Title: Fillmore! – The Unseen Reflection
Director: Christian Roman
Writer: Madellaine Paxson
Summary: Vampirita, a series of novels about an astronaut vampire, has attracted a huge following at X – and none more so that Torrey and Terri. The next installment of the series will be released in a fortnight, and until then, fans can audition to star in the next book! Terri and Torrey start to build projects to win the auditions, but every time one is finished, it gets sabotaged. Naturally, the main suspects are two members of a rival novel’s fanclub – TQ, a mysterious and riddle-talking guy with an affinity for multicultural cuisine, and Trace, a girl who never seems to be happy with the color of her hair. But evidence points to neither… so just who could have enough knowledge about the projects to find the perfect way to sabotage them?
Now it’s time for a very special recap on Devil’s Elbow, featuring that cult classic Disney show “Fillmore!”
Airing in the early 2000s, “Fillmore!” was an animated series done in the style of 1970s crime and detective shows set within a middle school. Specifically it was set within X Middle School, one of the biggest middle schools in America. That’s not even hyperbole because X Middle School is fucking HUGE. It’s practically a city. To put this in perspective, they have clubs for everything including a field for bocce ball, a corn maze so large they had to send a rescue team to save some poor kid who came out screaming “IT ALL LOOKS THE SAME!!!!”, an expo center for science fairs, and a fucking JAI ALAI STADIUM. An entire stadium SOLELY for jai alai.
The main characters are Cornelius C. Fillmore (Orlando Brown) and Ingrid Third (Tara Strong). Fillmore was once the worst juvenile delinquent to ever attend X Middle School until he turned over a new leaf and joined the Safety Patrol. Ingrid, a goth girl with a photographic memory making her the smartest kid in school, was another former delinquent who transferred to X from a school in Nepal following a prank with a stink bomb and a pinata.
As partners in the Safety Patrol, Fillmore and Ingrid have gone around solving a number of bizarre crimes, including:
- The destruction of an entire model train expo
- The kidnapping of X Middle School’s beloved mascot, Lobsty the Lobster, during Spirit Week
- A serial shredder going around destroying school projects with a handheld paper shredder
- The tagging of a graffiti artist going by the handle “Stainless,” whose antics lead Fillmore and Ingrid to seek the aid of another tagger put in permanent detention ala Hannibal Lector for something unspeakable he drew with only a mini golf pencil
- The theft of EVERY SINGLE BOOK in the school’s massive library
- A group of students forming a vigilante squad to get revenge on the school’s bullies by traumatizing them for life
- A counterfeit baseball card ring organized by a visiting Canadian diplomat’s son who has “Diplomatic immunity” and thus can’t be touched by the Safety Patrol
- Threats made against the school’s star chess player, Checkmatey, who’s inexplicably a white gangsta kid who churns out cringeworthy raps
Every single crime in the series is treated with the same amount of ridiculous seriousness, the exact way shows like “Starsky & Hutch,” would handle them. It’s got chase sequences up the ying-yang, interrogations, and Fillmore and Ingrid getting chewed out by their superior officer, Chief Vallejo.
So yeah, the “X” probably stands for “Xtra” because everyone in this show is operating at 75 out of 10. The best is probably the school’s principal, Dawn S. Folsom, voiced by Wendie Malick giving a delightfully hammy performance. She spends most of her time either sweetly complimenting the Safety Patrol when she’s not threatening to have them all shipped to Kazakhstan, or she’ll turn their HQ into her own personal sauna. She’s such an egotist the school’s drama club did a musical about her life story. My favorite scene involves her ranting about making sure Checkmatey brings glory to the school while she’s vocally changing the settings on her massage chair.
“And then the void in our trophy case, and the VOID in my HEART, WILL BE FILLED! DEEP TISSUE!!!“
Unfortunately, she’s not in this episode.
No I picked this episode to review on Devil’s Elbow because the conflict involves sabotage being inflicted against members of a fan club for a book series about a vampire astronaut. The main suspects are members of a rival fan club for a different franchise. The episode offers a look into fandom wars, toxic fandoms, and what happens when creators stop giving a shit. [Wing: Well this should be interesting.]
As luck would have it, back when the show was still on Toon Disney (or Disney XD, at the time) they once did a marathon of all the episodes that hadn’t yet aired on this channel. I recorded all of them on a video tape I still own and still works. This episode’s the last one on the tape, so I’ve known about it for years.
