Thursday, April 28, 2016

10 things a show needs to produce an awesome fandom

1. Good content that the fans can't get anywhere else
A show that doesn't have it's own clear identity isn't going to inspire that much caring or feedback from viewers to make them into fans. If it's a knockoff, it'll just get written off as "not as good as __", and people will be able to tell if it's happening just because something else was popular elsewhere. That's pandering and it's pointless. People have so many choices in TV now, there's no reason to have two shows that are the same.

2. The idea that the fans are smart enough to keep up and figure stuff out
You've got to trust your audience, not talk down to them, not tell them how to feel about things. One of the biggest things Sleepy Hollow did in it's finale this year (other than pointlessly killing a main character who happened to be a woman AND a poc) was spend a whole act trying to convince us that the stupid thing they'd done was okay. No. Let your fans feel what they feel. And give them stories that are worth keeping up on.

3. A certain "openness"--space for the fans and their ideas inside and around it
Openness in the story for people to fill in gaps themselves. Openness in the show for different points of view. Openness to fan theories and opinions (though not slaves to that). Openness to fanworks and meta. Accessibility of story points, moral stances, and character motivations. You want the fans to feel like they're part of it, not passive consumers with no right to think or say anything

4. Good social media presence
It's great when the actors and writers, creators and producers live-tweet a show with the fans. It's more great when the show's official accounts support fans, answer questions, provide sneak peeks and behind the scenes info, and basically are useful and not just places to sell things. Being on multiple social media accounts at once helps, too!

5. Reliability
Which leads to trust. Trust that the characters will be clearly defined and respected, not bent and deformed for whatever whim the writers or the network wants to follow. Trust that promises made in the story will be paid off, and it's not any sort of 'baiting or intentionally misleading. Trust that there will be good continuity, and not random storylines that are introduced and left dangling forever. Trust that the people making the show know what they're doing!

6. A feeling of collaboration, not competition
A competitive fandom is a fandom that will tear itself apart, so it's better to bring a sense of togetherness and inclusion, and that comes from both the show (or movie or whatever) itself, and from how the official powers handle the people watching.

A feeling of safety around fanworks would be cool, too--no big lawsuits, no weird behavior about them. Either leave them alone, or be respectful.

7. Some sort of positive feels--funniness, joy, playfulness, shippiness, etc--regardless of how the rest of the show goes
A show that is 100% serious all the time is a) exhausting to watch, and b) unrealistic. People crack jokes and snark at other people and say funny things for any number of not-funny reasons. A show that slogs through it's own story like it's a trial will not inspire fans to love it, nor will one that insists on denying it's own best parts as being awesome. Characters who never laugh are no fun. Characters who never fall in love--or at least have the opportunity to-- will be hard to make emotional connections to for a lot of people.

There has to be a break from the heaviness of reality or serious story or dire circumstances for everyone to get a break and get to know the characters.

8. Awareness of the genre-history it comes from, and respect for it
Shows don't happen in a vacuum. Everything had something else before it that either inspired it or gave it something to react to. You have to know your history to do it right, because the fans will definitely know it.

To go back and poke at S2 of Sleepy Hollow: It was insulting because the writers a) didn't seem to be taking any of the things that were the backbone of the show seriously, and b) were directly ripping off shows like Buffy without any understanding of the context or the appeal of the things they were blatantly stealing. Contrast that with Supernatural, which usually respects the stories it's building on and also makes them their own.

It's the difference between acting like your viewers are idiots who won't notice, and respecting that they will and giving them a new take on it.

9. Respect for the fans as actual people and not pawns or product
It's people who carry a show, not numbers on a graph. Treating people like promo-slaves is what bit The 100 in the butt when they killed off Lexa; don't do that. Interact with them one on one, not like a giant media conglomerate telling people what to think and do.

10. Network support
Advertising, so that people know you're there and when to find you. Good media events--especially at cons and related things where the people who make the show can interact directly with the people who watch it. Trust from the producers and network people that the creators and writers know what they're doing and can get it done, so they don't have to try to get it done while navigating interference and meddling. A willingness to let a show find it's feet before dropping the ax on it--XFiles, one of the biggest hits Fox ever had, wouldn't have lasted one season now, with how rough that first season is. A minimum of preemption and no schedule-rearranging without a really good reason and a lot of thought put into it--like NOT putting it up against much bigger shows. No snap decisions!

What do you think creates a good fandom?

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