Trendwatch 010: To Engage, or to Not Engage?

 In Blog, Community Building, Online Communities, Podcast, TV

SPOILER ALERT: This blog post and podcast may contain spoilers for The 100 and Orphan Black if you aren’t up-to-date. You’ve been warned.

When Myles McNutt’s A.V. Club article When Fan Engagement Goes Wrong: The 100, Shameless, and the Unsustainable Dynamics of Social TV circulated in our office, it inspired some pretty heated discussions about the benefits and drawbacks of having television productions and creatives represented in fan communities. A significant portion of the article is dedicated to the death of Lexa, a lesbian character and a favourite among LGBT viewers, and whether Showrunner Jason Rothenberg was wrong to engage the LGBT audience and hide this spoiler from them, essentially leading them on.

Interestingly, in the same week, The Toronto Star published an article about the (apparent) death of a lesbian character on Orphan Black, in which star Tatiana Maslany protested, “There’s a bizarre focus on the fact that she’s bisexual or a lesbian and has been killed off, and that really reduces her to one thing in representing something, as opposed to being an individual. I find that to be a problematic complaint.”

In the ensuing discussions, we were also pointed to a discussion on CBC Radio One’s Q where Chatelaine senior editor Rachel Giese seemed to suggest that Empire’s writers’ room was responding to fan feedback in real time – which from what we know of TV writers’ rooms is highly unlikely for a number of reasons.

The IBD team talks about:

  • why we think it’s a good thing for writers, producers and actors to engage with the audience and be part of the conversation;
  • why the conversation isn’t necessarily going to affect the story (not right away, anyway); and
  • why fan love and story aren’t the only things that dictate what happens in the writers’ room (and eventually on your screen).

How about you? As a viewer, do you engage with writers, producers and actors online? Or would you rather they leave the fans alone?

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