buffy would never have been resurrected
...but Buffy wouldn't have died to begin with.
"

I know there was strong fan opinion that Season 5 ended things perfectly, at the time (and I agree that it would've been a stronger season to go out on than 7, but I wouldn't trade the majority of Season 6 and the good parts of 7 just to foolishly axe things prematurely for the vanity of the show. Also, Season 7 wasn't the end now that we have the so-far-superior Season 8 [IMO], so it's all good even moreso). I thought people were pretty excited about how Joss would pull off the resurrection though. That was the only part I was a little wary of, if it would feel cheap or potentially cheapen Season 5's sacrifice (resurrections don't always bring down the death scene, but they often do. Comic books have probably made me feel this way though, grrr). I think there was also some nervousness about the move to UPN at the time, for whatever reason (I have no clue--most people fear change?).

But mostly, none of the above would have happened because it would have turned into The Spike Show in Season Three, and by Season Seven the show would have consisted of nothing but scenes of Spike and Buffy gazing soulfully into each others' eyes while the rest of the main cast sat in the living room mostly off-camera...

By Season 3 ? He definitely wasn't that popular with the majority at that point to such a degree that they would've wanted him eclipsing the other characters that early on. During/after Season 4/5, then you're onto something...

The only times on Buffy I wanted Spike to disappear for a bit (aside from during Season 4 during the points where they had little justification for not staking him aside from enjoying the humor of his "impotence", I mean seriously, as much as I liked Marsters and the humor he brought--'cause at that point he was definitely more humor than drama--it made no sense within the show, though I'm glad he stayed for what we got of him in Seasons 5 and 6), was at the end of Season 6, post-attempted-rape, where it really felt like he should've been unseen until Season 7. And then during long stretches of Season 7 where he took away from the other characters.

[ edited by Kris on 2008-10-11 23:27 ]
But when it comes to their favourite characters being killed off, fans will always be freaking out. The showrunner can either do what he thinks is best for the show and give the audience a painful but poignant moment they won't ever forget, or cave in and come up with a copout that will be pretty much forgotten by the time next episode airs. Joss kills off characters better than anyone on TV -- and look at the love and respect it has earned him.

On the other hand, listening to the audiences may help showrunners sort out problems with a show before it's too late (boring characters, lame storylines), or keep memorable characters around. In some cases, the viewers' feedback may actually help the showrunners tell the stories they want rather than what network execs think would bring more audiences (self-contained episodes in S3 of BSG or Bela and Ruby in S3 of Supernatural).
I lose a lot of respect for writers who cave to fan outcries. It is almost always a terrible mistake.
Depends on the show in question and the fans in question and the individual suggestions. If the show is good, then the showrunners should not listen to the fans - I've heard some DUMB comments from my fellow fans. If the show sucks, fan input - no matter how lame - might be a good thing.

Personally, I think showrunners should hire me to fix their lame shows, because I rock at plots and characterization. I just suck at being paid for such talents.
Then again, we can always kick back and watch CSI like the rest of the oblivious. Just think, simple life, same show over...and over, and repeat again.

Wow. Now that's arrogance.

Fans know what they want.
But the creator (if he's a successful one) knows what they need.


Someday, people will stop saying this. And then I will be able to stop taking my medication. Creators, good or not, don't know what you need. They might be able to guess. That's all. But are they even concerned with "giving you what you need"? Or are they just out to tell the best story they can, which may or may not have an enlightening/cathartic effect among the fanbase? Myself, I think the latter option is far more plausible.

So, how much should showrunners listen to fans? I think it's a bad question. The question should really be, when? First off, if some plot point or character relationship isn't clear to a majority of your fans, or if it's just not working on its own terms, you need to listen to what they're saying, and get that fixed on the quickfast. Second, you might keep an ear open for some interesting possibilities that the fans put forward -- that you never thought of, but which get your creative juices flowing.

