Quick take on the SoaP backlash

News reports are giddy with glee that SoaP, while opening at #1, didn’t do as well as was anticipated at the box office. I have a few quick takes on this that I want to throw out.

First, I’m struck by a parallel with the way the press treats political blogs. There’s a very ambivalent relationship — blogs are a novel and timely topic to write about in the news. Things like the SoaP phenomenon shaking up Hollywood, or grassroots citizens organizing through blogs in ways that shake up the political establishment, make fun stories and keep everyone feeling appropriately current. But at the same time, if bloggers are really going to start being driving forces in politics, that’s pretty disruptive not just to the political establishment but also to the press. So even as the press goes to bloggers for their stories, they also expend a lot of energy disparaging their value to public discourse. In the same way, fan activity that disrupts Hollywood also disrupts the priviledged position of professional film critics (who were not invited to prescreenings of SoaP). So at the same time it’s great storytelling to build up the Soaps on a Blog thing, if participatory fandom really works well, it can also be a great big threat to the same people who are telling those stories. That’s why I think they’re so happy it’s merely going to be profitable and not a block buster.

Second, I remember back in the 90s everyone was always fretting about how the internet turns everyone into overactive flamers. Turned out there really weren’t all that many people being obnoxiously argumentative and insulting online, but flames were so visible and emotionally salient, it seemed like there were zillions and everyone was doing it (cite: Martin Lea & Russell Spears). I wonder if the visibility and interest-value of the online SoaP phenomenon led people to overestimate the real number of individuals who were involved.

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