“Ugh, this season of [insert hit television show here] is just not great…”
“Really not a fan of the change in format on [insert reality show here]…”
“Yeah, I guess I’ll pick up [insert musician’s name here] new album but I didn’t really like the last one that much…”
How many times have you heard a friend say something like that? How many times have you said it? You were with a TV show, artist, etc. from the beginning but eventually it/they just weren’t doing it for you anymore. You start saving episodes up on your DVR to watch all at once or picking up your pull list at your local comic shop only to save that title you used to read immediately for the weekend — but your enjoyment just isn’t what it used to be.
Hey, maybe it’s time you broke up with that piece of entertainment?
As we head into the Fall TV season there’s a lot of new stuff to choose from, not to mention plenty of returning series. Even with DVRs and streaming services it’s just not possible to watch everything. Something’s gotta give and when you decide what to cut out of your life, try not to feel too bad about it.
TV shows, music, comic books, and movies have a tendency to make us fall head over heels for them. When we love a piece of entertainment, we really love it. A lot of us even organize ourselves into fandoms (Fannibals, Whovians, Trekkers, etc.), which are great fun (most of the time). The rise of social media networks and sites like LiveJournal and Tumblr have made finding like minds to dissect media late into the night much easier than it used to be, and things like fan-art and cosplay are really unique extensions to show off those things we’re extra passionate about.
But what happens when the passion is gone?
If Lost and The Leftovers executive producer Damon Lindelof is to be believed, people who say they’re going to stop watching a show don’t actually go through with it, they’re just children throwing a tantrum. I can certainly understand why he has that point of view — he’s definitely suffered at the hands of disgruntled fans (so much so he quit Twitter in 2014) — but I can’t say I’ve seen any formal studies done on the matter. Though Lindelof’s opinion on what makes a great show truly great is rather peculiar in my opinion.
In his Entertainment Weekly op/ed, Lindelof wrote:
“[As] a storyteller, if you can make one, let alone two, excellent hours of television a season if you’re doing eight or 10 episodes — an excellent episode by all accounts — I think what people don’t realize is that in order to produce these excellent episodes, there have to be episodes that set that up. There also have to be episodes that begin to — although this is never a storyteller’s intent — make [the viewer] go, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know about this…’ That makes those excellent episodes all the more special.”
What in the fresh hell?
“You only need to demonstrate excellence once a season for me to view the entire series as excellent, or the entire show as excellent,” Lindelof continued.
Ah, I see. I’m sure there’s something to be said here about the overall state of the industry but if you have one great episode out of 10, I’m sorry, but you’ve had a shit season.
Lindelof was specifically referring to Game of Thrones in his article. I was a huge Game of Thrones fan. Huge.
I’m not sure how I avoided knowing about the George R.R. Martin book series for so long but I began reading the series after Season 1 of the HBO adaptation ended because I needed to know what happened next immediately. As the seasons went on, my excitement grew; not just because I knew what was coming but because the show is phenomenally made. Sometimes I still can’t believe it does get made considering all that goes into it.
But little by little things started to nag at me. A significant and seemingly arbitrary diversion from the novels, an unnecessary aging up and sexualization of a character, a dead sex worker here, a rape-not-rape there…well, it was starting to pile up.
And then finally the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It was like that time I broke up with a significant other because he wouldn’t drive to see me when I was upset. It wasn’t the worst offense, it was just the final one.
So I gave up. I chose to stop watching after Season 5, Episode 6, the episode where Sansa Stark was raped by her new husband Ramsey Bolton as Theon Greyjoy watched. (The media lit up in the weeks following as many other fans also decided that was their breaking point, while others felt too much ado was made.) Again, it wasn’t the worst offense but the change from the storyline in the books coupled with how the scene itself was handled led me to decide I was finally done.
But I was still incredibly attached. How could I not be? I gave myself several weeks of space and decided to watch the rest of the season. It was then I realized the spark was truly gone. My love affair with the show was over. Much wine was consumed.
It was a weird feeling to be sure. It still is. But reflecting back I realized I probably should have stopped watching a lot sooner. There were plenty of things that rubbed me the wrong way but I kept with it because there was a lot of good, too. So when do you decide to let go? That’s a personal choice, but one you should seriously consider if you’re a rabid consumer of media.