Other than those, I can't think of a time when a creator SHOULD listen to the fans. You know the story you want to tell, and you need to tell it. Note that both times I said a creator SHOULD listen to the fans are times that help them tell the stories they really want to tell: the first by alerting them to something they haven't included/clarified, and the second by setting off an idea bulb in their brains that says, "Hey, wouldn't THIS fit so much better with my story than what I'd planned?" (Sadly, soon the idea bulbs will be more expensive, because they'll be flourescent. Hooray for government regulation!)

Some portion of the audience will not be satisfied, of course, if you don't cater to their every whim. And some of those will leave -- but some will stay. I consider myself a case study. I can't say that anything Joss has done since Firefly has really captured me. Serenity was an...upsetting...experience, I never thought that the Buffy S8 comics were anywhere close to as good as the show, and my problems with Dr. Horrible start at the beginning of the third act. Yet I'm sticking around for Dollhouse, in hopes that once Joss returns to an old familiar medium, things will be different for me.

Now if only he'll LISTEN this time...

[ edited by BAFfler on 2008-10-12 00:00 ]
Joss should always listen to us and not kill our darlings. And with the coming depression he might considering dropping all the negative scenes from the script (yes, you can have fun without darkness to "counter balance")
I think he should also try to include a few scenes featuring stable banking systems, just to try to bolster confidence in the markets.

I lose a lot of respect for writers who cave to fan outcries.

That's definitely what I have the biggest issue with - the idea that if fans just moan enough they can force the creator to take back a decision that's been made for legitimate story and/or character based reasons. For all that i'm now happier about Zach in 'Bones', I really hope Hart Hanson didn't just cave on an idea he was actually still behind 100%.

But seriously, is there anything to noseless vs. noseful emoticons? I'm thinking of experimenting with noses. ;-)

I used to use a nose when I was making an explicit joke and leave the nose off when I was just trying to indicate "don't take this as an insult" or "friendliness". Bit more casual with it now though (i.e. i've less use for noses).

But I reckon everyone should experiment with a nose once in a while.
Most of the shows I like best take the approach of putting the needs of the story ahead of the wants of the fans. The ones that are too afraid to challenge viewers tend to be dull, lowest common denominator pabulum.

That said, sometimes what fans want would make the show better. Whereas, as BrowncoatG noted, the first season of Heroes was messed up by bending to fan pressure (Sylar not dying pretty well undermines the whole point of saving the cheerleader), the slow pace of the first several episodes of S2, by contrast, was widely derided by fans and acknowledged to be a mistake by the creators and fixed in the latter episodes.
This is the reason writers should not listen to the fans. No one can agree. Some of us enjoy the darkness to counterbalance the light. While some complain about Act 3 in DHSAB, I loved it and so did others. Some didn't like Buffy S6 and S7. Well, I loved them as did others.

By listening to one group of fans, writers inevitably alienate another group. If Joss didn't create multi-dimensional shows, I wouldn't be watching. I love the ride Joss and others take us on and I hope that never changes.

I do fear the upcoming global downturn means we are going to be getting too much sitcom-like tv.
we're talking about "what the fans want" as if "the fans" are one monolithic entity united in one coherent desire.

There are disagreements in the fandom?
:)
or possibly :-)

I'm just imagining Joss reading every thread on Whedonesque with an eye to making story decisions. Hee. I guess he'd have to go with multiple alternative universes.
Choose-your-own-adventure-TV ! Multiple branching story possibilities !

Nah, we've got video games for that kind of entertainment. If only the writing was better in more than just a few of them...

They've done some films like that (one recently came out on DVD, I forget what it's called, I think it was Canadian, the viewer inputs the path via remote), but as far as I know, no television. Unless you count reality shows like the various countries' Idol competitions where viewers can phone in their votes.

[ edited by Kris on 2008-10-12 02:03 ]
Hee:
This is the reason writers should not listen to the fans. No one can agree. Some of us enjoy the darkness to counterbalance the light. While some complain about Act 3 in DHSAB, I loved it and so did others. Some didn't like Buffy S6 and S7. Well, I loved them as did others.

By listening to one group of fans, writers inevitably alienate another group. If Joss didn't create multi-dimensional shows, I wouldn't be watching. I love the ride Joss and others take us on and I hope that never changes.

