A thought on why average to just-above-average shows generate such passionate fan interactions
I’ve been thinking about this for some time, well really ever since the Voltron fandom blew up again a week or so ago. With the new Voltron discourse, Klance retaining it’s number 1 spot on the trending ship lists, and a lot of my dashboard being occupied with Voltron art, opinions, disclaimers, and meta over the past few days, it’s left a large proportion of the internet asking themselves:
“How does Voltron: Legendary Defender, which is a show that is just above average, have such a dominating and voracious fanbase? How does something so generic prompt so many people to scream and create content for it?”
And I think I have the answer… or at least… an answer from my own personal experience.
When people ask me “Is Voltron a good show?” I always end up umming and ahhing for a while, because it’s not bad, but I know it’s definitely not good enough for me to have wasted so many hours of my life engaging with it. The worst thing I want to have happen is my friend watches the show, then calls me and goes “THIS? This is the thing you’re so passionate about?”
And I have to dejectedly sigh out “….yeah.”
So when I’m inevitably asked this question, I always defend myself by going “The world and the characters are really charming. Everyone is very likeable. The show has a lot of potential!”
And I think that’s it. That’s the secret of it all. Potential.
You see… I think it’s actually the lack of perfection that prompts so many people to go “hang on…. I think I can improve on this.”
You see, in between Voltron seasons, I was really engaged with Yuri on Ice! I waited every week for a new episode, reblogged the new gif sets that would come out after every episode, read all the new theories about where the plot might go, watch the previews for the next episode over and over and over….
I was, and am, SUPER into YOI…. but I’ve never generated any content for it. none. I’ll talk about it of course! But when the show finished, I had several people ask me:
“Hey! Are you planning on writing any fan fiction for Yuri on Ice?”
And honestly…. no. I had absolutely no motivation, no drive, to write anything for the show. For the series that I loved so dearly, I have never written NOR READ a single piece of fan fiction. And when people asked me why I would always say:
“The show gave me everything I ever wanted. There’s nothing more I can add to it.”
And I think that’s really it. Whilst Yuri on Ice is definitely not a perfect show, it definitely succeeds in giving its target audience everything they wanted. It’s potential is perfectly fulfilled. Sure you could write like a wedding scene, or a honeymoon scene between Yuuri and Viktor, and that would be lovely…. but I don’t need it. I have my closure.
This scene is the perfect ending to an emotional arc. As a viewer, I am perfectly fulfilled.
Similarly, I think of other series that I adore, but have never really had the desire to create content for, or play with AUs or anything like that. In my opinion, the closest thing to a perfect series I’ve ever consumed is Fullmetal Alchemist (brotherhood or ‘03. They’re both really good, but for the sake of this post I’m gonna focus more on brotherhood.)
When I finished Brotherhood every question I possibly had was answered. Every emotional arc came to a close. Again, there’s no where further I could take it. That story is over. Personally, the only thing that left me longing a little bit was the potential relationship between Hawkeye and Mustang… but again I don’t need that. They are side characters, the story does not focus on them, so their ending is allowed to be left open.
What’s up, I’m crying in the club.
Shows like Gurren lagann, Princess Jellyfish, Deathnote, Kill la Kill, Baccano, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, etc. are all varying degrees of excellent, but what they have in common is there never seems to be any unfulfilled potential. They explore every ounce of their worlds and characters, so that by the end, I just kind of dusted off my hands and said “Yeah… you know what, I’m good.”
Things like Harry Potter and Avatar: The Last Airbender (and Korra) are interesting anomalies to me, because while they absolutely fulfilled the potential of their characters, these series’ created such interesting worlds that fans continued wanting to explore. I don’t see that much fan content created using these series’ characters anymore, but BOY OH BOY do I see both of these used as AUs when generating works for other series. Any fandom worth its salt will have a well established Harry Potter and ATLA au. People adore sorting characters into houses and into bender types. I love it. I live for that shit.
So with ATLA and Harry Potter we’re starting to see how the potential of the world they are set in can drive fans to actively participate and engage with these series.
But you wanna know what I think really gets people mobilised? What really gets that fan content flowing?
It’s character and plot potential. Primarily character, but plot also plays a part (again, I’m looking at you Voltron.)
You guys wanna know the first series I ever actively engaged with? the first series I ever followed dedicated blogs and wrote fan fiction for? The series that I still declare my undying love for even though it’s just a silly simple show?