Home > anti-fans > Don’t Picket the Funeral: The Lost Finale and its Anti-Fans

Don’t Picket the Funeral: The Lost Finale and its Anti-Fans

May 24th, 2010 | Jonathan Gray

And with that, Lost is over. Predictably, my Twitter feed came alive last night as friends and colleagues tried to make sense of it. Equally predictably, the anti-fans were out in full force. There were those who never really liked the show anyways and wanted us all to know it, there were those who thought the finale sucked and needed to discuss it, and there were those who loved to hate the show publicly and who saw this as their best chance to make that hate even more public.

I’m not going to discuss the actual finale here, since a whole host of people with more words and thoughts than I have already done so, and, quite frankly, I want to sit on it a little longer before I pass complete judgment. Go here to see other reviews linked. What I want to discuss instead is those anti-fans.

Specifically, I find myself wishing we could institute a short mourning period for fans of a show once it’s over. I get anti-fandom, and realize that it’s as valid a cultural practice as is fandom. It would be ludicrous, and more to the point outright worrying, to suggest that one should only love the media – dislike and hate are necessary, especially if we ever want it to get better. Anyone who tells themselves that they’re a fan is definitely an anti-fan of something else, and anyone who isn’t a fan of anything is (not only a sad, sorry human being, but also) definitely an anti-fan of at least something else. So anti-fans aren’t going anywhere, nor should they.

But how pleasant it would be, though, if we could accept that fans need some time to decompress, to let go, and to savor the memory of their beloved show once it’s gone. I’d pose that if, as an anti-fan, you’re unwilling to honor that love in the small way of shutting up and letting the fans have a day or three, your anti-fandom has become an ugly beast. It’s now first and foremost dependent on ruining others’ experience, and it is supremely untrusting that those others truly find something worth loving in the first place. It is a radical narcissism. You know those jerks who picket funerals saying the deceased is going to Hell? That’s what you’ve become.

Granted, I say this now because I am a Lost fan. Some might question my use of the word “fan,” since I’m not in a Lost community, I don’t produce Lost fic or so forth, and the only time I’ve spent on speculation boards is when I’m studying them. But I consider myself a fan. As such, the naysayers are pissing me off and ruining my buzz. This is a self-interested plea, yes. But please feel free to throw this back in my face in the future – when Grey’s Anatomy ends (and boy will that be a good day), I promise to shut up and let the fans have their day or three. Which is not to say that I promise to like the show, because my understanding of the cultural studies project was not that we all had to like everything, nor that we all had to agree with everyone’s likes. Let us vigorously disagree, and if you want to know why I dislike Grey’s (apart from it causing an outbreak of students who can’t spell my name, that is), I’ll gladly tell you. I may tell you even if you don’t want to know too, because I’m invested in my answer. I just won’t do it after the finale.

So how about a moratorium on Lost hate till tomorrow?

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  1. May 24th, 2010 at 07:09 | #1

    Amen, brother! And that’s why I won’t go around pissing on the 24 fans tonight…

  2. Meagan
    May 24th, 2010 at 07:20 | #2

    agreed. No hating. (Funny, I also feel a need to sit and stew for a bit before declaring my interpretation….)

  3. May 24th, 2010 at 07:21 | #3

    I loved that they took one of the most hateful things about television, the ‘we have no budget for this one’ clip episode, and instead managed to make something really quite beautiful out of it. The timing of almost every one of those flashbacks/sideway-revelations was spot on! :)

  4. Tyler
    May 24th, 2010 at 09:42 | #4

    This post makes me very sad. I want to respond to it without insulting Mr. Gray, but I fear that I’ll tread perilously close no matter my effort, so, cards on the table:

    This post almost seems to equate disliking a show–or even simply being *critical* of it (which is not the same thing as disliking it; one may like a thing and be critical of it)–with being an “anti-fan,” as though the only possible explanation for being critical of a show like Lost is some sort of inexplicable, emotion-fueled passion. And so, I feel like the plea here is essentially to withhold criticism of Lost’s finale because such criticism is “pissing [Mr. Gray] off.”

    And that’s an understandable sentiment in, say, a seven year old, whose interests are so fundamentally tied into their feelings of self-worth that they cannot stand to have anything they care for challenged… but in any grown-up, let alone an “Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies,” it seems… well… honestly rather pathetic.

    Television programs are not people and critiquing a television program is not the same thing as picketing a funeral. Amazing that this would need to be stated, but there it is. Works of art are *presented* for the critique of the intelligent, and big boys and girls like us need to be able to handle the diversity of responses and opinions to art. Would we suggest that movie critics withhold their critiques of films in their first week of release, out of consideration for the feelings of those movie-goers who enjoy it? What a bizarre notion that would be! And yet Mr. Gray wants everyone (who disagrees with him) to just shut up, until he’s sufficiently prepared himself emotionally to handle disagreement.

    Sorry. But whether a “fan” or an “anti-fan” (or some other category, like “intelligent human being who can both like and dislike various aspects of the same show”), we’re all entitled to our opinions, and to express them, and there’s to be no moratorium on it for the sake of sparing the childish feelings of a man who ought to know better.