Act One: Sabotage Under Glass
It’s a normal day at X Middle School when two girls in the cafeteria reveal they have an announcement to make. They’re both dressed in identical red suits, similar to the one worn by fictional character Vampirita of the very popular book series of the same name. The two girls, red-headed Torrey and brown-haired Terri, are both members of the school’s Vampirita fan club and are eager to unveil something to the rest of the school. However, the moment is quashed somewhat by heckling from a pink-haired girl called Trace. Torrey and Terri are both familiar with her and try their best to ignore her remarks.
Torrey explains how she’s been a Vampirita fan since the first book’s release, and thanks to Vampirita she’s made a number of new friends. It’s how Terri became her best friend. Book #23 is coming out in two weeks, and the publisher’s holding a contest for the chance to become a character in the new book. [Wing: …wait, that’s not how publishing works.] Despite Trace’s smug remarks, Torrey and Terri are excited to show off their entry in the contest. The two girls spent half a year learning the art of glass blowing so they could create a statue of their favorite vampire astronaut. Without further ado, the girls rip off the tarp to unveil their masterpiece, titled “Where No Vamp Has Gone Before.” [Wing: Jesus, these two are dedicated to their fandom. I love them.]
The moment the statue’s displayed, Trace blanks for a moment and then starts laughing like there was no tomorrow. Confused, Torrey turns around and is horrified by what she sees. The statue’s not of Vampirita! It’s, it’s…
[Wing: WELL THEN. Also, that does not look like something that was blown from glass but done with a mold. Also also: WEREWOLF.]
While all this is going on, Safety Patrollers Fillmore and Ingrid are in hot pursuit of a runaway mime.
Yes that’s exactly what you think it means.
The young mime barrels through a nearby art class, ruining several works in progress and knocking over a large stack of chairs in an effort to escape from the Safety Patrol. By the time Fillmore and Ingrid are able to make it out of the destroyed classroom, the mime’s gone. Fillmore then receives notification on his walky talky about the disturbance in the cafeteria.
The rest of the Safety Patrol’s on the scene and taking note of the crime. Terri’s allowing crime scene photographer Danny O’Farrell to borrow some of her Vampirita books. Turns out her cousin works for the publisher so she can get copies for free. Score!
Fillmore’s taking a statement from Torrey about the statue. She claims it still looked like Vampirita when she saw it yesterday at school, and thinks someone melted it down and turned it into… THAT at some point after she left. Torrey thinks it was none other than Trace, arguing of course she’d melt a perfectly good Vampirita statue and turn it into *ugh* Citizen Fang.
Fillmore’s not up on the latest trends in books and asks what, exactly, the statue’s supposed to be now. Torrey contemptuously says that abomination’s none other than Citizen Fang, Werewolf Senator. Since Trace is V.P. of the Citizen Fang Fan Club, of course she wrecked the statue. [Wing: …uh, am I suppose to be on Trace’s side right now? Because I’m on Trace’s side right now.]
According to Torrey, the Citizen Fang followers are evil morons because those books are so stupid. A werewolf senator? The paparazzi would’ve exposed him in a heartbeat! Plus, Congress is in session during the full moon. [Wing: Yeah, I am 100% on Trace’s side right now. Jesus, Torrey, like what you like and let other people like what they like.] Terri adds that Trace left the cafeteria as soon as the statue was unveiled. Doesn’t that seem a tad suspicious?
Ingrid calls Fillmore over to the statue, saying she’s spotted a hair stuck inside the glass. While Ingrid chips open the statue to remove the hair for evidence, Fillmore searches for Trace to question her. Trace (now with blue hair) [Wing: I need Trace’s hair colour abilities.] is at the school’s bocce ball field. She mockingly calls Fillmore “Ossifer” and eagerly states yes, she laughed at the statue. Why? Because she enjoys laughing at those Vampirita morons. Like, don’t they realize sunlight kills vampires? Not even mentioning that’s with the ozone layer. So how in the fuck does an astronaut vampire make sense? The sun should’ve fried her by now! [Wing: Okay, they both make some interesting logic points, BUT AGAIN, like what you like and let other people like what they like why are people always like this?]
Fillmore can’t help but chuckle at how similar Trace sounds to Torrey, commenting the two sets of fans might have more in common than either thinks. Trace is offended by the notion, coldly repeating the Vampirita fans are all morons.
Anyway, Trace has an alibi for yesterday afternoon. The Citizen Fang club was holding a bungee jump party AND it was recorded on video. [Wing: Y’all, the Citizen Fang club is badass.] Fillmore then asks if the entire club attended, which takes some of the wind out of her sails. She admits one member, T.Q., didn’t attend since he hates bungee jumping. Who’s T.Q.? The club president.
