1. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    Failure of the Audience

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Bone2pick, May 18, 2019.

    This thread was sparked by a message board discussion of the last season of Game of Thrones, but it doesn't include any spoilers - at least my posts won't. So there's no need to click away if that's something you would worry about.

    ~~~​

    While reading through a thread on another forum discussing the final season of GoT, I came across an interesting comment. It was from a member who, while he listed some criticisms of season eight, was overall more satisfied with the season than unsatisfied with it. Which as far as I'm concerned, is a perfectly fine perspective. I don't really have a dog in that fight, as I quit watching sometime during season five for various reasons, none of which are important to this thread.

    Anyway, when the poster addressed how polarizing (dare I say unpopular) the final season has went over with fans, he claimed the fault was with them, and not the writing. To be clear, he was specifically speaking about the complaints pertaining to how certain characters have been handled/developed. He went as far to say that the outrage over the handling of one particular character was a "failure of the audience."

    It was those words that set off my storytelling spider senses. Could that be true? I hadn't thought about such a thing until this morning, but my intuitions told me no. Now, in case there's any confusion, by taking a 'no' position, that doesn't mean I believe the audience is always right. In my case case it just means I'm not convinced the audience is in a position to "pass" or "fail" on how they respond to narrative choices in a series.

    It also occurred to me that, in order to give credit to the writer(s) of a successful genre series, you have to accept that they are responsible for the audience that they acquire. After all, it was their plotting, pacing, and character development that hooked and held onto their fans throughout the series. And all of those narrative choices along the way are what the audience uses to form their expectations.

    But those are just my thoughts. What do you think? If one of your favorite genre series concluded with an exceptionally polarizing final season or book, might you chalk up the controversy as a "failure of the audience"?
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
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  2. Earp

    Earp Copy That Contributor

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  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I've mostly watched Game of Thrones through YouTube. :) I think I've seen every moment of Arya's story, and there are characters in Season Eight where my reaction is, "Who? Yeah, I guess he exists."

    My fairly uninformed view of Season Eight is that it's closing far too many things far too fast. Based on the pacing so far, they should have taken, oh three more seasons to prepare the ground for where they are now. And in that context, I certainly blame the authors rather than the audience--it's not reasonable to condemn the audience for expecting the pacing to resemble what it's been up to this point.

    But I don't know if that's the complaint.

    If the complaint is that

    it looks like the series is going to end on a theme of the horror of war, and a conclusion that no one who engages in war is anything but evil, that there is no glory in war, etc.,

    then I would say that that could arguably be a failure of the audience, because it seemed pretty clear that that was where it was going all along.

    So I guess I'd argue that if a fictional work has been communicating something all along, and the audience has been saying, "Ooh! Shiny!" and ignoring that something, then when the work ends and that something becomes unavoidable, then one could argue that the audience is in the wrong.

    Edited to add: However, one could argue that the audience was cheated. If the audience was watching for X, and the work fed a desire for X and made it pretty easy to ignore Y, then if in the end it's all about Y, the audience also has grounds for complaint.

    I'm curious about the complaint and what character.
     
  4. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

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    First reaction: The audience is never wrong. I as the writer (or screenwriter) have the responsibility to take their taste into account.

    But what if, for various reasons, I don't want to worry about them? Take ie. a writer who is a writer purely for artistic reasons and for self-discovery. He/She won't try to please the audience, and no one would think that this writer did it wrong. He/She did it because of their own aesthetics and what they want to get out of it. Their goal is not the audience.

    But seen from a commercial standpoint? Of course, the audience must be right. Always.

    If the audience is right or not is a question of goal. Each writer and entity has to decide for themselves what they want the goal to be.

    ETA: That disregards failures of storyboards and concise plotting of character and setting.
     
  5. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    When you invest time, you want the ending you want. A good surprise ending is when the ending is so good you didn’t even know you want it.

    I used to have a favorite author and was reading three of her series at once, basically as they came out. Finished one series with an ending I didn’t want a quit reading all of her other books completely, unwilling to dedicate more time to books that were clearly not for me.

    I didn’t downvote the books or leave bad reviews. I still recognize that they are actually great, but I just hated that ending and was like nope, I’m done here. Obviously I’m alone on it because the books are still popular, but what percentage of fans do you need to piss off before they campaign to make sure everyone else hates your product as well? 10%? 20%?

