my tv obsession, reading

fans don’t own the work. period.


It seems there’s a kerfuffle in certain circles over the recent casting announcement for the film version of 50 Shades of Grey, the Twilight fanfic/erotica that has become about as popular as the work that inspired it.

And then I saw this: “Batfleck,’ ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ and Fan Entitlement Syndrome.” (Side note to Forbes: PLEASE FIX YOUR TYPOGRAPHY PROBLEM. You’re giving me a migraine.)

To which I can only add: “Word.”

Any writer who cares even the littlest bit about the work wants fans to become involved in the work and its characters. But there’s a wide gulf between involvement and ownership.

As a fan, I know it’s hard to trust storymakers sometimes. There’ve been a few occasions where my ability to simply go along for the ride was severely tested and found wanting (the last two seasons of House, for one, also a few dozen choices on Grey’s Anatomy — killing Denny, the implausibility of that absurd plane crash, George and Izzy coding at the same time … oh, enough).

Grey’s is actually a really good example of what I’m talking about, come to think of it. During the fifth season, Denny “came back” – visible, touchable, and – erm, love-able (let’s keep this PG-rated) only to fiancee Izzy – ostensibly as a ghost. Later we learned he was actually a hallucination, a symptom of Izzy’s metastasized skin cancer.

And not only were there howls of protest over this storyline – but the protests invariably called what they were protesting “ghost sex.”

Massive. Migraine. Inducing. Eyeroll.

Along with claims that “that’s just not the show we’ve been watching!” (also crap, because Rimes put in spiritual or supernatural touches in a number of episodes before this arc came along), the insistence on calling it “ghost sex” belies an underlying assumption: namely, that the fans have some say in what happens in the work in question.

We don’t.

We can criticize the execution. We can criticize the idea itself. We can stop watching or reading. But we just don’t have the ownership interest to validate petitions to change casting or to rewrite something we didn’t like.

The author – the producer – the showrunner – the artist is the one who gets to decide what story she’s telling.

Not the fans.

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