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The Problem With Fan Baiting - moonspinner
moonspinner
moonspinner
The Problem With Fan Baiting
a.k.a. Authors Who Fan the Flames of Ship Wars for Ratings and Kicks.

The Mark & Bryan duo of Avatar: the Last Airbender ruined what might have been the best episodes of the final season because two of the main characters were fitted into OOC clothes complete with plot in order to tease the fans who shipped them. Plus, they ultimately ruined the romance they were in support of because of their persistence in keeping Katara’s feelings a secret (to even herself apparently) right up until the very last frame of the series. In order to keep the Zutaran fans guessing, Zuko and Katara go through a series of (contrived) story arcs that bring their characters closer and closer together. When Mai turns up in the Palace after her uncle breaks her out of prison, we’re left wondering why it was so important to Zuko that he win the affection of a girl that hated him while the one who he was in love with – who was in love with him and who had risked her life for him – was left to languish in prison.

To confirm my worst fears – that they had sacrificed their story and their characters to engage in a little fan baiting – the infamous ‘Book 4, Air’ crap-isode was aired (pun unintended) during the fan convention. Classy.


Another pair of evil twins are the T & T of the Pirates. The duo decided that the second movie will be more interesting if Elizabeth & Jack Sparrow spent half of their shared scenes breathing into each other’s mouths. Throw in a marriage proposition of sorts and a magical compass and hey presto, a love triangle is born! Elizabeth becoming Pirate King and losing her new husband to the Flying Dutchman almost puts the love triangle in the back burner… until we have the goodbye scene with Jack Sparrow where minutes before her honeymoon, she looks crushed that he doesn’t give her a parting kiss. What is the resemblance between this Elizabeth and the girl in the first movie that liked Jack Sparrow but didn’t hesitate to hand him over to the navy to be hanged when it served her purpose? Don’t ask me because I have no idea. Although the fact that Jack Sparrow is played by Johnny Depp and the Sparrabeth thread on the official PotC fan forum, KeeptotheCode is the longest running thread could be the first clues.

Despite all the anvils the author claimed were in the first 5 books, there’s enough ambiguity in Hermione’s and Harry’s friendship for a romance between those two to not have been out of character. Rowling herself admitted (prior to the anvil-declaration), that she was playing that particular card close to her chest because she enjoyed the shipping wars debates. Apparently, she enjoyed them so much that by the time she was ready to reveal that particular hand, it came as a total shock to her that the Ginny Weasley that Harry would eventually end up with was not the same character that she had been writing - or more accurately, not writing - about for the past four books.


Finally – and this is what prompted this rant – there’s One Tree Hill Season 5. I’m talking specifically about the season’s ‘cliffhanger’. It’s the one where Lucas Scott, after a week of drowning his sorrows in alcohol because his ex-fiancée Lindsay is dating again, spends an afternoon with Brooke Davis consoling her over the loss of her foster baby daughter (complete with “I love yous” exchanged), then an evening walking over his old basketball court where Peyton had spray-painted “I Will Always Love You”, and most of the day with his best friend and sister-in-law Hayley who is persistently asking him to ‘choose’ who he’s in love with. The last shot of the episode, of the entire season, is of Lucas going to the airport and calling up a girl (they actually show all three pick up their phones at the same time), and asking her to marry him. Which one? We viewers are supposed to think it could be Lindsay, Peyton or Brooke. Only:

1, the last time Lucas had any romantic feelings for Brooke Davis was five years ago;
2, Brooke is Peyton’s best friend and her chief confidante in the whole Lucas heartbreak saga; and
3, there’s nothing in the show this season that has shown Lucas and Brooke grow closer as anything but friends. It’s Lucas’s never-ending drama with Peyton and Lindsay that has dominated most of his story arc.

Suddenly, the possibility of a Brooke/Lucas ending is pasted on at the last minute because…

*crickets chirping*

Because of no reason that makes sense.

At least until you remember that the One Tree Hill fandom exists and probably contains very large sect self-named Brucas or Looke. A sect of fandom that have probably been actively wishing for those two to end up together (permanently, that is) since the show started. So the mystery of Brooke as a potential Cinderella in Lucas’s shoe-fitting charade is solved.


Authors, Writers, TV Producers, Movie Makers, and the lot of you creative bunch:

This. Has. Got. To. Stop.

