The development of the internet, particularly social media, is an amazing thing, especially for fans. It means they can connect with other fans of TV shows, films, and books from all around the world. Social media takes the old idea of a pen pal to the next level. It means that someone, somewhere, will like what you like; even if the fandom you’re part of is more like a fan-dot. It is important to note the difference between passion and obsession in fan entitlement.
Spreading The Love
Not only can fans connect with other like-minded people, but also with the content creators. Actors have always been a big part of Twitter, Facebook, and more recently Instagram, but more and more writers, producers and even musicians seem to be joining the fray.
Social media provides an amazing opportunity for content creators to hear feedback on their work. Not only that, but they can see first hand how much their TV shows and films have impacted people — not just from ratings and statistics.
Social media provides perfect opportunities to give back to the fans. TV shows such as The 100 and Lucifer have their very own ‘writers rooms’ on Twitter, (@LUCIFERwriters and @The100writers) where fans can interact and engage with them.
It’s not uncommon to see a ‘script tease’ or an episode name drop from the Once Upon a Time writers. Showrunners tease snippets of information to hungry fans, who have to wait months at a time for their favourite show to come out, or even years for their favourite film franchise.
But that doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t have its dark side.
Although social media is a great way to spread the love for TV shows and films, all this love tends to get drowned out by the negativity online. No TV show is without its faults. People are quick to criticise these days, nitpicking everything they see and hear. In fact, social media is a breeding ground for The Nitpickers.
The Nitpickers will criticise, everything, from a teeny-tiny plot hole to the amount of make-up a character is wearing. They watch TV Shows with narrowed eyes, looking for every single flaw they could pick out. Then, they turn to Twitter to spread their hate on issues so small; they’re not even issues, such as how their favourite scene (with their favourite ship) was cut too short.
The appeal is obvious; it’s so much easier to spend two minutes sending out a tweet rather than a few hours crafting a letter. And a lot of people do it. For every tweet a showrunner puts out there, there’s going to be someone who has something to say.
The Fan Entitlement In The Once Upon A Time Fandom
Adam Horowitz, (@AdamHorowitzLA on Twitter), showrunner and writer of the ABC fantasy show Once Upon A Time is the victim of this. He can’t tweet anything without hundreds of fans sharpening their pitchforks and lighting their torches, screaming that Robin Hood didn’t get enough screen time, that Grumpy the dwarf is just a prop and who is this fake Hook anyway?
With such a vast ensemble cast like Once has, it’s almost impossible to avoid dividing opinion. There will always be arguments over favourite characters. Fans shriek in fury when their favourite character is missed out of an episode, or if their favourite ship doesn’t end up together. The show might as well be canceled because there can’t possibly be people who enjoy it. And if they do, they’re not real fans anyway.
Are Fans TOO Entitled?
What the audience (or The Nitpickers) doesn’t see is that these scripts have gone through endless drafts and edits. An entire team of writers scrutinizes over each script before they even make production. They have agonized over each character death — and for a writer, no character death is taken lightly.
They have spent endless hours weaving threads of plots to create one cohesive story that entertains the masses. But this is something fans seem to forget when they turn to Twitter to shriek into the void. And while it’s perfectly acceptable for fans to mourn the death of their favourite character — come on, we’ve all been there — some fans see a character death as a personal attack.
They feel that if a character isn’t on screen as much, the writers and the showrunners must have a vendetta against their characters. But not only the character — they must hate the fans. This is a punishment! These fictional characters deserve better! We, the fans, deserve better!
But the truth is, the writers are merely telling the story that they want to tell.
Fan entitlement then becomes: fans demand ownership of the story. And not just through TV Shows. There is a very distinct sense of ownership when it comes to film. Only recently, the latest Star Wars film The Last Jedi sparked a fandom divide. A lot of people loved the new film. Others, however, were outraged by it and set to social media to show their distaste.
The Hashtag Era of Fan Entitlement
The hashtags #NotMyStarWars and #NotMyLuke have been circling Twitter. And although these are ways for fans to express their opinions, I would argue that they’re absolutely right — he is not their Luke. In fact, he belongs to the writers and can be taken in any direction they wish him to be taken in.
And if anyone disagrees with them? Hell hath no fury like a fan scorned. Feel free to disagree politely, but be prepared to be called wrong,trash, and just plain stupid because rather than debating or accepting someone else’s opinion, some fans find trading insults to be more worth their time. The computer screen disconnects people from reality.
They don’t think before they speak, something most of us are taught from when we learn our first word. And, arguably, these are things they would never say to someone in real life, mostly because it’s rude. It’s almost like they don’t understand that there is someone else on the other end of that computer screen. Real people with real feelings.
Too Much Negativity?
But does this not show passion for the characters and the stories? The reason for their anger is that they love the characters so much, they don’t feel like justice has been done. And isn’t that what every writer wants — other people to be passionate about what they’ve written? Although fans are angry, it is an anger born out of passion, and some would argue that that’s better than getting no response at all.
We live in a world that champions freedom of speech. And while that can be an amazing thing, it opens everyone to a whole world of negativity. Not everyone can like the same thing, but it’s often the negative comments that drown out the positive ones. People are more inclined to tweet about something they hate rather than something they love, which makes social media a whole black hole of swirling negativity.
And it’s negative comments that stick in the mind. You’re more likely to remember someone telling you your hair looked like a mess over being told your shoes are pretty. And calling someone ‘trash’ for expressing their love for Reylo or SwanQueen can, quite frankly, ruin someone’s day. It might even scare them from expressing their love for something in the future. That just opens the door for even more negativity and more fan entitlement.
Fan Entitlement: Passion or Obsession?
So is fan entitlement going too far? Although most of the anger is born out of passion and love for the characters, it takes two seconds to stop, think about what you’re going to say, and consider whether that’ll hurt the person on the other end.
The truth is, not everyone likes the same thing. If they did, where would be the fun in that? But sometimes it’s better to sit back and let the showrunners do what they’re doing. Everything would be better if instead of commenting on something they hated, fans commented on something they loved.