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View Full Version : Law of Popularity VS Enthusiasm



Newman
2012-01-02, 02:12 PM
There are topics and perspectives people have very strong stances on, and fiction mirroring it, whether it's directly or not, on purpose or not, will cause strong reactions. Fiction that aims to sell itself will try to cause an utilitarian averaged maximum happiness. That is, it will try to be liked by people, but only so much that they stop consuming anything else and spend their time and money on this work: anything beyond that is not necessary.

Being liked more than that, being liked strongly, by many, would imply tapping on strong emotional buttons... that risk being disliked by others... As a scale, think of The Simpsons as the show with the large popularity but the mostly defanged writing, South Park as the more daring but less popular work, and The Boondocks as a show that takes the most daring approach and has the smallest but most devoted audience. You could do the same with, say, CSI, then Law and Order, then The Shield, then The Wire. (Er, it came off as "Leftist is Daring", but I didn't really mean it that way, it's just that I don't know any rightwing fiction with small-but-devoted-fanbase... this post intends to be politically neutral and in fact trascend that particular aspect of "daring to be disliked by many and adored by few").

But there's ways to trascend those scales.

Take Code Geass. The show is about love, hatred, retribution, mistrust and miscommunication, One Man's Terrorist Is Another's Freedom Fighter, the sacrifice of principles for the sake of the goal, or of the goal for the sake of principles... and with no compromise or third option. Its fandom is one of the most conflictive, self-tearing, broken things ever... Yet the show refuses to truly take a stance (although they present a sympathetic POV), and so people who follow that epic soap opera take what they want from it, and leave the rest.

Now take My Little Pony. Stable concoction. Very stable. The messages are universal, the characters are very relatable, and the complexities of friendship are something everyone struggles with regardless of ideology or class or creed. Its wisdom stat is off the scales. Result: one of the most consensual, calm, positive fandoms ever.

Mr.Silver
2012-01-02, 06:31 PM
What exactly are you trying to say here? Because if you're trying to argue that popular works don't have enthusiastic fanbases you're pretty obviously wrong on that one (e.g. Harry Potter, Twilight). It's also rather undercut by your 2 examples of works "which transcend the scales" as both are quite niche in their popularity (amongst people over the age of 12, anyway).


Fiction that aims to sell itself will try to cause an utilitarian averaged maximum happiness. That is, it will try to be liked by people, but only so much that they stop consuming anything else and spend their time and money on this work: anything beyond that is not necessary.
Not exactly no. Fiction tends to be a driven by a creative mind or minds, who typically have at least some artistic inclinations - i.e. their primary concerning is telling a good story/making a point/etc. Selling is typically more a concern of the publishers and in regards to TV - which is what you're focusing on - who if they want cash will generally plump for game-shows and reality tv, on account of it being cheaper and easier to produce. The concern for viewing figures is there as well obviously, but controversial topics are hardly the only features of a work that'll worry execs on that count.
Amongst film or books controversy can actually be a very major selling point (free publicity). This is particularly true since in those industries it only matters if people make a one-off purchase.

Once again though, I'm still not sure how this connects to your point about intensity of fans versus popularity of a show. Assuming that is actually what you're trying to talk about.

VanBuren
2012-01-02, 07:38 PM
For some reason, I came away with the message that a work which presents complex issues in a complex fashion without clearly stating which solution is proper results in a divided fandom where roughly equal parts take opposing sides on the central question, whereas a work tackling somewhat less divisive issues while being fairly consistent and straightforward in its message will produce a fandom that pretty consistently agrees.

Which... I mean, "duh", kinda?

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-02, 10:20 PM
Speaking from my experience with fandoms.... bronies are a true aberration in fandoms being a unique herd onto themselves. Because of course ponies make everything better. Though at less then a year and a half old there's a lot of potential evolution that may occur, not all of it is guaranteed to be good. Though I'm quite up beat.

But anyways there are many fairly wholesome shows that have their deep fault lines. Kirk or Picard anyone? Or Sisko

Now sure these fault lines don't always break the base into warring camps or even separate ones. So I don't think a show's message or unity can be tied to the level of conflict its fans have.

Kato
2012-01-03, 07:41 AM
I'm not entirely sure what the topic is about exactly...
Yes, a popular show can have an enthusiastic fanbase... but I guess you might say the most enthusiastic fandoms of more popular shows are drowned by the more average fans... I'm sure you can find very dedicated fans of The Simpsons if one knew where to look.

Or let's take SciFi,as Soras already mentioned... Star Trek and Star Wars are probably the most poplar franchises and have very devoted fanbases. Stargate (e.g.) is much less popular and from my experience has a smaller and less dedicated fanbase (not that there aren't dedicated fans) And then there is Firefly...


Because if you're trying to argue that popular works don't have enthusiastic fanbases you're pretty obviously wrong on that one (e.g. Harry Potter, Twilight). It's also rather undercut by your 2 examples of works "which transcend the scales" as both are quite niche in their popularity (amongst people over the age of 12, anyway).