T.Q. Schrader appears to be a rather smug blonde kid, calmly eating an ornate sushi lunch when he immediately tells Fillmore he didn’t wreck the statue. Seems T.Q.’s not an idiot since he knows everyone’s talking about the statue and they already figure he did it because he’s the Citizen Fang club’s president. He asks Fillmore if there’s any evidence linking him to the statue’s destruction, then explains he was at home yesterday afternoon and his parents will verify that statement. Fillmore tells T.Q. he might have more questions for him later, so don’t go anywhere. T.Q. promises, and calmly swears he ALWAYS keeps his promises.
“Not many humans can say the same.”
Safety Patrol forensics specialist Karen Tehama has analyzed the white hair found in the statue and confirms it’s definitely human. Meanwhile, O’Farrell is deeply engrossed in the Vampirita books and managed to acquire all of them thanks to Terri. As Fillmore and Ingrid decide they need a specialist to examine the rest of the statue, Chief Vallejo bursts into the room and is furious about what happened in the art lab. Having received a bill for all the damages caused during the mime chase and with Principal Folsom breathing down his back about the budget, Vallejo warns Fillmore if he causes more property damage he could get suspended from the squad.
Fillmore and Ingrid bring the Citizen Fang statue to a glass figurine shop, where the owner’s able to identify (just from the sound it makes when he taps it with his finger) the statue’s pressed glass and not blown. [Wing: Called it! Do I know my cartoon glass statues or what.] From the marks on the surface, he can tell it wasn’t made in a glass mold, but a metal one. Possibly used for pewter. Ingrid suggests they investigate X’s metal shop to find a pewter mold that could’ve been used to reform the Vampirita statue. The store owner suggests the two can take a short cut through the store’s figurine section instead of going back around the block. He warns them the figurines are VERY delicate and VERY expensive, so be careful…
[Wing: NO NO NO when you’ve already been warned about not costing the team more money why would you agree to do this why?]
Ingrid’s honestly more weirded out by how many glass unicorns are in this store [Wing: Hater. This has also made me realise I’ve never seen a glass werewolf.] as she and Fillmore try to make their way through the figurine section. Fillmore tries asking a nearby kid in a hooded sweatshirt if they know the way out. The kid immediately bolts in the opposite direction, raising Fillmore’s suspicions enough to chase after them.
While in pursuit, Fillmore and Ingrid watch as the hooded kid jostles one of the displays and a glass penguin goes tumbling down-!
Act Two: Shards of Justice
Ingrid manages to catch the figurine before it hits the floor, so the chase resumes. Fillmore and Ingrid corner the hooded kid in a dead end, only for the perp to grab a nearby warning sign and throw it at Fillmore. This causes Fillmore to fall back on one of the shelves, making several glass pieces fall. While Fillmore stops the figurines from shattering, the hooded kid distracts Ingrid by dumping a box of glass-polishing rags on her head.
To try and stop the kid, Fillmore throws the very same warning sign towards them. It only trips the kid momentarily, but causes more figurines to plummet. Fillmore only stops more property damage thanks to a large role of bubble wrap conveniently left at the end of the aisle. While the figurines are saved, the perp is gone. They did however drop a book in their hasty exit. It’s that old classic, “The Several Stages Of Grief: A Pop Up Book.”
“Spiro the Clown is wearing a frown, because depression’s stage 4 and is wearing him down.”
[Wing: Uh … huh.]
Ingrid sees the inside of the book has a sticker from X Middle School’s library, and proposes Fillmore check out this angle while she searches the metal shop.
The school librarian looks up the pop-up book in the library’s database, informing Fillmore the book’s four months overdue. The name of the last person who checked it out has been mysteriously erased from the database. In the meantime, Fillmore asks the librarian some questions about Torrey and the others. The librarian knows all four kids very well from their reading habits.
- Torrey: Enjoys checking out Vampirita books and supplementary fan guides. Considers her a little obsessive, but very sweet.
- Terri: Where there’s Torrey, there’s Terri. Besides Vampirita, Terri’s interested in collectible Mountain Ogre dolls. Weird hobby, but a nice kid.
- Trace (whose photo has her in a lime green Marie Antoinette style wig): [Wing: Oh, wait, is it all wigs? I could have her skill with hair colours!] Interested in books on wigs and hair pieces along with Citizen Fang.