  5. May 24th, 2010 at 10:55 | #5

    Tyler, my point is not that criticism is unwelcome. My point is that a certain form of criticism that is (a) heightened and vociferous, and (b) expressed performatively just after a show finishes, can be socially aggressive (as is calling someone “pathetic” after feigning an effort not to insult them, btw).

    No, a show is not a human being, but a funeral is just as much if not way more for the people left behind — it’s an act of communion from those who loved someone. And when a television show that’s existed for a long time and that’s captivated an eager and engaged fandom for many years goes off the air ends, there is also likely to be a brief moment in which that love is attested to. I don’t think that’s comparable to a film because a film doesn’t have a six year following.

    And to underline, I am not saying that people shouldn’t criticize. I wholly agree with you that art is there for reflection and vigorous debate. I don’t want people who disagree with me to shut up. I do think, though, that in the immediate wake of the death of a long-running show, it’s more of an act of aggression than of criticism to loudly and performatively excoriate the show, with those three italicized words being operational.

  6. May 24th, 2010 at 17:10 | #6

    You’re amazingly awesome.Thanks for putting it the way it needed to be put.

  7. elizabeth
    May 24th, 2010 at 17:31 | #7

    Thank you Jonathan Gray, you are my hero. Tyler, in the spirit of showing being as valuable as telling, I direct you to the messages on EW.com, where you will find quite a few of the many examples of exactly what Jonathan has described. As a LOST fan who was often critical of elements of the show (and never afraid to express it), but who loved it all in the end (because even the troubling parts made me think), I find Jonathan’s post very refreshing.

  8. May 24th, 2010 at 18:17 | #8

    @Jonathan Gray Brilliant post and even better comment. As a recently self-discovered anti-fan, I’ve been fascinated with my own affect (disaffect) in regard to Glee. However, I am at the same time trying to be really respectful of the people who love a show. I do feel like I have somehow less of a right [?] to complain about a show I dislike than one I love. In other words, I’ll happily complain as much as I want about SPN, because that’s my show, that’s where my investment lies, that’s a disappointment in a text I’ve been emotionally invested in.

    Finding faults in a show you dislike is certainly satisfying–radical narcissism is a great way to put it! But, like you, I want others to respect my pleasures, so I have to do the same (and just skim over bandom and Lost and White Collar posts and twitters ).

    As for Tyler? I think we could pull out an anti-fan Bingo Card and he’d singlehandedly fill it out…

  9. Robert
    May 25th, 2010 at 11:19 | #9

    New to matters of fandom and anti-fandom, I ask: are all anti-fandoms equally valid?

    Prior to a presentation on the rhetorical strategies of certain TV pundits, I forced myself to digest a number of unpalatable texts so that I might speak from an educated anti-fandom.

    Plenty of other times I’ve known (suspected)–through paratexts, I guess–that I would not like a thing and so did not seek out that thing.

    Sorry to include an example of the very thing you dislike, but this morning I came across this on Facebook:

    my friend: can someone pleae explain the ending of “lost” to me. im so confused, was that parallel universe actually heaven?..please comment if u know. THANX!!

    her friend: Stupid show…never watched it. Don’t like shows that end up being a dream the whole time…like “Dallas”.

    I am not uncritical of Lost, but I watched as a fan. And I watched with my wife; we’ve logged around 100 hours of show time together. The show has fueled conversation and helped us bond as an in-house fan community. And here comes someone who took an FB request for help as an opportunity to voice her dismay about a show she’s admittedly never seen.

    (1) I’m with you. Especially because she offered an opinion that was unsolicited, openly ignorant, and, from word one, vociferous indeed, I wish she’d not targeted my friend’s post-show, reverent (albeit confused) mourning (or, by being so public/performative about it, mine).

    (2) Is this a sort of anti-fandom (vocally and demonstrably uninformed, aimed squarely at a fan, mean) that you would defend before or long after a show’s wake? I’m wary of loud and performative anti-fandom when it’s uninformed, whether or not it’s also untimely.

  10. Bryan
    May 25th, 2010 at 12:17 | #10

    There is a difference between “hating on” a series just to get a rise out of people and feeling a great sense of disappointment and sadness at the lack of clarity and direction for that rambling, incoherent finale. I love that show with all of my heart, but that doesn’t mean that my extreme disbelief at the wishy washy finale and its “answers” is any less genuine and heartfelt.

    This was like putting climbing to the top of Mount Everest and seeing that you can’t see more than 100 feet in any direction. That doesn’t make the trip as a whole worthless, but it sure impacts the final results.

  11. May 25th, 2010 at 15:16 | #11

    I agree, Bryan, and if the discussion comes from a place of confusion or disappointment, and hence a need to discuss it with other fellow travelers, that’s totally cool with me. I’m simply making a plea for civility.

    Robert, Your #2 there is a good question. On one level, I realize it would be disingenuous of me to ask for civility, but put it on a clock, as though one’s free to be an asshole, just not until 24 hours after a finale. So, on that level, it’d be nice if we all tried to be a little nicer. But on another level, just as fandoms are modes of communication, anti-fandoms can be too, and as long as the basis of what’s being communicated isn’t simply “you’re an awful person, and I am better than you,” perhaps those anti-fandoms have important things to tell us?

  1. May 24th, 2010 at 10:25 | #1