You and me both. And that first part is particularly apt. I'll note with some amusement that there's a lot of "I don't think the majority of fans do XXXX" in this thread, when, in fact, I didn't see anyone - including myself - saying that the majority of the fans did do XXXX. In fact, that's exactly the issue that hacks me off about the demand for fan-service: for most of those demands, it isn't the majority of fans calling for it; if it had been, it would be a better indication that there really was a problem. Instead, it's usually one or another small but vocal sub-group that seems to feel that their view of what the show is "supposed" to be like should outweigh everyone else's - including Joss's.
Personally, I never wanted Ben to be Glory.
Personally, Ben being Glory didn't bother me. I have deep and abiding resentment about Glory being Ben though. I mean, dude. WTF.
I think showrunners should listen to fans about as much as my cat listens to me when I tell her to get down from there.
QuoterGal, exactly. And the imperial "you're not serious" look should be about the same, too. Only when the voice is raised should the show runner take any real notice and then, still, there should be the calculated dignity that says "I'll alter course a little but you'll note it was my plan all along."
Sunfire- yeah, but you gotta admit, Glory looked better in Ben's duds than Ben looked in hers...

QuoterGal, oh, now that's just cold. I like it... :-)
Are you saying that Ben and Glory have some sort of connection?
This is gonna be worth it.

*smacks the "Ben is Glory?" folks in their collective head*

*screams along with them as his chip activates*
No, no. I think what they're saying is that Ben's been subletting from Glory.
It's a good thing the Buffy writers didn't listen to us too much. Otherwise in response to a few of us, there would have been ongoing Ben/Glory jokes well into Season 7.

Not that it wouldn't have been awesome, it just would have pissed the rest of you off.
And Morgan Freeman would've appeared somewhere, possibly as a resurrected Tara.
I find the idea that fans should have creative input into the shows they choose to watch quite unpleasant, to be honest. Apart from all the other obvious reasons why it would never be a viable idea, how could it possibly work, anyway? As has already been mentioned, using ‘Buffy’ as an example, the constant bickering amongst fans about individual storylines, different characters, and the direction the show was taking in general, shows us that there was never anything approaching unified agreement about what “we” wanted.

One of the things I found hardest to reconcile when I first ventured into the world of (on-line) fandom was what seemed to be a widespread belief that fans had ownership of the shows they chose to watch – and that the actors and writers owed them something in return for continuing to watch the show. It might just be me, but I find that attitude arrogant and, frankly, bordering on being disturbing. The desire to have a creative input into the show is surely just an extension of that.

If I had the talent, the ability and the motivation to actually be a part of the creative team on a television show, or something similar, I would like to think that is what I would be doing. It would, I am sure, be a lot more rewarding, in more ways than one, than what I am doing. However, I do not have any of the attributes I would need to be in that position and I cannot imagine expecting to have some creative influence simply because I chose to switch on my television set, or buy a DVD, or whatever.
Eugh fans, who needs 'em?

Also, I was expecting to see both the words 'Morgan Freeman' and 'resurrected Tara' somewhere once the 'us suggesting ideas for BtVS' conversation came about, but definitely not in the same comment. Truly masterful Saje :)
Well, y'know, of all the things the fans cried out for that just seemed to be the elephant in the room that no-one here was willing to talk about.

And I guess the Tara thing's a bit of an issue too ;-).
And pink elephants at that. Perhaps we should start this discussion over?
I don't think there is a single issue, plot, storyline, development or character in this fandom that all the fans agree on.