- T.Q.: Did a semester in library science classes, has the potential to be a great librarian some day. In fact, his home computer has access to the library’s database, making it possible for him to enter the database and erase his name if need be. [Wing: …why? Why would you allow a student to have that kind of access, especially from his home computer?!]
Ingrid contacts Fillmore and lets him know she found the Citizen Fang mold. Turns out T.Q. made the mold himself as an extra credit project.
Fillmore and Ingrid track T.Q. down and want to bring him to H.Q. for questioning. T.Q. barely makes an attempt to plead innocence when Tehama immediately radios Fillmore and says there’s an emergency at the school’s croquet fields.
Yes they have a croquet field IT’S A BIG FUCKING SCHOOL.
Someone just ruined Torrey and Terri’s newest entry in the Vampirita contest. T.Q. starts joking he’s CLEARLY the guilty party, since he obviously used his amazing rubber arms to stretch to the croquet fields while they weren’t looking. Fillmore does not appreciate his attitude.
Seems the newest project was an inflatable version of Vampirita that’s now floating off into the sky. Torrey’s beside herself, asking why this had to happen to her.
“Everything I touch – ruined!”
Terri tries to console her best friend, saying they can create another entry. O’Farrell, totally lost down the rabbit hole that is Vampirita, references several of the character’s seemingly hopeless battles against her sworn genetic enemy and begs Torrey not to give up.
Since the balloon is still visible in the sky, it appears the culprit might not have gotten far. Fillmore assesses the croquet field and notices someone leaving… someone with a pair of hedge clippers attached to their belt. Suspicion peaked, Fillmore and Ingrid chase after their new suspect while weaving through the croquet balls. Oh it’s terrible. Balls to the left, balls to the right. Fillmore almost takes a big blue ball right in his face when he falls down. It’s like a frat party on Fire Island.
Fillmore manages to reach the controls for the sprinkler system, causing the perp to swerve into the row of storage sheds near the gate. They get the drop on Fillmore when the perp unleashes a jumble of croquet wickets and goal posts on top of him and almost gets away. Luckily, Fillmore grabs a wicket and hits a ball straight towards the perp, making them trip and fall.
Ingrid and Fillmore close in on their suspect and it’s… Trace! This time in a bone white wig.
Act Three: This Devotion, Nevermore
Trace is being held in Safety Patrol HQ for questioning. Her wig’s been removed to check if it matches the hair found in the statue. Her natural hair’s revealed to be black and rather short. Trace exclaims she didn’t wreck the Vampirita balloon. Sure, she WANTED to cut its ropes but someone beat her to it.
Fillmore pulls out a piece of red paper they found on Trace and asks what it is. Trace almost loses it as she says she found that page in a book T.Q. lent her, revealing it’s none other than a page from a Vampirita novel! She thinks T.Q. has crossed over to the Vampirita fandom and screams he’s a filthy traitor, banging her fists on the table with each punctuation.
“It’s a page from a Vampirita novel! He’s crossed over! I-I can’t believe it! Traitor! Traitor! TRAITOR!“
Outside the interrogation room, Ingrid and Fillmore discuss whether or not Trace is lying. She sounds genuinely upset she didn’t get to cut the rope. Ingrid points out T.Q. definitely had something to do with this, wondering if he and Trace are both sabotaging Torrey and Terri.
“Trace and T.Q. working in tandem tried to trash Torrey and Terri’s attempts at taking the trophy. Together. *Sigh*”
However, it turns out the hair in the statue didn’t come from Trace’s wig. Tehama reports the wig’s made from artificial hair, while the hair from the statue’s natural. Ingrid adds Torrey and Terri are putting together a final attempt to enter the contest, which is being held at a horror-themed bookstore called “The Zombie’s Bookshelf” in one hour. Fillmore instead wants to ask T.Q. about the Vampirita page.
Fillmore and Ingrid question T.Q. at his house. He invites the two inside and offers them tea said to be good for “Repressed rage.” T.Q. explains the page isn’t from an actual Vampirita novel, but an advanced reader copy. The kind that are sent to reviewers before the books get officially released. Apparently the pages are made red to make it harder for anyone to make duplicates or sell online. [Wing: Or to make them even more a collector’s item. God, this publisher is a failure.] T.Q. mentions they’re extremely hard to get but a determined fan can hunt one down if they search hard enough.
