Discussion in 'Fan Town' started by OtherCat, Aug 27, 2016.
Yeah err. What from my POV you were doing was yelling at all of us who cannot with comments, and also telling us you don´t give a shit about our access needs. Lines like "We fucking learned to comment" play into experiences where people are often told to somehow just do things they cannot by the abled world in general, and then punished for still being unable to do the thing, so it hits a pretty sore point.
I feel like my experiences as a reader are deeply disconnected from the way writers seem to talk about readers? At worst, it’s like I’m a commodity with the same base value as a webcrawler bot that doesn’t understand or care about the words it scans on the page. I don’t think that’s a fully fair and accurate impression, but it’s definitely there, lurking. It has become increasingly confusing over time to figure out what I as a reader feel comfortable with, and how or if that can coexist with what authors seem to want.
One of the most shocking, freeing ideas I’ve ever heard about media was that an audience doesn’t have to do anything more than be an audience to be full participants in media. (The source maaaay have been Jay Edidin, but I unfortunately didn’t think to make a note of it.) You don’t have to produce anything or discuss or analyze anything to justify yourself as a consumer of media. You certainly can if you like, but you’ve already fulfilled your role simply by reading, watching, listening, etc. What a strange, wonderful thing to hear when you spent so many of your formative years knowing that you would have to meet various demands to produce content and discussion points as proof that you read a book at all, and then as further proof that you read it productively. If you were unconvincing enough about the right kind of productivity, it was tantamount to not having read the book at all. That’s honestly fucked up. Like you might as well have been a photocopier that could scan all the words as faithfully as you please but whose gaze in itself has no worth.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to feel resentful about lack of engagement. I think we’re all being set up to fail. Certainly not intentionally, I just don’t think the comment and kudos system is a good fit for the way readers actually interact with fiction. If it were, there wouldn’t be such a big ongoing discussion about readers not using it at a very high rate. That usually means a feature isn’t something the majority of users find relevant, not that the users are broken. If there’s widespread disillusionment among writers because of the engagement statistics, the writers aren’t broken either. That’s probably just not a good system either.
I do feel like the way readers are discussed is sometimes very disrespectful. I’m not trying to diminish how much it fucking sucks that so many writers feel like they’re pouring their effort, time, and hearts out, only to be treated as fic production machines, and there certainly are some amazingly entitled assholes out there. But it’s also kinda weird to talk about real people who spent their time reading someone’s writing as if they’re a faceless headcount of pointless lazy ingrates because they didn’t also fill out and submit a form. The role of readers in fiction doesn’t inherently involve crafting a visible reaction. That’s the exception, not the norm.
People sometimes argue that it’s different with fanfic because writers aren’t paid. From my perspective, I’m not paying my favorite youtube video essayists either. It may well feel different on the creator’s end, and I’m not trying to debate that. I’m only saying that to me, on my end, it feels remarkably similar. Interacting with an author to whom I have absolutely no meaningful social connection is exactly the same feeling as any other parasocial interaction with any other kind of content creator. I’d argue that that’s because it fundamentally is, even without money as a driving factor. It’s still content creators hoping to drive more of the most valuable engagement at higher rates. What’s being asked of readers is not just a little more time or thought. It’s participation in an interaction with a stranger of elevated status who doesn’t know you from Adam. When fic is enmeshed in community in a very social context, that’s one thing. Without that context, I sincerely believe that this is not healthy.
I’m not comfortable with it. It’s not because I don’t care about authors. It’s because I think this is a destructive system that I know from experience harms me mentally and emotionally. I honestly feel terrible that authors are feeling unappreciated, overlooked, and demotivated, but what they’re asking will hurt me. So no, I’m not gonna put myself through that again. I accept no responsibility for anyone’s happiness and stability but my own in the battle of the comments. When I say I feel terrible, I purely mean sympathy, not guilt.
I can sympathise with that viewpoint, both as a reader and a writer. I don't really understand the emphasis on, like, all feedback needing to be positive and praising the author for their efforts either -- when I say I want comments, I say I want to hear what someone else has to say about my work, positive or negative. (I just also reserve the right to not bother engaging with negativity.) Every step of the communication process should ideally be voluntary on both parts.
There will always be people who don't engage back and frankly, that's their prerogative, and if deciding to be in that category is soothing to you, excellent. It's just really disingenious to hear stories like these, over and over, every time writers start talking about how the amount of comments going around in general has fallen sharply in the past ten years. It feels deeply disingenious to not consider the social forces at play in fandom that cause people who are capable, and maybe even interested! in learning to leave comments and engage with authors not do that because the Almighty Like Button has come to dominate so much of all sorts of fannish activity.
