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Petitioning the networks

2012/04/30

I’m sure that any of you watch television and use the Internet are familiar with the practice of fan campaigns to save shows. Here’s an article about some of the more successful efforts. While producers and writers and such care about art, network executives care mainly about profits. There’s more to this than Nielsen ratings vs budgets, especially since the business model of television has changed a bit over the years. A dedicated fan base will buy DVD and Blu-ray releases and other merchandise, watch a show in syndication and be far more reliable to come back week-after-week than a similar number of casual viewers. When a cult show is in danger of going off the air, fans often band together to show their dedication in hopes of buying it some more time. TV Tropes has a great article here. Sometimes, this works. Futurama and Family Guy both came back after being off the air for years thanks to strong DVD sales and syndication ratings. Other times, it’s a hollow victory thanks to crippled budgets or staff changes. The original Battlestar Galactica came back as Galactica 1980, which is still considered one of the worst sci-fi TV series in history thirty years later. Star Trek got a third season, but it was mostly duds like “Spock’s Brain.” This frequently doesn’t work. Pushing Daisies and Star Trek: Enterprise are still dead.

You also see the other kind of campaign: demands to cancel a show. This is far less common as people who don’t like a show can always not watch it. Other people watching it doesn’t hurt anyone. Therefore, such campaigns are usually limited to shows that are seen as being harmful to society, not just bad. For examples, see any letter-writing campaign from Parents Television Council or the Florida Family Association. That’s pretty much all they do.  Since networks don’t really care about people who don’t watch their shows, this is generally addressed as a complaint to the relevant regulatory body or accompanied by a threat of sponsor boycott . Family Guy tends to come up a lot on this list, too. See this form letter from PTC. It featured a man’s bare rear-end and jokes about sperm and sadomasochism. Someone should do something! They also have a petition about someone saying “shit” on The Today Show four years ago. A child might hear that when getting ready for school! To be fair, this sort of thing isn’t limited to pearl-clutching conservative ninnies. Sponsor boycotts over demonizing liberals and promoting paranoid conspiracy theories (which may sound harmless, but you try running a city when a bunch of voters have decided that rezoning is a UN plot to heard them into cities so that they can be rounded up) finally got Glenn Beck off the air and accusations of racism may have helped get rid of Capitol Critters, but that was probably low viewership.

This brings me to today’s topic: this Change.org petition. TLDR version: They want My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic to be canceled. I’m pretty sure change.org is getting trolled here. Keeping tabs on the moral guardians has been a hobby of mine since I was about thirteen and the PTC took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper trying to get people to write to the FCC to complain about Roseanne. It had jokes about sex, and had *gasp* gay characters. I took to watching shows that they declared the worst on TV. Some of them, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Shield are actually some of the best I’ve seen because they weren’t afraid to look at the ugly side of life. I’ve seen many dozen of these petitions over the years. This is the first one, to my knowledge, that didn’t allege that there was anything wrong with the show. It also doesn’t seem to be addressed to anyone. I’m reminded of the gag on The Simpsons where Homer wrote fan letters to shows instead of people. Are they trying to appeal to The Hub, where it airs, Hasbro, who owns the IP or the people who actually make the show? Why should any of them care?

This petition seems to be limited to a moral appeal, which is useless on corporations and the producers of the show itself are unlikely to agree with their reasoning. It seems to go something like this: a subset of the fans are jerks. They produce fan material that isn’t appropriate for the show’s target of little girls. Therefore, you should cancel the show to punish them and keep little girls from finding bondage porn of Twilight Sparkle. Since the producers are the people who got the death threats from fans covered in the letter, they are already aware of this situation and decided to continue on anyway. Why should a petition change their mind about how to view their own experiences? I suppose it’s possible that some sensitive soul who knew nothing about the Internet Googled a show his daughter was watching and was *shocked* by what he found, but it’s more likely this whole thing is a joke.

The writer is clearly familiar with 4chan, because he associates it with bronies to condemn them. If he knows anything about 4chan, he knows that if their show got canceled because of their behavior, they’d do it more to prove some sort of point. They already do produce porn based on most kids shows, but I’m sure if the Internet outrage machine got fired up, they could increase their output. Also, the fastest way to get little girls searching the Internet for information about My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is a rumor it might be canceled, because they would have to find ways to save it. See the first paragraph.

So in summary, there aren’t a lot of good shows for little girls. This one is good, but should be canceled because some people like it in ways they shouldn’t and this could spill over to the little girls in the target audience through a half-explained mechanism. Also, they lay on the evidence links a bit thick. This makes me think that “John Smith” is a troll pranking change.org. Someone should start a petition to pull their url because they lack credibility. So in summary, enjoy Cupcakes:

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