I don’t care how commercially lucrative the idea of phantom triangles and fanning the ship flames is. It’s a dastardly thing to do to all your fans. Yes, all of them – both the ‘winners’ and the ‘losers’ ship-wise. The winners get their ship but since the actual story takes back-stage to the fan baiting, we almost wish that we didn’t. The losers are turned off the story that they loved and happily crack-shipped before the possibility that their crack ship might turn out to be not-so crack was dangled in their faces and snatched away. Fandom as a whole fragments. The Zutara/Kataang wars won’t have reached the heights they did if instead of teasing, M & B had spent time actually developing the couples that they shipped. I like Maiko but an obscure comic strip does not the foundation of a relationship make. The Harmonians won’t have totally lost it if Rowling hadn’t kept weakening one-third of her triumvirate, and making Hermione repeatedly choose Harry over Ron time and time again. Or if Ginny’s over-night transformation (complete with Quidditch super-powers and Beauty Queen looks) plus Harry’s suddenly awakened interest in her didn’t eerily parallel the ‘love story’ of Voldemort’s parents. Sparrabeth was a cute little crack-ship until T & T tried contriving ways for Keira K and Johnny D to kiss. Sometimes, I imagine Pirates 3 ended with Elizabeth standing on that beach and Will never returning because he damn well deserves better than a woman who’s flirting with other men on her wedding day!!! And I'm a Willabether! And you know I won’t be writing this meta on an empty stomach if Brooke hadn’t picked up her phone.


But do you know the worst, the absolute worst thing about the whole mess?

When writers spend more time writing to the fans and less time writing for the fans, it’s the Story that pays the price.
End Rant.

Tags: ,
Current Mood: blank purged
Current Music: "Makes me want to scream"

66 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
emavalexis From: emavalexis Date: October 23rd, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Agreed, agreed, agreed! Good rant. I've only followed Harry Potter out of the fandoms you mention here, but your argument reigns true. Rowling giving us that deliberate will-they-won't-they angle with Harry and Hermione might have been fine if she'd made it less nonsensical with Ginny's 'emergence' in the later books. Weird.

At least that's one thing Star Wars prequel trilogy fans did not have to struggle with. George made it pretty clear throughout that it was Anakin/Padme the whole way, regardless of what the A/O (or even O/P) shippers like to believe they're seeing 'between the lines' (and I love those pairings, too, don't get me wrong, but they are NOT nor were never intended by the creator to be canon or, like, in existence at all).
vanimy From: vanimy Date: October 23rd, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Word. I always loved that about GL, he never let himself be influenced by how people wanted love stories to unfold. Anakin and Padmé stayed the same way even when people found them cheesy, and there was no dreadful love triangle with Obi-Wan. Another author would've jumped on the occasion.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 24th, 2008 10:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Another author would've jumped on the occasion.

*cough*Stover*cough*
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 24th, 2008 10:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Rowling giving us that deliberate will-they-won't-they angle with Harry and Hermione might have been fine if she'd made it less nonsensical with Ginny's 'emergence' in the later books. Weird.

So much word. Like I said, she was so occupied with the shipping wars, she completely set aside the story she ought to have been writing. *face palm*


The cynical part of me thinks that George Lucas was impervious to fandom because he’s about the only guy in Hollywood who is rich enough to just make the movies that he 100% wants to watch. But whatever reason it is, I am so grateful for it! I was actually going to include that in my meta but I had run out of steam by the end. (Which you could probably tell from the abrupt finish). And to give respect where respect is due, Lucas had always been pretty adamant about the integrity of the story even when he was an independent film writer, hadn’t he? That was part of what got him kicked out of the Guild.
vanimy From: vanimy Date: October 23rd, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love your rant too.

You know I can't agree more to the H/Hr mess... What I hated most was her attitude about the whole thing. At least when you write love triangles, just admit it, don't say your readers were stupid to picture it happening. *sigh*

Sparrabeth. Was never a shipper myself, was always rooting for Will/Elizabeth. The only reason why I liked the kiss in Dead man's chest was how angsty Will became over the whole thing (yeah, I know, I'm such a sucker for angst... :P). Even though the writers played with the extra ship to content the fans, in the end W/E sailed. With this ending they had, and how Elizabeth only felt guilty about Jack's death and expressed she didn't have this kind of feelings for him (contrary to what the previous movie was hinting at but well...), only W/E mattered in the end and that's good enough for me.

