Criticism, Television, Walkers, and Superviewers

I learned a new word today. “Superviewers”. I don’t know how I feel about this word.

I was reading an article online from the New York Times that Glen Mazzara (Show runner for The Walking Dead) tweeted earlier in regards to the season finale of The Killing. In it, the writer referred to a certain faction of viewers as “superviewers”.

I think the easiest way to sum up the phrase is by describing these so-called superviewers as “fans [of whichever show, movie, media etc.] who use social media as a megaphone and/or mouthpiece to express their extreme emotions towards said media.”

And this can be done for positive or negative.

I think it was a very good move for Mr. Mazzara to point this out because, in reality, the majority of the fans of The Walking Dead are extremely intelligent. At least, I like to think so, being one of those fans myself. I assume that there will be a lot more fans of The Walking Dead actually taking the moment to read the article. Whether the same fans take anything away from the article is a different story.

But I did, and that’s the point.

I don’t really comprehend the concept behind what makes a “superviewer.” I use my social networking sites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to connect with other fans and friends who are also fans. (Most of my real-life friends aren’t Walking Dead fans, so I take what I can get. And that is not to downplay the awesomeness that is my internet friends. You guys fuckin’ RULE.) I have had some really great, intelligent conversations with people online, especially on Twitter, regarding The Walking Dead. However, I’ve never expressed disappointment or any negative criticism towards the show. I admitted to crying and feeling very upset over the show, but I would, if I was involved with TWD,  take that as more of a compliment than anything else. I don’t understand when people get up on a soapbox and complain about the “pace” of the episodes (or season) or “the lack of zombie mayhem.” The writers and producers have a very clear vision of what they want this show to be and I feel that they have done an excellent job of showing us, as viewers, that vision.

I don’t personally watch The Walking Dead to get a fix of zombie mayhem. I watch the show because it goes deeper into the psychological aspect of what would happen to the survivors of the zombie apocalypse. I like the fact that it is full of angst and drama. In fact, seeing these characters break down emotionally and try to recover while there are other people’s lives depending on them is what makes the show seem more realistic and far more entertaining to me than if it was the same “see a zombie, shoot the zombie, hide from the zombie, scavenge some food whilst running from the zombies, regroup and hide some more, end with a BANG” formula that every zombie movie seems to employ.

I think that this is the problem with the fandom of zombie apocalypse things in general: we have grown accustomed to a one-shot movie that is no more than two hours long that takes us quickly through the emotional degeneration and survival-instinct kicking in phase, through the zombie mayhem and killing and typically ends with a punch and/or a bang.

When you draw that out into a season’s worth of television programming, we lose track of how long has actually elapsed in the world. In The Walking Dead, it has only been about 2 months since the outbreak – and Rick was in a coma for the first few weeks of it! Of course these people are still going to be reeling about what’s happened and the degeneration of civilization as we know it is still happening. They’re not entirely sure how to cope with the losses of… well, everything. They are still trying to figure it out. And this is where the drama comes from. You can’t expect everything to work perfectly, people die, zombies show up, everything goes to hell. You have to consider – and this is what I really loved about The Walking Dead – that stereotypes, racism, misogyny, gender roles, psychopathy, and all the other negative stuff that society keeps in check (usually) still exists. Without actual laws and law enforcement in place to keep these things in line, it’s all going to run rampant. We have seen it happen in the show. (Merle, Ed, Lori, Shane all show off the things I just mentioned in the first 6 episodes…)

I don’t get it when fans criticize the work that these people these PROFESSIONALS do. Weren’t you entertained? Did you feel anything for the characters? You know you’re coming back next week to watch it. And the week after. And the week after.

The season 2 finale had 9 MILLION viewers.

You watched it every week. Don’t deny it. You probably watched the encore too. I know I did.

And The Walking Dead got me to bond with my 14 year-old sister who is also a fan. I go to mom’s place to watch it with them every week during the regular season.

I don’t have cable TV. I cancelled my subscription almost 6 months ago because I was tired of paying insane amounts of money (it was almost $80 a month for a  basic cable package) to watch Star Trek reruns and Doctor Who, if I was home in time to catch it. Which I never was. Because I work on Saturdays which is when it airs in my hometown.  And I am not a fan of most of the shows on TV these days. I have a very dry and “British” sense of humor. Sitcoms do not appeal to me.