It's my pet peeve actually, when a poster comes on and says something like "what everybody really wants is...blah, blah, blah"

Irritates the heck out of me. I dare you all to think of ANYTHING that we all agree on.
There's a physical, practical reason that makes it difficult for showrunners to take into account fans' sentiments -- by the time fans see an episode, there are already usually two to four or more others in the pipeline behind it, so unless an element is designed to be easily removed (which strikes me as rather noncommittal storytelling that's unlikely to get anybody worked up in either direction), by the time fans see anything to react to it, the immediate aftermath and then some has been plotted, scripted and filmed. Now, when there *is* time to react -- say, between installments in a feature film series -- then the creator is free to respond or not respond as he/she sees fit. The creator's colleagues and friends are all weighing in with opinions -- the creator can go, "That's a good idea," "That's a bad idea," or "You're assuming this thing you don't like is prelude to X, when it's really prelude to Y, so I'm going to ignore you because you don't know where it's going." Ideally, the creator should be free to do what he/she feels is right for the creation, without input from, say, Marketing saying, "But if you keep Jar Jar Binks, we can sell more lunchboxes!" or whatever. (I think Jar Jar may be Exhibit A in the argument that sometimes creators taking fan reaction into account isn't always a bad thing.) Often, what seems to be taken as creative people listening to fans is really creative people *themselves* going, "Hmm, when I wrote this, I thought it would play like this, but now that I see it on screen, it really plays more like *that*, so this is what I'm going to do about it." It's not placating fans, but rather the creator him/herself deciding a change is a good idea -- if fans agree, there is sometimes a false perception that their reaction changed something that was already changing before they saw any of it. In my opinion, of course ...
I've always thought one of the most important skills a writer can have (aside from, you know, being able to write well) is the ability to distinguish between input that's helpful and input that isn't. It's just as hard to respect a writer who refuses to listen to any comments or criticism as it is to respect one who caves to audience demands to the detriment of the story.

If the majority of fans are content the majority of the time, you might be doing something wrong.
Xane: we agree that Ben has some connection with Glory. Right? Right?! (Okay, son, get my whip. There's a dead horse that needs a beatin'.)

Lady Brick, I wish you would follow up on the last line of your previous comment. I can't help feeling that a fanbase that is in tune with the thrust of its creator's vision will be satisfied most of the time (or at least most of them will), no matter what twists the story takes. So when would pleasing most of the people most of the time be right, and when would it be wrong?
Why, was Angel only ever intended to be a recurring character (like in Season 1) that would eventually exit ?


From what I've read in interviews, yes that was the intention. But such was his popularity that he became a permanent fixture.

Fans didn't want the Angel spin-off ?


There was a sizeable grouping who didn't want this to happen. Fear of change* and those who wanted Buffy and Angel to remain as a couple.

*Could be compared to the reaction of fans who were angry at the deaths of Wash and Book. Remember the Save Wash campaign and its attempts to get Joss to re-edit Serenity before it premiered so Wash would not be killed off? No? Be grateful. That effort didn't get much publicity amongst the fandom and the popculture media. If it had, it would have made our fandom look even more daft than the campaign to Save Dollhouse did.

I dare you all to think of ANYTHING that we all agree on.


Joss' shows provide passionate debates.
Showrunners should listen to me just long enough for them to go, "Just take these DVDs and watch the show in advance."

ETA that I do "[r]emember the Save Wash campaign" and wish that I didn't, except that what I remember of it is a rather concerted effort on the part of some to quash it as quickly as possible, heh.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-10-12 18:44 ]
Wait, Ben is with Glory? When did that happen?!

I'm thinking the three-four months between when the writer puts quail to paper and the show actually airs may stand in difference. Then again, maybe I'm seeing more pink elephants.

Now, what's this with Ben and Glory?
I pretty much agree that writers shouldn't listen to what the fans want because as has been stated, all fans of a particular show do not agree pretty much ever and it isn't our story anyhow. But that saying about not giving the fans what they want but what they need... isn't that acutally more about not what the fans want but what the story needs? I don't think anyone is telling us (as fans) what we need, just what the story needs which is completely different.

BTW, I always got the feeling with season 2 and 3 of LOST that the writers were actually chaning the story because too many fans guessed where they were going and posted about it online. Which is sort of opposite of doing what the fans want, but ending with the same result: the story not being so good. (IMO.)