As for One Tree Hill... since when is it realistic? :P ;)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 24th, 2008 10:00 am (UTC) (Link)
At least when you write love triangles, just admit it, don't say your readers were stupid to picture it happening. *sigh*

Thank you. It was the attitude that T & T had towards the Sparrabethers that totally turned me off them – in retrospect. At the time I was pointing and laughing along with them. It was later that I realized that the Sparrabethers were treated pretty much the same way as the Harmonians were and while I was never an avid H/Hr shipper (remember our discussions back then about H/G vs H/Hr), one of the reasons I lot respect for Rowling was the way she handled that whole scenario.

Actually, the Kiss of Death was what ‘saved’ DMC for me. It redeemed Elizabeth as a character and put her back in the shoes of that character from CotBP: the girl who would do just about anything to save her man. In CotBP when she gets Jack dead drunk and signals for a navy ship, she’s not actually thinking about getting him hanged: she just wants to save Will and the Navy ship and its arsenal is what she needs to get to the cave and defeat Barbossa. But the fact is that Jack was a condemned man and calling a Navy ship was calling the hangman for him. Even if it had occurred to Elizabeth, it won’t have changed her mind. Heck, you can even argue that it did occur to her but she figured Jack could take care of himself. At the end of DMC, she does the same thing but this time, with full awareness and knowing that Jack had no escape. It’s a progression from that ruthlessness in her character that was established in CotBP. What was totally unnecessary – as a matter of fact, you could literally skip these scenes and the DMC story won’t have made any difference – was the compass and the ‘confusion’ that went on before.

…only W/E mattered in the end and that's good enough for me.

But should it be? That’s the problem I have both when I’m in the winning Ship and when I’m in the losing Ship. I think as a paying audience, we should start demanding more from a story than our Ship sailing. I shouldn’t have been worrying about Willabeth happening in the first place. The motivation of 2/3rd of the protagonists of PotC was Willabeth. By making it an issue, the creators gave up on making a good story about other non-ship related things and they made some of their characters pretty much unlovable.
vanimy From: vanimy Date: October 24th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I remember you not being a H/Hr shipper. ;) The fact it wasn't canon wasn't what did me in, it's the whole immature attitude and saying people had imagined it. While, as you said, she always had Hermione choosing Harry over Ron (even in the last book!) and so on... I think that at least R/Hr had ground (I never denied there was a triangle in the first place...) even though she completely transformed Hermione's character to make her fit with her romance masterplan.

I think that's what bothered me most actually. The fact that she changed some characters and she kept belittling her own character, i.e Hermione, to make Ginny look better amongst other things. What I found most revolting too is how she implied that the hero could only get a pretty girl and that the bookworm not-that-beautiful girl couldn't be viewed as a heroine and much less get the hero in the end. That was revolting to me.

But that's for another debate we already had if I remember well. ;)

Nice character development spotting about Elizabeth... But I agree, the whole compass thing was ridiculous, they just wanted to play with the triangle thingy and Johnny Depp and K. Knightley's chemistry I guess.

I wasn't into POTC only for the ship. Yes, I was glad to see I had not pictured things when they insisted on the Willabeth aspect but there were other things I liked in the trilogy. They could've done without the triangle thing, I agree with you but I have to admit I liked the fact they wanted to challenge the Willabeth story by putting an obstacle, albeit a fake one, i.e Sparrow.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 27th, 2008 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)
The fact it wasn't canon wasn't what did me in, it's the whole immature attitude and saying people had imagined it.

Yes, that's what bothered me, too. My thoughts then - and now, as a matter of fact - were that she was acting as immaturely and as ridiculously as the R/Hr shippers themselves. A lot of writers/creators have completely failed to realize that fans can have "Crack" ships (I use the word Crack loosely here because I don't think H/Hr is as Crack as say, H/Narcissa Malfoy but just for the sake of argument, as they are both anti-canon...) and still remain fans of canon and love and enjoy the books. It's bad enough that the canon shippers seem to love to rub it into their faces that they're the "losers" but when the writer is more or less calling them idiots for being what? Extremely invested in her books? It's just stupid. You don't run around calling your fans delusional because they expected something different. You explain you always had something else in mind and move on.

even though she completely transformed Hermione's character to make her fit with her romance masterplan.

And Ginny's as well. I always LOL about her "Article" about Body Image and today's modern girl because JK Rowling is the poster child of a person who believes that a woman needs to re-invent herself to get a man.

The funny thing is that even though Hermione is a book-worm, she's still gorgeous when she makes the modicum of effort so I won't say she didn't land Harry because of that. However, you're right in that Harry always seems to go out with girls with more on the outside than on the inside. When Cho does show that she has character - by choosuing her friend over her boyfriend - he dumps her and the audience is supposed to think that that shows maturity on Harry's part. And to rub it into our faces that Cho made a mistake, she comes back to Hogwarts (after graduating for the record) to try to "Steal" Harry from Ginny and ends up life marrying a Muggle. Because apparently, once you've known Potter loving, you can't settle for any other wizard. :P :P

wasn't into POTC only for the ship.

