The relationship between the fan and the writer: Will fans ever have the final say?

Today we’re moving into the advanced stages of the internet era. The cultural phenomenon that is Fandom, via message boards, dedicated fan sites, and countless other venues, has grown to a level at which it is slowly becoming possible for fans to affect the creative decisions that a show’s writers make.

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Television shows such as The CW’s Supernatural demonstrate that the television industry is beginning to fork-over some of the reigns to the fans in terms of influence in creative development. The respective fan cultures of each program have grown to a level of high visibility in the eyes of major networks.

The website supernaturalwiki.com is a major point of visibility for the fandom of Supernatural. With a truly expansive database of information about topics from the canon to the fandom to the production of the show, the site is a testament to the massiveness and the loyalty of Supernatural’s fanbase. On the Fandom page is a list of hundreds of links, one of which is Academic Articles. User PicklePegg wrote the academic article A Critical Analysis of Modern Fan Cultures Attached to Television Texts and the Participatory Nature of Their Activities. With Specific Focus on the Fan Culture of Supernatural, which details the ever growing relationship between the fans and the creators of Supernatural.

In chapter five entitled “New and Evolving Forms of Interaction”, PicklePegg writes:

“The creative team behind Supernatural seemingly treat the dedicated fan base as a trusted source of feedback which has led to admitting narrative mistakes in past seasons; episodes Bugs (S1:Ep8, 8/11/2005) and Red Sky at Morning (S3:Ep6, 8/11/2007), and the character of Bela Talbot are ones which have been addressed - the latter generated fan dislike prior to the character even appearing on screen. In an interview prior to the season three premiere, with series creator Eric Kripke, he is adamant that the show is for the fans and any mistakes they may make will be fixed;

We are so conscious and aware of our fans. We're making the show for the fans; we're not making the show for the network. We would never do anything to betray them. I'm not saying we're perfect. I'm not saying we don't make mistakes. But we're very conscious and aware. And when we do make mistakes, we course-correct. (Ausiello, 2007)”

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The dynamic and interactive relationship that is detailed here is something novel in the entertainment industry. In the past, television shows and even films have had poignantly negative relationships with their respective fan cultures.

For an April 30th, 2003 episode of South Park entitled “Red Man’s Greed”, a contest was held to select a guest star who would be one of the biggest fans of the show. To express their contempt for the network’s promotional idea, Matt Stone and Trey Parker wrote the guest character as a sub-ancillary place holder who is eventually shunned and booed offscreen, after being shot at.

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In the future, it is entirely possible that a network could create a website, ask fans to create a television show, and then literally let them submit episodes at will to be created in seasons. In this way, we could have a show that was built with the fandom in place first, not afterwards. In theory, an entire network could be created if there was enough interest in the project. At any rate, Fandom is the future, and will certainly play a critical role in the development of future television shows.




Works Cited

Parker, Trey, and Trey Parker. "Red Man's Greed." South Park. Comedy Central. New York, New York, 30 Apr. 2003. Television.

Pegg, Pickle. "A Critical Analysis of Modern Fan Cultures Attached to Television Texts and the Participatory Nature of Their Activities. With Specific Focus on the Fan Culture of Supernatural." Livejournal.com. PicklePegg, 2 June 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. <http://picklepegg.livejournal.com/35341.html>.

"Supernatural Wiki." - Super-wiki. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. <http://www.supernaturalwiki.com/index.php?title=Supernatural_Wiki>.