Fillmore asks if T.Q. really has become a Vampirita fan since he had the page, and T.Q. resents the notion. T.Q. still loathes Vampirita as much as possible, and the page that story came from is supposedly horrible even compared to the usual novels.
“Though I should give the author credit. Reading that page sucked the very life out of me.”
T.Q. won’t tell them where he got the page from, even as Fillmore threatens to drag him back to HQ to find out the truth. Instead, T.Q. pulls out a Mountain Ogre doll, mentioning how they’re an extraordinary combination of rubber and lifelike hair…
We’ve reached the climax of the episode, and have YOU figured out who done it? Was it…
TRACE AND T.Q., working together to sabotage the Vampirita fandom?
TORREY AND TERRI, who were sabotaging their own works to frame the Citizen Fang club as part of a petty fandom rivalry?
THE FIGURINE STORE OWNER?
SWEET COUSIN MALDEHYDE?!
Going over the evidence so far, Fillmore picks up the red page and notices a dark smudge on it. He immediately says they have to get to the Zombie’s Bookshelf.
At the aforementioned horror store, the Vampirita contest’s under way. Let me tell you, the author of the series looks like she’d rather be anywhere else then listening to the contestants. Her agent reminds her these promo events were listed in her contract, and advises her to smile. She does. For one second.
Off to the side, Torrey’s rehearsing a spoken word thing with O’Farrell but is getting nervous because the helmet on her space suit costume keeps fogging up. O’Farrell has got Torrey’s back and tells her to relax. When it’s Torrey’s turn on stage, Terri gives her a thumb’s up as she’s about to turn on the mist machine for the performance. Which is exactly when Fillmore and Ingrid show up, demanding Terri come with them to answer some questions.
Terri throws the switch on the machine, trying to escape in a cover of mist only to back herself into a corner. With nowhere else to go, Terri’s accused of sabotaging the projects. Torrey doesn’t understand, asking why her friend would wreck her own chances to become a character in her favorite book series?
FILLMORE’S SUMMATION: Terri got an advanced copy of the new Vampirita novel from her cousin before the contest. Unfortunately, the book was bad. REALLY bad. So bad it drove Terri to actual tears which is how the page got smudged. Terri couldn’t let them win the contest and get included in this piece of garbage, so she set to work on wrecking their projects without Torrey knowing. Terri melted down the Vampirita statue and turned it into Citizen Fang. She was able to cut the ropes on the balloon since she was right next to it. Right after she melted the statue, Terri shredded the advanced copy. Only she missed a page, which landed in front of T.Q.
Maybe she shouldn’t have shredded the pages in the metal shop.
T.Q. shows up behind Fillmore at the bookstore, and Terri cries he promised not to tell anyone what she did. Annoyed, T.Q. says he always keeps his promises and didn’t “Tell” Fillmore. He just pointed Fillmore in the right direction.
T.Q. adds he saw Terri turn the statue into Citizen Fang, and he recognized the heartbroken, tear-stained look on Terri’s face when he picked up the Vampirita page. He let himself appear as a suspect because he promised Terri he’d keep quiet. T.Q. empathized with Terri because he knows how much it hurts when a creator decides to destroy the franchise and characters you love so much. Turns out T.Q. went through three different fandoms before Citizen Fang. Apparently, he’s used tea and self-help books to deal with it. Alongside keeping Terri’s secret, T.Q. gave her the grief book to help her cope.
Since the secret’s out, Terri explains the reason she didn’t simply warn Torrey was due to her cousin swearing her to secrecy on the advanced copies. She couldn’t let Torrey suffer getting tied down with the Vampirita series after it jumped the shark. Terri regretfully apologizes for what she did, and Torrey maturely forgives her instead of freaking out about any “Betrayal” or for Terri speaking blasphemy against the books.
Torrey asks if the new novel’s really that bad. Terri exclaims it’s WORSE. Aside from multiple spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors, Vampirita betrays her allies and the entire resistance to her sworn genetic enemy by giving him their secrets and access to her power. Why, you ask?
Torrey’s HORRIFIED at how OOC this is, and the author chooses the WORST possible time to voice her opinion. She laughs and decides Terri should win the contest because she’s a “Nutso” fan, yelling at the kids it’s only a stupid book. A book which she wrote and finished while on a plane to Milan.
Torrey refuses to let her friend be insulted like this and cuts the author down for how little she cares about her books, her characters, and her fans.