Neither was I but the plots of the last 2 movies were so ridiculous, it's hard to point my finger on what other than the romance plot held my interest. The funny thing was that they could have gone the triangle route with Norrington, who was already established as having feelings for Elizabeth. They didn't need to give Johnny Depp a girlfriend-type because he was the star. *grumble grumble grumble*

Sorry it took me this long to reply. I've been away since Saturday morning.
From: bobill Date: October 23rd, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh god, what is it with authors who feel that a story is not a story without backstage love? I mean as a typical young adult myself, I go about the world doing interesting things and not falling for every other guy. So why can't characters in stories do that too?

Sigh. They just added major unnecessary fan-baiting in House, so I'm totally feeling your pain.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 24th, 2008 10:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Honestly? That’s not a bad question. One Tree Hill is one thing because it started out as a high school TV show with all the teen angst and drama that comes from heartbreak and romances. (Or so I’ve been led to believe from watching American TV! :P) But there was really no reason for a whole book of the Harry Potter series, which was not initially written for that genre, to be dominated by said high-school type teenage romantic angst. And there’s certainly no reason for Aang, the thirteen-year-old hero of the Avatar series to get a French- kissing girlfriend at the end of the show. I wanted the show to end with some acknowledgment that Aang and Katara would end up together sometime in their adult lives. But I never expected the producers to have gone as far as they did and I really don’t think the story needed them to have done so. There’s an entire episode of the last season where the story doesn’t even resemble its fantasy background and the entire episode could have been substituted with an airing of 90210 without no visible difference.

I mean as a typical young adult myself, I go about the world doing interesting things and not falling for every other guy. So why can't characters in stories do that too?

Because sex sells? :P Because romance is such a bankable draw and love triangles, no matter how contrived, even more so? Because a shipping war is a sure-fire way to up the ratings of just about anything? Who knows. *sighs* Apparently, whatever motivates it, the phenomenon is here to stay. You have my deepest sympathy about the goings-on in House. *commiserates*
in_excelsis_dea From: in_excelsis_dea Date: October 23rd, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Totally agree with you. While H/H was always my favorite ship, I didn't come to outright hate H/G and R/H until after the books were published. Ginny went from a non-existent character who we saw flashes of to a complete MS, and I hated that.

I totally want to see a fic where Will stays away, btw.

*sigh* Why can't authors, I dunno, leave it ambiguous? Especially in YA books or cartoons? Or not have a relationship. Or, what about having characters break up? Because finding your One True Love as a teen is so common...
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 24th, 2008 12:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
While H/H was always my favorite ship, I didn't come to outright hate H/G and R/H until after the books were published. Ginny went from a non-existent character who we saw flashes of to a complete MS, and I hated that.

I actually rooted for H/G and R/Hr for the first four books. But Ginny kept getting more and more invisible (after playing such a pivotal role in the 2nd book!), and Rowling seemed to be forgetting that the Ron Weasley she created was not the same character that Rupert Grint was acting in the movie.

I liked Ginny a lot in the first books. Then she has this 100-degree character turnaround from a sweet sensible girl to this über-aggressive creature and there’s no build-up or explanation for it. Rowling could have explained that Ginny was reacting to Voldemort’s return and his mind-rape of her as an eleven-year-old and had decided to become a fighter. It would have made the story stronger, made the character stronger and been a great build-up on the one moment of connection that Harry and Ginny had had before. But instead, Rowling insists both within the text and outside that Ginny has always been like this. Harry’s tunnel-vision just never let him see her like that. Then there’s the feminist-related Grievance (with a capital G) I have with Ginny needing to become a Beauty Queen/Quidditch Goddess to be worthy of Harry Potter’s heart. (Which is even more galling when you remember that Rowling has written against negative feminine perceptions encouraged by the media.)

I totally want to see a fic where Will stays away, btw.
LOL! Maybe one day when something else triggers this reaction in me and start feeling particularly bitter. Funny enough, ranting about it and some of the discussions I’ve been having on this topic have been cathartic.

*sigh* Why can't authors, I dunno, leave it ambiguous? Especially in YA books or cartoons? Or not have a relationship. Or, what about having characters break up? Because finding your One True Love as a teen is so common...

