Being a fan sometimes means rolling your eyes at a show doing something stupid but powering through it.
I’m not sure I can power through this.
Lately, I’ve been finding it more difficult to find topics to blog about. I realize that Peaky Blinders is not in production and that, necessarily, affects the conversation, but for me, I think it’s more than that. In this blog post, I’ll attempt to sort through this in part to order my own thoughts and in part to see if anyone else shares my feelings about a show I have dearly loved.
I generally don’t blog about myself. I see my role as balancing criticism and fandom, and beyond that, who I am doesn’t have much to do with the topic at hand. But this post requires a bit more. I have an academic background, and I have always been driven by fandom. That is, I am always excited about some cultural artifact, and that enthusiasm drives me to learn everything I can about a subject. For me, fandom is a very academic/intellectual experience. That’s no reflection on the ways in which others express their fandom because those expressions are very personal, but for me, I read and write.
This blog is a the result of my Peaky Blinders fandom. It began as an archive linking everything I could find on the show and grew into this blog in which I wrote about things that interested me. This archive/blog has always been about finding and sharing information and writing essays. In the past, I would have written an academic paper. But I wanted to explore blogging and see what the blogosphere had as opposed to the kind of writing I’d done in the past.
I have not been disappointed. It feels like the most obvious thing to say, but the Internet amazes me every day. The fact that a network of fans spread all over the world are able to communicate to effortlessly is remarkable. I knew that before, but blogging has brought that home in a new way.
This blog has never been about clicks; rather, I wanted to communicate with others who wanted to have a thoughtful conversation about a television series I had utterly fallen for. In that, I have not been disappointed. I am grateful every day for those of you who read and comment on this blog as well as those who are willing to share their own thoughts and expressions that give me so much to think about.. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Peaky Blinders has a rich fandom.
Some Current Thinking
Lately, I’ve found that my Peaky Blinders well has run dry.
Obviously, there are reasons for it. The show is out of production, and bloggers run out of things to say. The well is not completely dry just yet, but my enthusiasm for Peaky Blinders is waning because of what may be more than a seasonal absence.
I did my best to defend Series 3. I wrote about the integrity of the text and the creator’s freedom to make creative decisions. Intellectually, I understand that. But emotionally, I’m having a bit of a struggle. And I’m wondering if my Peaky Blinders passion is ending. And here’s what bothers me.
A Story that Doesn’t Work — Series 3 was a convoluted mess. Period. Full stop. For me, the writing moved away from characters to plot, and that’s seldom a good choice. (Case in point: The Walking Dead.)
Characters that Don’t Work — Yes, I’m #TeamGrace, and the handling of her character still gnaws at me, which I’ve written about here and here and here. But it’s more than that. The female characters lack development. Villains like Father Hughes are devious, but there’s no rationale. And some of the male characters don’t make much sense. What’s the deal with John Shelby? And will Finn ever get to do anything? The treatment of characters seems based on expediency, and that doesn’t lead to rich character development. The performances are still terrific, but this is about character.
Poor Fandom Development — Here we are in the Peaky Blinders off-season, and we’ve got nothing. When Cillian Murphy explains at a Freefire premiere that filming starts in March, the fandom stirs, but that’s it. I think about Outlander‘s “#droughtlander,” for example. That series knows that keeping fans engaged even when the show isn’t airing is essential. They keep interviews and behind-the-scenes footage coming. Those involved with the show stay active on social media. But that’s largely missing from the Peaky Blinders recess.
The launching of Garrison Tailors, in a way, makes it worse. Steven Knight is profiting from fandom — look at the prices of the clothes named for various Shelbys. But that’s not fan cultivation.
I’ve begun to wonder if I have been grieving without fully realizing it. The cliffhanger at the end of Series 2 left me wondering for a year if Tommy would marry Grace and the story would pursue a narratve that had engaged me. In the end, though, the cliffhanger was misleading and anticlimactic. Yes, Tommy married Grace, but Mrs. Thomas Shelby was a shell of the woman she’d been, and she went on to die a gorgeous but thematically unsatisfying death. I’ve moved through denial and have gone on to acceptance.
The simple fact is that I’m a lot less enthusiastic about Peaky Blinders than I was. The third series wasn’t as good. I don’t know how many times I rewatched the first two series; I think I’ve seen Series 3 twice. And every time I say, “I should rewatch Series 3 to see if I missed something,” I find another show instead. If there’s a lesson of Peak TV, it’s that there are other shows, good shows, eager to engage fans.
Maybe it’s just winter settling in, but I’m a lot more excited about seeing the final seasons of The Americans, Game of Thrones, Rectify, and Halt and Catch Fire. I’ve been a pretty die-hard Peaky Blinders fan, but I think that’s changing.
Whining is unattractive, and you’re probably thinking, “If you feel that way, just stop.” That’s fair. Right now, I’m ambivalent, and I’m going to take a break from blogging.
I feel a bit like Lizzie: Used and taken for granted. I’m just not sure I’m going to stay with the company.
–Publication date: 23 October 2016
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