“Just… a BOOK?! Too bad some people don’t know their own characters well enough to know that they don’t end up dating their sworn genetic enemies! You know, some people would say this whole thing happened because Terri promised her cousin she wouldn’t tell me about the book. Or because T.Q. promised he wouldn’t rat Terri out. But I say it happened because you didn’t know how to keep YOUR promise to your fans. That’s what a book is, Madame, a promise. Try keeping it next time.”
Several kids in the store applaud Torrey while the author silently glares at her before leaving. T.Q. commends Torrey and mentions the Citizen Fang club was trying to raise money to charter a bus for an upcoming convention. Torrey proposes the Vampirita fans could help out so everyone can attend.
[Wing: We’ll talk about this in a lot more detail below, readers.]
So it looks like the case reached a happy ending…
Too bad THE FUCKING MIME’S BACK!
Giving Fillmore a taunting look, the mime darts through the bookstore and Fillmore quickly follows after.
The next day at HQ, O’Farrell is despondent to learn what happens in Vampirita #23 when he hasn’t even finished #8 yet.
“I didn’t even get a chance to become disillusioned.”
Meanwhile, Fillmore’s got the mime snagged (apparently he’s been stealing lunch bags) and of course Vallejo’s pissed about the damage that happened offscreen in the bookstore. However, the mime’s apparently offered to put on a show to raise money for the bill.
Annnnnd then Ingrid radios in about someone having stolen a 10 foot ladder.
Said perp is on their way to the school’s ceramics department.
Poor Vallejo looks like he’s about to have a heart attack as Fillmore heads out. But don’t worry, Fillmore mentions he has some tea that’ll help his boss calm down. Vallejo starts screaming Fillmore’s name… and then promptly tells the mime to stop copying him.
I think this episode honestly does a good job at showing some of the positive and negative aspects of being in a fandom. They can get petty and nasty when arguing with a different fandom. Sometimes you don’t realize the arguments against elements in one franchise are actually similar to arguments against the one you follow. And sometimes you can overreact about someone liking a different fandom, like Trace did when she assumed T.Q. liked Vampirita.
Fandoms can also be a place where you make real friends you can rely on. Being a fan isn’t necessarily good or bad for you. It depends on how you decide to act as a fan. It sort of dispels the idea that being a fan of a fictional story makes you a loser who needs to get a life.
It’s sort of amazing Terri’s feelings of betrayal were taken seriously over how bad the latest Vampirita novel was revealed to be. This wasn’t over an arbitrary plot decision, but because the characters were legitimately acting in ways they aren’t supposed to and the protagonist just does something absolutely stupid and unbelievable. Vampirita does something the previous 22 volumes never hinted or built up towards in any way possible, instead being a blatant example of the writer clearly not giving a shit anymore. If the writer ever did.
[Wing: Eh, I disagree that a book is a promise to the readers and that authors/creators can’t change their minds on how characters go. There’s a difference between criticising how a story is told/the characters are treated/etc., which is absolutely valid, but to attack the author/creator for breaking a promise is ridiculous. Authors/creators don’t owe anything to their fans, and the fans don’t owe anything to the authors/creators. Yes, I think we as fans (or I guess consumers of media might work better) can criticise what the creator chooses to do, especially when it buys into damaging stereotypes, etc., and I think creators should want to do no harm to minority groups with their media, but I don’t think that’s something authors/creators owe, it’s just the right thing to do. There’s nothing wrong with a creator not caring about the work the way the fans do or for a creator do make something just for money. It’s still a job. And it’s okay that the author here wanted to write Vampirita dating with their previous enemy. Enemies to lovers is a trope for a reason. It’s also okay for fans to not like how it was done. It’s not okay for fans to attack the creator.]
Props to Torrey also, who doesn’t have a problem with Terri exclaiming how bad the book was to show Torrey doesn’t just worship the series or the writer. Her friend matters more to her than the series they bonded over, which is something both girls demonstrated. Not to mention Torrey’s complaints against the author focused on her not making an effort to deliver a quality story, instead of whining the story doesn’t match Torrey’s personal vision of Vampirita. Oh, but with her proposing having the Vampirita fans team up with the Citizen Fang fans it shows she can still support the character even if the next book is garbage. You can still love the character even if you’re aware of the dip in quality.
T.Q. also shows maturity when he bonds with Terri over their shared disappointment, having developed a sense of empathy from the franchises he’s followed and past experiences with his own depression. In the end, T.Q. and Torrey were able to find some common ground and try to amend the rift between their fandoms.
