I’m back! I’m still catching up with the shows I missed, but last week as I lay on the beach I took a few moments to ponder the relationship between Days and its fans.
I can think of shows with more fanatical fanbases (like Lost, or The X-Files), but I think that soaps have cornered the market on fans who are fanatical but who all want different things. Different couples have their shipper base: S&K, J&M, Bope, Shelle, Chick, Lumi, and Ejami. These fanbase factions are apt to start duking it out on message boards. (The fights between EJami shippers and Lumi shippers have gotten extremely ugly of late.) Then there are different desires of 80’s-era fans vs. 90’s era fans. I’ve seen Hogan vs. JER fights spring up. And finally, there are those who watch for the whole show and disdain all shipper fanbases.
And of course people can straddle these different positions depending on the day, or in my case which message board I’m on. I’m a proud S&K shipper and Chick shipper but I watch for the whole show. I have an emotional attachment to S&K and Chick no matter how bad their storyline is at the moment, but among the rest of the cast my favorites circulate depending on what is engaging me at the time. Last fall I loved Sami and Lucas and EJ but now I’m engaged by, believe it or not, Stephanie and the whole Touch the Sky crowd (though not Jett), Phillip, and Tony/Andre.
Being a fan of the whole show is generally a happy and comfortable experience. When one storyline is in the toilet, there is usually something else to engage my attention. The Lumi/EJami wars leave me utterly unaffected, except with impatience at reading their rantings on message boards. (I’m not being a hypocrite here. I also hated reading the rantings of S&K shippers last fall.)
And yet—speaking from experience, being part of a shipper fanbase provides the highest highs and the lowest lows. When our couple is happy we are over the moon. When they are unhappy we suffer and tear out our hair. We are a very loyal fans. The storylines can get bad, really bad, and we will still hang in there. And we will—some of us, anyway— scream bloody murder about whatever it is we are unhappy about. (My personal approach is to offer helpful suggestions about how the current storyline could be improved, and of course to provide motivations and subtexts that simply aren’t there—but could be. Fanwanking, my saving grace.)
Given that fanbases are probably the most vocal fans around, when should TPTB listen to us and when should they ignore us? Well, obviously, they should listen to us when we’re right, and ignore us when we’re wrong. But how to tell?
One thing I do know is that you can’t run a work of fiction like a political campaign, responding overnight to what yesterday’s polls say (political campaigns probably shouldn’t be run that way either, but that’s a different story). That old adage about how it is impossible to please ALL people ALL the time applies here. Sometimes I think that Ken Corday honestly believes that he can please both EJami shippers and Lumi shippers, and that’s a dangerous line to try to tread.
For my part, I figure I spend so much time writing about this show, I might as well share my thoughts with TPTB. I’ve written longer letters but now believe that postcards take less time and are more likely to be read. I’ve participated in a few shipper campaigns, I’ve put in plugs for my favorites. But more than any airtime issue, shipper issue, or storyline issue, I’ve come to realize that, above all, I just want a good story, dammit! Attempting to convey this on a postcard is challenging. I sent one to Hogan Sheffer soon after he took over where I wrote, along with some words of encouragement and props for my favorite characters, this helpful piece of advice: “Show us, don’t tell us, that a couple is meant to be.” During the last Chick breakup (the one where Chelsea suddenly fell for Jett), I said, “Obstacles don’t drive the story, desire drives the story.” **
What effect these will have is probably minimal at best. For one thing, I’m sure these are just a drop in the bucket in the flood of shipper complaints. Also, a few weeks ago, after sending in a postcard that said “payoffs are important,” I had to ask myself, if they don’t know this already, is reading it on a postcard really going to help?
But I’ll keep plugging away. If Ken Corday is really blowing whichever way the wind goes, maybe someday my postcard will end up on his desk at the crucial moment, and he’ll pick up the phone and tell Hogan, “The fans want payoffs! Whatever that is, give them some!”
**shamelessly ripped off from another TWoP poster