    Because there are people that will like your story until they see a Vice News video about how it’s bad.
     
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  6. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    The writers know their audience, and are responsible for the reaction that they get. They can't make everyone happy but they can make choices that make the most people happy, and we see in cases like Game of Thrones that they probably could have done better, especially with more time to wrap things up.
     
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  7. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think it's all too easy for writers to blame others when really the problem lies with them. When our work is rejected we can say the publisher didn't get it. It's their loss. When bad reviews come out we can say those readers or viewers didn't get it. It's their loss. But that's not true no matter how bad writers want it to be. Good writing gets picked up. Good writing leads to good reviews. Maybe you won't please everyone, but blaming the audience or publisher or readership is sort of a childish response. We put our work out there, hoping it will be well received. If it's not, it comes down to the work. Failing to captivate or impress and audience is a failure and not something that should set of a blame game. I'm not one who ever got into watching Game of Thrones so I don't know the specifics of what went wrong. But if things didn't go over well, it's most likely that perhaps the best choices weren't made when it came to the story. And the audience had no say in that. If it failed to win people over, it failed to win people over.
     
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  8. Lilith Fairen

    Lilith Fairen Member

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    Any time there's an extreme vitriolic reaction to a story, oftentimes those who are extremely vocal really don't represent the majority at all.

    Heck, a large part of why people act like total jerks over things they don't like is to dissuade anyone who thinks differently from voicing their opinions, out of fear that they'll be on the receiving end of the same abuse.
     
  9. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Contributor Contributor

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    I've had discussions on this very subject with various GoT fans and have noticed disparity between those who have ONLY watched the TV show and those who have also read the books.
    The book readers, myself included, have lived with these characters and story's for a greater number of years and thus feel the last season is rushed. The TV viewers seem to be less inclined to feel this way.
    On the other end of the spectrum, many watchers have been enthralled by the Michael Bay style cinematics and care far less about the character arcs in general.
     
  10. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    What are you thoughts on movies that underperform in theaters, but then go on (in some cases years later) to capture and satisfy a much larger audience?

    I don't have all the deatails on this, so someone can correct me if I'm mistaken, but I'm reminded of Star Trek the original series. I'm fairly sure it was cancelled after only three seasons, yet it went on to be widely considered one of the greatest science fiction television series of all time.

    I'm not arguing anything here; I'm just chumming the waters for more discussion.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Yes, the fault can lay with the audience. I wouldn't use that as my go-to argument if an audience doesn't respond to a work they way one wants, but it doesn't make sense to me to rule it out as an impossibility. The audience is made up of people. People can be wrong. Large groups of people can be very wrong.
     
  12. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    People can be wrong about something objective, sure. Like whether or not the Earth is flat. But suggesting the audience's reaction to a film, book, or piece of music can be wrong... I'm not convinced of that.
     
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  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I think it is possible. Look at painting, for example. There are technical aspects of the art, just like in writing, but appreciation is largely subjective. A guy like Van Gogh was unappreciated in his lifetime. Were art audiences wrong then? Are they wrong now? There are poets and writers who have experienced the same. The writing didn't change after their death.
     
  14. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    And that's what we're discussing. We can't objectify character development, pacing, conflict, and conflict resolution. So in that respect, the audience disapproval can't be wrong.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Since this topic was spurred by TV shows, it's worth noting there are a lot of great TV shows that did not give the audiences what they asked for and would have been better if they hadn't.

    Anyone remember Buffy, for example? In the first few seasons there, a large segment of the audience would have given their lefts arms for Buffy and Angel to have a happy ending. It would have been the easy out for the writers--the curse gets resolved, Buffy and Angel are together and team up to fight the bad guys. It didn't work that way, and I think the show would have been the worse for it had the writers taken the easy path that a lot of the audience was hoping for.

    Does that mean the audience was wrong? I don't know. Not wrong about their own subjective wants, but wrong about what made the show better.
     
  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I think subjective views can't be proven to be right or wrong using logic, empirical evidence, and the like. But I think they can still be wrong, and if you start to explore someone's subjective views and ask them to articulate reasons for this I think you can sometimes see where they go wrong.
     