One of the reasons we keep watching shows we may not be thrilled with anymore is how much time we’ve already invested. We want to see it through. But TV isn’t the only type of media we grow attached to. Consider listening to the new album from one of your favorite rock bands and slowly realizing those dudes are happily married with kids now. (Sorry, Green Day, we’ll always have Dookie.) You may like their newer music, you may not. If not, people normally stop supporting the artist. Depending on how much time and money you’ve invested in a particular artist, this may be an easier break than TV. But maybe not.
This was something recently touched on in a blog post by musician/performance artist Amanda Palmer. A longtime fan emailed her shortly after she announced her pregnancy to say they didn’t really care for her newer musical creations and could she please go back to form. Form being her pre-marriage, pre-impregnated state of being. Oh, and also your baby is probably just going to make your music worse since you’ll be super joyful.
This fan pulled a self-serving, self-aggrandizing, multi-tiered guilt trip on a pregnant woman (which included the line “When you have this baby, either him/her/it will suffer, or your career will suffer”) because they wanted her old music style back.
Palmer replied in part sarcastically, “[Thanks] for confirming my deepest, most insecure, harrowing fears about motherhood and about how people will perceive me now that I’ve decided to breed!” But also suggested more seriously, “[Honestly], if this baby really winds up acting as a crippling, muse-killing, inspiration-sucker who saps the life out of my music rendering it totally bland…well…just tiptoe away, and leave me in my balanced, bland and happy misery.”
Why don’t people give up? Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to feel left out, or think they owe something to the creators who gave them so much joy, or they just want to see something through to the end. We want, nay, we hope it will get better, some of us plead online to creators for it. We’re really attached to the characters! Occasionally it does get better (Arrow, Parks and Recreation), statistically it doesn’t (Heroes, True Blood).
It’s a little harder to discuss movies since they’re normally single entities but in a world of sequels and trilogies, reboots upon reboots that everyone claims no one asked for (with a few exceptions) they keep getting made. Why?
People. Keep. Paying. To. See. Them.
The same could be said about big, universe-altering, comic book “events.” Fans say they dislike them but the same fans feel as if they have to buy every issue of a crossover lest they miss some key bit of information. And so they do. And so the events keep happening year after year. There was a time I was reading almost everything in DC Comics’ line until I realized it would really be okay if I didn’t. Superhero comics are like soap operas, you can pretty much pick them back up at any time and before too long you know what’s happening. It’s like tuning into General Hospital after a few years hiatus. Wow, original Lucky is back! Sonny is still Sonny. The Quartermaines are still rich.
So you’ve decided to let go. Breaking up with a thing you love can be just as hard as breaking up with a person you love; you’ve dedicated tons of yourself to it. But if you’re not happy, you should really consider making the move. Remember, you don’t want to be bored by something you’re giving your precious time and money to, you want to be thrilled! Courted!
Stopping support doesn’t have to equal you not being a fan at all either. You can still love something from afar or relive the good times with the items that make you happy. You stepping away doesn’t mean others will stop liking it, it may even grow in popularity, but if it’s not doing it for you, it’s not doing it for you.
Here’s the great thing about a breakup with a piece of media versus a human being — you don’t have to explain yourself. Though you may have to mute, unfollow, or sometimes just put up with your friends over-excitedly discussing the latest twist, turn, or shocker. They can’t believe you gave it up! There may even be anger, tears or throwing of sonic screwdrivers!
I expect a lot of folks will have gotten angry while reading this because I expressed a negative opinion about something they still very much enjoy. It’s natural to be protective of something you love. We all get seriously emotionally invested in entertainment; it’s why we enjoy it in the first place.
But it’ll be okay. There’s something out there for everyone.
Jill Pantozzi is a pop culture journalist and host who reports on all things nerdy and beyond! She’s formerly Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue and hosts her own blog at TheNerdyBird.com. She’s written for MTV, Publishers Weekly, IGN and more. You can keep up with Jill, and her cats, on Twitter at @JillPantozzi and “like” her on Facebook.