There was a Save Wash campaign?
Yes. It heads my list of damn silly things done because some fans thought they knew better.
Yeah, and by its very name it was a spoiler, because this was back before the film's actual release, so even anytime someone would post "damn that Save Wash campaign!" it was helping spread word of (1) the campaign and (2) the spoiler. It's actually kind of impressive/surprising how quickly it got stamped out.
Blory? Glen? It wouldn't have worked; they had nothing in common.
Fans should be seen, not heard listened to.
Lady Brick said, "If the majority of fans are content the majority of the time, you might be doing something wrong."

I think you may be confusing "content" with "complacent" or "bored." If the majority of fans are not at least "content" or better yet "excited" a majority of the time, I'd think they'd eventually cease to be fans.

As for Angel not being intended as a regular character, I thought Joss et al had said he started out as a recurring character with the possibility of making him a regular if it worked out and remaining recurring/going away entirely if it didn't. By "worked," this doesn't necessarily mean that the fans got enthused (though they did), but rather that the storytelling was working in the eyes of Joss. I think we have seen that Joss and Co. don't necessarily bow to fan pressure -- Dawn and Andrew, for example, had more vocal detractors than vocal advocates, but both remained prominent throughout. (I grew to like Dawn and thought Andrew was hilarious, but I don't get a sense from the boards that this was a majority opinion.)
Shapenew, I thought Dawn finally came into her own a bit in Season Seven. I remain convinced that Andrew was handled poorly post-"Chosen" (during his two appearances on Angel), however. It's not a complaint against Tom Lenk--I think he did as well as he could have--but what could have been an interesting Wesley-esque journey from uber-dork to existential ally ended up wasted.

And I think people are being a bit harsh against this "Save Wash" campaign.
And I think people are being a bit harsh against this "Save Wash" campaign.

Hardly. The entire deliberate intent was to spoil the movie so people would get pissed off enough before it opened that they'd petition Joss to change it. In this thread, so far, we're actually not being harsh enough.
The source of Andrew's power is his extreme dorkiness. It's like the Cigarette Smoking Man's Morleys. How could he not be a dork and still be Andrew?
CSM's Morleys were the source of his dorkiness? ;)
I'm not sure what you and your fellows are going for here, bix. Is it that people shouldn't be able to launch a campaign to save a character BEFORE the exhibition of the TV show/movie/whatever? Or that they should be open for dumping-on once they do? Because either way, I'm not feeling it. Wash's death scene in Serenity came at a particularly hard time in my life. I went to that movie to recapture some of the magic of Firefly, and left devastated. So y'know, I might have appreciated knowing about such a campaign.

And Sunfire, there's a difference between being a dork and being an uber-dork.
I am glad I didn't see the Save Wash campaign. I was totally unspoiled for that. Not that I liked it or anything. Hmmmmm.

But again the disagreements. I liked Dawn a lot UNTIL season seven. I thought Andrew was funny and fantastic in Damages.
How much should showrunners listen to fans?

Not at all IMO. Or rather, only as much as they themselves choose (that's part of the balancing act of producing TV - or any other expensive art-form).


Amen Simon.
A little while ago, Russel T Davies got a bunch of fans pissed completely off when he said that he didn't think that the show's creators should do what the fans want.
Me? I love his vision of those shows: Doctor Who and Torchwood. (The end of season 2 of Torchwood had me sitting on my sofa yelling "Wha---??? WTF????" but I LOVED it.)
We're talking about someone's creation.
Someone....not...YOU. (Apolgies to Firefly.)
I'm still shocked and appalled that so-called fans had the gall to contact Universal demanding that they re-shoot the end of Serenity because of the death of Wash.
It was out of line and totally uncalled for.
It already cheeses me off all of the testing and stuff they do to movies and TV before releasing and/or broadcast, instead of trusting the creator's vision and ideas.

[ edited by AmazonGirl on 2008-10-12 22:40 ]
I'm not sure what you and your fellows are going for here


It wasn't a fun campaign. It wasn't a bunch of fans going "hey Joss kills Wash, lets do something wacky in protest". That I would have no problem with. Generally I like somewhat the pie in the sky fan efforts. They may not achieve their goal but they people bring together and that to me is one of the whole things about being a fan.

