Posted by granderojo (1772 posts) -

Fanservice as I define it: the pursuit or ambition of cultural heterogenization by means of homogenization. In a world where television is driven by capital, Breaking Bad serves as a beacon of fanservice. Anyone who uses twitter and follows creators of popular works should know, it is readily apparent that they pay attention to the internet now. If you don’t believe me look at these graphs. Whether or not you believe IMDB is an accurate polling population, the rise in ratings correlate accurately to the years in which social media took off. For most fans of the show, the most common word associated with the finale was “perfect”. When you look at the rise of the #TeamWalt and #TeamJesse whether or not these were organic grassroots movements by fans or well-orchestrated marketing maneuvers by AMC and Gilligan, the effect that they had on the show was evident. Breaking Bad became less about character development, and instead about writing to an audience. The most troubling aspect of the usage of the hashtags is that it highlights how, at their least offensive they simplify otherwise complex characters to petty punditry. At their most offensive they lead to hateful attacks to the most redeeming qualities of the show, it’s cast.

Drug culture is uniquely local in nature, and Gilligan failed to make Albuquerque a place like David Simon did with Baltimore. Instead of embracing the local culture, Gilligan tried to dominate it. This persists across most television that is made in America. He created these characters, and so did the cast, that were more than their surroundings. You could take Breaking Bad, change the location, and it would effectively be the same show. The use of Latin culture in Breaking Bad for instance, while it’s a constant in the series is superficial at best. The scene of Mexican chemists being dominated by high school dropout in cooking meth tells you about as much as you need to know about how much Gilligan cares about Latin culture. Don’t confuse what I say, there’s nothing racist or racially motivated about that decision. Instead, Latin culture a prop to be used, an excuse to deliver a satisfying development of Jesse Pinkman’s character. Aaron Paul admits himself, Jesse was a throwaway character until it became clear to Gilligan that fans liked his character.

This isn't to say that I hate Breaking Bad. I am, at the end of the day, a fan myself. Seeing a show embrace the exponential decay of each and every main character falling into chaos was simply beautiful because it was a new gimmick. As fans we have to ask ourselves, is this healthy? It’s clear that if creators are cognizant of what social media perceive about their shows, that creating endings that offend the least amount of people is in their best interest. The Aaron Paul example is not a new one, shows often highlight minor characters after it’s become clear that they’re popular. What is different is the mechanisms & speed at which creators have to become cognizant of these sea-changes and their willingness to react. I guess ending with the least offensive, as close to a fairy-tale finale possible is fruitful. The ending by it’s nature, is what most critics and fans will obsess over if they still bother talking about your show. I can’t help but think ending the finale in the kitchen and leaving the rest of the story unresolved, while unpopular, would have been the healthier note for the show to end on.

@granderojo

#1 Edited by Mysterysheep (282 posts) -

You certainly have a point, but does simply pointing a show in a direction that is known to be what most people would prefer, does doing such actually really affect the core writing's quality? There's no real way to say that, if fan reaction was completely ignored, Breaking Bad would be a richer, better developed show. I do understand your point, though. I would personally prefer if mainstream consensus didn't influence the writing of a show like this, or any for that matter, but I would like to think these decisions were measured ones. That Gilligan and the writing staff thought about the reaction carefully, rather than blindly following people's immediate reactions. I'd like to think that they, as writers, could distinguish between a quality critique of the show and a throw away comment on twitter. I guess I dunno what really happens behind the scenes, though. Interesting thought.

#2 Edited by MX (219 posts) -

Vince Gilligan actually commented on the latest Talking Bad on the idea of doing an open ending. And to him that just didn't feel right for the kind off show Breaking Bad is. To him Breaking Bad was always a story that starts at A and ends at Z. And like @mysterysheep said You hope the writers can distinguish quality critique and a tweet. I didn't mind the ending. But then again I am a sucker for endings that make you pump your fist in the air and yell fuck yes he/she/it/they did it.

#3 Posted by MaxxS (190 posts) -

I thought the ending was verging on fanservice, but at the same time I never felt like any of the characters were doing anything out of character, so it wasn't a problem for me.