Wait... are you listing Twilight as a "not niche" franchises while considering Code Geass and MLP "niche"? What madness is this? Because something has a lot of screaming teenage girls it's popular and something that has a dedicated internet fanbase it's not? Heresy! :smallbiggrin:




Not exactly no. Fiction tends to be a driven by a creative mind or minds, who typically have at least some artistic inclinations - i.e. their primary concerning is telling a good story/making a point/etc. Selling is typically more a concern of the publishers[...]
That's the ideal... yet often enough writers also want to write something that sales to, you know, pay their bills, so they'll write something that they know people will like. Not everything is an expression of deep creativity.
[/QUOTE]


About the controversy... dunno. Of course a controverse topic will create a split fandom. I'd guess even among bronies there are disagreements on certain things, even though I'm not that familiar. But it's much easier to argue about CG or.. Star Trek's morale of the day (back when there were still morals) than about MLP's "Trust your friends".

Mr.Silver
2012-01-03, 01:26 PM
Wait... are you listing Twilight as a "not niche" franchises while considering Code Geass and MLP "niche"? What madness is this? Because something has a lot of screaming teenage girls it's popular and something that has a dedicated internet fanbase it's not? Heresy! :smallbiggrin:
They aren't unpopular, they're less popular (and consideraly less well-known in the mainstream). That shouldn't be a controversial statement.



That's the ideal... yet often enough writers also want to write something that sales to, you know, pay their bills, so they'll write something that they know people will like. Not everything is an expression of deep creativity.

No, but the point is that creativity is usually fairly high in the priority list. Sure, there are exceptions, but as a general rule it holds reasonably well.

Mewtarthio
2012-01-03, 02:33 PM
It's also rather undercut by your 2 examples of works "which transcend the scales" as both are quite niche in their popularity (amongst people over the age of 12, anyway).

Code Geass is targeted towards young children? :smallconfused:

Lord Seth
2012-01-03, 03:20 PM
Like others, I'm confused about what the point of this topic is, but there is one thing I'd like to respond to...
Being liked more than that, being liked strongly, by many, would imply tapping on strong emotional buttons... that risk being disliked by others... As a scale, think of The Simpsons as the show with the large popularity but the mostly defanged writing, South Park as the more daring but less popular work, and The Boondocks as a show that takes the most daring approach and has the smallest but most devoted audience.The Simpsons is on broadcast television, South Park on cable, and The Boondocks on late cable. It doesn't matter to what extent they are "daring", The Simpsons being more popular than South Park and South Park being more popular than The Boondocks is how things would normally be just by what channel they're on.

Also, Family Guy, which is on the same network as The Simpsons, is more daring than The Simpsons and is currently more popular (at least in ratings), so...yeah.


You could do the same with, say, CSI, then Law and Order, then The Shield, then The Wire.I'm not sure if I'd necessarily call Law & Order more "daring" than CSI, but again, CSI and Law & Order were/are on broadcast television. The Shield was on cable. The Wire was on premium. While there are exceptions to the Broadcast>Cable>Premium, that's the general format regardless of what level of "daring" there is.


(Er, it came off as "Leftist is Daring",Is The Wire honestly "leftist"? I haven't seen The Shield so I can't judge, but I don't think you can really say The Wire fits any particular political ideology. Every time I think of one that seems to fit a lot of the show, there's a noticeable portion of the show that seems completely at odds with it.

Newman
2012-01-03, 03:41 PM
Code Geass was very popular in its native country. At least it was merchandised extensively and sold lots of tie-in products. As for the USA, well, it's a show that's mostly intended for young and old adults, and there just aren't that many people in that demographic willing to give an animated, foreign show a chance. It was also surprisingly popular in the Arab internets, although when you think of it it's a bit of a foregone conclusion.

I think My Little Pony is rather doomed when it comes to non-English speaking countries: you'd be amazed how important voice acting is, and how "awesome" voice acting compares to "average" dubbing.

The position it stands in compares it superior, obviously.

What I was trying to work towards in the OP but got kinda lost in the way is: Suppose you want to make a work that is faithful to your own ideology. You want it to represent it openly and frontally. But you don't want to annoy people who disagree into leaving the show. Maybe you want to proselytize, maybe you just want their money. Or maybe you're not certain of being right, but you want them to at least hear you out and give your ideas a chance, especially if they're weird and unusual. On the other hand, people who already agree with you might like the show just because they find it affirms their position (so long as it's still otherwise good to some degree) and by proxy affirms them. Finally, there's the case of converts, from indifference or from an opposing view, who embrace the ideas your show vehicles, regret having been wrong all this time, wonder where that show had been all their lives... and who can be the strongest advocates and publicists, virally and for free. (Part of the Bronies are like that, people who are fed up with Rated M For Manly material that are tired of a definition of "coolness" or "manliness" that has "violent jerkass loudmouth" as vital components, and simply hadn't found a show with opposing attitudes that still managed to be "cool" rather than hypocritical clueless drivel).