  17. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    Ah, well, then I disagree. For "wrong" to mean anything worthwhile to me it has to be rooted in logic, empirical evidence, and the like.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I was taught at some point in my formative years that happiness and satisfaction is about having correct expectations. By correct, I mean that the expectation is at least plausible as an outcome, and that there is a track history pointing towards that expectation.

    My personal opinion with regard to GoT was that the anomaly or phenomenon that viewers experienced, noticed, and expressed displeasure over had to do with a shift in the direction of expectation.

    The initial seasons were driven by an existing storyline. The last season (and arguably the penultimate one) were not.
    The initial seasons were driven by a creator who is an admitted pantser. The last episodes were driven by people who are professional plotters.

    And as the rift between books and show grew, that section of the fandom that knew both versions got more and more disillusioned with the direction of the show. Whole story arcs were missing. Where was Brienne's Quest with Podrick? What, just those couple of episodes where they wandered around the countryside? No, no. They HAD AN ENTIRE, WHOLE-ASS QUEST!!!

    This, on top of an already existing dissolution with respect to how hard the show leaned into gratuitous titillation. You know who spoke about breasts the most in the books? Cersei Lannister. At one point in the books, her character latches on to the word "dugs" (the line of breast tissue you see in a female dog or sow, different from an udder, which is a distinct structure that hangs away from the abdomen) and starts using that word to refer derogatorily to other women. Seriously, it's the most boobs you'll find in the whole series. Podrick's infamous, on-the-house, "You don't have to pay, O Podrick of the Magic Penis" night with the prosties up in Littlefinger's brothel? It never happens in the books because a) the time Podrick spends in Tyrion's service is only cursorily mentioned in the books, and b) because it's questionable whether Pod has even gone through puberty in the books, he's THAT young. What does he do instead? Read the prior paragraph. And even the Renly hearts Loras action that I really wanted to read, it's hinted at so vaguely and obscurely in the books that I missed it. I missed it and I was looking for it and I am the King of Reading Subtext!

    tl;dr

    Let's face it - it was too big not to fail.

    Now, to answer the original question, yes, I have experienced moments when I feel that a generally poor engagement by the audience is not the fault of the film or show. I don't think it happens very often, but it can happen, at least to a certain degree.

    My example:

    [​IMG]

    Universally panned by critics and audiences alike, it is, imo, Shamalamadingdong's best film to date. The mistake here was in marketing this film as the kind of film that would appeal to average audiences. It's not. It's a film that brings an unusual aspect of writing, metafiction, something that most people are only aware of in its milder forms, and delivered the more full-flavored form, and audiences simply did not have the tools or experience with the dynamic to grok it.
     
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  19. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    The trouble with this example is that it isn't a series. I was clear to make that distinction in my original post to avoid this confusion.

    It follows that the audience who are invested in the final season/book of a series have been, by and large, satisfied with its themes and content. So if it happens that the audience a series has acquired doesn't "have the tools to grok" its final season/book, then I have trouble imagining the fault lies with them.
     
  20. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

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    It really can't be the fault of the audience because the entire job of the writers is to appeal to the audience, whatever the audience happens to want. The audience is always key. If you have no audience, you have no ratings, meaning you have no advertisers, meaning you have no show. It is the sole job of the writers and directors and actors to make sure that whatever end product they produce resonates with a sizeable number of people, such that it becomes an ongoing concern. It's how things work in the real world, whether you're talking about books or television or movies or anything else. Attracting an audience is key.

    That said though, and I have a serious problem with this, but most people are just downright stupid. The majority of people are overly-emotional idiots who just want to be spoon fed pablum intended for the lowest conceivable denominator and that's why most movies and TV shows aren't aimed at intelligent people. They're aimed at morons. There are some exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of network television shows and movies are aimed at people who want to turn their brains off and stop caring what's happening. This is a problem.

