The term fan service originated within Japanese fandoms, including anime and manga, and is now used in western media. For those who don’t know, fan service is intentionally adding storylines, characters or relationships to fictional work to please the audience. While this may seem like a revolutionary idea that was only adopted with the modern development of the internet and social media, fan service has been around since screen testing began.
Within this article, we’re going to talk about good and bad examples of fan service and whether or not it is a bonus for fans or limits the creative flow of writers, limiting their ability to take the script further, resulting in poor writing or unauthentic endings.
The idea of adding things that the fans want to works of fiction can either take place in a minor scene or completely changing a storyline. In my opinion, one of the best acts of fan service can be seen in the famous sitcom series Friends.
For those phones who don’t know, Monica and Chandler’s relationship was only supposed to be what it was in the show, a one-time thing or a fling. The Co-creator of the show, Marta Kaufman, revealed many years later the couple was never supposed to be together. Still, the fan’s reaction caused the writers’ room to take a second look at the relationship and what it could become.
“I thought it was going to be funny and we were going to get rid of it… [but] we had to rethink how we were going to keep going and change the relationship.”
The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017)
It’s no surprise that fan desire alone does not change the creative course of TV shows and that often external factors also impact the course of a show’s ending. The Vampire Diaries is another famous example of the ending being changed partially because of the actors but primarily because of fans. Following the love triangle between Stefan, Elena and Damon, fans rooted for the underdog, Damon, to end up with the girl. It is hard to distinguish whether it was because the actors themselves had a relationship outside of the show or because of the genuine connection between the two characters on screen that the two characters eventually got together in the 4th season of the show. However, it has been revealed by the show’s creator, Julie Plec, that Stefan was always supposed to be with Elena in the end.
“I thought that by the time we came back to the end of the series, whenever it was, that Elena would’ve found her way back to Stefan and Damon would’ve found a different path,”
Although Plec states that the ending was changed because of the lead actress, Nina Dobrev, leaving the series, the fans’ devotion to Delena may have also impacted the outcome of the show, arguably creating a less impactful ending than initially intended.
Service can also be seen in one scene that was added to season 6 of The Vampire Diaries in which the couple in question, ‘kiss in the rain’, which was levied for by fans for years, making the scene seem forced rather than genuine.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Another example of fan service done right can be seen in the final instalment of The Avengers franchise. The scene, in particular, appears in the comics and left fans begging for it to appear on the screen. Of course, we are talking about Mr Captain America picking up Mjolnir in what will go down as one of the most striking scenes in the marvel cinematic universe.
Taken from the 1998 comic Thor #390 by Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz and Brett Breeding, the scene in question was taken directly from the page and put straight on the screen at the fan’s request. Having previously toyed with the idea and seeming to not go along with it, creatives changed their minds and added the scene to the final instalment as a thank you to fans on a nod to the original source material.
Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
While much of this is an opinion, it is all based on fact; however, I have to admit that there is no source material released yet; I am guessing entirely that this was fan service.
Most of the fandom will agree that following the 6th season of Game of Thrones, the quality of writing decreased massively due to the lack of source material the final two seasons were based on. While the writers argue that the ending is accurate to George RR Martin’s vision of how a song of ice and fire will end, it is hard to not see half of the content in the final two seasons as fan service.
Most of the fan service performed in this show revolves around two central characters: Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow.
Starting with the earliest revelation, the show’s revelation that the popular fan theory ‘R+L=J’ was correct. While the revelation is highly probable to be accurate to how the books will portray Jon snow’s heritage, the romance and fairy-tale style telling of the relationship between Rhaegar and Lyanna is highly unbelievable given George RR Martin’s writing style.
Jon and Daenerys’ relationship in the show is probably the most unrealistic aspect of the final two seasons, given the show’s direction. The relationship between the two characters takes an ugly turn and almost feels like it should have never begun. The relationship was initially desired, and the way it was written made fans regret ever wanting it to appear on the screen.
Apart from the two central characters, another aspect of fan service that was included and felt forced is known as Cleganebowl. This aspect was so negatively received that fans are still petitioning the writer online so that the scene does not appear in the final book. For those individuals who do not know, this was a fight between two characters desperately desired by fans to be seen… until it was.
While fan service is arguably a good thing, it often makes them lazy writers, changing storylines to please audiences rather than taking the creative route they originally intended and leading to outcomes hated by everyone, especially the fans. It often limits the writers and restricts their creative ability to write a good script, and the result is often a cookie-cutter ending that has been seen many times before.
It is said that often it is producers that push writers to please fans with their writings, and others, it is lazy writers using the fandom’s creative ideas to fuel their writing, stealing ideas and having no idea where to take them. This is why the quality of entertainment and the writing within them is declining rapidly as time progresses. As writers become increasingly concerned with pleasing audiences and about writing a good novel or script that may not please everyone but with an undeniable quality to most.
It is because of this that we have to ask: is fan service really worth it?
Writing: Laura Parry | Subbing: Mathumithah Kandiah