Fandom Makes You Want More

Fandom is a section of media that creates social interactions outside of the show itself. Fandom can be cosplay, books, merchandise, viewing parties, or anything else that relates to the show, but is outside of the show and in real life. This obviously only generates more excitement about the show, and brings a connection to the viewer’s real life. Due to this, show makers like Netflix love this. A show like Stranger Things, gives off the 80’s teen/tween fan boys and girls who love sci-fi and would love this show. Aside from that, it also attracts adult audiences as well. It could be considered that it attracts a cult following, because the genre is very specific- sci-fi, comedy, drama, and coming of age all in one. However, as the show grew even to be more popular, its reach expanded outside of just its cult followers and it became very mainstream. Fandom reached to the point where viewers would reference certain lines from the show (including myself). Referencing “the upside down” was frequent. However, Fandom can go overboard and become dangerous as well. As mentioned in the Vulture Article by Dee Lockett, “Here’s Why Stranger Things Star Finn Wolfhard Was Forced to Speak Out Against Inappropriate Fans,” Vulture (November 9, 2017), she references a quote  from Finn Wolfhard when she says, “On Wednesday night, 14-year-old star Finn Wolfhard tweeted a plea to fans not to “harass” him and his co-stars, writing that while he doesn’t want to “ex-communicate” people who love the show, “anyone who calls themselves a ‘fan’ and actively goes after someone for literally acting and doing their job is ridiculous.” Obsessions are real, and can be creepy as well especially when the cast are kids and the obsessors are 55 years old. This can be unavoidable though, because if they actors are great and the show is great, what is stopping fans from loving everything about it? It may also be argued that the fans are in love with the characters themselves and not the actors who play the characters.

As for Black Mirror, fandom is much different, especially because each epiosde is very different from each other with different characters in each show. However, fandom can still exist by ways of t-shirts and fan viewing meet up groups. Fandom can be so intense and a passion by a viewer that it may be a reason why they date someone else who shares their obsession. With a show like this though, following a story plot as it progresses across episodes does not happen, so I would expect fandom to be far less intense than Stranger Things. Nevertheless, the show is still very addicting, and on a person note, sometimes I wish certain episodes would continue and have their own series around that particular storyline with the same characters and cast in it.

Fandom can have a big affect on a viewer’s life outside of the show. Addiction to the show can be so harsh that it could cause a lack in their lives in other departments such as work or school. However, it can also provide a great escape, and they can make friends along the way who are just as obsessed as they are. It is up to the show makers to make a good show though, for fandom to exist and for viewers to want more.

Multi- Cultures on Netflix

Netflix has become a great space to watch entertainment involving many different demographics, cultures, and people. Shows like Dear White People, On My Block, and Luke Cage are great examples of this. In particular, Dear White People is a very current perspective on how African American people may feel about white people. To be even more specific, it comes from the angle of college students at an almost completely white based population at a prestigious Ivy League School. In many ways, what these characters go through, is what is seen on TV and in the news in real life. These issues range from social aggressions, to feeling left out in social settings because of skin color. It shows ‘modern segregation’ in a very 21st century feeling.

On My Block, is another example of minorities, and minority issues in the US being the focus of the show. It is also another example of the lens being from the side of young people, this time high school instead of college. In addition to African American young people in Dear White People, this show also showcases hispanics in Los Angeles. In traditional coming of age shows, a lot of the struggles are from the point of view of white students. So, to see other groups other than white people in the same type of show, brings up similar but also very different issues as these students try to figure out how to grow up and how to deal with high schools. Many traditional teenager shows are featuring rich white kids, while this show, is opposite, completely.