I will say the episode could’ve clarified if the Vampirita author was always this apathetic or if working on the series wore her down and she started focusing on the money. She doesn’t win any points when she calls Terri nuts even after Terri explained she was trying to stop Torrey from being humiliated by getting included in the book. And if she really did just care about the money, you’d think she’d make a better effort to earn her paycheck.
This episode probably resonates a lot with our own experiences in fandoms. Sailor Moon fans had the disappointment of “Crystal,” Cutey Honey fans had “Universe.” Harry Potter fans had “The Cursed Child” and the “Fantastic Beasts” movies. Plus there’s the myriad of horrible film and TV show remakes in the last two decades.
[Wing: And yet plenty of people love, say, The Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and don’t think there was any betrayal done by Rowling. Because there isn’t; what she created was good or bad depending on your opinion and maybe did harm (I’m not actually familiar with most of the content there, only the terrible choices made regarding Indigenous people in North America when it comes to magic, but most of what I saw about that was Rowling making statements, I don’t know if it showed up in the text), but Rowling didn’t owe anyone anything.]
I regret to say I know exactly how Terri and T.Q. must’ve felt. Some of you probably remember my scathing remarks against DC Comics and their last event book, “Heroes in Crisis.” It seemed to pride itself on trying to exploit trauma and PTSD as Tom King spent nine months destroying the characters of Wally West and Poison Ivy (whose bloody corpse was almost used for a sexy pin-up cover). Apparently he gave editorial a bare story outline and let them do whatever they wanted with it. King attempted to deflect criticism by shamelessly spouting garbage about the series being a metaphor for mass shootings and claiming it’s good how people reacted so badly towards it because it got them to think.
I have to honestly say, as far as I’m concerned Tom King’s one of the few comic writers I’m willing to believe’s both a bad writer and a bad person for sinking that low to try and diminish critiques against his writing. You don’t say you’re gonna do a meaningful story about PTSD and therapy using superheroes and then hide behind excuses exploiting things like MASS SHOOTINGS when people call you out on your failure to deliver!
[Wing: I still think the issue here is not the promises a creator makes by creating a work (though, to be fair, making that kind of promise in the first place is a terrible idea and also different from the “promise” that is made just by creating a work; actually making a concrete promise to consumers maybe is something that consumers can be angry about if it isn’t provided) but what was actually done in the story. And it’s generally a horrible idea for creators to respond to criticism; they almost never respond in a way that makes things worse and often the criticism isn’t for them in the first place, it’s for other fans, other consumers, especially when it comes to things like reviews.
I’m also now having thoughts about the difference between a single creator and multiple creator works, e.g., Rowling’s Harry Potter world versus comics where not only are their multiple creators at any given time (at the very least usually an author and an artist), but different creators take on the same character at different times and in different universes. The consistency across stories isn’t as strong in general in a setup like that, and I wonder how much that changes the way creators approach characters.]
I didn’t mention how “Heroes in Crisis” effected me so badly in regards to my struggles with depression and PTSD I spent months discussing it with my therapist, who even agreed with me that the book was garbage and offensive to people who’ve been traumatized. The last issue upset me so greatly it left me in a suicidal mindset, with the events around me spiraling to a degree that I attempted to cut my wrist open just to make it stop.
You can read about that here: http://www.comicosity.com/paved-with-good-intentions-how-heroes-in-crisis-betrays-trauma-victims/
I know Wing recently mentioned how enraged she was at the last book in the “Last Vampire” series because of the racist garbage Christopher Pike included at the end.
[Wing: I am, absolutely, though the racist garbage really was building from the very first book. And despite the way I write it my response, which is pretty flippantly addressing Christopher Pike (more as a character for the recap than the author himself), I don’t think Pike owes me or any other reader anything. I think what he’s chosen to write doesn’t always make sense with what’s come before (though the racism does) and I think he is writing a terrible story, but those are his choices to make and my criticism is about what was created from those choices and the damage those choices do. He hasn’t betrayed me individually or even the story itself; the story itself has failed, though he may not see it that way, other readers might not see it that way, etc.]
All in all, while every person has the potential to take being a fan too seriously, it’s important to remember you can be upset over something as a fan and your feelings can still matter. You need to remember to have the proper perspective.
[Wing: Absolutely. Fandom can be wonderful and it can be terrible, like everything else people do, but your feelings are valid. It’s when people start to take those feelings and opinions out on other fans, on creators, on partners of the actors, etc., that a problem occurs. People can like things you don’t like. Creators can do things you don’t like. Criticising the work shouldn’t also mean attacking other fans and the creators, etc. Nor should it mean that your feelings and opinions aren’t valid, even if that doesn’t mean anyone has to agree with them.]