However the Save Wash campaign was a handful of people who wanted Joss to reshoot scenes from his movie after it had been made and were threatening a boycott if they didn't get what they wanted. There was just something incredibly off about the whole thing. Fair enough not liking the movie but saying that you will actively campaign against it, that's a whole different kettle of fish. But anyhow it was a different time and the fandom has changed drastically since then.

On a personal note, I think the nearest thing to the Save Wash effort were the Veronica Mars fans who campaigned against a fourth season. There are some strong similarities there.
the Veronica Mars fans who campaigned against a fourth season

Wow, I missed that entirely.
Woah, now, hold on a second, AmazonGirl. I agree with you that creators shouldn't have to listen to fans if they don't want to...but I fail to see how that licenses you to condemn the fans themselves because they're willing to launch a protest to change a decision they don't like. It's that same passion for shows that leads people to write and call the networks in protest of the decision to cancel shows they love.

I'm not sure what unspoken premise you're moving from here. Is it the premise that the fans can't challenge artistic decisions, but can challenge business decisions? (Even though it takes both sides of that coin to bring us what we love.) Is it that fans never have better ideas for the show than the creators? (Patently false, I think.) Or is it just that the creators should never be challenged by anyone? (Even when they're the ones running their show into the ground?) In any case, you'll have to do a lot more work before you sell me on condemning people who care enough about something to launch an effort condemning what they see as its ruination, whether they happen to be wrong or not.

Simon sez (man, I've always wanted to say that): However the Save Wash campaign was a handful of people who wanted Joss to reshoot scenes from his movie after it had been made and were threatening a boycott if they didn't get what they wanted. There was just something incredibly off about the whole thing. Fair enough not liking the movie but saying that you will actively campaign against it, that's a whole different kettle of fish. But anyhow it was a different time and the fandom has changed drastically since then.

Three points in response:

1) Fans threaten boycotts all the time if people don't do what they want. Very few people on this board have taken umbrage at the idea of boycotting networks over canceled shows. (And although I'm sure there have been some who have taken that point of view, their names escape me at the moment.) Let's not forget the outrage over Firefly in particular. What is the substantial difference between a boycott over an artistic choice and a boycott over a business decision? It seems to me, at bottom, that they're essentially the same. They're certainly motivated by the same impulse.

2) Has the fandom changed so much? If Dollhouse is in trouble, God forbid, and it looks like a second season won't be in the offing, I bet you'll get a ton of people on here saying "I'll never watch FOX again!" If a fan favorite emerges from among the supporting cast, and Joss then kills him/her off, I bet you'll see a (smaller) number of people saying things like, "S/He was my favorite! I'm never watching this crappy show again!" shades of the outrage over Tara and Wash. Shows change, and fandom remains the same.

3) Re: your comment about it not being fair campaigning against a movie because you don't like the choices of the creators...my entire counter-argument can be summed up in two words. Joss. Captivity.
Huh. I think I may have been a casualty of the Save Wash campaign. I actually got spoiled in the supposed spoil free section of the old SerenityMovie forum but then a few posters after the spoilery one posted as if it wasn't true and Wash didn't die. Was this a Save Wash thread that had been co-operatively posted in by the Anti-Save Wash campaign movement? Trying to undo the spoilerishness of those trying to ruin it for everyone else? (Although, I gotta say, there were a lot of curse words running around in my head when Wash.. you know. But I'd rather experience and decide for myself if it was good or bad.)

I missed the VM anti-fourth season as well. Hmm. Wonder if I should be campaigning against anything? Seems to be the new thing.
NYPinTA, the Save Wash campaign was masterminded by a handful of people on the old SerenityMovie forum. I did my best moderation wise with it, but a bunch of people did get spoiled because there wasn't initial agreement on what material Universal would let me remove which people were posting. In the end I just started deleting the Save Wash stuff people were posting into the non-"I've seen Serenity" subforum, Universal be damned.

I think fans should be allowed to campaign for whatever they want, 'cos the whole point of fandom is that nobody controls it - which is why it does so well on the interbrain. Fan is short for fanatic, after all. I also think creators should nearly always ignore them.

