The Lifeline Letter
|Title:||The Lifeline Letter,|
|From:||Diane Davis, Pamela Garrett, Carole Olson, Karen Silliman, and Kathy Trapani|
|Fandom:||Beauty and the Beast (TV)|
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The essay was an early shot-across-the-bow that inflamed fans during The Beauty and the Beast Wars.
The letter was printed in the tenth issue of Beauty and The Beast: The Newsletter.
Beauty and the Beast has given us a legacy - a community of intelligent, discriminating fans who care deeply about this show and the values it celebrates. Among these values are the validity of listening to your own feelings, the courage to act upon them, and kindness and tolerance toward those who feel differently. For some these values seem to have been cancelled along with the show.
The founders of Beauty and the Beast Lifeline [and us too!] are extremely concerned about attitudes currently being conveyed by some members of fandom who take the position that other fans should not be allowed to express a specific point of view regarding Beauty and the Beast to the creator, writers, producers and distributors. In other words, they hold the view that you do not have the right to let those most closely connected with the show know what you would or would not wish to see with regard to the future of Beauty and the Beast. This attitude is presumptuous, intolerant, and undemocratic. No one has the right to use their visibility in fandom to manipulate and intimate others. No one has the right - or the authority - to label you an "ex-fan", a "darksider", a "nay-sayer", a writer of "hate mail", or a member of the lunatic fringe to be created as an outcast by the self-appointed "faithful", simply because you hold an opinion different from their own.
Most of us have spent hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours supporting Beauty and the Beast. Let us for a moment reduce this understandable emotional issue to its bottom line. Witt-Thomas Productions and Republic Pictures are selling a product; you are the consumer. It serves no purpose to keep your opinions to yourself. You have an absolute right to let the producers and distributors know what has led you to purchase their product in the past and what features would make it most attractive to you in the future. This is not making demands on them. This is a critical communication between the manufacturer and the consumer, and no product can successfully be marketed without it. This may seem blatantly obvious, yet in view of the communications we have been receiving from fans, stating the obvious indeed is necessary.
At the viewer for Quality television convention in Los Angeles last September, we attended a panel discussion of television writers that included Ron Koslow, Terry Louise Fisher ("L.A. Law") and Patricia Green ("China Beach"). These writers all made it clear that they very much like to hear from viewers. Later that same afternoon, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (Designing Women) and Diane English (Murphy Brown) confirmed this point of view - that those involved in television truly appreciate hearing from fans.
With that in mind, don't let anyone tell you that sharing your honest thoughts and feelings will damage Beauty and the Beast, "kill it for the rest" or prevent it from ever returning in any form. That's rubbish, plain and simple. How can anyone rationally promote or adhere to the idea that constructive, heartfelt criticism can possibly damage anything?
Our voice counts as one opinion, no more, no less, and no one has the right to tell you what that opinion should be or the manner in which you are allowed to express it.
The sad fact of the matter is that this once incredibly mobilized and united fandom is now divided, and those who strive to control and dictate the opinions of others do a deep disservice to that which they claim to protect - the future of Beauty and the Beast. So long as such intolerant and sanctimonious views continue to be expressed by some of the so-called leaders of fandom, there is little hope of rediscovering the single-minded devotion that undoubtedly will be required in order to give Beauty and the Beast the support it will need to achieve future success. Perhaps we would all benefit from another viewing of "Song of Orpheus" and perhaps we all need to be reminded of just what it was that drove Father to create his tunnel world below the streets of New York City.
The Beauty and the Beast Lifeline does not ask that you share or unite behind our particular point of view regarding the future of Beauty and the Beast, though many of you are will aware of our feelings. We ask, instead, that you follow your heart and share the feelings it holds with those in the best position to respond to them - Witt-Thomas Productions and Republic Pictures. That is the purpose of this letter. Whatever your feelings, they are valid and valuable and you have earned the right to express them without being accused of attempting to exercise or dictate "creative control". That argument is total nonsense. No, we don't support the right to make threats or subject those connected with Beauty and the Beast to vicious letters or phone calls. No, we don't consider sending dead roses to the production office constructive criticism. But we do feel that it is very, very wrong for a few highly vocal and visible fans to attempt to manipulate, frighten and intimidate others who don't agree with them. Bowing meekly to these voices just because they are the loudest not only compromises your principles but does nothing to help the producers determine which ingredients will result in the most successful product.
Finally, we have all heard the story that Linda Hamilton's departure was due as much to creative differences as a desire to spend time with her baby. This has now been confirmed by cast member Jay Acovone speaking at a Beauty and the Beast/Star Trek convention held in Sacramento, California in mid-January. We mention this because we have heard from many fans who believe there is no hope of Linda's return. We do not know whether Linda would consider returning to Beauty and the Beast. We simply feel that creative differences often can be resolved and that Catherine Chandler is not a lost cause. We also believe there are few among us who would not thrill to see Vincent and Catherine reunited, perhaps in the technicolor splendor of the big screen.Follow your heart...it's the only thing you can ever really count on.
Some Fan Comments
I am one of those who would like to sincerely thank B&B Lifeline for putting out that marvelous letter encouraging all of us to "stick to our opinions" and not allow others to label us. One thing that seems to have resulted from the current polarization of B&TB fandom is that people who think and feel alike about Season #3 (whether pro-or con) seem to gravitate together; I think that's clear from reading many of the current letterzines, and also from personal correspondence.In the April issue [of Tunneltalk, Constantia said that she didn't know anyone who liked the Lifeline letter. In direct contrast, I don't know anyone who DIDN'T love and appreciate it! I'm not directly contrast, I don't know anyone who DIDN'T love and appreciate it! I'm not directly connected with Lifeline, though l live in the Bay Area, but the many people I correspond with, all over the U.S., feel as I did about the letter — we (and I know I CAN speak for the majority of my friends) wanted to stand up and cheer. My friends and I had most definitely interpreted the words of several established leaders in fandom the way Lifeline did — as an "order" to follow the party line or else be labelled "ex-fans" and traitors to B&TB. In fact, it had been our consensus that much of the initial split had been announced and fostered on the pages of some of these established fan organs — long before the Lifeline letter appeared. We felt the Lifeline letter was long overdue. I think this shows that we have all more or less been finding people of like mind to "hang out with," so that's why we can all say "I don't know anyone who liked Season #3" or "I don't know anyone who liked the Lifeline letter" and have it be true — for US — without necessarily representing the accurate balance of views in fandom. 
The devastating pain of the two-hour movie and the hopelessness of the entire third season left me an emotional "basket-case," wandering around in a daze. No one close to me was really able to empathize with my feelings of loss, and I thought for a while I was "all alone out here." Sound familiar?
What I was able to gather from the major fan organizations was that no one should be feeling this way — let me rephrase that — no one should be expressing feeling this way, and most of fandom was firmly united on the third season bandwagon.
Then a letter arrived from Pamela Garrett that eloquently expressed my sense of outrage with the new direction of the show; another letter came from B&TB Lifeline; some letterzines started carrying a few highly critical LOCs; fanzines began to appear rewriting that season of hopelessness into one of budding promise and lovely fulfillment; artwork found its way to me that returned to me both Vincent and Catherine.Then, like a harbinger of good things to come, TT made its entrance into my life. Oh, the joy if it, to realize that not everyone was singing praises to Ron Koslow and the gut-wrenching shows he claimed would "richly reward" me.
I, too, received a letter from the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST LIFELINE. I, however, agreed with almost ALL of the flyer I don't think those people who put out the flyer misunderstood anything. I think they got it all right! I do not WANT or LIKE to be called names because I have a different opinion or an unpopular opinion!