When Should You Stop Being A Fan Of Your Favorite TV Show?
This is a question I grapple with on a weekly — if not daily — basis. I love television; I’ve loved television for a good chunk of my life. When my family first signed up for Netflix, before the streaming option even existed, and we were each allowed one of the three discs in rotation, I used mine to plow through TV series like Veronica Mars and Laguna Beach with equal enthusiasm. But, despite my best intentions to stick with a television show until the bitter — or wonderful — end, I often don’t.
Fair warning, spoilers for Teen Wolf, The 100, Sleepy Hollow, and The Walking Dead ahead.
Sometimes the decision to give up on a series comes from my own circumstances, like prioritizing certain shows based on my work as an entertainment writer, and letting others that I don’t need to cover fall by the wayside. Other times, I make a conscious decision to stop watching a series, as I did with The Walking Dead following Beth’s death and all the time wasted building up her character just to kill her off. The reality of my life means I don’t have time for every single TV show I’d like to watch, which I’m sure is true of many TV fans, whether they write about the medium or not.
So, I apologize to my fellow Hufflepuffs. When I sent out a tweet in the #HufflepuffBrag hashtag a few months ago about staying loyal to my favorite shows even after I had lost enjoyment, I wasn’t entirely truthful.
I was, however, thinking of one television series specifically: MTV’s Teen Wolf. I first started watching Teen Wolf after a friend of mine recommended it to me in the time following my college graduation. Most days, I looked around at my life with a giant question mark over my head and wondered what the fuck I was going to do. I was struggling with the worst anxiety of my life and, instead of taking control, I spent a lot of time in bed binge-watching TV shows like Teen Wolf and Doctor Who. These shows, along with others before and after them, have meant a lot to me.
But, when I learned Arden Cho wasn’t going to return to Teen Wolf for season 6, I wasn’t very surprised; I was simply disappointed that the show was losing another female character who was at times strong and at times poorly written. At first I assumed it was a similar story to Crystal Reed leaving her role as Allison Argent—she simply wanted to move on to new projects. However, reading between the lines of Cho’s comments on Kira Yukimura, it became clear she either wasn’t asked to return or was told she wouldn’t be returning—circumstances that meant it hadn’t been her choice, but a choice made by the show/the writers.
I am enraged by that choice. This is one choice in a series of bad choices made by the people who create a lot of beloved and fandom-driven television series. As Alanna Bennett pointed out on Twitter, Cho is the third person of color to leave a TV show after their storyline was diminished in as many weeks. Cho’s last appearance on Teen Wolf came at the beginning of March when the season 5 finale ended with Kira leaving Beacon Hills to spend an indeterminate amount of time with the skinwalkers. But, the news that this is the last we’ve seen of Kira comes on the heels of two other notable TV exits of PoC characters in recent weeks.
First, the Grounder character Lincoln, played by Ricky Whittle, was killed off The 100 in an execution that would save his people from further harm. However, in an interview with Afterbuzz TV that made the rounds after the episode aired, Whittle commented on Lincoln’s treatment leading up to his death in the show’s current season, claiming the character had a much more substantial storyline that was cut. Whittle said showrunner Jason Rothenburg “[cut] out all the storyline I was supposed to be doing, cutting lines, cutting everything out, trying to make my character and myself as insignificant as possible.” The departure may not have surprised fans who paid attention to casting news (Whittle joined HBO’s American Gods adaptation), but the actor’s comments brought to light the more controversial aspects of his exit, such as the handling of his character.
Then, little more than a week after Lincoln was killed off of The 100, Abbie Mills—played by Nicole Beharie—sacrificed herself for the sake of her fellow Witness, Ichabod Crane, on the season 3 finale of Sleepy Hollow. As Nichole Perkins wrote in her piece for Vulture, “Why Sleepy Hollow Just Lost Any Faith Fans Had Left in It,” this was the final straw for some fans after a series of bad decisions made by those in charge of the show. Sleepy Hollow’s downfall, as chronicled by Perkins, began in season 2, which sidelined Abbie in favor of Ichabod and phased out PoC supporting characters, like Orlando Jones’ Captain Frank Irving, entirely. As a result, Beharie was rumored to be unhappy and asked to leave the show. Then, Abbie’s death was the last nail in the coffin of the series many fans fell in love with in season 1—a show with an equal partnership between a man and a woman, with a woman of color front and center, with a world populated by many PoC characters who had their own desires and motivations.
Looking beyond these three deaths at the larger television landscape, the picture isn’t any prettier. Abbie’s death on Sleepy Hollow capped a particularly deadly week on TV for women as discussed by Daniel Fienberg in his piece for The Hollywood Reporter, “Why Did So Many Female Characters Die on TV Last Week?” However, with so many deaths to compare in such a short period of time, it was clear that the exit of some female characters were handled well, while others were “fridged”—as explored by Carly Lane in her piece for The Mary Sue, “TV Killed Off a Lot of Female Characters Last Week.”
Now, if we broaden our view a little more, we can look back to the string of LGBT deaths that occurred on television earlier this spring. The most high-profile of these controversial TV deaths was that of Lexa on The 100, played by Alycia Debnam-Carey, who had left the show for AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead. The specific instance of Lexa’s death on The 100, as well as the fallout from fans, is detailed well in Maureen Ryan’s piece “What TV Can Learn From ‘The 100’ Mess” for Variety, while Dorothy Snarker tackled the larger trope of Bury Your Gays in her piece for The Hollywood Reporter, “Bury Your Gays: Why ‘The 100,’ ‘Walking Dead’ Deaths Are Problematic.”
Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by this tidal wave of awfulness in television for weeks, and I have spent much of that time trying to parse out exactly how I feel, what I want to say about The 100, Teen Wolf, and Sleepy Hollow (if anything at all), and what I want to do about it. Given the discussion surrounding these television shows, I’ve been thinking about my history with other TV I’ve loved in the past.