I loved AMC, however. My partner and I would spend days off watching movie marathons and AMC’s original programming for hours. AMC got me hooked on Westerns, namely Clint Eastwood’s works. Hang ’em High is my favorite.

So please, if you’re going to criticize the producers, don’t harass them on Twitter. They have made themselves SO accessible to us, the fans, the viewers. So have the actors. Personally, I follow 3 writers, 2 Executive Producers, and 5 of the actors who I can think of off the top of my head on Twitter. I would hate to lose those privileges of being able to get my questions answered, or to see behind the scenes pictures that they share with us because of the soapboxing and the so-called “Superviewers”.

I suppose that by writing this I am toeing the line of becoming a “superviewer” myself. But that’s okay, because I’m done my soapboxing.

I’m really just looking forward to Season 3.

Kai Kiriyama is a novelist who has several books in the works and is hoping to write scripts for film and television one day, despite being unpublished outside of the internet. She lives in the frozen North with her hedgehog Odin, her snake Rhaegar and her laptop.

 You can find her on Twitter at @thekiriyamaheir and you can email her your arguments if you need more than 140 characters at thekiriyamaheir@gmail.com

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About kaikiriyama

I'm a writer. I write everything from shorts, to novels to screenplays and then some. I like comic books, ponies, zombies, pokemon, monsters, demons, vampires and mythology. I walk a fine line between badass, scary and girly. View all posts by kaikiriyama

4 responses to “Criticism, Television, Walkers, and Superviewers

  • The Ol' Big Jim

    As one who wouldn't be considered a "superviewer" of anything I was somewhat baffled by this post. Not the post itself, mind you; but the superviewer concept. Television, films and other forms of entertainment are the product of a great deal of hard work by a great many people. If one isn't entertained by the offering, they should just shut up and move on to something that does entertain them. Complaining, bitching and moaning about it in social media isn't going to change anything. By the time a film or series is ready for airing the die has been cast. It's no different than buying a can of ABC tomato sauce. If you don't like it, buy XYZ tomato sauce next time and get on with what's important in your life. No one's life is (should be) transformed by a television show or movie. One last thought; if the superviewers think the programming is so bad perhaps they should be in Hollywood or Bollywood making movies and television shows. I'm sorry this post is rather disjointed, but I hope I was able to get a point or two across…As always, I enjoy your blog Kai!

  • Kai Kiriyama

    No, it makes perfect sense. I think that most people think that when shows are aired weekly, that they are still in production from week to week and that if you get enough people commenting (or complaining) on the same things that things will change. The entire idea of something like this 'superviewer' concept is frightening and annoying. I'm all for people talking about things like this, I love to hear different opinions, I do the same thing with favorite books and I've had arguments with friends about the pros and cons of books. Or movies. Or television shows. I just don't think that social media has actually made the conversation more productive. Or more intelligent for that matter. I don't agree that your life should not be impacted by your choice in entertainment. There are some great shows and films that have made lasting impressions on me. Things like Star Wars and Indiana Jones and shows like Reading Rainbow and Star Trek have really had an influence in shaping me into who I am today. Have they influence important decisions in my life? Maybe in a small way, I am trying to be a professional writer after all. And I personally believe that had I not been exposed to these films and programs at a younger age, I wouldn't be as 'nerdy' or as into books as I am now. I do agree, however, that there are more important things than to nitpick at a show and harass the people who make it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it's the same with religion – don't force it upon me and I'll happily let you go about your business.I think that's just it too though; everyone wants that Hollywood taste. Everyone wants to see their ideas put out there and they want to reap the rewards. Unfortunately, so many people go about this the wrong way that it comes off as self-indulgent and trite. A waste of time. Unfortunately, it also makes the people it is aimed at not want to interact with the rest of us, despite the bad apples being a minority. I am very happy that you continue to read my blog. It makes it all worthwhile to know that at least someone reads it. :D