So, aim and shoot. How do you optimize "$$$" function? "Persistent Ideological Influence" function? "Masterpiece" function? A compromise?

Story Time
2012-01-06, 05:24 PM
To...offer this just because...

Popularity is a work of fame. Fame is constructed by knowledge and hear-say.
Enthusiasm is a work of the human spirit. It is constructed by personal passion and vigor.

To say that something is popular means that it is well known. To say that something is enthused means that it is filled with love.

Closet_Skeleton
2012-01-06, 06:12 PM
(Er, it came off as "Leftist is Daring", but I didn't really mean it that way, it's just that I don't know any rightwing fiction with small-but-devoted-fanbase...


Ann Rand's works? Left Behind?

I'm sure there are some actually quality examples as well. Well, Ann Rand is at least 'literature' rather than pulp but I don't really consider that a complement in the slightest so whatever.

Mewtarthio
2012-01-06, 06:28 PM
I'm sure there are some actually quality examples as well. Well, Ann Rand is at least 'literature' rather than pulp but I don't really consider that a complement in the slightest so whatever.

Orson Scott Card? Tom Clancy? Er, well, I guess it sort of depends on your definition of "small but devoted." Clancy's not exactly obscure, but he doesn't have to fight his way through mobs of squealing fangirls on his way to shower every morning, either.

Newman
2012-01-06, 07:35 PM
Ann Rand's works? Left Behind?

Oh. Yeah. Those totally have passionate fan bases. People comment on reading those and experiencing some sort of life-changing personal revelation... They're also deeply and actively reviled by an important sector of the population.

Hatedoms always fascinate me. What drives someone to go back to a work the hate, only to attack it?

VanBuren
2012-01-06, 08:20 PM
Oh. Yeah. Those totally have passionate fan bases. People comment on reading those and experiencing some sort of life-changing personal revelation... They're also deeply and actively reviled by an important sector of the population.

Hatedoms always fascinate me. What drives someone to go back to a work the hate, only to attack it?

In the case of Ayn Rand works, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to go back and critically look at the works and the philosophies therein regardless of whether or not one hates it.

None of those reasons are, AFAIK, appropriate for discussion on this forum.

Lord Seth
2012-01-07, 03:07 AM
Wondering why a hatedom would form around Left Behind or Ayn Rand seems to me to be like wondering why a popular politician or preacher with a really controversial message would likely have a hatedom.

Incidentally, considering that Left Behind was pretty popular, I'm not sure I can really call say it had a "small-but-devoted fanbase." You don't reach #1 on bestseller lists by having a small fanbase. Not to mention that it's more about religion than politics, and the context of the first post indicated to me that they were referring to politics, not religion.

Newman
2012-01-07, 05:36 AM
Unfortunately, since Reagan, religion and politics have gotten strangely mixed-up, and it's hard to talk about one without mentioning the other. Not to mention that the more... serious... religious practitioners take their ethics from their religion, and, if they're numerous enough, they tend to want to impose those on the society they live in, thus strongly influencing politics.

Arguably, the problems with Left Behind don't exactly lie its religious content...

Feytalist
2012-01-09, 02:52 AM
We're getting a bit close to forbidden topics, methinks.


Any opinion worded strongly enough will have its fair share both of fanatic agreement and virulent hate, and any person brave enough to voice their opinions in such a way should expect nothing less.

I'm an admitted fan of Ayn Rand's work, even though I strongly disagree with many of her thoughts. I actually agree with some of them as well, but that's beside the point. As I've said before, it is quite possible to enjoy her writing if you ignore all the philosophical meanderings.

The same can conceivably be said of many other divisive media.

Avilan the Grey
2012-01-09, 03:29 AM
Most fandoms see themselves as much bigger and more important than they really are. Many members of such would be very surprised if they could get the "outside view" of themselves and see how small their group really is.

This does also include really popular shows, since the mainstream viewer tend to watch a lot of things and not fixate on a specific one (tuning in to both Simpsons, Lost, House, CSI Miami and Friends re-runs the same week).

Newman
2012-01-09, 07:38 AM
Most fandoms see themselves as much bigger and more important than they really are. Many members of such would be very surprised if they could get the "outside view" of themselves and see how small their group really is.

This does also include really popular shows, since the mainstream viewer tend to watch a lot of things and not fixate on a specific one (tuning in to both Simpsons, Lost, House, CSI Miami and Friends re-runs the same week).

But then how do you follow shows with strong continuity, such as Lost, the Wire or An American Horror Story?

Avilan the Grey
2012-01-09, 07:53 AM
But then how do you follow shows with strong continuity, such as Lost, the Wire or An American Horror Story?

By tuning in same time next week, probably. I didn't mean it the way you interpreted it, I think... My point was that most "devoted fandoms" tend to over-exaggerate their importance.