Yesterday, the fandom of The Legend of Korra received the much anticipated series finale. As a fan of the Avatar: Last Airbender series I was disappointed. The ending–the last episode of the franchise–was supposed to be the last hurrah! Overall, the two part episode was very plot driven with the characters trying to defeat the giant metal weapon storming around Republic City. However, the problem with the episode was–in my opinion– that it felt like any other episode. There was nothing special about this final series finale. In the end, the entire second half of the episode was the writers giving fans what they wanted to see–Mako bending lightening, shippers getting their couples, and great choreography. What ruined the whole ending for me was Korra’s statement that “it was only the beginning” which destroyed the whole concept of an ending. The Avatar: The Last Airbender had a strong end and wrapped up the series–the plot, the problem, had been solved which was the Fire Nation’s never ending war against the world. The story continued through comics but the TV show’s story arc had ended. Legend of Korra never had a full arc which made the ending even more challenging for the writers, but the ambiguous ending hit off as lazy writing.
The writers instead decided to end the franchise (on television) by providing fan service. The shippers got their moments, the fans got to see some old faces, and everyone’s beloved characters survived.
So, who truly runs the show? Is it the Executive Producers, the director, the writers, or is it the fandom? I argue that the screaming fans have the ultimate and final say on what happens to their favorite characters.
I recently saw a funny YouTube video regarding directors of films. In reality, the best directors are the ones who direct the best films–that is a given statement–however, who decides what a great film is versus a popular film.
When someone sits down in their favorite chair and turns on the TV to watch the Oscars, Grammys, and other Media associated awards who chooses who wins and who does not? The truth is that there is a distinction between what is classified as great vs popular. There are several films that are given high ratings, actors are praised for, and the scripts are extremely well written but do not receive much attention. As a film student, when learning about production, screenwriting, and aesthetics we are exposed to several diverse films. Most of these films have no action, no dialogue, and are simply visuals. One of my teachers once said that to become famous in the film/TV industry one must give the audience what they want. One must know their audience because in the end the consumer is always right.
For example, the Vampire Diaries a television show on CW based on the book series by L.J. Smith had one of the biggest influences when it came to fandom demand. The push between fans wanting Damon to have the girl vs the intended Stefan. Recently, The Walking Dead faced a hard push when fans cried out against the killing of their favorite character Beth.
Fans might not always get what they desire, but in the end the writers have to listen to what their audience is demanding for. In the end it is the consumer who will be watching the TV show and purchasing the DVDs, t-shirts, action figures, and lunch boxes. One of the biggest examples of the power of the fandom, was the finale of The Legend of Korra. On Tumblr the “TLOK” tag was filled with anticipated moments such as the return of some of the old characters and shippers fan fic. Tumblr is known for their shipping tags and one of the strongest and most popular shipping tags on the “tlok” tag was Korra and Asami along with Korra and Mako. It was evident that the writers knew about these shippers and the fandoms behind them. Why else would they end the story the way the did? They gave hope to both sides in effort to please their audience.
The fandom has power and make no mistake about how much influence fans have on tv shows. In the end, it is all about the money–writers often think about ways to keep their viewers addicted and on guard. There are times where the writers do know best and make decisions for the purpose of their own fandom screaming hearts, but the ultimate decisions are made to please the fandom.