I agree. I like OTP as much as anyone even in Young Adult stories. Maybe especially in Young Adult stories because it’s less jaded and more romantic and idealistic. But I’d rather they didn’t have them at all than they repeatedly screw it up.
in_excelsis_dea From: in_excelsis_dea Date: October 24th, 2008 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
See, while I understand that Ginny was an important plot point in COS, I didn't feel that she played that large of a role as a character. During the summer at the Weasleys she's mentioned a few times, and during the actual school year, she's also only occasionally referenced to or seen. She's more of a background character that turns out to be the plot, not a fully-fleshed out character who we see lots of interaction with.

I really think they ought to have waited with the movies until the books were published, only because, as you said, Rupert Grint plays a completely different Ron than what JKR has actually written. There's always actor/director interpretation when a book becomes a movie, and that's not a bad thing. The bad thing is when the actual author decides to take that interpretation and use it to write more novels. That's how you end up with OOC characters, imo.
in_excelsis_dea From: in_excelsis_dea Date: October 24th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

I have no problem with Ginny being a Beauty Queen or Quidditch Goddess- if there was any inclination of it before. But it seems so out of there. Tunnel vision only works to a point as a valid excuse- you'd think that Harry might mention, in passing, that Ginny looks nice at the Yuleball or something- that would be a normal teenage male reaction, right? He's not blind- even if he has no feelings for her, he would be able to notice that. But how it just hits him right out of the blue that, OMG, Ginny is the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, must have her now!!! comes out completely contrived.

in_excelsis_dea From: in_excelsis_dea Date: October 24th, 2008 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Plus, JKR, with Cho, made it clear that that is his type- beautiful, Quidditch players. Nothing wrong with that, but for it to just so happen to be that Ginny is one- when there is no reference to it before- seems like she's bashing the reader on the head with the book, saying "believe it! He's going to be into Ginny".

I think there's a very good reason why so many post series fan fics (or even post HBP fics) end up with Ginny and/or Molly and/or Dumbledore scheming with Amorentia. The fact that in HBP, Slughorn shows it to the class and Harry smells Ginny's scent is a bit suspicious. I highly doubt Rowling meant it like that, but it could be interpreted that way, and I think it fits the characters more than the rather-contrived HG as written in canon.
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: October 24th, 2008 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Taking issue with the way that the canon ships in Avatar were handled is a matter of opinion and something I have no real interest in discussing.

However, if you believe that any failures you perceive in their execution of those ships to be the result of an interest in baiting fans within the narrative itself, you're sorely mistaken. Knowing what I do about the production of Avatar (which is in no way an excess but certainly enough), I can guarantee you that the "contrived" plots you're taking issue with (I assume Southern Raiders and Zuko and Katara's storyline in the final two parts of the finale) and seeing as invented solely to keep fans guessing about the ships, are things that they largely planned from early on in the making of the show, long before they even had a fandom to bait.

Mike, Bryan, and various random members of the cast and crew of Avatar spent years upon years, almost the entire cycle of the show, either flatly denying Zuko/Katara as a romantic possibility, outright mocking it as completely crazy, and/or pumping up Aang/Katara and Mai/Zuko as The Ships. The fandom's general inability to get the message on a meta level is often conflated into the narrative itself baiting them. But the simple fact of the matter is: Zuko and Katara getting a bonding episode (just like Zuko and Sokka and Zuko and Aang) and the final division of the storylines in the finale (Sokka, Toph, and Suki, three characters who I can tell you were originally far more minor, non-existent, and/or completely different besides; Zuko and Katara, Aang's foil and Aang's bff/soulmate; and Aang, The Hero) was absolutely not there to "keep people guessing" about how the ships would go. It wasn't there to do that because the staff could barely conceive of why people were GUESSING in the first place.

To them it was all a foregone conclusion, and an obvious one at that, which I will say probably did heavily affect the way that they handled the ships in the show, but more in the other direction. Which is to say that seeing it all as a obvious foregone conclusion meant that they did not spend enough time on some things to satisfy a fandom fixated on possibilities that they (the staff) did not see as existing. (And not to gnaw on the old bone, but while thematically love is extremely important, practically it's still an action-adventure show and so when it comes down to it they have their priorities about what they dedicate time to. They are priorities that you may not agree with, but they are theirs.)

