this got super long and basically became a reply to this entire situation so…
Well, I don’t know if I have the answer you’re looking for.
I have never been remotely subtle about the fact that I don’t think content creators have any business inserting themselves into audience discourse or about the fact that AS a content creator I think it’s straight up unhealthy to hover around looking at every reaction.
Or to put it another way, I have always been vocal in my belief that fannish reactions to creative output on a site like Tumblr are not fundamentally different from, say, a book review. When a person writes a book review either professionally or on Amazon.com or something, it’s not actually meant for the author of the book. The review is them sharing their opinion with other members of the audience to agree with or disagree with or to use to decide whether or not to read the book. The author has literally no place in that. They’ve said their idea out loud. They’ve put the work out there. It has to be free to live on its own and speak for itself.
Surfing through the tags this morning I’ve seen a ton of people implying/asserting that the only reason a fan wouldn’t want the content creator around is if they wanted to say “mean” things about said creator, which is patently silly. Or that they want the creators to just disappear entirely. Again, silly and untrue. People also seem to think that the posts are about a single instance of one fan making a joke to which cast members reacted poorly. Again, not true if you actually read the posts in question.
I don’t think anyone has much of a problem with the idea of creators opening themselves up to questions and that sort of thing. But that’s entirely different than them lurking in fannish spaces and engaging with every little reaction. And the issue people take with one single interaction is nothing on the entire atmosphere of the fandom and how it’s affected by the creator presence.
The reason many people don’t want content creators hovering around their reactions and popping up to share their opinions on them is because it stifles their ability to have open critical discourse about the text itself. Critiquing a text, even if your conclusion is that it is horrible, is in no way wrong. Art is what it is. Different people like different things.
But critiquing a text to the face (figuratively speaking) of the person who created it, when you know that they are extremely invested in it as their creation on which they’ve worked hard, is much much much MUCH more difficult. Should it be? Probably not. People should have some separation from their work and be able to allow criticism or even outright dislike slide off of their back, but there are very few people who are like that. Which means that when the creator is RIGHT THERE and you constantly see them liking and reblogging and responding to reactions, you might very well feel like you cannot share your genuine feelings about the work. Doesn’t matter if it’s true. People are still going to feel that way.
It won’t be everyone.
Maybe you don’t feel any compunctions about criticizing things even though the creators are right there. I, personally, don’t give a fuck and, as such, have no problem being upfront about things like finding the current Lydia arc a disastuh in which I have no interest. But that’s not going to be true of everyone and it doesn’t have to be.
I know for a fact that there are people who DO feel that way about airing grievances with aspects of LBD because often when I’m one of the only ones who’s bothered to say something, I will be deluged with askbox messages of people thanking me for saying it and admitting that they feel like they can’t say it on the tag without fandom jumping all over them in defense of the cast and crew or the cast and crew themselves getting huffy, which is an environment that is fed by them being so present and people knowing that they’re looking. I have a bunch of friends who love LBD but never post about it because they don’t want to be under that microscope.
In addition to stifling critique, that kind of creator involvement also tends to lead to a fandom perception of “good fans” and “bad fans” based around the given creators’ personal preferences. There’s a lot of JUST BECAUSE THEY WORK ON THE SHOW DOESN’T MEAN THEY CAN’T HAVE OPINIONS going around (a LOT), but that’s not the point. The pertinent part is when and how they choose to share those opinions in direct intercourse with the fans.
A lot of this, for instance, has focused around Rachel Kiley and her interactions with the fandom. Rachel Kiley has on various occasions openly admitted to not being invested in the Gigi/Darcy/Pemberley storyline and primarily being into Lydia and the interactions of the sisters. All on its own? Fine! Everyone cares about different things in stories. No skin off of anyone’s nose if Miscellaneous Human 2908240 cares about something else.
But Rachel Kiley isn’t just a miscellaneous human. She’s a writer on the show, which means that when she states her opinions to fans it carries more weight regardless of whether she intends for it to or not and if she states it in a way that again, intentionally or not, comes off as harsh then it’s only going to worsen the situation.
