The Unsinkable S.S. Klaroline

RMS ?Titanic?, 1911.

Pictured: not the S.S. Klaroline

As we’ve mentioned many times before, we enjoy a number of the cheesy fun shows on the CW.  Some of these we never really warmed to, some of them we stopped watching when they got tiresome (I’m looking at you, Flash and Arrow).  But we’ve kept up with Vampire Diaries and The Originals.  Many is the time we’ve been sitting around in the evening, bored and looking for something to do, when S will say to me, “Well, we’ve got vampire shows on the DVR.  Wanna watch them while I fold laundry?”

And I mean no offense when I say that’s pretty much the level of engagement we have had with those two shows recently, particularly Vampire Diaries.  They’re something mildly interesting to have on in the background.  They’re basically our equivalent of old-fashioned daytime soap operas, if you want to think of them that way—something to have on the TV while you dust the living room or peel potatoes for supper.

Even so, Vampire Diaries has been a part of our lives for years now, and we’re sorry to see it go.  I can’t say I thought the finale episode was earth-shatteringly awesome.  It certainly wasn’t like the finale of Justified (as S wrote, the ending of that show was absolutely perfect).  But it fulfilled the basic function of a series finale—wrap up all the storylines in a satisfying way so the viewers think they’ve gotten what they came for.  And don’t do anything to destroy the good will the show has built up, or pull some “clever” slight of hand that makes the viewers feel like they’ve wasted their time.  Some shows find that surprisingly hard to achieve actually.  Think of the last episodes of How I Met Your Mother or Roseanne, for instance.

Our favorite thing about the finale, of course, was that little nod to Klaroline shippers.  I won’t say that S responded to this by letting out an ultrasonic squee of delight and doing a little dance on the couch, but I won’t deny it, either.  We actually saw the episode up at my parents’ house, where we were visiting, and all the way home in the car, every twenty minutes or so, whatever we happened to be talking about, S would turn to me and say, “Oh, and by the way, J?  Klaroline is endgame!”  As S has mentioned before, Klaroline (Klaus Mikaelson and Caroline Forbes) is one of her favorite TV ships.  And as she noted yesterday, it’s the only one on this list she made more than a year and a half ago that has so far ended happily (or at least ended in such a way that we can imagine it ends happily).

So all in all, we’re pretty pleased with how Vampire Diaries turned out.  Now we just need another show to watch while S folds the clothes.

J

Square Pegs in Round Holes

loathing

My silly edit of Maimie McCoy as Milady de Winter on the BBC show The Musketeers.

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.

Story Arc

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.

@CreatorPerson

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?

~S

Everyone’s a Critic

Statler&Waldorf

You don’t even want to know what these guys thought of Season 3.

S has just finished up her rewatch of the third and final season of The Musketeers, and I imagine she will have some thoughts to share on that subject sooner or later. She has certainly had a good time ranting about it on Tumblr, so some of you may already be familiar with her complaints.

Thinking about that third season, though, and about its many problems, has led us to think a little about what kind of complaints a fan is allowed to make. Friends sent us links to this article and this one about the problem of fans having a sense of entitlement, and we read those and thought about them a bit.

Both of those are interesting, and definitely worth a read, though it seems to me that both authors are really complaining about and conflating several different problems. For one thing, they talk about writers and other content producers getting death threats from fans, and I think we can all agree that death threats are never appropriate. So I don’t know that we need to spend much time discussing that. We can just state it right here: death threats are bad, and you shouldn’t make them.

Beyond that, though, the authors of both blog posts object to “the entitlement of modern fan culture.” As Devin Faraci, the author at that first link, memorably puts it, “These fans are treating stories like ordering at a restaurant – hold the pickles, please, and can I substitute kale for the lettuce? But that isn’t how art works, and that shouldn’t be how art lovers react to art. They shouldn’t be bringing a bucket of paint to the museum to take out some of the blue from those Picassos, you know?”

That’s a good point, and a funny line, but I have two problems with this. First, fans of contemporary TV and movies behave like consumers because they are, in fact, consumers. They are paying for at least a small part of what they watch through viewing advertising and buying tickets and purchasing special director’s cut Blu-rays and limited edition action figures.

Yes, repainting a Picasso in a museum would be awful, but it would be entirely different if someone looking to buy a painting back when the artist was alive had said, “Could you paint me something with a bit less blue in it?” Picasso could agree to do it, or he could tell the prospective buyer to take a hike. But I don’t think the request itself would have been illegitimate. And that’s basically the equivalent of someone today posting online about how, “Next season, I want Athos and Milady to end up together,” or about how, “I want Elsa to have a girlfriend in Frozen 2.”

My second problem is that it would be a bit rich of writers and producers to complain about this attitude from fans, when the growing enthusiasm for remakes and reboots practically encourages it. Why shouldn’t fans ask (or even demand) that Idris Elba be cast as the next James Bond? After all, we know there will be a new iteration of the character sooner or later, and another one after that. And if past is prologue, then we know that everyone in the James Bond ‘verse will pretend like the change never happened and that this new guy has been James Bond all along. Changing the character’s race or gender or sexuality can’t hurt the continuity of the series, since the filmmakers have blown up that continuity half a dozen times already. And the same applies with other series. Why shouldn’t fans be allowed to say, “Next time they make a Batman vs. Superman movie, I hope they do X, Y, and Z,” since everyone knows that someday, sooner or later, such a film will almost certainly be made?

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what kind of objections are actually out of bounds? S and I may write more on this subject at some, point, but I think one of the more problematic kinds of fan complaints is objecting to the premise after the fact.

When S and I were discussing this, one of the first examples we thought of was Outlander. Neither of us really likes time travel stories. So we just couldn’t get into reading the novels or watching the show. But the thing is, time travel is the actual premise of the story. If you think time travel stories are ridiculous, you will probably find Outlander ridiculous. And that’s okay, I think. But in my opinion, you can only really make that complaint at the outset. You can’t get halfway through the first season and say, “You know, I just can’t buy the notion of a 20th century woman being in 18th century Scotland.” Sorry, but that ship has already sailed. To use an athletic analogy, it would be like saying that you don’t think LeBron James is a particularly skilled athlete because he doesn’t kick the ball enough. Your objection isn’t actually to the skills of LeBron, but to the very concept of basketball. Or, to borrow Devin Faraci’s analogy of a diner in a restaurant, it’s like seeing liver on the menu, ordering the liver, getting it, starting to eat it and only then saying, “This is disgusting! I’ve always hated liver!” That’s fine, but then why did you order it?

By the way, I think there’s a flip side to this: people who have objections to the premise at the outset have a right to have those objections taken seriously. If I see liver on the menu, I shouldn’t be made to order it. I shouldn’t have the waiter and my dining companions haranguing me to try it because, “This liver is totally different.” So if I decide, based on a brief Goodreads review, that I don’t particularly want to read another time travel story, or if someone decides—based only on watching the trailer—that he doesn’t want to go to the new Ghostbusters movie, then that’s perfectly fine. The perennial counter-complaint, “Oh, but you should give it a chance,” rings a bit hollow; I can see the liver, right there on the menu, and I know I don’t like liver. Don’t try to make me order it.

That’s it for now, but we’ll return to this topic later, when S talks about her objections to Season 3 of The Musketeers, and more generally, why she thinks certain kinds of fan objections are legitimate and should be taken seriously.

J