Television Without Pity

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ER's Noah Wyle shaved and Buffy the Vampire Slayer's season of darkness lightened up for the same reason: a TV fansite called televisionwithoutpity.

The site is devoted to schlock (as its webmasters define it), and intentionally institutionalizes catty couch-potato reaction. But this British account reports that its lurkers include a number of the writers and producers of the shows that the site is devoted to criticizing, and that producers are making script adjustments, big and small, based on what they read there.

Fan intervention like this is another nail in the coffin of the Frankfurt School's still-influential "cultural industry" argument. That posits that cultural consumers are powerless, and eat whatever crap is shoveled at them by cynical cultural marketers. That was never true. Now, thanks to the technological tools in the hands of the audience, fans are only getting more powerful.

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  1. People that have worked in any business attempting to market a product have long understood this concept. You live or die by your customer’s expections, not the other way around. It’s only the ivory tower academics, politicians and the occational populist or intellectual snob that don’t get it.

  2. Another nail in the coffin? Not at all, if anything, it’s further proof.

    All it is is just an additional focus group. Which is what is being railed against in the “cultural industry” arguments. In a sense, the web site is little more than a rant for those who weren’t involved in the focus groups that preceded the airings.

    The only problem I’ve ever had with the “cultural industry” argument is the labelling of good and bad. Some things are improved with focus group input, others are ruined with it. It’s a matter of taste, not “goodness” or “badness”.

  3. A good example of fan-intervention is Pro-Wrestling (stop the snickering, it is culture — lowbrow culture but culture none-the-less). Though the WWE takes pop-shots at “Internet fans” on its broadcasts, it is clear that its writers frequent these sites and adjust storylines to fit their tastes (though recently they have expressed renewed hostility to Internet fans, who are constantly bashing the product — the low ratings indicate that non-internet fans agree).

    Another example is the Lord of the Rings movie — where the director has admitted that fan feedback (mainly through the Internet) was a factor in his decision making.

    Schlock-fans of the world, unite!

  4. A good example of fan-intervention is Pro-Wrestling (stop the snickering, it is culture — lowbrow culture but culture none-the-less). Though the WWE takes pop-shots at “Internet fans” on its broadcasts, it is clear that its writers frequent these sites and adjust storylines to fit their tastes (though recently they have expressed renewed hostility to Internet fans, who are constantly bashing the product — the low ratings indicate that non-internet fans agree).

    Another example is the Lord of the Rings movie — where the director has admitted that fan feedback (mainly through the Internet) was a factor in his decision making.

    Schlock-fans of the world, unite!

  5. Yet another example of this whole instant-feedback mechanism is this forum itself. It affords the Reason staff the opportunity to post a thought on some news item and almost instantly check the pulse of reader reaction.

  6. “wohs ruoy deredrum dna depar sevitucexe XOF”

    Yup… as someone who was really getting into “Firefly” that was exactly my sentiment as well. Heck, it was by far the most “libertarian” show on TV.

  7. Our pop culture, as manifested through TV shows, movies, and various other media, is and always has been simply a mirror of our own culture anyway. I’m not sure why producers reacting to fan input is such a shocking thing. It has been happening all along. The miracle of technology simply eases and streamlines that process.

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