#4 Edited by granderojo (1772 posts) -

@mysterysheep: Well all the ending really showed was a lack of emotional resonance, which is how the vast bulk of viewing population talked about the show on social media. Instead finding sympathy and empathizing with all these morally ambiguous characters, like I said it became about punditry. In the end the pundits won out. I mentioned they should have ended it in the kitchen because that was the point when it emotionally climaxed for me. Everything past that point was fan service and each character getting exactly what they wanted.

Also I just want to clarify, I can also see many benefits in not being entirely in the dark about how your audience responds to something. I mean I find Newsroom unwatchable whenever Sorkin brings up technology and how he shows a clear lack of how any of it works. There's a lot of good that can come out of it. I just feel like here they really missed the mark.

#5 Posted by cmblasko (1011 posts) -

@mysterysheep: I mentioned they should have ended it in the kitchen because that was the point when it emotionally climaxed for me. Everything past that point was fan service and each character getting exactly what they wanted.

Todd sure didn't get what he wanted!

#6 Edited by BisonHero (5691 posts) -

I'm still skeptical of your basic premise. The correlation between social media's rise and a steady ratings increase can easily be just that - a correlation, not a causation. Also, their reaction time to social media would be HORRENDOUS given their production schedule. They aren't South Park, with its incredibly accelerated production pipeline. If Gilligan and co. wrote something mid season that people didn't like, they can't really react to social media feedback until quite a few episodes later.

#7 Posted by TheSouthernDandy (3630 posts) -

I'm with @bisonhero here I don't think it's easy to just check twitter and write accordingly especially considering how fast things change on social media compared to producing a show like this. Even if that were the case though I don't see the problem with writing to please your fans. Excessive fan service can ruin something but you want to keep people who love what you do happy. That's why you continue to get to do what you're doing. As long as you're keeping the quality high and not compromising your vision I don't see a problem with it. Yeah Jesse lived past season 1 because people liked him but he's the heart of that show and I can't imagine it without him.

#8 Posted by granderojo (1772 posts) -

@thesoutherndandy: @bisonhero: I guess I just don't fundamentally agree that the decisions they could make would be hampered by time constraints. The whole point of the social media is that they get an immediate consensus of what people liked and disliked. For instance, as @cmblasko: points out with Todd having a bad ending, I don't think Gilligan ends the way he did UNLESS he knew the general reaction to Todd shooting the kid prior. That was a generally unpopular character, and his ending was the one that was most satisfying to the most people.

I guess my problem with this is that if every great television show ends with the most satisfying ending possible, that's going to trend toward some incredibly boring finales because they will become so predictable.

#9 Posted by johncallahan (479 posts) -

I by and large agree with what you're saying. The week in between episodes of Breaking Bad I spent rewatching The Shield (my second favorite show of all time, only behind The Wire). I truly believe that The Shield has the greatest finale that I've ever seen for a TV show. Nothing was blunt about it, but not too ambiguous either. I wont spoil it for those who haven't seen it (but my god, see that show), but it really hits every note possible in just the right ways.

Breaking Bad's finale didn't. It was a good finale, with some truly awesome moments, but I felt that outside of those few moments, the payoff was.... lackluster, it felt predictable and yeah, kind of boring. Still loved it, but seeing my Facebook and Twitter timeline full of friends who are by no means avid TV watchers, all saying "yeah I knew Walt was going to die!" Well that told me enough.

#10 Posted by Gamer_152 (13977 posts) -

Nicely written, but I'm afraid I disagree with you on almost every point. You've got quite a wide definition of fanservice, but for the purposes of this discussion that's fine. However, I don't think there's any proof that Breaking Bad is written in a way that purely pleases fans, or that the show has suffered for it. I also disagree with your idea that social media is just a means to determine fan consensus. In fact to say that Jesse wasn't killed off because fans liked the character is just plain incorrect, Gilligan has said in the past that the reason Jesse became a permanent character is that he was so impressed with Aaron Paul's performance in the role. The ending doesn't feel like fanservice to me either. If you wanted a crowd-pleaser you could have made this big flashy Hollywood finish, similar to what we saw at the end of season four, but instead the final episode of Breaking Bad is largely sombre, subversive, and reserved.