Luke Cage, again breaks the traditional trend of white protagonists, however this show is much different than the above, with it being a superhero show. Aside from the racial trends being altered in this series, it is also interesting to see Marvel produce a series about a superhero, instead of a feature film. Aside from that, it is one of the only new superhero productions featuring African Americans aside from the film Black Panther. As far as it being relatable or not for other audiences such as white people, it probably is not, but not because of race, more so because a superhero is a fantasy. Therefore, it really does not matter who is the hero- black, white, asian, etc, it is a fantasy. With that said, there are minor relatable factors in superhero films/shows that may be directed towards a certain demographic when the hero is humanized.

The relatable elements of the other two shows can be consistent to audiences outside of the featured demographic. However, drama and comedy that is directed to the problems of being a minority in an all white school for example, it probably only relatable to a small group of people, but others may be able to relate through discrimination they witness through other students in real life.

New Genre on Netflix

Netflix has been a staple for many types of genres since its inception. Genres such as dramas, horrors, and comedies have thrived on the streaming platform, gaining huge amounts of attention from the public and critics alike. However, until recently reality television has almost exclusively been left to cable television. Nevertheless, Netflix finally dipped into this genre with shows such as Queer Eye and Nailed It! Reality television attracts a certain audience, but can easily can a big following quickly if the show is interesting.

Nailed It! mixes the reality shows where a cash prize is awarded to the winning contestant with a cooking reality show. There are also elements of comedy, family, and drama/stress. Cooking shows are very popular. Certain networks on TV are even exclusively dedicated to food. So, for this type of show to be effective, it has to be done extremely well in a creative way.

Between the two shows mentioned, without ever watching either, I only had heard of Queer Eye, so I was interested to see what the hype was about. The concept of mixing a bunch of people together without somewhat different backgrounds and views is entertaining. The location of Atlanta is also an interesting choice, given the makeup of demographics with the combination of rural and urban. This show falls under the category of lifestyle television. With that said, there are other elements included especially topics of LGBTQ. The idea of a ‘test subject’ is entertaining, it keeps the show new and fresh, adding and subtracting a new character each time.

Both of these shows feel familiar with other shows but yet have a unique twist which makes them entertaining. Nailed It! is obviously a cooking show- but instead of watching professional chefs cook up masterpieces, this show captures bad home cooks looking to improve. Of course, there are shows about bad restaurants already on cable, but it is rare to find one about ordinary people who have to cook at home. This is very relatable for the mass public. Almost everyone has to cook, or learn how to cook and many people struggle in the kitchen. For an audience viewer who relates to this, they watch it for that very reason, or for a better cook, they could even tune in for amusement. It lends a positive message towards personal success, challenging the cast to be the best chefs possible (and winning money).

As mentioned, with so many existing reality programs on cable, Netflix has to be unique. In the article, “How Netflix and Amazon Are Driving a Global Reality TV Renaissance,” Hollywood Reporter (April 9, 2018), by Scott Roxborough, this topic is discussed as he says, ” In typical self-promotional fashion, Netflix has claimed its move into nonscripted will revolutionize the genre. So Queer Eye isn’t just a retread of a hit format from the early 2000s, it’s a woke celebration of LGBTQ rights (although that definition fits the original just as well).” This show clearly brings new qualities to the world of reality TV that are unprecedented especially in the LGBTQ movement. New, relatable shows such as these two, will be key for attracting new audiences.

New Age of Documentaries

Netflix includes some of the top shows and movies in the world which many people know about. However, the rise of the documentaries are gaining popularity on Netflix as well, which includes documentaries that are feature length, and more series like formats as well. A documentary such as Flint Town, is an example of multi-episode documentary series. While 13th, is a stand alone feature length documentary. After watching both of these documentaries, each one has many differences and similarities.

Flint Town is a dramatic and intense documentary. In many ways it feels like pure entertainment and is riveting. The thrill level is exaggerated for the viewer knowing that these are real life events taking place. No actors. Instead of a narrator conducting a voiceover, which is typical in documentaries, this show does not have that. Instead, direct quotes are the only voices heard, which adds a intimate feel to the show also making it feel more believable.

