"I wish the show would just be cancelled."

I was reading a discussion about this attitude today--I happened to agree with the sentiment in this case. I would have liked if the show in question was cancelled years ago before it retconned characters and stories that made the show for me (it's a soap opera, so it's always a danger of the genre). Several people objected to the idea really strongly--on a moral level.

Which seemed really strange to me.

The objections basically came down to the idea that wanting a show to be cancelled was selfish. First, because other people still enjoy the show so it wasn't fair to want to take it away from them when you could just change the channel. Even more, it was cold to all the people who work on the show. If it's cancelled they're out of work.

I couldn't really empathize with either of these ideas. First, since fans don't really have any power over whether or not a show ends other than not watching, saying it's bad to *want* it cancelled seems a bit extreme. It doesn't hurt anyone either way, and it seems unreasonable to demand that someone feel a certain way about one thing (a show having another season) because of another, tangentially related thing (the job of a stranger). Secondly because it seemed to brush aside the idea that there could be anything distressing about watching a story go wrong.

My role, as a viewer, is to watch the show, engage emotionally with the characters and let them live in my imagination. I'm aware of the show as a production and a place of business, and certain people involved in the making of it will probably come onto my radar. But in general I react with the world on a Watsonian level. I don't think about all the people involved behind the scenes, and I don't feel irresponsible for that. It connects, I think, to another idea I've seen a lot in fandom where it seems like there's a tendency to put a lot of responsibility on the viewer to support people behind the scenes. If I start feeling responsible for people behind the scenes might I not feel I ought to continue watching to keep the ratings up? Sometimes it's unclear exactly where to draw the line.

The other thing that seemed to get passed over was how an ending or a development in a story can be distressing. Okay, it's just fiction. It's not a real life tragedy. But if you're protective of the feelings of people who like having the show in their lives it seems just as important to care about the feelings of people protective of their memories. I wonder, actually, if there’s a different relationship to these things in soaps nowadays because they now seem to be almost entirely about backstage drama. I don’t watch any now, but any time I’ve come across conversations about them it’s all from the Doylist perspective. Stories are rarely discussed as if they’re events actually happening instead of a script filmed with actors.

The easy answer to those who don’t like where the show is going is that they they could just not watch the show anymore, but it seems like anyone who's been really involved in a story knows that's sometimes not so easy. It's like the "there's always fanfic" response to people who don't like canon developments. Sometimes people try to do that and find they can't. Canon is a powerful thing, even if you're trying to avoid it. There's always a danger in new information, whether it's backstory about things that fandom filled in for itself, notes about the future (even if you're not a shipper), or just plot developments that make you queasy. Endings, especially, have a special power to change what came before. Sometimes the story really would be better as a whole if it ended earlier.
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