One thing the internet is good for is feeling what your audience thinks. The classic example is always going to be Oz in Buffy. The 'Freeze frame' speech Oz gives to Willow - that came from Joss reading fan reactions to Oz online. (People weren't liking Oz).
I'm glad I wasn't spoiled for what happened to Wash. I saw it not long after my father's (sudden) death, and found the scene cathartic.

So thanks to the Save Wash squashers.
Heh. Save Wash squashers.

I'm ok with people campaigning for whatever they want. I'm not ok with spoilers. Being an asshat is being an asshat no matter the cause. But I got over it. (I actually thought after Book died that the thread was wrong and Wash was safe. Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahaha. Oh, I was so young and clueless.) (OK, not so young.)
In some 'verse, are there Save Squash washers? You know, a campaign to rescue people who clean gourds? I mean, if there's a world without shrimp ...
Not to mention a world with nothing but shrimp.

I can't stand people who deliberately spoil things. I read spoilers for Serenity before I had any interest in Firefly, and then three years later when I finally watched it, I still remembered and was able to anticipate Wash's death (though not the suddenness of it) - and that was my own fault. I can't imagine how mad I'd be if it had been somebody else's obnoxiousness that ruined that moment for me.
my entire counter-argument can be summed up in two words. Joss. Captivity.


If Joss was a fan of the torture porn genre, I would concede your point. But he isn't. The Save Wash lot were fans who loved Firefly and thought they knew best. Joss speaking out against the brutalisation of women in Captivity is a whole different affair.

Has the fandom changed so much?


The Firefly fandom has. It's smaller and less active these days.
I think Joss mainly spoke out against the advertising campaign for 'Captivity' in fact, and then used it to springboard into a criticism of so-called "torture porn" in general, which he's clearly not a fan of (one of my minor issues with that whole thing was the idea of campaigning against a film you haven't actually seen yet, that sort of knee-jerk reaction irks me. Campaigning against the advertising, which all too many people had seen - that was the whole point in fact - and which had already been disallowed by the MPAA makes sense though and not wishing to pay to see the film in order to send a message about such advertising is also legitimate IMO).

Personally i've no issue with people campaigning for or against anything. If they're being daft IMO then i'll say so but they're obviously free to do as they wish. BUT if i'd been spoiled by them before seeing the film then i'd be extremely pissed off. Campaigning is one thing, wilfully spoiling the experience for others is just being a dick.

In some 'verse, are there Save Squash washers?

It's right next to the Squash Wash Savers 'verse. The shrimp quota of which is still to be determined.
I dare you all to think of ANYTHING that we all agree on.
Xane | October 12, 17:10 CET

Tree pretty. Fire bad. :)

I'm firmly in the artistic decisions belong to the creator(s) camp. I've never understood the idea that fans should have any input beyond reacting.
I'm really glad I was a late-comer to the fandom and had no idea about the "save Wash" campaign. I would have been so pissed off to have been spoiled for such a gut wrenching but artistically potent moment.
Which is why I'm staying away from anything even remotely spoilery about Dollhouse.

What I would say to anyone who believes that Joss (or any other creator of any sort of art) should alter his creative vision because it might upset some fans is, if you have all that artistic ability and creative vision, why aren't you making your own shows/movies?

Although I've always been a little ticked off about how most of the stars look like little moons, in Van Goughs Starry Night. :-)
ETA: all versions because .... hey, Whedonesque.

[ edited by Shey on 2008-10-13 12:46 ]
Kris; There was a fairly vocal (so I've heard, not in fandom qua fandom then) "Willow bleongs with Xander" brigade heard from when Oz came along, and the passion of the Willra 'shippers was well-known quite early on.