I remember not having to nag people to maybe, like, every once in a while comment. I remember not having to put extra work into promoting the idea that People Are Allowed To Interact With Me. I don't know when and how it got this bad, where people who want to leave comments are too afraid to do that, people who don't want to leave comments feel like they're being systematically hounded for being comfortable not engaging, and people who want comments feel like everyone is telling them "shut up and just tell your stories".
I’m not solely talking about positive comments either. It’s a million times more draining writing concrit than praise and encouragement, and involves putting yourself in an even more vulnerable position in a conversation that already has uneven power dynamics. It’s awful. I would not even dream of doing it unless I knew the author pretty well and they asked me specifically, or they were paying me money. Otherwise, just no.
Interesting. I find writing suck-up comments (or in other words, positive comments on stories I didn't particularly enjoy) probably the worst type of comment to write, but I find going "this worked for me, this didn't" pretty effortless.
Granted that's "effortless, with a side order of ten years of meta writing and betaing and generally Making Words Go" and I don't remember what kind of comments I used to leave before I started really actively thinking about what I wanted to communicate.
As a writer:
I don't want concrit on the stories i put on ao3. You know that tag that's 'i wrote this for me but you can read it i guess'? That's me.
I don't want some rando's opinion on my use of adverbs and pacing. If people enjoyed what i did, cool, snazzy, sexy as hell if they let me know.
If they thought i overused metaphors they can keep it to themselves. I'm not putting the result of 'ten days writing binge' on ao3 to be told i gotta improve XYZ. I put it out there because i enjoyed creating it and i hope that maybe someone else enjoys reading it
It's like having a carved pumpkin on the porch for Halloween: if people tell me they think the Pumpkin rocks: amazing.
But i don't want their opinions on my detailing skills when the aim of my pumpkin was 'make joy and share it with the world'
frankly. I comment when I have something to say. if I let myself come into fic with a red pen in hand, I am no longer reading that fic to enjoy it, I'm reading to tear it to shreds, and that is not something I do for Fun Fic-Reading Relax Time. if the fic is so outstanding I feel moved to say something, sure, comments will happen. otherwise... I would put "unasked-for criticism," constructive or no, in the same... not quite bad faith but I am ironically having trouble making words go... insincere? pointless? box as what you call "suck-up comments". commenting just to comment is like... why am I even here. it's going to come out bland regardless of whether that's positive, neutral, or negative. I might as well just write "this is a comment" and walk away.
For me, the big change in how I comment and also whether I do is probably very much about growing distance from community, not the presence or absence of a kudos button. I’ve honestly stopped using that nearly as much too. I don’t want to make a statement directly to a stranger if I have no idea whether they might take very personally. Which is a little ironic in context of the post, because kudos serve a similar kind of function to reblogs as discussed there. Soooo it’s unfortunate kudos feel less comfortable now.
Livejournal, for all its many faults, was very good at letting fic be a fully integrated part of fandom communities. The barrier for comments and other interactions is so much lower if you have that sense of connection and who a person is. It was much harder to make the particular kind of uneven power dynamic that modern social media does as an inevitability of how it functions.
(I do take issue with the post’s assertion that writing fic is way more time and effort than writing a comment could possibly be. I certainly don’t disagree that writing a fic is a ton of work. That’s just a very big assumption. They can’t possibly know whether it’s really true of people who are not them.)
I can say with the certainty of experience that ten years of practice would not significantly affect the amount of toil of concrit for me. It’s never going to be both fast and worthwhile.
I have a limited amount of energy for writing, especially things that will be viewed publicly and by strangers. If I use it on a comment, that’s all she wrote. It’s a bit of a crapshoot who actually means it when they welcome concrit, and I have no way to judge with strangers. I’m not willing to risk it for what could well be a huge waste of my time.
Yeah. See, this is further interesting to me b/c the categories of "writers" and "readers" get splintered further into "writers who want comments, no matter what kind" and "writers who don't care about comments at all" and "writers who primarily want attention, whether it be comments or kudos etc etc etc", and also "readers who don't like engaging and are cool with that", "readers who want to engage but don't know how", "readers who want to engage but can't" and "readers who take every avenue to engage", and probably further splintered pieces of experiences both sides of the creator-creation-audience divide.
And being yelled at enough by someone who assumes I'm talking exclusively to people with cognitive barriers to commenting when I talk about my struggles staying motivated and interested in my own work, and on the other hand getting yelled at by people who never wanted to hear my opinions if they aren't exclusively for promoting their work... really just throws me right into empathy burnout, because when the reply to me consistently expressing my feelings, especially negative ones, is "how dare you talk about your negative feelings when other people have negative feelings too", it eventually just makes me want to go "well then fuck off out of the conversation! I'm done with you demanding constant fucking performance of compassion from me before I'm allowed to say that I'm fucking depressed!"
