Tweets vs. Twats: Talking to TV writers on Twitter

 
 

Hart Hanson and Shonda Rhimes have a different point of view. Rhimes told The Daily Beast, “I don’t want to sound like I don’t care, but it doesn’t matter what people are saying [on Twitter] because we’re already so far down the road in the direction we’re going.” Parenthetically, Shonda Rhimes’ Twitter bio says, “I make stuff up for a living. Remember, it’s not real, okay?”

Hanson echoed her sentiment: “It’s absolutely wonderful that we have managed to elicit that loyalty and that passion in our fans. But … a TV show is not a democracy.”


@shondarhimes You are a miserable, self-loathing masochist who will die alone in a cesspool of deserved despair.

Maybe TV writers really are listening to you your 140-character suggestions. Or maybe they’re not. Either way, no one is going to deny that Twitter is a powerful, driving force in TV production.

Two years ago, nerds harnessed the power of Twitter to save NBC’s spy comedy Chuck (#SaveChuck). And then, ironically, those same saviors almost brought about the Chuckpocalypse the following season when the show didn’t take the characters exactly where the fans wanted them to go. When Chuck writers Josh Shwartz and Chris Fedak introduced new love interests for the show’s main characters, fans used Twitter to spread a new plan: Don’t watch the show live. If you must watch it, watch it online or on your DVR. They figured if they could hijack the ratings, they could also hijack the plot. Schwartz and Fedak took the threats so seriously that they were forced to respond to fans on Twitter, in interviews and on blogs, pleading with them not to morph into a vindictive Tweet-mob.

So, yes, all that Tweeting matters. Writers know it, producers know it, studios know it. Twitter creates a unique kind of publicity that makes a moot point out of the fact that it’s free — because it can’t be bought anyway. If something is trending on Twitter, you want to know why. If a TV show is trending every Monday night at 8:00 for three solid weeks, you’re going to take the time to find out why. And if, after finding out why, you fall in love with it enough to help make it trend, you’re probably going to become part of the community (and/or mob) that interacts with the show’s writers on Twitter.


@joshschwartz76 More of that, please.

I have written this a billion times, but I’m going to write it again: People have always been — and will always be — deeply moved by stories. People relate to fictional characters, project onto fictional characters, learn from fictional characters and are empowered by fictional characters. Narrative is a mighty thing: it gives order to chaos, form to madness. So the fact that people have intense reactions to television — the most popular storytelling medium in our culture — isn’t surprising. (I can’t tell you how many pillows I’ve hurled at the TV over the years.)

But having strong reactions to stories doesn’t give us permission to let our Tweets turn us into Twats.

Art breeds criticism. But there is a difference between me Tweeting Hart Hanson to say “I feel like your writing decisions in last year’s finale made the walls in Bones‘ fictional world collapse” and me Tweeting Hart Hanson to call him a terrorist. For one thing, my inability to separate the storyteller from the man makes me an irrational jerk. For another thing, perpetual personal attacks on TV writers creates nothing more a barrier of bullying white noise that can’t be penetrated by helpful, constructive — and even sometimes rightfully angry — commentary.

Communicating effectively with TV writers and showrunners is especially important for the gay community because we need to be heard. We need more lesbian and bisexual characters on television; we need more authentic lesbian and bisexual characters on television; and we need keep the few well-rounded lesbian and bisexual characters we’ve already grown to love. When writers misuse and mistreat lesbian and bisexual characters, we need to take them to task, constructively. When writers amaze and astonish us with lesbian and bisexual characters, we need to show them our gratitude. We need our voices to rise above the noise.

Writers aren’t robots. If we prick them, they’ll bleed. If we tickle them, they’ll laugh. If we poison them, they’ll die. And if we Tweet-bash them perpetually, we’ll get what we deserve: #silence to all of our @replies.

Big thanks to Ashley for sharing all her social media/TV research with me.

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