I admit, I was very late in my attempts to jump on the Veronica Mars bandwagon but, after a couple of weeks of intense bingewatching, I was able to catch up and watch the infamous fan-funded movie yesterday and I loved it. I can’t pretend to masquerade as one of the die-hard fans that rallied for the existence of the film but I am definitely grateful for those efforts as they led to a fulfilling Sunday afternoon. The film seemed especially rewarding because it granted me narrative closure to a storyworld that I had recently come to know so intimately while giving me glimpses of all of my favorite characters. While I have enjoyed a lot of the other fan-driven reboots (such as season 4 of Arrested Development, the Jericho graphic novels, and Serenity), this one seemed to satisfy in a way that the others did not because I was given exactly what I would want out of a reboot.
This got me thinking about the role of fans in these endeavors. As I have blogged about before, I’m interested in shifting forms of authorship in an increasingly participatory environment and I think that these reboots help advance this conversation.
Rob Thomas has made it very clear that he wanted to make fans happy in this film and so he gave them what he knew they desired. Michael O’Connell writes, “It turns out the proposed fourth season of Veronica Mars wouldn’t have included most of the series’ cast. Thomas told the crowd that the would-be reboot would have focused on Bell and a new troupe of actors. The fact that the film is as much of a reunion as it turned out to be, he says, is because they felt that’s what the backers wanted.” Rob Thomas echoes this in multiple other interviews. Notably, in an interview with Vulture, he notes that he “set out to write a movie that would make the fans happy.” While Thomas had previously conceived of a fourth season that featured Veronica as an FBI agent (which was nodded to in a conversation between Veronica and Leo in the film), he eschewed this focus in order to satisfy fan wishes.
This instance of fan control proves interesting. In this case, fans are credited for the very existence of the film—they created and made visible the market demand and then financed the project to produce the commodity that they wished to consume (and, if they contributed enough, they could make a brief appearance in the film). For Rob Thomas, this dedication grants them the right to receive a product that they desire with a storyline that they want. This seems to serve as a landmark in terms of reader, viewer, and fan control over a text. Has the success of the Veronica Mars movie prompted a new model of consumer-driven creative output? What is the role of the author or creator in this process? Furthermore, when fans become financial backers, how is their role as viewer problematized? I think we should keep these questions in mind as we will undoubtedly see more and more projects like this hit the market.