BLOG | 10 Tips for Becoming The Fan Your Fave Show Deserves
IMAGE: Fans walk to preview night at Comic-Con held at the San Diego Convention Center on Wednesday July 11, 2012, in San Diego. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Invision/AP)
Being a TV and movie fan is a pretty awesome thing. Sure, there are a lot of things networks and studios have yet to pick their game up on (SERIOUSLY THOUGH WHERE THE ACTUAL DICKENS IS MY BLACK WIDOW MOVIE, MARVEL) but altogether, I reckon these days we're pretty spoilt. Indeed, we all have our favourites but ultimately the amount of brilliant storytelling going round is gobsmacking.
Unsurprisingly then, fandoms continue to spring up everywhere while those that have existed for a while now, continue to grow in number and fervour. And watching those fans pour out their passion - particularly on social media - is an extraordinary sight to behold. It is a wonderous and marvelous thing to see someone be so affected to fall utterly in love with a story and its characters. Which is only natural: stories are the means by which we tell future generations about who we were, who we are, who we wanted to be.
But being humans we have an exceptional tendancy to royally cock up even the best things: including things like being part of something as cool, dynamic and as powerful as a fandom. Moreover, in screwing it up, we can make the shows we love a centrepoint for the ugliest parts of what it is to be a human being, let alone a fan of anything.
So. With that in mind, here's 10 simple things we can do to be the kind of fans that everyone involved in making our favourite show, can be proud of.
1. BE AWESOME & STICK TOGETHER
The world spends all day every day telling us that in one way or another, we're just not quite good enough. That we aren't beautiful enough or cool enough or smart enough to ever really be able to live up to our full potential. At least not until we're fixed and our oddities are ironed out.
Well: newsflash. That's bollocks. Complete and utter tripe. In the always eloquent words of that great Southern Bard, Matthew McConaughey, I call buuuullllshiiiiiit. Why? Because TV/Movie/Pop Culture fans are a bloody awesome species: not by virtue of the fact we're perfect or because we always get it right, but because membership and acceptance stems purely from a common love of something awesome. That's it. We might all have different opinions about different things, but in the end the sharing of that common thread means that you - even on your worst day - are enough, just as you are, to be part of something amazing. So keep an eye out for and stick with each other. Care about each other. You just never know whose life you might be changing when you remind them that they're not alone.
2. SHOW RESPECT
Respect is not a difficult thing. It's merely the sincere act of acknowledgement that people are different, and that they are allowed to be.
By all means, have differing opinions about stuff - the course of the plot, the fate or decisions of a particular character, the use of chenile as part of onset furnishings, etc - but let's make one thing absolutely clear. While arguing points of difference can be a good thing - heck, arguing when done right and with good purpose can actually be a healthy thing - disagreeing with an opinion doesn't give you the right to bully, harrass, belittle, attack or tear down the human being who expresses that opinion.
When you @ mention someone on Twitter, the person behind that username is an actual person. They are a person with a family and friends and people who love them, and they can READ WHAT YOU SAY.
That includes, for the record, the writers, actors, directors, producers and crew of your show. When you tweet them, you are not tweeting a personality. You are not directly addressing a ficticious character (because in case you missed it, that character is not actually real; nor is the world around them; nor are the situations they find themselves in, or the decisions they make: hence FICTICIOUS). No. You are tweeting a real, living, breathing, talking, thinking, feeling human being who will see every word you write. Who goes to work in the morning, comes home at night, eats dinner, brushes their teeth, goes to sleep, sometimes feels great, sometimes feels like crap and who is exactly as human as you.
Just so we're all on the same page as well. Attacking them from behind the anonymous mask of the internet doesn't just make you a bully: it makes you a coward. Worse it makes you a documented bully and a coward, in an age where nothing is deleted. The internet doesn't forget.
So do yourself a favour and ask yourself before you tweet: would you say what you're about to say, either to that person's face, or to the face of someone you cared about? Would you want it to be something that a quick google search by your friends, family, employer or even complete stranger could find online? If not, I'd think twice then twice again before you hit send - the impact you're having could be far greater than you know, and on more lives than just yours.