I admit, after reading Wing’s comments, I should’ve been firmer in discussing the bias the episode shows towards the fans’ P.O.V. against the author’s. The Vampirita creator’s given no real explanation as to why she has such little zeal for the series at this point or in meeting the fans and it robs the validity of Torrey’s response to her insult. The author’s nastiness exists just to give Terri’s actions validity, when the writers could’ve discussed that CREATING and MAINTAINING a best selling book series isn’t exactly a picnic. Though I still don’t think the author won any favors by calling Terri “Nuts,” since Terri never attacked the woman herself. Terri’s complaints were always on the actual book and she never once directed her scorn towards the writer.
What also doesn’t help is Terri doesn’t explain how or why Vampirita starts dating her arch enemy in the book or why she betrays her friends. If the show had explained the direction came out of nowhere and they simply started dating “Just because,” that would’ve been one thing. Possibly, the author admitting she wrote and finished the book on a single plane trip implies it really was a rush job, but again her lack of characterization doesn’t do much for the episode’s point.
The idea of anyone being owed anything in a fandom reminds me of “The Simpsons” episode that featured “Itchy & Scratchy” getting a new character added, “Poochie.” This is also something I should’ve discussed originally and I’m seeing now a lot of this was coming off as biased as well. The Poochie character was added solely to boost ratings and was micromanaged into creation by the show executives. A lot of hype was built for the debut, and the character was almost unanimously loathed because the entire cartoon was built around how awesome he was while everyone talked about how awesome he was. After portraying the executives as greedy and shortsighted, and the production team as lazy and self absorbed, the episode proper portrayed the fans as obsessive and petty over the tiniest details. Comic Book Guy complains about how the show “Owed him” as a loyal viewer, when Bart, who hated the episode too, retorts HE probably owes THEM after the hundreds of hours of entertainment HE received for FREE. It also acknowledged how Homer, who got to voice Poochie, genuinely tried to do the best he could and realized there were problems with the character he wanted to fix. Unfortunately, because it was out of his control it meant he wasn’t really given anything to work WITH despite his efforts.
And yes, I should’ve offered a more broader discussion about franchise reboots overall and only lent towards the ongoing bias by mentioning properties that garnered a lot of backlash. “Sailor Moon Crystal” and “The Powerpuff Girls 2016” attracted a lot of criticism (the former for claiming to be a more faithful adaption of the manga when it severely downplayed the roles of most of the main cast and shoehorned a romance subplot based off a single piece of artwork, the latter for pandering to its audience by recycling old memes and removing beloved characters who bizarrely were said to be “Not right” for the show), but that didn’t mean EVERYONE hated them. SMC’s third season was considered an improvement and there were those who actually liked the romance subplot, and many who worked on the new Powerpuff Girls were fans of the original show and were overjoyed to work with their favorite characters.
I think honestly I was buying more into Torrey’s insults to the writer due to my own negative experiences in the comic book fandom, especially the vitriol I’ve spewed against people like James Robinson and Tom King. I have no right to discuss perspective when I myself lack enough of it, which is something I still need to work on.
[Wing: I mean, you have every right to discuss whatever you want to discuss. Things like this are a conversation, and just like the creators of fiction (as our examples are here) can have their work criticised and discussed, so can we in our works of nonfiction.
We all bring our own perspectives to our conversations and opinions. That’s part of what makes us human; that’s part of how we build our societies. And part of what I’m bringing to the table here is the ongoing toxicity in a lot of fandom spaces right now where creators and other fans are attacked for not liking “appropriate” things or for liking them in “inappropriate” ways. I won’t go off on a full rant here, because this isn’t really that conversation, but, for example, people can like “problematic” things in fiction and other fans shouldn’t attack them for it. There’s always been at least some of that in online fandom, but as access has spread and people’s voices have been amplified, it seems to be increasing. A lot of it comes across as some fans feeling like they deserve all fans to react to the canon the same way they do, which simply isn’t true and that’s even before we get into “appropriate” and “inappropriate” canons and ways to be fannish.
To come back to the actual conversation, it doesn’t actually matter if people didn’t hate a thing like, say, Sailor Moon Crystal. You (generic fan you but also you specifically, Jude) have the right to criticise it for any reason. It’s the idea that we as fans are owed something from creators that I object to. The example from Bart and Comic Book Guy is a decent way to show that, I think.]