Even before Cho announced she wouldn’t be returning to Teen Wolf, I hadn’t been enthused by the series—that’s the sentiment behind my #HufflepuffBrag tweet. I lost faith in Teen Wolf with the death of Allison Argent — a female character who was, to me, as much the protagonist of the show as Tyler Posey’s Scott McCall and Dylan O’Brien’s Stiles Stilinski. But, again, here was a character that was sidelined in favor of others then promptly killed off, all because the actress asked to leave the show. Meanwhile, Colton Haynes’ Jackson Whittemore is still off being an American werewolf in London after he was the main focus of season 2. Do I sound bitter? It’s because I’m still bitter. (I should note, this is at least due in part to the notice given by these actors to the show about their departure; Reed informed the show prior to season 3, while Haynes departed during a break between seasons.)
I’ve also been thinking about why I stopped watching Doctor Who, another series that was, at one point in time, incredibly special to me. I slowly stopped watching Doctor Who around the time Peter Capaldi joined the show as the Doctor, replacing Matt Smith. While I had been losing interest in the series for a while up until then, it was the discussion of who should follow in Smith’s footsteps as the Doctor that dampened my enjoyment of the show. There were plenty of fun discussions surrounding fan suggestions for who should play the staple of sci-fi television, including men and women of many races and sexualities.
But, when it came to showrunner Steven Moffat, the possibility of the Doctor being played by anyone other than a white man seemed like a joke. In fact, he did make a joke of it, likening casting a woman as the Doctor to casting a man as the Queen of England. He additionally said that women were the biggest proponents against casting a female Doctor—insinuating, however unintentionally, the Doctor is and should continue to be a character straight female-identifying viewers desire, rather than one they could see themselves as, and it wasn’t his fault they thought that way.
So, when Capaldi was cast, it was a wake-up call. I didn’t like Doctor Who anymore. I didn’t feel connected to the characters, I didn’t enjoy the storylines, and I realized I tuned in to Doctor Who every week hoping for a different show than what it was. So I slowly started giving it up. I let episodes build up before burning through them in one go. Then, I was only watching episodes with a friend of mine. Eventually I wasn’t watching Doctor Who at all.
I’ve been following a similar pattern with Teen Wolf. It began in the wake of Allison’s death, when I unfollowed the show’s social media pages (I had been an avid live-blogger and live-tweeter on Tumblr and Twitter). Then I stopped watching the show live at some point. I caught most season 4 episodes after they aired, I let episodes of season 5A build up for weeks before watching them—mostly to discuss with a friend—then I let season 5B build up in its entirety before binging it the Sunday prior to the finale, which I still watched after the fact. I don’t know if I’ll be watching season 6.
As for The 100, I had watched every single episode of the show live, tweeting along with the showrunner, the actors, the writers, and the directors. The episode after Lincoln died, “Fallen,” was the first episode of The 100 that I didn’t watch live; I chose to watch Project Runway: All Stars instead. This was my choice.
So, when should you stop being a fan of your favorite show?
I struggle with this question a lot, constantly weighing new shows against those I’ve been watching for years. I’ve been struggling with this question even more in recent weeks as the problems of writing choices and damaging tropes have been highlighted by fans—and come to my attention through the tireless writing of those fans as well as TV critics/writers.
What I’ve learned about my own relationship with TV is that I tend to stop being a fan of my favorite shows long before I actually stop watching them. I stopped being a fan of Teen Wolf with Allison’s death, I stopped being a fan of The 100 with Lincoln’s death, I stopped being a fan of Doctor Who when Moffat took over as showrunner. But, it’s that loyalty—that Hufflepuff loyalty—in me that keeps me dedicated to shows even after I take major issue with their writing choices, even after I stop being a fan of them, even after watching them becomes an exhausting mental effort of forgetting all the awfulness.
In recent weeks, I’ve become more and more frustrated by TV, more and more emotionally and mentally exhausted by TV and the choices made by certain TV writers. This current ongoing tidal wave of awfulness in TV never seems to end—in fact, in the few days since I started crafting this piece, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fridged another female character, the second of the show’s current season. So, I’ve had to refer to certain tips of self-care:
- Take a break. Since TV is a big part of my life and my work, I can’t break from it entirely. But I’ve taken time to focus on my other interests (thankfully, playoff hockey is starting—not that the NHL is free of its own problems) and spent time with friends, family, and my dog.
- Channel energy into a creative outlet. That’s where this piece is coming from: an absolute need to process these feelings of frustration and helplessness into something more productive.
- Treat yo self. I haven’t gone on a shopping spree a la Tom and Donna on Parks and Recreation, but I’ve been treating myself in other ways, even if its simply taking the time to go for a run or go to bed early.
When should you stop being a fan of, or stop watching, your favorite show?
I don’t have an answer that will work for everyone; I don’t want to tell anyone how they should feel or what they should do as a result. But, you can bet that the events of recent weeks and months have made me look at TV and my list of shows that I watch more carefully. I haven’t decided if I’ll give up on The 100, Teen Wolf, or any other shows that have added to the tidal wave of TV awfulness, but I’m certainly thinking about it. I’ve loved TV for a long time, but somethings need to change—in another piece by Maureen Ryan for Variety, “‘Anyone Can Die?’ TV’s Recent Death Toll Says Otherwise,” she delves into how diversifying the demographics of TV creators can lead to less reliance on tropes like Bury Your Gays, Women in Refrigerators and the Black Guy Always Dies.
Until television changes, all I can do is refuse to let bad choices stand, try to promote the voices television has marginalized with my own platform, and take time away in order to remember why I loved TV in the first place.