  • Nicholas McRae

    Superviewers are free marketing. They are walking commercials. Rant, rave–whatever. Superviewers talk about how great/terrible a show is, and that puts the show in the view of their friends and readers. Word of mouth is the BEST advertising, and as Howard Stern has taught us, people who detest something will tune in to see how it goes horribly wrong in the next episode.These people are valuable to, and encouraged by, producers because they are walking, talking, free advertisements of the best kind. Superviewers can talk down a show or novel all they like–their friends will tune in to see how horrible it really is. That's how the producers make their money: people tuning in.Who are superusers? Usually, people who contribute nothing and have little-to-nothing to offer, but who feel entitled to recognition in association with the show/novel/movie in question. They feel that it is their right and place in this world to be seen, listened to, and respected for their (educated or otherwise) opinions. In short, they tend to be the people that no writer or creative person wants to meet face-to-face, for fear of a lecture about the "should-haves". They are, however, the most valuable audience members to creators, because they "spread the good word."Annoying? Threatening? Scary? Maybe. But really, were it not for "Superviewers," we really wouldn't have a hope in this "everything-connected-via-teh-intrawebs" society we live in. Gone are the days when an author could crap out a novel, slap her or his name on it and snoot all of their fans. No. Day by day, our humanity is exposed, and our audience becomes increasingly cynical. Blog posts, videos on Youtube, so-called professional reviews… all of these things can be bought, and our audiences know it.So, if it's the way of the world that we are to be exposed as humans who breathe, eat, sleep and yes, poop. Then we must adjust our own expectations if we intend to rise up above the growing sea of creative minds with whom we compete for our audience's money. We want them to buy our stories; they want us to give them a world into which they can escape and feel free and powerful. One hand scratches the other.

  • Kai Kiriyama

    But you have to be careful that you're not biting the hand that feeds, so to speak. If, for example, Neil Gaiman got fed up with the trash talk and ridiculousness that being public on Twitter garnered him, he might decide to shut down his profile and go hide in his house and not do appearances and not make himself available. Would we still buy his work if that were the case? Would he still be relevant at that point?I find that getting your name out there in the first place is difficult because there are already so many people wanting that taste of Hollywood or whatever, that being exposed the way we are, connected through the 'net and everything, means that there are the hundreds or thousands of bad (choose your profession) or at least 'below par' (choose your profession) that the ones with potential, or the ones who are outright 'good' or 'marketable' get so overlooked. (see: Stephanie Myers.)I think that the superviewers and superusers, while providing the great word of mouth service, also tend to threaten the "regular Joes" who get involved or finally build up the courage to comment on their program/writer/film/etc. in a public forum. They tend to bray the loudest when the parade starts and the ones who are not as outspoken, the non-superusers as it were, fade into the background and a lot of the times, the less pushy fans are the ones who really have the most interesting or thought-provoking things to say. I feel that the barking could be toned down relatively easily through proper etiquette, but I find that that is something else that tends not to exist on the internet. And I don't mean to talk ill of the people who are first and foremost with their thoughts, but I still think that there should be a line drawn somewhere. I have seen people on Twitter offer a hundred tweets to a single celebrity. Or more. For every inane thought that passes through the person's head. While I know that there are literally hundreds if not thousands of users who probably offer insights and thoughts and pose questions to said celebrities day in and day out, I think that there is a lot to be said for certain limitations. I also know that these celebrities have the option to block people who annoy/spam/abuse etc. them, but where does that line get drawn? Where does it become the responsibility of the user to take that step back and realise that it's not okay to pester like a child starved for attention? Where does the line get drawn for things like personal space, privacy and too much attention from unwanted sources?I don't disagree that the superviewers and superusers are a kind of 'necessary evil' so to speak, but when does it become too much? When do these critics become a hindrance rather than a help? And when do we draw the line with these fans?I admit, I have "tweeted" (I really hate that word and all verbs associated with Twitter, but whatcha gonna do?) to certain people involved with the Walking Dead. I have been answered by Gale Gunner, Glen Mazzara and Melissa McBride. However, it was unexpected, enjoyed and left at the singular. No, that's wrong. I had a brief conversation with Gale. Brief. I answered a question, got a response, gave a reply, got a response and left it at that. Does that make me a superuser?And, would taking suggestions from the audience through viable social mediums make a difference in the superuser/superviewer community? Would that shift the focus from the people who make the shows/books/films whatever to the audience in a negative way? I feel like there should be a balance somewhere.

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