Like a car wreck: you want to look away but you have to stare at it because your boss is making you

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Title: Like a car wreck: you want to look away but you have to stare at it because your boss is making you
Creator: dudski
Date(s): January 11, 2013
Medium: online journal post
Topic: violating the fourth wall, fandom and visibility
External Links: Like a car wreck: you want to look away but you have to stare at it because your boss is making you, Archived version
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Like a car wreck: you want to look away but you have to stare at it because your boss is making you is a 2013 essay by dudski posted to livejournal. It is a direct rebuttal of Aja Romano's article The crumbling of the fourth wall: Why fandom shouldn't hide anymore.


  • Aja's faulty definition of the Fourth Wall
  • The fourth wall separates fans and The Powers That Be, not fans and people in general
  • Some RPF fandoms rely on the Fourth Wall to exist
  • There are different degrees of contact and interaction between fans and TPTB


THAT AJA ARTICLE!!!!!!!!!! Have we all read the Aja article? I can't even with that shit. What I love the most about it is how telling it is that it's focused on fandom's fear of persecution and that there's ZERO self-awareness regarding the fact that OF COURSE that is the angle Aja's going to take, given her history? I mean, I'll chain myself to the fourth wall like I'm trying to save a tree from being bulldozed, I LOVE THE FOURTH WALL AND I WILL FIGHT TO THE DEATH FOR IT, but it has next to nothing to do with worrying that people will think I'm a weirdo.

[...] I could give a shit what people IRL think of how I spend my time and most people who know ANYTHING REAL ABOUT ME know about my fandom involvement to some degree. I'm not worried about it! So it's hilarious to me that a ~serious piece of journalism~ [HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA] about why fandom shouldn't cling to the fourth wall out of shame contains absolutely nothing about why I want the fourth wall to exist.

For starters, she focuses almost entirely on "the fourth wall" as a separation between fandom and the outside world, using that definition interchangeably with what it actually is - the separation between fandom and the people whose work we're fans of. The fourth wall does not exist between me and my coworkers - it exists between me and showrunners, between me and authors, between me and celebrities.

But even if I accept her totally made-up definition and agree that it applies to me keeping my fannish life on the DL around civilians: Backlash is not a thing I'm worried about. I can understand how Aja, who MYSTERIOUSLY AND UNEXPECTEDLY ends up in the exact center of a shitstorm wherever she goes, would end up with the perspective that shitstorms are everyone's #1 concern.

Here are my concerns, as far as PUBLIC SHAMING and being afraid of the local preacher making me wear a scarlet F all the time or whatever I'm supposed to be afraid of: I have manners and basic social skills and therefore no interest in telling someone who has never heard of Show X all about my involvement in the Show X fandom. Social interactions are about gauging these things in other people! I don't want to hear about the great hike you went on or what the fuck ever people who go outside do, why on EARTH would I expect you to want to hear about this great fic I read about HOCKEY PLAYERS BEING IN LOVE? Even if they are into Show X? Fandom is not for everyone. The conversations I have with my dad about Breaking Bad are different from the conversations I have with my brother about it, and those are different from the conversations I have with my mom about it, and those are [somewhat] different from when I scream about it on LJ. AND I DON'T WANT ANYONE COMING NEAR ME WITH BREAKING BAD FIC EVER UNLESS IT'S THE AU WHERE SKYLER BREAKS BAD AND IS GUS'S ACCOUNTANT AND THE METH TRUCKS ALWAYS RUN ON TIME.
BUT ALL THAT HAS TO DO WITH AJA'S MADE-UP DEFINITION OF THE FOURTH WALL, AND NOT THE ACTUAL FOURTH WALL, WHICH IS A GREAT THING TO HAVE? It obviously varies from fandom to fandom and, within fandoms, from fan to fan, and Aja kind of conflates the basic awareness of the existence of fans with the breach of the fourth wall, which is ALSO insane. "Avengers fandom is so big it influences entire policy decisions at Marvel." That sentence is technically true, but it's not true for any definition of "fandom" as it relates to the community I belong to, unless we're getting SO general that it might as well read "The population of Earth is so big it influences..." instead. Marvel caters specifically to fans on a level that exceeds most movie studios, but that catering is devoted more to the more well-known and digestible I LIKE THIS A LOT AND KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT IT fandom than it is the I LIKE THIS A LOT AND HERE COMES ALL THE META AND TRANSFORMATIVE WORKS fandom that we're all part of.

