I want to continue the thought J started in his post Everyone’s a Critic, using The Musketeers Season 3 and the debates over how to discuss it to do so. (It’s pretty much been eating my brain for over a month now, so I might as well, right?) So, be warned, spoilers for the entire series of The Musketeers, although if you’ve never seen a second of the show, I hope to explain my objections well enough my arguments should still make more sense than not.
In his post, J talked about how one aspect of fiction it’s not particularly worthwhile criticizing is premise. You don’t like Outlander because you think there’s too much violence against women, make that argument all day. Don’t like it because there’s time travel, well, time travel is the point. I enjoy the premise of The Musketeers (whether it be the BBC show, Dumas, or any other iteration) of four swashbuckling dudes running around early 17th Century France swashbuckling. But what I object to in Season 3 is what I’m going to call story arc.
Season 3 opens during the Thirty Years War, which has caused a refugee crisis in Paris. One of the main story arcs for the season revolves around a refugee, Sylvie, who is a part of a band of revolutionaries living in a Paris refugee settlement. It’s a story and setting that feels like a cross between the nightly news (refugees) and something out of Les Miserables (revolutionaries in France). What it never feels like to me is a story arc that belongs in a show whose premise is swashbuckling Musketeers swashbuckling around France in the 17th Century.
All of my problems with Season 3 stem from this ill-begotten story arc. I could catalog those problems, but that’s not actually the purpose of this post. (Perhaps another time.) My purpose here is to examine the proper outlet on social media for my feelings of disappointment, and what sort of reaction from other fans I should expect.
If you didn’t like it, why are you talking about it?
This has long been a complaint of people who love a show/book/movie who grow tired of listening to people criticize the thing they love. And I get that. There is a substantial chunk of The Musketeers fandom who have serious problems with the Aramis/Queen Anne/Dauphin Season 2 story arc, and while I never got terribly upset with the people who vented their displeasure with the season, I also never especially liked reading what they had to say on social media. I read several detailed complaints early on when I first joined the fandom, decided I disagreed with those people, and then went on my merry way.
But here’s the thing: if you love a thing so much you join a fandom specifically in order to discuss it, you don’t suddenly want to stop discussing the thing you love when it takes a turn you dislike. The passion hasn’t left. The need to discuss and maintain connections to the people you’ve bonded with hasn’t suddenly disappeared.
This is akin to the “Why don’t you stop watching it if you don’t like it?” argument. I stop watching things all the time. And the things I care so little about that I just quit tuning in every week are the shows I never cared enough about to join a fandom for. I stopped watching Arrow and Flash and Once Upon a Time and Castle. I enjoyed them. Mentioned them occasionally to friends who also watched them. Never joined their fandoms though, because I never loved them enough. That’s why I could quit them without comment. The passion was never there to begin with.
Lo, many years ago, I majored in English in college. I now write fiction in my spare time. I like thinking about narrative and how it works, and like a doctor dissecting a cadaver, I dissect stories as a learning experience. And because, dammit, I find it enjoyable. I want to understand why Emma Woodhouse is so amazing, and I want to know why I just can’t connect to Middlemarch even though I admire it. I’ve often said that I’ve enjoyed discussing Harry Potter more than I have enjoyed reading the books or watching the movies, and there’s a lot I like (and dislike) about that series.
Picking apart narrative is in my blood. Apparently, there are people without that particular gene. I hope one day we learn to leave peaceably, because we will never understand one another.
So, if I’m going to insist upon raging about fiction I once loved but now find heartbreakingly disappointing, how should I go about it? First off, I would never in a million years tag a creator (writer, director, actor, key grip) with my negative criticism. That’s just tacky. Yes, I know they could wander into my corner of the fandom and find what I have said, but it seems to me that if you are an artist and you go picking through social media, you have to take some responsibility for what you see there. Never saying a bad word about an artistic endeavor again because someone associated with it might possibly see it is a good way to end useful conversation about art.
Also, I’ve grown up in the years I’ve spent online. It’s been over a decade since I joined my first online fandom (I still talk to Browncoats every day), and I no longer go out of my way to find people who love all four seasons of Battlestar Galactica just so I can tell them why they’re wrong. (Forum culture 10 years ago was really something! You kids don’t know what mean is. #GetOffMyLawn) There are lots of fans who have enjoyed Season 3 of The Musketeers. And you know what? I’m happy for them! I’m glad the thing they love was something they could love all the way to the end. But I can’t love it, and it’s therapeutic for me and others who are disappointed with the season to discuss it with each other.
And I won’t apologize for that. I won’t say I’m sorry for watching all the way to the end or for airing my views after I watched it. I won’t pretend as though I think I was wrong to write satire fanfics that address some of my problems with Season 3. My disappointment is valid, and my need to discuss it with others who feel the same is also valid. Otherwise, why bother joining a fandom if not to find like souls?