Peaky Blinders, Fandom, & Some Questions

Nancy Tartaglione:  People have been chomping at the bit for Season 3 since the end of Season 2. What are they in store for? 

Steven Knight: (Laughs.) Good, I want them to keep chomping!  In my opinion in the third series it really comes into its own.  I think (Seasons) 1 and 2 were great, 2 was better than 1 and 3 is an exponential step up.

Deadline, 24 June 2015

A Puzzled Peaky Blinders FanGirl
A Puzzled Peaky Blinders FanGirl

This post is a bit different.  I don’t have answers, but I do have questions.

Bear with me because I’m working through some things and hoping you can help me find my way.  I’ve been reading about fandom and thinking about Peaky Blinders, and I’m unable to reconcile the two.  This schism became especially clear after evenstar297’s Reddit post in which she described attending Steven Knight’s Writers Guild Foundation lecture.  You should read the entire post if you haven’t already, but here’s the part I want to focus on:

I attended the Writers Guild Foundation and met Steven Knight tonight. A fellow Team Grace fan (not me) bravely asked in a room full of writers why oh why did he kill her off. At first he responded, “well did I?” then he chuckled and said, “Well….its accommodating schedules and its difficult with a big ensemble….but ultimately I couldn’t have Tommy in a happy domestic situation with the woman he loves”.

Thanks to evenstar297 and her fellow member of #TeamGrace for attending and asking this question and for sharing their write-up.  After I had thought about the implications this will have on the plot of Peaky Blinders, I had two questions.

Question 1

One, why it was that two Peaky Blinders fans had to go to a screen-writers lecture to get an answer to a Peaky Blinders-related question?   After the third series ended, Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, and Annabelle Wallis did an interview with Deadline where they, among other things, confirmed Grace had died.  Cillian Murphy repeated this in his interview with GoldDerby‘s Matt Noble, who was good enough to include fan questions in his interview.  But doesn’t it seem like Steven Knight, the creator of Peaky Blinders, should be the first one answering these questions?  To my knowledge, he hasn’t yet.

Question 2

Here’s my second question:  Why did Steven Knight choose use the maybe-Grace-isn’t-dead trick?  The ambiguity surrounding Grace’s death has been widely criticized by fans as being disrespectful, and the notion that Knight would fall back on this answer suggests that he’s out of touch with the fans of Peaky Blinders.  (When I read it, I rolled my eyes, and said, “Oh please.”)  Frankly, it suggests he doesn’t take fans seriously.

Questions about Peaky Blinders and Fandom

I’ve been trying to understand the relationship between Peaky Blinders and its fans, and I’m struggling.  I’ve written repeatedly that Knight has the authority as the creator to do whatever he wants with the story he is telling — and I stand by that.  But we live in times where the relationship between the creator and the audience has shifted dramatically, and the rise of fandom is a clear indicator of that.

Other shows I watch take this relationship seriously.  When The Good Wife ended, Michelle and Robert King, both prepared a video and wrote a statement because they wanted to explain to fans why they had made the decisions of the final episode.  Vince Gilligan spoke at length after Breaking Bad ended because he saw it as a responsibility he had to the audience.  After Sons of Anarchy aired its last episode, Kurt Sutter and Charlie Hunnan participated in a lengthy conversation to create a dialogue with fans.  The Walking Dead takes fandom seriously enough that Talking Dead is a weekly feature.  Ron Moore, creator of Battlestar Gallactica and Outlander, records podcasts after each program and does occasional impromptu Twitter chats where he answers fans questions.  Many shows participate in cons, which are fan-centered events.  I could go on, but you get the idea.

Events like these show that a program takes its fandom seriously and respects the investment fans make in a program.

Peaky Blinders has a vibrant fandom:  Tumblrs, GIFs, vids, fanfic, Twitter feeds, Pinterest boards, fan art, cosplay.  Again, I could go on.   But with the rise of the Internet, fandom is very empowered:  It’s no exaggeration to say that evenstar297’s Reddit post about an event in California lead to a global conversation — and there’s no indication that Peaky Blinders is particularly interested in it.