3. YOUR PASSION IS POWERFUL
If you've ever been passionate about something, you'll know both the amount of energy it takes and the amount of energy it generates. And the passion of TV fans is ENORMOUS. So, while one passionate person can still achieve great things, imagine what a community of thousands, hundreds of thousands - even millions - of people could do, if they only combined the engergy generated by their collective love of something and put it towards something that made the world a better place to live.
If that sounds daft and stupidly idealistic, for the record, then you are underestimating what the drive and collective energy of a fandom can do. I'm going to use the Supernatural fans here as an example, because for my part I think they are one of the greatest TV fandoms that have ever existed: not because they're perfect or because every single member of it is a good person and gets it right. But rather it's their capacity to harness passion for a great cause that has me pointing to them here.
A number of months ago, Jared Padalecki - who plays Sam, one half of the Winchester Brothers on the show - suddenly and quite openly let the world know that mentally and emotionally, he was struggling badly. You read back over his tweets and you realise this was a guy up to his neck in despair, despite seeming to have it all. A beautiful family. A successful career. Good looks. The whole shebang. But here he was, struggling horrifically to keep his head above water.
From this was born the Always Keep Fighting movement: a mantra designed to encourage this guy, this one human being - and the millions of others who suffer like he does - with the knowledge that they are not alone. With the knowledge that their condition didn't and doesn't change their value as a human being in the slightest. Below is the video of what a bunch of amazing SPN fans got together to do at the last SDCC, in honour of the Always Keep Fighting movement.
As for Jared Padalecki? The face of the guy in this video is not the face of a TV star who just got a reminder of how popular he is. That's the face of a regular guy who'll go back to his job and home to his wife and kids and know that even on his worst day, millions of people care enough about him to have his back, even if it's with something as simple and small as a "Hey dude, hope you're doing okay today" tweet.
So if you're going to let your love for a show drive you to do something, let it be something that will matter long after it goes off the air.
4. GET SOME PERSPECTIVE
Okay. Reality check. If a TV show is your reason for living, then maybe now (as in right now, this instant, do not waste another second) would be a good time to log off and seriously rethink your priorities. Because no matter how much you love your favourite characters, in the end they aren't real people. You know who are real people? Your family, your friends, and yes: even the person you're @ mentioning on Twitter.
Seriously. Take a walk. Go outside. Read a book. Talk to actual human beings and actually laugh out loud. Because when you think about it, all those great shows we love? Their stories might be different, but their collective purpose is the same: we're meant to learn from them.
If if all you care about, think about, write about, blog about, tweet about and talk about is when your two favourite characters are going to shag - and how much you hate the writers for making you wait this long - then maybe it's time you adjusted your mind and value set in life. Because if you don't, you will have very little chance of ever contributing very much of anything that matters to the world around you.
5. IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU
I don't know if your parents ever had that candy talk with you when you were a kid about the fact that it might taste good but if you eat it all now, you're going to be sorry and puking your guts up. But like most kids, I didn't listen: it was a lesson my parents let me learn, and sure enough, shortly thereafter I puked my guts up. Aside from the obvious bad side effects of eating all the candy, I realised I'd taken too much, too fast, and now that I had, everything tasted the same and the enjoyment was gone.
Getting exactly what you want, when you want it, all the time, is the exact TV equivalent of the candy lesson. If you always got what you wanted - your ship to hook up, that bad guy to be killed off etc etc - then rest assured that the show you love would rapidly become boring and the story at its heart will lose it's power. And really, if you're just sticking around for the snogging, may I suggest a soap instead? Because let's be real: if that's the case, you're not really watching any show for the story at all.
Also, a word to the wise: The art of anticipation is an exquisite thing to master.
If it's good - if it matters - IT'S WORTH THE WAIT. Just saying.
6. BE ENCOURAGING
In an age where even Beyonce feels the need to photoshop herself in order to make herself more attractive (Srsly Bey, like what are you even doing you are basically a human unicorn who can sing #KWEEN), we hear a lot about the consequences of saying the horrible stuff to people online. Hell, even most of this article is to do with that. But I think equally as harmful is going on line and doing nothing but sucking up and bombarding people with false admiration.
