I was once a huge fan of shows like Bones. Interesting, dynamic people doing interesting, dynamic things. Problems to solve and crises to avoid. I’d tune in religiously.
And then the show became fangirl fodder.
Suddenly, the focus is not on the crime, but on whether or not Booth and Bones will get married. Everyone on the show got paired up and the storyline became one part proper story arc, five parts relationship drama.
This happens over and over and over again. Great shows with interesting plots and great character development tailspins into stories of crushes and love and relationships. Suddenly the major conflict is when one character sees their love interest maybe-possibly-but-obviously-not-really kiss another character. And this isn’t even factoring in shows that set out to be fangirl fodder from Day One.
Fangirl fodder. Stories where the only purpose is to placate the girls (or boys) who live vicariously through the show (and then write fanfiction where their all favorite characters hook up). It might be an easy and guaranteed way to keep a show on the air (because who isn’t a more devoted viewer than a girl who wishes she was Bones and kissing Booth?), but it’s tedious and obnoxious and many a good show has fallen because of this.
I hate it. I absolutely hate it. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the minority when I turn off my TV and give up on a series because of this. I know I was the only one in my group of friends who stopped watching How I Met Your Mother because it stopped being a show about the absurd and confusing and disappointing adult world and started being a show about Barney and Robin’s will-they-are-won’t-they relationship.
(Spoiler alert: they will.)
And here is why there is no bigger crime in the TV world than to let a good show dive into fangirl fodder: the human condition is quite possibly the most fascinating and complex thing out there for us. We are an incredible species to study as a whole. The flawed, short-sighted behavior. The jealousy, the territorialism, the guilt, the quest to be a decent person. The outside influences and the internal conflict. The desire to figure out meaning and the constant fear that there isn’t any. We are selfish, scared, curious creatures on a never-ending search for some peace of mind and that is fascinating. That’s what I love in my books, my TV shows, my movies. I want something that picks apart mankind and provides just a little more insight or commentary on what makes people tick.
And a show loses that when it goes into fangirl fodder. Sure, getting upset because your crush might’ve kissed your rival is just as much a part of the human experience as anything else, but it’s a tired trope and nothing new or interesting is ever added to the mix.
This issue with TV shows spills into the world at large. Look around you. Look at how insane and flawed and hopeful and optimistic the world is. Look at the tragedy and the hopefulness, the barbarism and the altruism. Look at all this interesting shit. Are we really going to be so naïve as to think the only things that matter are things involving romance?
There are better things to talk about than when you are going to find a girlfriend. There are better things to think about than if you will get married someday. There are better things to write about than a crush or unrequited love. There are better things to experience than a fight with your significant other because you think fighting equals passion (and, let’s be real: we all know people who do that. We might even be the people who do that).
Romantic relationships are (usually) a part of life. But there are few things as skewed as the overemphasis on it. And there are few things as patronizing than portraying relationships in that sitcomesque simplistic light, where everything is resolved by the end and things are only made complicated because of an evil villain or a cataclysmic event (or a moment where it looks like a rival is kissing your beau).
I get it, though. It’s okay to indulge. We all need our McDonalds (in this instance, McDonalds is a guilty pleasure show where the focus is on whether or not the cute boy will get with the cute girl. Although – again – spoiler alert: they will).
But, the same way too much McDonalds will leave you sick to your stomach, too much fangirl fodder will leave you unsatisfied. There is nothing to gain. It will not help you. There will be no momentary stay against confusion. If anything, it will give you a skewed view of how relationships actually work. There will be no moment of clarity, no build up to a moment where you can face all that mankind is and can offer. Instead, you will change the channel, diving headfirst into escapism, never, ever touching upon the total package of what being alive actually means.
So I don’t care if this character loves that character and this character is jealous of their lover. I don’t care. Call me when you find a new way of discussing relationships that doesn’t fall into fangirl fodder. Until then, I’ll be watching House and mourning its sudden but inevitable demise.