As for the latin culture thing, yes, Gilligan and the other people who worked on the show didn't make it core to what was going on, but I don't think that means it's "dominating" latin culture. It was more seasoning for everything else that Breaking Bad was doing, and it's a little hard to imagine the show being moved, considering the roles the Mexican drug cartel played. I also don't believe that the gradual downfall of all the characters is a new idea, or a "gimmick". This isn't some basic throwaway premise, it's something that can be and was executed on in a meaningful and affecting way. Honestly, I think the end product was what mattered and Breaking Bad felt far from one big bundle of cobbled together fanservice, it felt like it was one of the few big shows out there with substance and a unique voice that wasn't just falling into the tired Hollywood patterns of so many other shows.

Moderator
#11 Posted by Baillie (3955 posts) -

This is seriously some of the dumbest shit I've read.

#12 Posted by TheSouthernDandy (3630 posts) -

@thesoutherndandy: @bisonhero: I guess I just don't fundamentally agree that the decisions they could make would be hampered by time constraints. The whole point of the social media is that they get an immediate consensus of what people liked and disliked. For instance, as @cmblasko: points out with Todd having a bad ending, I don't think Gilligan ends the way he did UNLESS he knew the general reaction to Todd shooting the kid prior. That was a generally unpopular character, and his ending was the one that was most satisfying to the most people.

I guess my problem with this is that if every great television show ends with the most satisfying ending possible, that's going to trend toward some incredibly boring finales because they will become so predictable.

But how often is that the case? Hell, how often does a huge show have a generally OK ending? Rarely. Endings are known as the hardest thing to pull off for a reason, rarely does a popular show end in a way that satisfies most people. I don't think the thing you're worried about is worth worrying about.

And again, if you write an ending to a show that the fans of your show are happy with, how is that anything but a win?

#13 Edited by ImmortalSaiyan (4660 posts) -

If Jesse died at the end of season 1 I doubt I would of liked the show near as much.

#14 Posted by Gaff (1499 posts) -

Fanservice as I define it: the pursuit or ambition of cultural heterogenization by means of homogenization.

What? I don't think... it means what you think it means? What? Ddi you mean: deliberately splitting the fanbase into factions / tribes (tribalization, or to put it more bluntly, trolling) to build a more passionate fanbase?

#15 Edited by Veektarius (4164 posts) -

Fanservice is writing to the desires of the audience absent any strong narrative justification. It has nothing to do with heterogeneity and only has something to do with homogeneity in that it is more likely to service things that are universally liked. I think that Breaking Bad is way less about fan service as a show and way more about currying fan investment through interpersonal drama manufactured by the interaction of unreasonable people. It's basically the hook of reality TV, but put into a context that isn't totally superficial.

#16 Posted by TowerSixteen (538 posts) -

Guys, there's no need to quibble over the given definition of fanservice, that's why he gave his definition at the top- so we can have a discussion with that as the context. This is not about how the word is designed. Replace every instance of the word fanservice in the OP with zigplates or something if it really bothers you, it changes the point not at all.

#17 Posted by medacris (612 posts) -

So this kind of fanservice, by your definition, is like when the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic writers/animators took Derpy Hooves, a character that started off as a face in the background and became a meme, and gave her lines and hints at a backstory as defined by fan speculation? I can get behind that, as long as it doesn't detract from the story. Sometimes the fans aren't the writers for a very good reason, other times they're totally onto something.

#18 Edited by granderojo (1772 posts) -

@medacris said:

So this kind of fanservice, by your definition, is like when the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic writers/animators took Derpy Hooves, a character that started off as a face in the background and became a meme, and gave her lines and hints at a backstory as defined by fan speculation? I can get behind that, as long as it doesn't detract from the story. Sometimes the fans aren't the writers for a very good reason, other times they're totally onto something.

MLP creators are taking a popular or dominate culture(heterogenity) in derpy hooves something which was collectively owned, had no leadership and they're claiming 'official' authorship henceforth. The result is something that started organically and anarchistic, which is now authored, in effect singular(homogenity). I mean they are doing this explicitly with legal ownership of copyright, there's nothing subtle about it. So yeah, that's exactly what I mean.

Before someone attacks me for bringing this up, of course there's nothing wrong with this. They're perfectly within their rights to do this, I'm merely making discussion.