In the staff's actual documented instances of shouting out to the fans (the play in EIP, the Book Four: Air, etc.) they do so through humor by satirizing (and many people felt cruelly so) the ideas their fandom had that they felt were crazy and random. And, if you, like many, feel that this went too far in the sense that it was just MEAN for them to mock people who'd guessed/liked the crazy, random thing, then fine. That's your prerogative. But it still doesn't mean that they included the actual plots that they did for the purpose of instigating ambiguity. Indeed it would seem directly contrary to that as you don't intentionally make something ambiguous and then make fun of people for thinking it was ambiguous.

Ultimately, Mike and Bryan are two people slavishly devoted to their own ~*~original~*~ vision. They absolutely did not enact entire multiple episode spanning plotlines to pander to a section of the fandom that they frankly never really even cared that much about outside of thinking they were loud and kinda nuts and fun to laugh at now and again. Now they may have made narrative choices that you felt were a disservice to what had come before. They may have made narrative choices different from what you or I may have done. But they certainly did not make those narrative choices as influenced or controlled by fandom.
ali_wildgoose From: ali_wildgoose Date: October 24th, 2008 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
To them it was all a foregone conclusion, and an obvious one at that, which I will say probably did heavily affect the way that they handled the ships in the show, but more in the other direction. Which is to say that seeing it all as a obvious foregone conclusion meant that they did not spend enough time on some things to satisfy a fandom fixated on possibilities that they (the staff) did not see as existing.

I'd just like to second this point in particular. I don't think that ANYONE on the staff was prepared for how surprised people were about the status of Mai and Zuko's relationship at the beginning of Season Three. Fortunately, they had the opportunity to do the transition comics in Nick Magazine to smooth things over a bit, but I'm not sure I would have been any more prepared in their position. But then, I also would not have expected people to willfully ignore the setup of Mai and Zuko's inevitable romance.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 24th, 2008 06:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Taking issue with the way the canon ships in Avatar were handled is a matter of opinion and something I have no real interest in discussing.

And then you go ahead to discuss it! (Not that I'm complaining. I just think it's amusing. :P)

I'm always very skeptical about viewers' claims of knowing the writers' intentions. As a matter of fact, I'm skeptical of the writers' claims of their own intentions. Why? Because a story should stand on its own. I'm currently reviewing CS Lewis' Narnia books and it's really amazing how much the storytelling medium has changed with the increase in audience access during the process. But I digress.

Going back to a story speaking for itself and responding to your remark about the prework done before production, Zuko and Katara's arcs and fandom 'acknowledgment' (to use a politically correct term :P) in EIP, it's straightforward to deduce that if MB were aware enough of fandom to produce EIP in the manner they did, then they were aware enough of fandom for it to have influenced the way they produced (at the very least) the rest of the final Season 3 episodes.

Actually the deliberate ambiguity and the mocking isn't contradictory. The former is put to achieve the latter. It's human nature that dislike of a concept (be it a crack ship or fur coats) is as powerful an influence on our decisions as like - even more so. A better case for MB would have been claiming they were indifferent to Zutara.

As a matter of fact, the best defence for MB would be the fact that a show like Avatar was produced by a large crew of writers, artists, and Nick's management and marketing department. Each brought their own interpretation into the story - interpretations that would occasionally have contradicted MB's. More importantly, some of these people were outside MB's sphere of influence. Toph's gender, for example, was not MB's original vision. How much of that vision was allowed to be translated to the small screen will be something that the audience will never know.

How much of the fanbaiting was done out of MB's malice can be argued. I have reasons to think they were and I have stated most of them. What cannot be argued is that choices made for a show which was created and produced for commercial reasons (like every other expression of art with the possible exception of Lucasfilm's) were not influenced by the market the show was being sold to.
ali_wildgoose From: ali_wildgoose Date: October 24th, 2008 07:03 am (UTC) (Link)
How much of the fanbaiting was done out of MB's malice can be argued. I have reasons to think they were and I have stated most of them. What cannot be argued is that choices made for a show which was created and produced for commercial reasons (like every other expression of art with the possible exception of Lucasfilm's) were not influenced by the market the show was being sold to.

At the end of the day, you can think what you want to about the intentions of the staff and whether or not their creative decisions were influenced by the piles and piles of crazy Zutarian fanmail.

But please don't confuse the staff's personal interest in their fans and NICKELODEON'S interest in the marketing of their show.

Fandom is tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny. Even if every single active member of the ATLA fandom (meaning the people who care enough to do things like write fan letters) was a hardcore, diehard Zuko/Katara shipper, Nickelodeon would not care in the slightest about what they thought or wanted. A few thousand crazy fangirls are a drop in the bucket. What Nick cares about are the tens of millions of 6-12 year olds who make up the core audience for their network and whose eyeballs provide revenue through advertisement.