13th though, is a feature Netflix length documentary. According to Sudeep Sharma in Netflix and the Documentary Boom, Sharma says, “It has made feature- length documentary a core pillar of its service, both as a way to highlight its connection to quality cinema and and to distinguish its catalog from more mundane forms of television programming.” By doing this, documentaries such as 13th can be used to highlight key issues in society at a big platform/stage. In addition, Netflix is also an extremely useful and economical way to show educational documentaries in institutions.

When comparing the storytelling effectiveness of a feature length documentary or a series, one thing noted from Flint Town is that there is much more time to tell the story, because of the series type format. With this format, more details can be presented and a closer and deeper insight can be highlighted by the filmmakers. In Flint Town, the story would take personal asides at many times to show individual stories about specific police officers serving the town of Flint, MI. The extra time allows for this type of storytelling, which is more in depth. Being able to actually show specific examples of what the documentary message is trying to tell is also important. A lot of the time, a feature length will show stats of crime instead of actual crime footage. Well, in this series, they have the time to show nitty gritty details with cameras following officers around on the street.

On the other side of the coin, a feature length documentary such as 13th can be effective for the audience who can’t commit to an entire series. Feature length films are also especially perfect for audiences who may want to watch in a group setting. In this instance, a group can get together to watch the complete show instead of committing to 5+ hours watching a whole series. The 13th talks about racial and human rights issues which is a delicate topic. Putting this sort of film out on a big platform such as Netflix ensures a large audience, for a delicate issue, where in the past only supporters of such issue would watch by seeing special screening or buying a DVD. Therefore, when discussing Sharma’s point about feature length films being important to Netflix’s core, I would argue that yes it is, but showcasing series such as Flint Town, is just as beneficial. It would have been extremely rare for people to be hooked on a series that was a documentary before Netflix. However, since Netflix has invested money into these types of shows, people have been binge watching non fiction for the first time ever in many aspects. Yes, these shows cans till be educational, but Netflix has found a way to not only do that, but also make them extremely exciting and entertaining which is almost as important as bringing light to serious topics.

Animation Shows are Gaining Interest and Respect

Animation TV shows have almost always been exclusively intended for children audiences. Of course, some adult tuned in as well, but the target audience was kids. Now, the tables have turned with shows like Big Mouth and F is For Family. These shows are most certainly not intended for kids. They are though, intended for adults who can watch mature content. According to Holly Randell Moon  and Arthur J. Randell in Television Aesthetics and Style, when talking about animation, “..narrative action and humour can be achieved with remarkable economy.” This notion makes sense, which could be an argument of why raunchy animation shows intended for adults are coming in droves.  For one, these shows reach a large audience, say 18+. and two, if the humor is still comedically interesting to this audience, why not use animation as a different medium that is also more affordable.

Big Mouth tells the story of teenagers experiencing the ups and downs of puberty and some very accurate coming of age experiences. Unlike F is For Family, this show can be relatable for even younger ages as well. Anyone who is going through middle or high school could easily relate to this show- however, whether or not their parents would allow them to view the show is another question due to the vulgarity of the content.

The highly popular opinion that animation is ‘below’ live action has been a consistent theme and opinion by many for a while. In many ways these shows can be less popular sure, if intended for child audiences, but some animated shows and films win more awards than many live action shows combined. Looking at animation with a narrower lens, only within Netflix, the argument could be made that live action shows do much better in popularity on the streaming service, but that should not dictate which shows are better strictly off of popularity. As with all mediums and genres, there is an intended audience for certain types of productions. Just as some people love horror shows, animation has it’s own die hard fan group who are waiting to be awed. Strictly stating animation is not as good as live action should never be a valid argument unless a particular show has elements that make it bad such as bad voice actors, boring script etc…

F is for Family also is intended for mature audiences, however focuses on the life of one main family in particular. This can be seen as a humorous reminder of what family life is like in the suburbs for many. This show though, feels family to Family Guy and American Dad. On a side note, personally this show feels redundant ad very similar to the above shows mentioned. It is humorous, but not overly unique which could be a reason why animation is belittled by many.