When I think of the breach of the fourth wall, I think of Cookies for Sterek and the general trend of Jeff Davis RELENTLESSLY baiting fans and courting their approval. This will end badly. It has already ended badly! Jeff Davis is always crying about how the internet was mean to him for being a dumb racist fuck or whatever it is he's always doing! THOSE WHO DON'T LEARN THE HISTORY OF AARON SORKIN GETTING BANNED FROM TWOP ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT. Even without the guaranteed minefield that is creators making themselves or their processes too accessible, there's the effect on canon - either the show tries too hard to please fans and fucks itself over, or it doesn't deliver on the things that all sane people knew it was never going to deliver on, and that tiny subset of fandom that they devotedly courted is going to fucking SNAP.

There's also the consideration - totally absent from the article - that the fourth wall has a totally different significance in fandoms based on fiction and fandoms based on real people. Ashley Clements seeing your tweets about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is not the same as the @happywrites Twitter account is not the same as Aaron Paul being a delight is not the same as Mindy Kaling seeing your tweets about wanting her to marry BJ Novak is not the same as hockey players seeing your tweets about wanting them to bang is not the same as Louis from 1D having to tell people to go fuck themselves because they keep insisting TO HIM that his girlfriend is a beard. It's a scale! Some RPF fandoms are dependent on a deliberately played-up dynamic [BJ AND MINDY STOP FLIRTING ON TWITTER JFC], but some are dependent on ostensibly candid interactions, and some are dependent on the basic courtesy of not constantly alerting someone to the fact that you'd really like it if they made out with a friend of theirs. Outside of overdone fanservice, fiction fans probably aren't likely to influence their fandom too heavily, at least not any more than a production would already bend to things like critical consensus, but a fandom based on interactions between real people may rely on the fourth wall to keep existing at all, or to keep existing in an acceptable and enjoyable state.
Overall, though, the most important thing about the fourth wall is that it should exist to whatever degree an individual fan needs it to, and it's fucking rude and presumptuous for Aja or ANYONE ELSE to try and drag us away from it kicking and screaming. With Bones, I barely wanted to acknowledge that the cast even existed other than screaming "EMILY DESCHANEL HOW DO YOU DO THESE THINGS WITH YOUR FACE???????????????" With YJ, I will DEVOUR whatever I can get via Ask Greg or Brandon's tweets or Jerome Moore's DA or whatever else I can get, but I also love that there is a limit to it, that Greg has this way of addressing fans that still has a buffer built into it, because I am, in general, not a fan of direct contact. But that's me! Other people love that shit, and that's fine, but that should be for them to decide. Maybe you want to be that person who mails Mike Schur your Tom/Ron fic! You do you, you FUCKING WEIRDO! But when the dude who draws the YJ comics who I won't name because he's probably a self-Googler not that there's anything wrong with that linked to a post I made about an issue? THAT WAS WEIRD. I was ultimately fine with it, I'm fine with most things, but he was not the audience the post was intended for, and I'd say neither were most of his Facebook fans. The entire thing was me screaming about Meg and Conner sharing oxygen VIA THEIR MOUTHS and also how I don't care about the plot. I STAND BY IT! A lot of my YJ stuff is a lot more polished than that post was, and I'd probably be more comfortable with that getting linked around, but - these things are written with specific audiences in mind, and yeah, the fact that they're public means that to a certain degree I hope people will stumble on them, but, like I said before, it's a scale. In conclusion, Aja's whole thing about how everything in fandom should be as visible as possible because we should be proud of ourselves and not ~hide our light~ just because the patriarchy wants to shame us for our creativity or whatever is FUCKING IDIOTIC and based on her own understanding of herself as a constant innocent and misunderstood scapegoat who ultimately benefited from becoming a high-profile fan, and not on the average fan's actual experience kthxbye.

