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Fanservice and Nostalgia

Banes at 12:00AM, April 27, 2023

Picard Season Three hit the fan service HARD. I absolutely loved it.

The final season of Star Trek Picard is winning very good reviews from fans and critics.

Of course, in some corners there is criticism of fan service, nostalgia and ‘member berries’ being the driving force behind the season, and the only reason for the goodwill.

I've never liked the criticism of “fan service” to put down a story or piece of media. I understand the critique- it's the idea that the story/movie/show/whatever isn't actually good at all, and is just held together by fans remembering the old version of the thing. It takes the fans back to something they enjoyed previously, and makes them happy.

There's nothing wrong with giving fans what they want - and in these years of sequels, adaptations and reboots, that's supposed to be the whole point: it's something with a built-in audience appeal so it's a safer investment and has a better chance to make a profit.

The criticism is when the ‘member berries’ are all the new thing has going for it, and that it has less merit, or maybe is deceptive in some way (though the ‘bait and switch’ or deception thing might be a bit different. We'll leave that for another time).

I can FEEL the difference, but only for my own subjective self. A sequel that uses images, settings, music, bits of dialogue or actors from a previous version but leaves me feeling hollow - that's member berries, or empty nostalgia. If I get a rush of enjoyment from seeing those familiar things, it suggests there's something underneath it - that the world is understood by the writers. That the returning characters are understood. That I'm seeing the same world (with some variation) and maybe the same characters (with some changes), but it feels true to the old version. Even if things have changed.

Star Trek Picard Season Three did the job for me! Because the characters seemed like themselves (even if they'd changed quite a bit in the 20-something years since they'd appeared last. There was an understanding of these people and where they came from.

I'm not sure if I've really got a handle on the difference between “bad” nostalgia and ‘member berries’, and legitimate fan service. I guess I just know the difference in my gut.

What are your thoughts on servicing fans and 'membering berries?

Have a good one!


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KAM at 2:05PM, April 27, 2023

I don't know if there is any hard and fast rules about these terms, but I'd probably say that fan service is the creator(s) doing something nice for the fans. Memberberries are a more cold, calculated way to bring back older fans to watch a franchise that's gone to pot. Bad nostalgia might be something like when Roy Thomas would waste an issue of a comic 'fixing' a plot hole that only he cared about. ;-)

Gunwallace at 1:18PM, April 27, 2023

To me bad fan service is when it does a dis-service to the story to keep a section of fans happy. Take Game of Thrones … even when it was good and getting rave reviews—before the inglorious end—the creators made a number of changes that seemed to be to make some fans happy. The villain is really sexy, so can we make him a bit less evil, because some fans don’t like being attracted to a really vile villain. Oh, this person dies in the book, but fans like them, so let’s just not kill them. They can then run around in some pointless story that is resolved poorly at the end, or not at all. When decisions are made by focus-group, rather than story driven, the end product can suffer. Don’t get me wrong, fans really liking a character that’s meant to be a throw away part has given us Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad. But it also gave us Urkel. (Picard was excellent!!!)

PaulEberhardt at 10:29AM, April 27, 2023

The thing that makes the difference is probably whether it's a sell-out or not. If the characters have moved on in their lives, which you can tell by the way they don't essentially try to repeat what they did twenty-five years ago, and if the way they meet again makes halfway sense within the framework of the story, it is almost certainly not a sell-out but an honest embrace of the deep seated relationship between fans and starship crews that has evolved over many years.

PaulEberhardt at 10:20AM, April 27, 2023

Ahem! There's no way to make a series this without a bit of nostalgia and reunions. And there's no way to do it by not listening to the fans. And that applies to everything Star Trek, even if they were to consciously avoid casting anyone of the old crews. There's a huge legacy that you can't just ignore. Also, the time of scoring a big TV hit with entirely new creative ideas are over. Whenever we people of the 2020s turn on the telly, or whatever device we use instead, we get an overwhelming tsunami of media offers that tends to drown anything too unfamiliar (because Sturgeon's law still holds true and a day has only 24 hours). Besides all that, reuniting on occasion is just what old crewmates tend to do. Also, a fan who flew with them for 200 or something TNG episodes may well be considered an honorary crewmember, too. Those who want to criticise THAT shouldn't be invited to graduation class reunions any more, since they evidently can't see the point and might ruin the party.

PaulEberhardt at 10:05AM, April 27, 2023

When I read "fan service" I first thought it was about Seven of Nine trying on her old Voyager spandex pyjama again. :D No disrespect to Ms Ryan, quite the contrary since she's a really versatile actress, but that would have been a little undignified. It was quite a stretch to your voluntary suspension of disbelief back then (no pun intended, or was it?) - not that I didn't like what I saw...

Andreas_Helixfinger at 4:58AM, April 27, 2023

My example here is Megaman Legends. I was absolutely in love with the Megaman Legends video game franchise back in the day and I still am til' this day, still watching let's plays of MML1 and MML2. There was a promise a MML3 coming shortly after the sequel, but it ended up not happening, and still hasn't happened til' this day. Now, I can understand MML fans still clinging to the hope of seeing MML3 being made and give the franchise the conclusion they were promised. Buuuut, it's been 23 years now. It's unlikely to be by the same dev team, the technology is no longer the same, the video game economy is no logner the same, the voice actors who lended their material to the original games are either aged beyond recognicion or are simply just not coming back for a third installment. Then again, perhaps they don't even care if it's good or not or if it can ignite the same fuzzy ol' feelings they had for the original games. Maybe they just want to see it happen and have a final conclusion.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 4:51AM, April 27, 2023

I generally don't have any problem with fanservice, as long as it doesn't push a franchise or series into a situation where it can no longer maintain itself (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots I'm looking at you). Then there sure are those franchises that has pretty much thrived on its fanservice almost since the beginning, and would lose its original appeal if it was to be subverted (Dead or Alive 6 I'm looking at you.). As for nostalgia, I feel like it works best when you're - in the end - willing to settle with the object of your nostalgia being a relic of the past. Because the problem with reviving, or keeping a franchise going, for the sake of nostalgia is that I think it becomes harder with time.

skyangel at 1:51AM, April 27, 2023

Nostalgia is a very personal feeling and if it gives just one person a warm happy glow inside then I can't see it as a bad thing, and if that same feeling is felt by a wider group then all the better. It's this cumulative feeling that does keep ideas alive and I think that's the key part to it. Many long running series like Star Trek, Dr Who, Red Dwarf etc have kept going because of this and although every series will inevitably run into bad patches over such a long period it's that feeling of 'You were great once and we really hope you can get back to that again some day' that keeps us loyal and hopeful despite what the media is saying. At the same time though the writers should be wary of pandering too much too that nostalgia because the show will just die along with their ageing fans.

marcorossi at 12:21AM, April 27, 2023

There is the question whether there are some more or less objective parameters of quality, or all artistic quality boils down to personal preferences like "this character reminds me of my youth", "this music is the one fashionable in my social group" etc. I think that there are some objective parameters of quality (though I have problems pointing them) but to a large part commercial success depends on getting the personal preferences of large groups of the population. "Fan service" in the sense you use it is a way to hit the buttons of a particular group without caring for the underlying quality. I didn't watch the Picard serie but, for example, the last Spiderman movie was like that: very funny while you watch it but when you think about it later you realize it largely used parasitically an emotional involvement that was built by other movies.

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