My experience as a writer definitely makes me a completely different kind of person as a commenter than someone who is not a writer but is a commenter, and someone who isn't a writer or a commenter at all. They're interrelated, but distinct skillsets. I feel like my mistake was asserting without explicitly saying that my frustration is with people to whom commenting isn't a high-intensity activity the way writing is for me, because that is primarily the type of person I expect to leave me comments. I'm frankly not a good enough writer where someone who finds that excruciating would bother with my -- let's be real here -- completely mediocre fic.
Like, fuck, why even comment if it's that bad for you? Fuck anyone who tells you to do stuff that hurts you. The conversation has finally shifted enough that people are starting to realise the abject cruelty of telling writers they shouldn't expect or feel entitled to any kind of a response or engagement, because.... yeah. But from my perspective, it has always been far more obvious that the audience will engage if the audience wants to, and the problem is that the systems of engagement they use don't actually do the thing that is their stated goal.
I definitely don’t want to police anyone’s feelings. I just also have feelings about the same topic. I like think there’s space for both, and more. I’m sorry if I came across like I thought you shouldn’t have that opinion or be able to talk about it. I don’t think you’re wrong to feel how you do. Neither of us are wrong to have opinions or express them imo. That’s really all.
I think for my part, I’m probably almost always gonna take some exception to statements that don’t specify that they aren’t meant to apply to me, because invisible disabilities are an infinite wasteland of people saying all kinds of interesting things and then going, “That doesn’t mean you, obviously!” if you have concerns, which is not comforting. They’re only making exceptions for people they personally know are disabled, if they remember. (It’s also not what you did. People like that would never say anything like maybe the misunderstanding could have been prevented if they’d thought to clarify right off the bat. It wouldn’t occur to them. They also rarely add amendments about entire groups rather than “you”. I appreciate the clarification a lot.)
I can vibe with that. I'm also someone with invisible disabilities (see my earlier quip about being Anxiety Carded -- I run into the assumption a lot that b/c I'm cantankerous and easily annoyed there's no way I can be anything but a big-headed egomaniac with no healthy fear of social ostracisation) and my reaction has always been to shrug and go "if people wanted to clarify that this applied to me, they should have done so" -- If someone doesn't know me, then they have no claim to be addressing my material reality. I shared what I shared to provide further context, not to say that that was something you were doing, either, so there's nothing to apologise there.
If there's one thing that leaps out at me every time, it's not people sharing their "side" and trying to explain why something I said caused a bad reaction. It's when people assume no thought went into hurting someone, and I need to be scolded for not being empathetic enough, when I've already spent all my empathy points trying to verbalise my own feelings. That, too, can be a struggle that people don't experience -- it is not easy and not effortless for me to say "I'm experiencing a negative feeling". Not everyone has unobstructed access to their own feelings.
(I must sleep but first I realized I forgot to post about why I was here tonight in the first place, whoops.)
I’m so :/ about a thing I saw browsing fanfic for The Boys. It keeps haunting me because I just thought it was so odd. It was a remark in the tags or summary of a fic about how it was a demonstration that you could tell a compelling story without a [first incident of lovingly rendered slow mo ultra gore]. Maybe I’m judging too hastily. I didn’t read the story. But it boggles my mind, and can’t stop thinking about that claim, that it’s gonna show us that’s possible.
We know..? Very few shows on television have a [first incident of lovingly rendered slow mo ultra gore]. I cannot imagine that there are many people who’ve liked almost zero shows because they don’t believe in the existence of good stories without that intensity of chunky yet liquid splatter. I’d wager most of us went out of our way for this and/or stuck around in part because we actually like that sort of thing.
I feel like I went to a goth club and someone tried to give me a pamphlet explaining that there are other kinds of clubs where people can dance without wearing all black.
I've had that sort of experience several times, though more often in Tumblr meta posts or whatever than fic. Definitely seen people, e.g., acting like it's some bold stand to prefer happy endings when The Man only wants tragedy, as if it's somehow not overwhelmingly more common for mass market fiction to have happy endings than sad ones. I assume it's an outgrowth of some combination of annoyance at the "SUFFERING IS INHERENTLY DEEP" people and Bury Your Gays discourse, but like... if you select a completely random movie on Netflix or book from your local library there's like a 90% chance the ending will be intended to be happy.
Yeah, p much! There´s a bit of a case of competing access needs between people who need to not be shamed for dark content, and people who need to avoid dark content, both for very valid reasons.