Comments at the Post

Anyway I am not super familiar with Aja but I read that article because obviously, and I - Lord. DID U KNOW FANDOM COST HER HER JOB, SARAH. HER JOB!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm really glad some crazy person doesn't think I should hide my light under a bushel, but I can tell you right now there are literally thousands of people who do not need to be told that, they need to be pushed back into dark caves and told to never come back out. Most of these people are probably in the One Direction fandom, since those people make giving that Smallville actor sex toys or whatever it is they did look like actual child's play. I hate the One Direction fandom. Can I be in charge of telling people in the One Direction fandom whether or not they're allowed to have Twitter? I'm being so calm right now, I'm super proud of myself. I knew you could do it, self. BASICALLY I think you nailed it when you said that the fourth wall should exist for people in whatever way they need it to exist and one group shouldn't try to drag it away from everybody. If you want to mail Jeff Davis cookies then go ahead, but I should be allowed to laugh at you and cringe because that feels so weirdly opposite-invasive to me because I am a member of polite society and I have manners.
The Aja situation is funny to me because she used to mod (maybe still mods? idk) rahmbamarama, where we wrote RPF about the U.S. government and all the entries are locked, because we were writing RPF about the President and his Cabinet. So she's being a hypocriten here re: fourth wall shenanigans. We had ourselves an awesome time in that comm but I'm reasonably certain most of us weren't comfortable with telling people in brickspace that we shipped the President with his Chief of Staff and supported Obama/Biden in, uh, unconventional ways.
"This article originally appeared with a modified image of the Berlin Wall. Some readers found this choice offensive"

This kind of reminds me of ~kinky~ Tumblr people saying having a ~kink~ is like being gay, in a way, because when you talk to your coworkers about your sex kink you risk getting fired, and it never occurs to them that just maybe no one wants to hear about your sex shit? There is a lot wrong with that "article", but yeah there's an appropriate way to talk to people about things, and if my friends who aren't into fandom read my Twitter they'd think I was a crazy person, not because of how into tv I am, I talk to them about tv, they know I buy tv shows on DVD, but because the fandom language doesn't translate. This fake fourth wall of her exists for the same reason that you have different circles of friends. I wouldn't want my imaginary boss reading my Tumblr but I also wouldn't want my boss in a bar with me when I'm getting drunk with my best friends or my boss being able to see how I am with my cat???

And her examples of the actual fourth wall, of creators reacting "badly" when faced with fandom, are kind of not even that bad? Like, Kirk and Spock *weren't* sleeping together. Worst things have happened in the collision of fandom and Internet, I mean.

Fandom is kind of like DADT in a way!
I had not read that article, and somehow hadn't heard of it, and then just went looking for it, and now I wish I could time travel back to five minutes ago, when my blood pressure was so much lower.
I love your articulate response to this Aja situation even though I hadn't read the original source material which inspired it. But, now I don't have to because I just agree with you, so, things are great.
Is [Aja] exactly the same with all people, does she not have certain subjects she doesn't do with certain people? Like, I'm not going to talk football with half my co-workers, but the other half? They eat that shit up. Or television! I tried to talk about Glee with them at some point during season two I think, them and my aunt and we just had such wildly divergent opinions that I knew never to do it EVER AGAIN. It's called a social filter. It exists in reality, why shouldn't it exist on the internet?
You finally verbalized why it makes me feel uncomfortable when people talk about fandom in public. It's not because I'm ashamed of my weirdness (I was saying to someone the other day I can't wait until I'm old because then I'm just going to be SUPER WEIRD ALL THE TIME AND HAVE NO FILTERS EVER!!!!!!!!!) but it's because there is a time and a place for weirdness and for each topic and some people can't or refuse to acknowledge that.