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Soap Fans Looking for a New Home: The General Hospital Nomads


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This post originally appeared on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog on May 28, 2008.

Who owns the media property? Is it the copyright holder? Or is it the audience, the group that makes that product popular? These are questions at the core in tension between media producers and media audiences and at stake in discussions about relationships between producers or consumers or what consumer "can do" with texts out of the ausipices or interests of the producers.

A reader forwarded me some threads from the official ABC Daytime boards forGeneral Hospital, where fans are upset about the way they are treated and the technical attributes of their board as opposed to message boards for ABC primetime shows. Rather than just complain, though, they have taken to invading the boards of other spaces in order to make their problems and presence more well known.

See this thread, in which fans are organizing 5 minute invasions of various other boards.

That didn't go over as well with the Lost fans, but attention has been directed instead toward the official board for Notes from the Underbelly, a cancelled ABC show that still has an active board, and a board that some GH fans feel are better than what they've been given.

Rather than continue to post on a board they are unhappy with, some of these fans are taking over the primarily dormant NFTU board, and they plan to stay there until their longstanding complaints about the GH board have been addressed. Fans are posting about these issues, apparently trying to avoid being banned and jumping from avatar to avatar. See more here.

This situation intrigues me in particular because we have both tensions between the desire of the fan community and the interests of the network and tensions amongst fan communities.

The soap fans say they are tired of technical glitches, an aesthetically unpleasing board, a lack of sufficient emoticons, and a need for better moderators. This of course, is tied into longstanding gender biases in both media and society and a feeling that soap operas have been ghettoized in part because of the genre's feminine roots in a masculine media world. So, when the fan of another television board makes a comment about housewives going back to the soap opera board, there's a politically charged tension, especially if it's a fanboy-heavy media property such as Lost.

In the case of ABC, it's clear that this answering the complaints of GH fans is not of primary interest, which is why fans ended up moving to other boards, in hope of getting what they felt were more valued fans in the eyes of the network angry enough to get changes implemented on their GH board. That this campaign has been happening this week without much in the way of intervention is a sign to fans that their feelings of marginalization are at least somewhat justified.

For GH fans, posting on the board of another show isn't the most satisfying answer, but it does create the feeling of autonomy when it's clear those who hold a higher power position--in this case being the official ABC site--are not prioritizing your problems. But I think it's quite important that these fans see it as important to continue this fight on the official ABC space, rather than simply find a space of their own, free from the constraints of ABC. Clearly, this is about more than discussing their show but rather about a need for greater respect from "TPTB," whether that be those who write the show they follow or those who govern the "official home" of ABC soaps fans.

It'll be worth keeping an eye on... 

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