I think part of it is probably also, like... generalization of talking points about the use of Problematic™ elements? For instance, there's been decades of academic discussion about the construction of gender in horror and the complicated role of voyeuristic and sexualized violence against women in cinema (I really need to get around to actually reading Men, Women, and Chainsaws someday), and there's plenty of media out there where "it weirds me out how much of this narrative seems to have been constructed to watch nubile women be subject to extreme violence" is a very fair criticism. So much of it that a lot of people are very suspicious by default when a story is based in violence against women, and, e.g., Mad Max: Fury Road refusing to give the dehumanizing abuse of women's bodies visual airtime while putting the dehumanizing abuse of a male body front and center is a statement in itself. The relevant tropes are, in the original sense of the word, problematic- they're tangled up in a thorny web of cultural history, and can't escape the shadow of misogyny and racism and weird attitudes about sex even if they want to. The baggage is always going to be there, whatever they decide to do with it.
So you get a lot of people who are uncomfortable with the tropes (very valid), and then see a lot of very articulate and detailed criticism of them (warranted), and this most often comes up when something is especially weird and creepy about it (because outrage is easy to make viral), and the conclusion drawn, consciously or not, is "this is bad writing and no one should do it." And many cases are bad writing, modulo the subjectivity of "bad." But there's still that step skipped in there where something can be prurient and problematic but still serve a function.
(Especially when those functions start including things like "shock value" where the way they get talked about is really disparaging. Shock value is... not a bad thing? Sometimes you want your audience to be shocked. Sometimes your audience wants to be shocked. The issue is whether the amount of shock it will engender is going to be worth dragging in that mountain of baggage that will ruin the story for a lot of your audience.)
In ye olde days of Fanfiction dot net, it was pretty common for writers to include "please comment if you liked this story!" or something to that gist, albeit with a little more XD and :3 and talking with their characters about the latest chapter.
Are there any reasonably succinct ways of saying what our favorite ways for readers to interact with the story are, whether it's comments that express enthusiasm (including the ones that are "<3!!" and "extra kudos"), comments that draw attention to specific things we loved in the fic, comments emphasizing places the writing worked really well, etc, etc?
I wonder whether people who are hesitant to comment due to not knowing what comments really make the author's day would be more able to take that step if they had that info.
Hmm, it actually reads as much worse to me if I take into account the trope aspect. Maybe that’s why it kept haunting my thoughts.
You could have a discussion about fridging around that incident. I would have no issue with that at all, nor do I object to lighter, happier fic. It’s the way it was put forth, like it would be a revelation to us that these things could exist. As if we’ve never seen a coffee shop AU that has a good story. Maybe they were responding to a particular obnoxious fan or group of fans, but if so that context wasn’t provided. So it reads like maybe they think we’re all idiots who never noticed this screamingly obvious talking point and need to be guided into the light. It also sorta sounds like they think the show is thoughtless about violence just because it’s gleefully over the top, which isn’t the case.
I definitely don’t think that no one should be in the fandom if they aren’t huge on the gore, or if they don’t like particular tropes or plot choices. If it had been labeled a fixit instead, I probably would have thought it was a sweet idea. If it were phrased as an angry personal opinion, I wouldn’t have thought much of it at all.
If it were an essay instead of fanfic, there’s a good chance I would have given it a read, because I do think there could be an interesting discussion there. But the “let me show you a better way is possible” vibe feels like The Sixth Sense for fifteen year old discourse. It doesn’t know it’s dead. The discussion isn’t over, but it has evolved significantly over time. It has changed media’s assumptions about what the audience will think of various tropes. The discourse changed the media, and it’s honestly really confusing to see talk that appears unaware that this has happened?
I don't know what the exact offending Event is, but yeah, I know the tone, ha. I've been guilty of it plenty of times, honestly. It's definitely a personally familiar failure state to end up on a track like, "I have been reading about how gratuitous gore in Thing X is problematic! The person writing dislikes it and they are very convincing. Thing Y also has gore. Clearly anyone who doesn't dislike it must not have heard the very convincing arguments about Thing X!" Like a Discourse Dunning-Kruger Effect.
Oh big yeet. I think we all go through phases like that. I mean, I certainly have. I'm still sorting out random bits of very bad Buffy analysis to this day. Everyone's gotta start somewhere.
On the surface, The Boys seems like an odd fandom in which to find that kind of Problematics logic slapped directly onto gory violence, since "remarkably gory" is a major feature of this show, a show in which the way individuals come to interact with systems of violence is a core theme. But I think I can see how it might happen? The story is both dystopian and extremely leftist, so I can imagine that it might be attractive to many people with an interest in social justice who feel like there's a lot wrong with things like capitalism, policing, media, and more. Not everyone's gonna arrive at the door with an English lit or film studies degree, which both sound increasingly useful to me as time goes on. The rest of us just scrounge I guess, getting very excited whenever we dig up something that seems solid as we try to figure it out on our own.
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