Notes on a Fandom is a regular column dedicated to lesbian/bi fandom in its various incarnations. It will also feature thoughts and comments from you, the fans. Follow @DanaPiccoli on Twitter and Tumblr to keep up with the latest topics and questions.
**Content warning: Please note, this week’s column deals with character death, some details of which may possibly cause major feels. Also, while there are no current spoilers, some material could be considered spoiler in nature for readers who are not up to date on Buffy, Mass Effect 3, Los Hombres de Paco, The L Word, Xena and SiP. Cool? Cool.**
There is a famous proverb that says, “All good things must come to an end”, to which I reply, “fangirls never say die!” OK, so that’s probably not the most mature stance to take. Sometimes, even as much as we will it not to be true, shows end and characters die. Some projects run their course, and their endings feel satisfying, giving fans closure. Some projects are yanked before their time, leaving fans in a forever “what if” state. The fact of the matter is, everything ends eventually. As much as I’d love Pretty Little Liars to run forever, those mid-20 something ladies can’t play teenagers forever.
Fans invest a tremendous amount of heart and soul into their shipping and admiration for a show and it’s characters. We know that while they are not real, the emotions they produce are. Love, fear, grief, lust, all transcend medium. Art does imitate life, and that is why being a fan is such a visceral, electric experience. When something ends naturally, we mourn, but we move on. It’s a lot more difficult to do so when a project is cancelled too soon, or a beloved character meets an untimely demise.
In this very competitive world of entertainment, projects that don’t perform well out of the gate, don’t stand much of a chance of sticking around. That doesn’t mean that fans don’t latch onto something even if its odds look grim. Fans sometimes even launch huge campaigns to keep a show on the air, (i.e. inundating the CBS offices with nuts to save Jericho, fans turning to Subway to help save Chuck). Some shows like Popular (Ryan Murphy’s first big project) and Wonderfalls, had loyal fandoms, but were too quirky and ahead of their time for mainstream audiences. I imagine they would have faired better a few more years down the line. They did, however, pave the way for shows like Glee and New Girl.
My So-Called Life only ran for one season, but remains a pivotal and beloved show that dared to explore the lives of ’90s teenagers in a realistic and empathic light. Airing shortly after the death of Kurt Cobain, an event that was still sending shockwaves of change and frustration through a generation of young people, it dealt with real teenage issues. Drugs, depression, sexuality. We wanted to be Angela Chase. We wanted a girlfriend like Jordan Catalano. We wanted friends like Rayanne and Rickie. We wanted Bryan Krackow to leave us the hell alone. And the music. Oh the music.
@danapiccoli My so Called Life. Terrible. In retrospect the fact that it exists as a single perfect season only ads to its place in my heart
— Lucy Hallowell (@lucyhallowell) February 21, 2013
South of Nowhere was another show, this time with two lesbian/bi leads, that was cancelled before its time, but still maintains a fierce fan base.
SofN took major risks and explored female sexuality is a very upfront way. That was a little too hard to swallow for some folks, and it never garnered the audience it deserved. This is another show that I think would fair much better now than it did six years ago.
Lip Service was certainly robbed of a third season by it’s confusing and bewildering second season. The shocking death of Cat, combined with the untimely exit of Frankie certainly didn’t bode well. With the loss of its two leads, Lip Service was already at a tremendous disadvantage.
Also, after a premiere season full of angsty fun and sexy sex, the brooding and grief that haunted its second season felt, well, really sad. Fans got no closure, and we are left to our own devices to imagine an ending. Who can say what could have saved Lip Service, but I for one would have loved to see things turn around for the talented cast of lovely ladies…and Ed.
What projects ended too soon for your pleasure? Have you ever campaigned to save a show? Did it work?
Everyday, a Little Death
While the ending of a show can be disappointing and terribly sad for fans, the death of a character we love feels like the end of the world. As fans, we gravitate towards certain characters. We make them a part of our canon, part of our family. We discuss them ad nauseam on social networks, write about them, and plaster our virtual worlds with their pictures. Maybe they remind us of ourselves, or someone we love. Maybe they simply kick ass. No matter the reason, when a character dies, it’s traumatic. I remember when the first character I loved was killed off; it felt like a kick to the gut. I felt sick, and in me arose a deep grief I never expected I could feel. It didn’t matter that this wasn’t a “real” person. Pain is pain, and I was as broken hearted as if she had been erased from my actual world. I think it was also the first time, I truly knew what it felt like to be a fan.