However, when animation is done right, in a unique and well produced fashion, there should be no reason why this style of TV is less than live action. Part of the speciality to animation is that it is obvious that the show is not meant to fully replicate real life, because characters are not real humans. Of course their voices are, which in many ways can still draw an audience based off a famous voice.

Animation though, can also in many components be even harder than live action in terms of producing. The art has to look perfect, and directors have to tell a story without any real life human characters. Voice actors have to sound perfectas well. There should be respect for this when thought about in this way.

Reinventing the Sitcom

Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” is in many ways unique compared to other Netflix shows. It feels out of place, like it is meant to be on cable TV. However, it is a Netflix Original. Unlike the vast majority of Netflix shows, this show is a multi-camera sitcom, with a real live studio audience providing the laughter in the background. According to Pili Valdes in her article, “What it’s Like to Attend a Live Taping of Netflix’s ‘One Day at a Time'” mentions “The first take it felt like we were watching a family understand how they’re viewed and how to react to it. By the fifth take, you felt like you were part of the family. This cast is just sublime.” This idea has been true for sitcoms for decades, where if you watch enough of the show, you can almost feel the magic of becoming part of the family in the show. The difference with “One Day at a Time” is that it does not represent what many other sitcoms represent which is a white domestic family. This show, features a Cuban family who immigrated to the United States. In addition, the show brings up many controversial topics. In a genre where many shows are aimed at conservative values, this show is very progressive while still maintaining the classic sitcom elements such as familiar camera cuts, and of course the live studio audience.

Sitcoms are often looked at as a very simple type of show. However in the Youtube documentary, “The One That Goes Behind the Scenes,” a different view of sitcoms is presented. Sitcoms, like “Friends” which is the highlighted show in this documentary, is a very hard type of entertainment to produce in many ways. Other than the simple luxuries of producing sitcoms such as a simple story line and easy camera angles, everything else is a challenge. Using the same set over and over, and being able to tell a story in a episode that is less than 30 minutes is a true challenge. Because of this, I have a greater appreciation of sitcoms and what it takes to make them. I also have a newfound appreciation for sitcoms that challenge social norms, such as featuring a family who are immigrants from a country like Cuba.

Netflix taking on shows like sitcoms also generates the thought that they can produce and type of show and sitcoms are not exclusive to cable networks. Sitcoms have always generated a community or family type feel, so if someone were to put Netflix on their big TV and watch “One Day at a Time” with their whole family, it would be nearly impossible to tell any difference between this show and any other type of show on cable. It still is a show that can be watched with the entire family, whether or not is on cable or Netflix.

Audience laughter can be cheesy at times, but it also can help remind and inform the viewers at home of what the director wants them to laugh at or appreciate. For example, Manuel Betancourt mentions in the article, “Make ‘Em Laugh Track: How Netflix’s One Day at a Time Resuscitates the Multi-Cam Sitcom” the importance of a live audience by stating, “The raucous applause that greets the beloved performer as she makes her entrance in the series’ first episode is so contagious and well-earned that any qualms you may have about the show’s live studio audience go out the window” as he refers to the entrance of Rita Moreno. This moment was key and made me smile, which is the whole point of sitcoms. “One Day at a Time” is a breath of fresh air in this sense, as it still makes you smile, even though the topics in the show are unique to TV, and very progressive compared to shows like “Roseanne” or “Last Man Standing” which are more traditional. The cast of “One Day at a Time” is highlight of the production, but these writers and directors are excellent as well, even though they can be overlooked in sitcoms often. Without them, there is no show, or laughs from the real audience watching as the actors and actresses do their magic to bring words on a page to life.