The creators of any given thing that a fandom crops up around are just normal people like anyone else. In a production that is as tiny as LBD, that’s even more true because there’s even less separation. But when people love a work, the people who are responsible for that work tend to take on a larger than life aspect for them. This happens all the time in LBD fandom. See also the million posts to the tags exclaiming in joy that Mary Kate Wiles or Ashley Clements or Rachel Kiley liked/reblogged their posts (despite this being a supremely common occurrence) or gigidarcy’s reacting to MKW and AC scolding her by fretting about what did she did to offend “the great ones.”
People are going to think (and have visibly and vocally done so constantly in LBD fandom) that if a ~*~!!Creator!!~*~ thinks that X is the most important thing about the story and people who care about X are watching it right then that must be the case and people who care about Z well, naturally, they’re watching it wrong.
And maybe they’ll be nice about it and just encourage people to care more about X. Or maybe they’ll be jerks about it and deride people for caring about Z or not caring about X. (e.g. I got anon hate for openly expressing my aforementioned dislike of the currently Lydia vlog arc.)
But that basic idea, that there is a right or a wrong way to engage with a story at all, is so false and wrongheaded I don’t have words for it, and it is a TERRIBLE environment for fannish discourse to take place in.
Because it leaves people who don’t care about the “right” things feeling shamed and embarrassed and as if their input is unwanted. Which, again, I have seen people express with regard to LBD fandom time and again.
It doesn’t even just have to be the creators explicitly expressing opinions. When there’s a debate happening in fandom about any given aspect of a storyline and the creators go around liking/reblogging/adding explicit statements of agreement to certain posts, it once again creates that right/wrong way to engage dichotomy. The creator endorsed this so it must be Right. The creator didn’t endorse this so it must be Wrong. And obviously it’s ten times worse when a creator takes the time to specifically express that a particular viewpoint is Wrong (in their opinion).
And it doesn’t matter if that was the last thing in the world that they intended.
Because it’s not “just” their opinion. Because of their position as a creator of the content under discussion the fandom will never, ever see it that way. They’re going to see it as Word of God. They’re going to see it as canon. They’re going to see it as guidelines for how to engage. They’re going to rally behind it because they are going to think it is automatically more worthwhile than other opinions, even if just subconsciously.
Free and open critical discourse cannot thrive in that kind of environment. And I know someone will go BUT LBD FANDOM HAS SO MANY BIG META POSTS ABOUT THIS THAT AND THE OTHER. It does. Some of them are from people like me who are going to be critical regardless, and some of them are from people whose opinions are aligned with the perceived opinions of the creators.
But almost all of them still color within some very specific, unspoken lines.
(Never criticize the writing quality, never criticize the performances, never imply that that there are any technical issues with the narrative at all, never declare a lack of interest in or dislike for the Chosen aspects of the story, only only only discuss the characters’ actions/relationships — but only in certain ways and at certain times and make sure not to be too hard on anyone!)
So many people have said, I FEEL FINE/GREAT/ECSTATIC ABOUT BEING ABLE TO INTERACT WITH THE CREATORS. But you have to realize:
A) No one wants you to NOT be able to interact with them. People want to be able to choose to seek out that interaction, not have it — and all its effects as I’ve just outlined — thrust upon them. (I have a friend who posted about no longer wanting to watch the Lydia vlogs after her first vlog from Vegas. MK Wiles replied to her post attempting to explain to her how sad it makes her and that what she perceived to be upsetting my friend wouldn’t last. My friend was so deeply uncomfortable with being confronted about her chosen manner of engagement by the actual actress whose work she’d declared she wasn’t going to be following, she went back to not tagging her LBD posts.)
B) The people who don’t feel that way… they probably avoid the fandom, in general, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that means you’re going to see far fewer of them in the tags declaring their position. And even with that said, those original posts certainly didn’t languish without notes. So clearly there are people who very much agree and discounting that because you personally aren’t uncomfortable certainly doesn’t add to the loving, kind fandom atmosphere that everyone likes to tout.
So yeah, when people say they feel stifled, when they say they want creators behind the fourth wall, they don’t mean they hate them all personally and never want to hear a word they have to say. They just mean that they want room to breathe and a fandom where no one’s opinion counts more than anyone else’s and they don’t have to feel bad for having opinons of their own.
No matter how much people wish it, that cannot happen in a fandom where the creators are participating as if they have the same relationship with the text as the audience.
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