    But when it comes to last seasons of TV shows, often the producers are doing their best to tie up multi-season-long plot holes and tie the whole thing up in a bow and that makes the season boring. They're not telling good stories with good characters, they're doing damage control. It's all "hey, remember that thing that happened back in season 2 that you've stopped caring about? We're going to have an episode on it!" It's why last seasons, especially last seasons of canceled shows that were given a season or a half-season to wrap things up, tend to be bad. They lose sight of what made the show worth watching in the first place, plus the production staff stops caring because they know they're already out of a job no matter what they do. They've failed the audience because they aren't giving the audience what they audience wants. But then again, if they had been doing that all along, they probably wouldn't have gotten canceled in the first place, right?
     
  21. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I don't agree with this. There is a lot of art not created for this purpose. If this statement were true, then the job of every creator would, by extension, be to appeal to the largest possible audience and what they want. I don't agree with that either. There are some cases where this may be the goal of the creator, but it certainly isn't always the case and isn't the whole job of a writer.
     
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  22. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    When I'm writing I don't think about my readership. I only think about my story. I write it to please and appeal to my lover, a friend, an editor or a publisher. I don't think of the masses and what they want. I think about pleasing one person and I think that helps me stay focus and less nervous. Right before a publication date or when something just comes out then I think about how my work will be perceived, but by that point it's just sort of a wait and see sort of thing. I think it's best if you write to please one person. Even that is an accomplishment. Still, I can't get mad if people think I suck. I mean I can, but that doesn't mean it's their fault.

    There are very few books I've stopped reading, but it has happened. Not everyone is going to be as great as we hope. Not everything is going to get a warm reception. Not everything is going to hit the ball out of the park. Somethings are a let down. And who else can you really blame other than the creator? That's how I see it.
     
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  23. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I kinda agree, other than that I don't think that it makes sense for anything to have perfectly broad appeal.

    I mean, I admire Michael Bay. I liked Transformers when I saw it. I just rewatched Bad Boys and I still like it. I don't know that Bay is "trying" to appeal to the masses anymore than anyone else. I think he's making shit exactly how he wants to, and it happens to have broad appeal, because that is what his tastes are. Few movie critics are going to write about how they really enjoyed Transformers because they turned their brain off and give it a 90%. They will just complain that it's hollow. I know it is hollow. That's why I went to watch it.

    So, if I read a book and it's a letdown, I'm not blaming the author. Maybe, maybe I'll blame the book's marketing for making me expect something that wasn't delivered, but that's it.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
  24. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

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    You don't have to appeal to the largest audience, but you have to appeal to someone. Otherwise, you don't get paid. In fact, there's a lot of people out there who are trying to cater to the largest possible audience because they want the largest possible paycheck. I find those people to be writing unintelligent shlock. But all writers, at least those trying to do it professionally, have to write with an audience in mind, otherwise they're just wasting their time.
     
  25. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    I can't answer the Game of Thrones because I saw the first episode and didn't care for it. But the audience is very broad, so it's impossible to make everyone happy and I think the ones who weren't happy tend to be the most verbal. Americans REALLY care about their shows, more so than I see in my country, and I think it's because American shows tend to run longer than most British ones.

    I do remember one uproar though. This story ran in a soap here and I think the anger at the ending happened because the writers failed to read their audience and didn't seem to realize the upset it would create. They stood by their decision but in a statement they made, I felt like they knew they'd made a mistake. Characters in this show die and get forgotten, never mentioned, but this character kept being brought up and having stories from beyond the grave.

    This teenage girl joined the show and her personality didn't "fit in" with the other characters. She was kind, gentle and shy so she got pushed around a lot by the rough characters. She was nick-named "dippy" by the Press. And this girl took rejection after rejection, and just kept dusting herself off and going back in. Then she started pushing back and put up a really intense fight. She wanted her goal so badly she put everything at stake, she changed and became stronger. People fell in love with her and when she was killed off, millions complained. I think the producers were a little surprised because they were unaware of this audience shift, no one had hated her, she just annoyed people with her dippy, spineless ways, but when she started to fight back is was a shock. You didn't think she had it in her. The audience and so many characters has underestimated her because she was quiet. But the main reason people reacted so badly was, the show runners had made a promise to the audience that we would get this big moment and made us wait almost a year - then didn't deliver and it felt dissatisfying.

    The audience are never wrong and if you present something they dislike it's not on them. Of course not everyone will love it, but if a majority of loyal loving fans have a issue...
    I think sometimes show runner go for that deliberately.
     

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