The Influence of a Genre

Genres in film and TV are sometimes the sole reason why someone will watch a specific item. For myself, I try to avoid horror films and shows  at all costs because I simply typically do not enjoy those types of shows from prior experiences. When a show gets labeled by a certain genre, specific stereotypes about the item will usually be made before the show is even viewed. For example, Lost in Space , just by looking at the name it can be assumed that is going to be a sci-fi show. When the first scene comes on the screen, that premonition is proven to be true with the shot of the family playing cards in the space shuttle. However, in some ways shows can lean away from common traits within their genres. For this show in particular, family is still at the core of the show, even though this isn’t necessarily a family show. In addition, there is elements of humor which isn’t rare in sci-fi as seen in films like Guardians of the Galaxy. Still though, there are all of the typical elements of sci-fi such as aliens, space travel, and foreign planets.

Godless, categorized as a western film, is less stereotypical of typical westerns, though.  Again, it has many elements of what makes up the traits to be a western, but has some twists as well. The biggest twist is how the entire town is made up of only Women. In recent years, westerns have actually becoming less ‘typical’ of what traditional westerns have always been. Sometimes they’ll make them comedies, or mix sci-fi with westerns. As mentioned by Scott Tobias in his “‘Godless’: Why Netflix’s Brutal, Timely Western Is a Must-See” review on Rolling Stone, he says, “Though Godless was conceived over 15 years ago, it happens to come out at a time when stories of sexual misconduct from Hollywood to Capital Hill have exposed the abuses of men in power.” In actuality, this show could be reinventing the western genre to give females bigger roles, in an age where that is becoming popular in Hollywood. Far different from westerns 50 years ago, where women were only in the show to usually ‘assist’ the main character, usually a male.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi shows but have never been a fan of westerns. Although almost all genres follow their own storylines and have certain traits that go along with them, seeing a show that breaks away slightly from these elements is refreshing, and worth watching in my opinion. At the same time, if a perfectly executed sci-fi comes out that is very traditional, I’ll still end up watching it if it is done extremely well. In addition, especially for sci-fi, the story can great, but if the quality of production slacks I may shut it off because it is less believable.

Santa Clarita- Diet was my least favorite show out of these three. I think this really stems from the fact that the thought of blood makes me squeamish, and thinking about someone eating and drinking blood/flesh just about makes me want to shut off the show. With that said, I understand zombie shows are popular for a lot of audiences. Adding humor to this ‘ kinda horror show’ makes it more bearable. I also feel though that this type of show has been done before in different types of ways. I feel like it follows a narrative of “typical family under disguise.” I have seen this before in shows like The Americans. I think in the first episode, this show leans towards Comedy, maybe because everything about what makes this a horror is comedic and realistic for me, but also because of the elements of intended humor as well.

Addicted to an Escape via Binge-Watching

Sometimes, binge-watching seems like the perfect activity when I’m bored, other times I NEED it, to escape from reality. In many ways, TV and movies have always been about escaping from reality. However, with binge-watching this tis true at the most extreme possible way. A movie at a movie theater is usually about two hours. A TV cable sitcom is about thirty minutes. Before Netflix, these durations were the max amount of time allotted to an ‘escape’ from reality. With Netflix though, these escapes can be all day events, or potentially weeklong events. It is literally possible to forgot about life and the real world all day if you one were to just watch an entire series on Netflix, viewing one episode after another.

After binge-watching the first six chapters of House of Cards, I did it in a binge style way, one after another. Before I started watching, I thought I would just watch one episode and take a break. Instead, I felt obligated to keep going. According to Zachary Snyder, in his writings within “The Cognitive Psychological Effects of Binge-Watching,” he talks about the anti-social and negative impacts caused by binge-watching. As much fun as binge-watching is, it really has its consequences so in this regard I agree with Snyder. I felt consequences myself actually. While watching House of Cards, I skipped right through dinner time and decided against eating with my roommates. This decision had no other reasoning other than the fact that I really wanted to keep watching. Although this example isn’t a huge issue, I have had worst incidents such as skipping class. That only happened once, but it was one time too many.