If the people around you (even the actors on your favourite show - they need as much encouragement for their hard work as anyone else) are doing a good job, acknowledge them for putting something good out there in the world. If they're not, there are still respectful and smart ways to go about making your opinion known, KEEPING in mind that it is just that: your opinion, why may or may not necessarily be on point.
Fandom wise, if another fan draws an amazing piece of fan art, for example, tell them! Encourage them, and promote them, always ensuring you credit them with the deserved dues for their hard work. And if it's not the most brilliant piece of art you've ever seen, or best post you've ever read, or even something that you don't necessarily agree with: if it's done in the right spirit, then who even cares! Celebrate that person - including yourself, if it's you! - in the sense that it's an awesome thing when people are inspired to create good things, because of their love for something else. Celebrate that someone is confident enough - and feels safe enough, or brave enough - to put that little spark of themselves out there in the universe. Because they are being themselves, and that takes courage.
7. BE SMART IN THE SHIPPING LANE
Ah, shipping: the most beautiful but without a doubt the most shark infested waters in the fandom ocean. To be sure, it is literally the most natural thing in the world to want the characters you love, to be happy. Sure they're not real technically, but mentally they're real in the sense that we relate to them on a personal level; in a weird way, they are a mirror of us. Of the people we want to be; the people we are; even sometimes of the people we wish we weren't.
Here's the thing then. Reality - the one we live in and they don't - is a tough place. A broken place. Relationships are hard regardless of whether you get a happy ending or not; tough stuff happens; and we don't always get what we want. It's also a place where people change, and their wants in life change: including who they want to spend their time and perhaps even their lives with. But it's through those many and varied experiences that we do three of the most important things we will ever do as humans: we grow, we become stronger, and we learn to value the good stuff for just how good it is.
So if you fill a show will characters who do nothing but get happy endings, I guarantee you one sure thing: you'll stop being able to relate to them enough to really care about them. And the second you stop caring about them is the second you start to back away from watching to go find something else to take your fancy.
So if you are content with a show empty of story and filled with characters who have no character at all, then honestly the best thing I could recommend you watch is some paint dry instead. But if you want a show filled with characters who are worthy of your shipping, then value them enough to let them go through the hard stuff. Understand that for them to grow, maybe sometimes they need to learn what is is to be alone; to have their heart broken; to do bad stuff and make mistages and bear the consequences; sometimes to be with someone else for a while.
And as for the fans who ship differently to you? Refer to everything I've said above. It matters.
8. HAVE A LITTLE FAITH
The people who write and create the show you love got to where they are because they are good at what they do. And no matter how much you love a story, in the end the people who create your show are the ones out filming in the middle of the night. The ones who sit up til all hours writing and rewriting and discussing until the scenes and the dialogue are the best they can be. The ones giving up enormous amounts of time with their loved ones to work massive days, for weeks and months on end. They're the people learning the stunts and writing the lines and framing the shots, and everything in between, just so eventually, you can get one amazing episode of TV. And if they get it wrong, there is a LOT more at stake for them than there is for us as fans. That, as a whole, takes dedication AND skill: both of which they show, Trust me then when I say as much as you care about a show, you will never care more about it or undertand it better than those guys do. So have a little faith in their ability to do the right and best thing with the characters you love.
9. NOBODY'S PERFECT
HUMANITY 101: people stuff up. It's a fact of life and it affects all of us. Which means that to a point, we need to work hard to understand why other people - fans, writers, actors, networks - do what they do, how they do it, before we judge them. To be honest, that's nothing to do with TV. That's just plain, human, common sense. In short, forgive others as you'd want to be forgiven. You'd be amazed what happens when you do.
10. LEARN FROM WHAT YOU SEE
In the end, it all comes down to what the point of a great story really is. People will have different opinions, but for my part, I think the ultimate point of a great story is that we learn from it. We learn from the lessons the characters learn. We become more aware of the power of choice, and the consequences of our choices. We hopefully then go on to make better choices. A great story - however it chooses to do so - should challenge us with every chapter, to do better and make the world around us better as much as we are able.
So there you have it. 10 simple things we can all do to make being a fan an even awesomer privilege and experience than it already is. They're all free, but have the power to make an invaluable difference: even if it's in the life of just one other person. And who knows. That person might even be you.