So I guess what I’m really asking is what is the responsibility a show has to its fandom?  And building on that, how do you see the relationship between Peaky Blinders and its fandom?  And do you think that relationship is successful?   Steven Knight’s answers to evenstar297’s question make me wonder.

He wants us as fans to “keep chomping,” which I understand and have certainly done.  But what does he owe us?  Maybe his commitments are met with the show and some interviews.  Is that enough?  I’m not sure, and my intention here is not to be disrespectful, but I think these are fair questions.  Maybe I’ve overlooked something.  But since I’ve seldom seen Peaky Blinders social media really interact with fans, I don’t expect any official answers.

But I do wonder what you think.

Publication Date:  7 August 2016

Tweets by @eyrejfa
Tweets by @eyrejfa

Update 1

@eyrejfa makes some essential points.

Her comments are well taken.  I was placing responsibility on Steven Knight for tasks that are probably done by the Peaky Blinders social media team.

I would add, however, that many creators and showrunners do take a real interest in the fandoms that follow their shows.  And I wonder if British and American programs have different approaches to this issue.

Thanks for sharing your insights, everyone.

Update 2

@Mind_Twister makes an important point:  Steven Knight’s Writers Guild speech was the first time he addressed this issue.  I’ve updated the post to correct that error.

Return to A Peaky Blinders FanGirl Blog

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3 thoughts on “Peaky Blinders, Fandom, & Some Questions

  1. Well said! You’ve articulated my frustration with Peaky Blinders social media/PR team. I only found out about the Steven Knight WGF event b/c Cillian Murphy Fans promoted it on twitter and they were the ones who kept engaging fans all year long. The only lead actor who really engaged fans on social media were Sam Neill and Annabelle Wallis (and she still does this even though her character was thrown out like yesterday’s trash). Now that both are gone, I’m curious if you and Cillian Murphy Fans decide to scale back promoting Peaky, how many core fans would be as engaged come s4. This is what the American tv shows get right. They highly encourage their leads to go on social media (GoT/Walking Dead/BetterCallSaul/Homeland/HouseofCards etc) and engage their fans and the TV shows social media accounts for a reason as that is where the fans are.If you go on the Peaky Blinders Instagram page the most highly commented and like photos no surprise are the ones featuring Grace or discussing her. On twitter, there is not one week that goes by where one of the top tweets is not Grace related (good or bad).

    Perhaps Peaky Blinders thinks its too cool for school to engage their fans this way but its to the detriment of the show. There is not one show that is incredibly popular or became popular that did not engage their fans this way. People forget Breaking Bad was a small show with no famous actors in it but because of the writing/acting and through the promotion of the show via social media/interviews by the leads and Showrunner, it became huge.

    Vince Gilligan, the showrunner for Breaking Bad, also discussed at length the decision for killing off Jane and what his original plan was. For those who don’t know, Jane was Jessie PInkman’s love interest for s2-s3. Not a lead character yet the showrunner addressed this because fans wanted this closure. If PB doesn’t get the awards love or if its TV viewership (not netflix) on the BBC stays the same or goes down, it only has itself to blame.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Fangirl: I too consider myself a Fangirl and admit I am somewhat obsessed with this show. I was/am VERY invested in the Tommyxgrace storyline. My problem is that I truly believe that Grace had not been killed off. In every interview I’ve read since season 3 ended the answers to Grace questions are every bit as ambiguous as the show was after 3.2. I may be so invested that I am in denial but I don’t think so. I expect SK will have a really clever way of bringing her back at the end of season 4. What are YOUR thoughts?

    Like

    1. I think Grace is gone. It breaks my heart to say that, but I just can’t find any convincing way she returns. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s what I think.

      You may want to follow @Mind_Twister on Twitter. She agrees with you on this.

      Thanks for reading and posting!

      APBFG

      Like

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