I am consistently amazed by arguments and discussions on social media. Fans, along with creatives, will argue an obviously biased position that does nothing more than reinforce and restate the opinions the originator holds without allowing for actual nuance and consideration. Of course, they claim that it is simply empirical evidence and fact that aligns with their opinions. The current ongoing discourse revolves around the actual cultural impact, if any, of James Cameron’s Avatar. I have specific opinions on this topic, but that is not quite what is going to be discussed here.
No, instead I am focusing on another aspect of fandom opinions and perspective that differs from, but also fully illustrates, the whole Avatar discussion. Fan polls are a standard of fandom spaces at this point, and, to be fair, have always been, but they usually never got much attention outside of very specific circles. With the advent of the internet and social media, more and more people are now, at least, tangentially involved or aware of fandom and their works. However, for all the spread and reach available because of the internet, there still seems to be a lack of basic understanding or rationale concerning the entertainment business and practices.
There was a poll on Twitter over couples in media. It was strictly a fan thing and didn’t get much attention outside of specific circles. The final showdown in the fan poll was a matchup between a canonical (sort of) pairing from an anime and a fanon pairing from a live action genre show. Unsurprisingly, the fanon pairing won (back to that in a moment). The genuinely shocking thing to me was the surprise that it beat out the other couple. Now, there are, and always will be, arguments over the influence and validity of canonical elements and fan interpretation, but this is not about that. More so, this poll starkly reminded me of the limitation of fan understanding of how shows get popular or work and how their personal tastes are not necessarily indicative of the world outside their bubble.
To give some context: the canonical pair was from an anime that was only forty episodes long and aired in one country over two decades ago. Admittedly, it did get an alternate film release the same year it went off the air, but didn’t add much to its overall impact. Inversely, the fanon pairing is from a series with over a hundred episodes that aired in various markets over six years. Add to that the advent of pirating and streaming services that both properties benefitted from in probably equal measure, and it really is not surprising that one pairing was infinitely more popular than the other.
Now, that is not to say one series was better than the other or indicative of quality. Merely, that applying basic math skills and logic leads to the obvious answer of why one over the other regardless of canonical representation in the series itself. Like, this should not be controversial or difficult to understand: the series that ran longer with three times as many episodes in many, many more areas will by default probably have a larger audience regardless of the quality of the actual product barring some extreme outliers. Really, this example illustrates how closed off and incurious many fandom spaces have become even with the availability of access and information currently provided.
If nothing else, there is certainly a lot of interesting and engaging work to do studying modern entertainment media, business, and fandom. Genuinely look forward to the analysis and essays and books that will be written from these times and spaces.