I don't have my own machine so I don't use my own emoticons. But I know whose rather prominet (almost on a par with my relatives') nose I'd like to experiment with. Except that would tick off a certain guy who vaguely resembles me but is much younger and in better shape.
I think Joss mainly spoke out against the advertising campaign for 'Captivity' in fact, and then used it to springboard into a criticism of so-called "torture porn" in general, which he's clearly not a fan of

I don't know about the "springboard" part, I think the anger may already have been there, and self-supporting, since apparently he'd seen movies such as it advertised. But I was mad about the horrible billboards, too, without having seen any of the "torture porn" movies. I'm confused about how this applies to the showrunners listening to fans topic.
The anger very likely was there already, never claimed otherwise. The "springboard" aspect came from his outrage about the ads for 'Captivity', which provided an opportunity to talk about the sub-genre as a whole. Here's the original thread, the link to Joss' letter still works.

I'm confused about how this applies to the showrunners listening to fans topic.

It doesn't directly apply to that topic dreamlogic, it applies to the resulting more general discussion about whether fans had the right to threaten to boycott 'Serenity' and otherwise protest because Wash died (BaFfler pointed to Joss' response to the 'Captivity' advertising as evidence of an inconsistency i.e. if it's OK for Joss' to do it, why not the fans ? My point was partly that what Joss started out protesting was the advertisements which had already been disallowed by the industry body that decides these things, hence the situation is different - though in general, depending on how it's done, fans should be free to protest anything they choose to protest IMO).
I see. The equivalence between trying to censor an artist and trying to get something disgusting to everyone and frightening to children off the street was BAFfler's. Good one.

I can actually report that the free market worked, here. Captivity tanked. And as it sank into oblivion, it removed the foul and frightening images the ad campaign it had sowed in them from the minds of the children who had no choice about seeing them, and we all came to a great time of prosperity.
It'd be nice if Joss would bring back Tara, but I'm not very hopeful. He seems to have forgotten her. So I'm busy writing my own Season 8, where she doesn't just come back, but comes back in a big way. She's changed a lot, and she's central to the whole season.

I know. Fanfic isn't "canon." I don't really care. If every fanfic is considered an alternate reality, then relative to the fic, everything else is non-canon. It's all a matter of relativity. A well-written fanfic can give me the piquancy I desire, altering the original recipe to taste.

So no, showrunners shouldn't be a slave to fans, but they might want to keep a muffled ear to them. Showrunners should primarily follow their own muse. Sometimes that muse will resonate with fans and sometimes it won't. Joss has a way of of doing both really well.
Not only is fanfic not canon, it's irrelevant to the canon.

The idea that some fan's bowdlerized version of someone else's work somehow has the same weight as the original? Wow. Sorry. No.
Like I said Rowan, it's all relative. I take it you view canon as always better than fanfic. So be it. To me, a well-written fanfic can carry more weight than the original, or at least enhance the original.

I'm not trying to take away from Joss and crew. They are talented, for sure. I'm just pointing out there are other authors who are as passionate and as talented, and sometimes they aren't even paid.

When it comes to authorship, money does not equal quality.
quantumac:
I take it you view canon as always better than fanfic.
Not necessarily. Put it in reverse: If I wrote a screenplay/novel/etc, and Joss, or Stephen deKnight, or any one of a thousand other writers I could name if I had space, wrote a fanfic based on my work, I think it's safe to say it would probably be better than mine. ETA: But it would be irrelevant to my work.

But that's beside the point, because - this time - I wasn't even touching on quality, and I believe that should have been crystal clear. I don't care whose work we're discussing, the only thing that has any weight is the original material; Ian Fleming wrote 13 James Bond books (counting the collected short stories.) Whatever stories Kingsley Amis did afterwards might make good reading to kill time, but they have nothing whatsoever to do with the canon; they don't "enhance" it, they don't "add to it", it carries no more weight than any other fanfic.

quantumac:
When it comes to authorship, money does not equal quality.
This is true. But I have to say: When it comes to authorship, fanservicing the target audience's taste also does not necessarily equal quality (which should be obvious when one looks at the scads of "adult westerns" and d-grade mysteries/romances that sell like hotcakes.) I haven't read any of your stuff that I know of, but of all the stuff I have read, I've yet seen very little fanfiction that I'd consider written even to the level of Queen of the Slayers - and pretty much everyone here probably knows how low an opinion I have of that.

[ edited by Rowan Hawthorn on 2008-10-14 18:40 ]

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