Nick executives had very little to do with the story arc of the show -- Mike, Bryan, Aaron and the rest of the staff mostly did what they liked. If Nick HAD decided to try and change the show to better appeal to the "market it was being sold to" they would have made it an episodic comedy like the rest of their lineup.

In short: corporations do not care about fandom, and especially not shipping, at least not in the way you're thinking.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 24th, 2008 08:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Firstly, I apologize if it seems like I’ve been ignoring your comments because I haven’t. I just noticed that there were a lot of parallels between your point and peri_peteia’s so the plan is to respond to her first and then refer you to similar points where applicable.

A few things that didn’t come up in my discussion with her:

Fan-baiting, and specifically as I referred to it in my meta/rant is not about the creators leaving the pairings up in the air to keep all the fans satisfied. It’s about (quoting myself! :P) triangles and fanning the ship flames. Explaining that further because on re-read, I can see that my sarcasm could have obscured the point: Fan-baiting about writers introducing an ‘artificial’ ambiguity in a romantic sub-plot that structurally does not follow what came before in the narrative nor does it continue into what comes after in the narrative, in reaction to the opinions/desires of a fandom ship.

Re: Fortunately, they had the opportunity to do the transition comics in Nick Magazine to smooth things over a bit, but I'm not sure I would have been any more prepared in their position. Maiko getting together should not have been part of a comic strip. Which leads me to this:

Fandom is tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny.

Excellent. I agree. See my response to peri_peteia. Which is precisely why Maiko should not have been in a comic strip that only fandom (and by this I mean, the blog communities and the fan convention people) would have even known existed. Unfortunately, the fact is that fandom is the loudest part of the audience. It’s the part of the audience that tells the creators and Nick what they like or don’t like about the show. And many creators and marketers forget that that part of the audience does not represent the audience demographic. Unless there was some other way Nick had of knowing what part of the show the Avatar fans (here I refer to all the fans) were responding to, you simply can’t argue that the marketing team ignored the most fundamental aspect of any commercial venture: Customer Feedback.

At the end of the day, Avatar is show about friendship, about becoming the person you're meant to be, and about love in every possible sense. Romantic love is part of that, but not the focus.

As a matter of fact whether or not romantic love is not a greater theme in Avatar can be argued, but that is not the point. The point is that romantic love is not any lesser than any of the other themes in Avatar. It should not get an inferior treatment nor should it be given a pass for being sub-standard. And most importantly, it should not be the part of the story that should be open to fan negotiation. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: October 24th, 2008 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
And then you go ahead to discuss it!

No, I didn't want to discuss what specific issues you have! Which I didn't. I only wanted to discuss the inaccurate supposition that the way that the actual plots of the final episodes went down was in reaction to the fandom.

it's straightforward to deduce that if MB were aware enough of fandom to produce EIP in the manner they did, then they were aware enough of fandom for it to have influenced the way they produced (at the very least) the rest of the final Season 3 episodes.

It's straightforward but not logically sound. Just because the staff is aware of the fandom and poked fun at it in an episode does not automatically mean that they subsequently greatly altered the plot of the rest of the show to cater to that fandom.

A better case for MB would have been claiming they were indifferent to Zutara.

Uhm, which would be why I said as a conclusion: "they absolutely did not enact entire multiple episode spanning plotlines to pander to a section of the fandom that they frankly never really even cared that much about outside of thinking they were loud and kinda nuts and fun to laugh at now and again."

As a matter of fact, the best defence for MB would be the fact that a show like Avatar was produced by a large crew of writers, artists, and Nick's management and marketing department.

Which is why I constantly referred to the _staff_ and their decisions.

And because I'm privy to inside information I don't really want to go into much except to say that I'm not just pulling the idea of them being slavishly dedicated to their original vision out of thin air. I originally finished that sentence with the fact that they were so much so that they resisted and rejected changes to that vision suggested by their own staff.

What cannot be argued is that choices made for a show which was created and produced for commercial reasons (like every other expression of art with the possible exception of Lucasfilm's) were not influenced by the market the show was being sold to.

It certainly was influenced by the market it was being sold to. The fandom's problem is assuming that market was the niche within a tiny niche that shippers represent. Frankly, fandom is just not that important. Not to mention that "being influenced" is not equivocal to "drastically altering major plotlines during the most crucial part of the narrative in order to pander."