I will say that I don’t let it impact my life too much, but for some people it can be a real addiction causing real serious implications on people’s lives. The easy access to the content, definitely adds to this as well. You can start a show on your TV, then continue it on the bus or train to work on your cellphone, then you can finish it on your laptop in between classes in a study lounge. Due to the ease of viewing, one could keep fueling their addiction even outside of their dark room at midnight. For me, the only true severe negative impact on binge-watching would be my health. I have noticed if I watch too much Netflix, my eyes really hurt. I’m not sure if they are becoming permanently damaged by doing this, but in the meantime, they really start to sting and feel irritated after a few hours.

 

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Either way if this is good or bad for the viewer, it is good for Netflix because their concept of viewing TV shows is obviously getting people to watch a lot. House of Cards for example, was their first original series, and it set the standard for creating shows that are interesting but tell a story from one episode to the next.

In traditional sitcom, a lot of the time one episode does not relate to others. If that was the case with Netflix, binge-watching might not be as effective. However, since TV shows on Netflix are almost like one big long movie, it makes sense for viewers to keep on wanting to watch, all day and night. I would go as far to even say that seasons overlap into seasons. So, theoretically, you could watch every season and every episode of House of Cards and it would be like watching one big show/movie mashed up together.

 

Netflix Ended my Childhood as I Knew it

Growing up there was a special place just down the hill from my house. You could drive, bike, or walk to it. Either way, at the bottom of the hill a bright blue and yellow building shined bright under the Southern California sunshine. The word above the doors of this building was Blockbuster. To the left were the video games, to the right was the movies and tv shows. Up front at the counter was a whole array of movie snacks, candy, and popcorn. Going to blockbuster was an experience, and a commitment to tell yourself that you would be watching a movie that night, or renting a video game to play non-stop until the rental period expired.

Netflix Blockbuster 1

Then, at almost perfect timing of when I was told I wasn’t a ‘kid’ anymore, Blockbuster started heading down the tubes and Netflix emerged. This new company ultimately brought an end to my childhood entertainment rental experience. This downfall and emergence is highlighted in a Business Wars podcast called “Sudden Death.”  After listening to this podcast and critically thinking about the outcome of these two companies, it’s clear that Netflix started surging for a few main reasons. One, when society wanted things faster and easier, Netflix delivered. In the long run, it’s simply cheaper too. Renting one DVD from blockbuster was almost as much as a monthly Netflix subscription. This doesn’t even include the fact that to watch a DVD you also have to buy a DVD player, while with Netflix, you can watch the show on a TV, Phone, Tablet, Computer, or Laptop.

Aside from Blockbuster, Netflix also altered the concept of watching a TV show at a specific time on cable for many shows. I could watch the entire series of a show in one night now, on my own in my dark bedroom at 1am on a school night. Before this, watching a show was usually a family event on the TV in the living room with my family. However, according to the article “Questioning Netflix’s Revolutionary Impact: Changes in the Business and Consumption of Television” by Cameron Lindsay, Netflix is not just another way to view TV shows that could have been viewed on cable, as they also offer their own shows. Netflix Originals are unique to Netflix. So, the more popular these shows become, the more people will need to subscribe to Netflix to watch them.

As much as I have some amazing memories at Blockbuster, Netflix has provided some as well. When you’re bored with friends you don’t have to go down to a store, you can pull up your show instantly or start a movie night spontaneously. With that said, not everyone uses Netflix. Some use Hulu, some use Amazon Prime, some use Crackle. All of these, though, have the similarities of being a streaming provider which really came with the ‘Netflix Effect’ of wanting things instantly and creating original content. This movement of new media has swept the nation, and the world. Blockbuster was the original rental movie giant, but times change and Netflix took over the market.

*Maybe though, if I want to relive the glory days I’ll trek to one of the last remaining Blockbusters. Yes, there are a few real Blockbusters still around! Just like this one in Alaska:

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(Blockbuster in Alaska)