If you want to keep erroneously believing that they didn't do exactly what they wanted to and always planned with all of their major plot points with little to no regard for the fandom whining about ships, be my guest. But, again, you're flatly incorrect.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 24th, 2008 08:10 am (UTC) (Link)
No, I didn't want to discuss what specific issues you have!
Quoting you: Taking issue with the way the canon ships in Avatar were handled is a matter of opinion and something I have no real interest in discussing. You may not realize it, but that’s the whole point of my meta and that is currently what we are discussing.

The proper word isn’t ‘cater’ and perhaps that’s where the misunderstanding is coming from. Cater implies gratifying. The producers of Avatar would be catering to the Zutarans if the show had ended with Zuko and Katara together. What my meta was referring to (and what I’ve been talking about in my responses) is ‘fan-baiting’. I’m not a student of semantics so I’ll take your word about the logical soundness of my deduction. We both agree that M & B were aware enough of Zutara to poke fun at it in one episode. And that is not indifference. Synonyms to the word indifference: apathy, lack of interest, unconcern, and (my personal favorite) unresponsiveness. “Thinking they were loud and nuts and fun to laugh at now and then”? That’s not indifference. That is at the very least, contempt.

As a matter of fact, the best defence for MB would be the fact that a show like Avatar was produced by a large crew of writers, artists, and Nick's management and marketing department.
Which is why I constantly referred to the _staff_ and their decisions.


What point does that make if according to you, those decisions (fan baiting) were never made in the first place? Still on that, I explained why being privy to inside information doesn’t count even if you were either Mike or Bryan (and not for the reasons you give here).

Frankly, fandom is just not that important.

Word. Word and so much Word. Fandom (and with this definition I am referring to the Internet forums, the Blog communities like LJ’s, and the people that attend fan conventions) is a very tiny part of the viewing audience. In a lot of circumstances, fandom is not even representative of the audience demography. If I had started watching Avatar after the show was concluded, a lot of the finale jokes and the entirety of EIP would have gone over my head. As it was, I didn’t understand what the writers were laughing about when they spoke about the ‘disappointed fans’ in the audio commentary for 2x20, until much later.

If ‘fandom’ were anything to go by, the Star Wars prequels would be flops and Smallville would never have had an eight Season. A lot of creators forget this simple fact. (I will pardon them by saying that fandom is the part of the audience that they do ‘hear’. But. Still.) And this amnesia on the part of MB and sundry others is partly the cause of the rage that inspired my rant.
ali_wildgoose From: ali_wildgoose Date: October 24th, 2008 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not going to get into a huge amount of detail with my response to this, largely because my interactions with members of the staff have colored my perception of things and it's not fair to play the "Well you'll just have to take my word for it" game when it comes to narrative intent.

But I think it's fairly common knowledge among those even tangentially associated with the show that Mike and Bryan (and in different ways, Aaron and the other writers) knew from day one how the final episodes of the show were going to play out. In fact, my main complaint about the finale is that they stuck TOO CLOSE to their original vision and didn't incorporate more of the secondary plots and characters that had been introduced over the course of the show. So the idea that any of the decisions they made about the plot, character arcs and relationships were driven by a desire to mess with the fans is just...sort of ludicrous?

When you say "fanbaiting" it implies to me that there was some desire to leave the question of pairings up in the air, and I couldn't disagree more that anything like that was EVER happening in Avatar. The pairings were never up in the air, except for some temporary setbacks intended to provide narrative tension.

At the end of the day, Avatar is show about friendship, about becoming the person you're meant to be, and about love in every possible sense. Romantic love is part of that, but not the focus. Would I have done some things differently if I'd written those last five episodes? Sure. I would have had Mai return earlier to help Zuko and Katara in the capital, and I would have had Katara had a conversation with Suki/Toph/etc about Aang and her feelings regarding him. But I don't think that a desire to dick around with the Zutarians is what lead them to go in a different direction.
ali_wildgoose From: ali_wildgoose Date: October 24th, 2008 10:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was going to post this in response to your last comment, but as you froze the thread I could not.

I was linked to your journal by a friend, and misguidedly decided to comment out of a genuine desire to share information and clear up misconceptions.

I am sorry for allowing myself to get angry and use strong language in your journal. There's no excuse for being rude.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 24th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
*blinks* I ... accept your apology. I'm shocked to get one as a matter of fact. And I apologize for my sarcasm.


Perhaps some day we can interact in less tense circumstances. But I think it's fair to say that we've exhausted all the opinions/information we have on this topic so let's just part ways peaceably.

Edited at 2008-10-24 10:48 pm (UTC)
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