In short, I am interested in trying to find some particular types of primary sources (I will explain the context shortly). Now, I already know a couple options I can take, e.g. by contacting a research library or through manually scanning existing databases of newspaper archives, but I wanted to reach out to the SDN community for a couple reasons: first, it's possible that some of you intelligent and resourceful folks already know of sources that have compiled or summarized the information I am looking for and thus save me a good deal of time, and second because I am genuinely interested to see what some of your thoughts on my research question is, and what additional ideas may be inspired by a conversation with you all. If nothing else, you may just help me refine my search criteria for when/if I make the effort to go to a research library or archives of some kind.
So, before I tell you what exactly I am trying to find, here's the general context in which I started thinking about this:
Since "Game of Thrones" ended, there has been a lot of discussion about the ending of the show and specifically the negative response to it, and more generally the way the modern audience interacts with the ending of television shows. We even have another thread here on the subject, pondering whether fans have grown more entitled (e.g. the petition hoping to have the last season of "Game of Thrones" rewritten and reshot).
So far as I can tell, this type of reaction is something more or less confined to television series. Obviously there are people who don't like the endings of particular movies or books or other narrative arts, but there does seem to be something unique about the reaction in the case of television shows like "Game of Thrones". I think there are two main factors driving this even before you start appealing to cultural trends like fans being more entitled or anything like that:
- The particular serialized nature of a television series. This manifests itself in several important ways. For more traditional series like "Game of Thrones", this means episodes are released on a weekly schedule, which everyone has to wait for and then watches at the same time. The episodes are broken up into seasons, which are released about once a year, which again everyone has to wait for. And the entire narrative is thus stretched intermittently out over the period of several years before it can be resolved. Even with streaming, a season may be released in its entirety at once, or split into halves, without a specific broadcast schedule, but the seasons themselves are still separated by about a year, and most of the viewership and conversation about a new season tends to happen within a relatively short time frame from when the season is first made available, so while slightly more fragmented it usually works out that most people are watching the show at approximately the same time.
These factors create a very different relationship between the audience and the narrative than is true for other art forms. Movies are pretty much a one-off experience. Even movies that are part of broader series of expanded universes are more highly engineered to be a stand-alone narrative compared to individual episodes of a TV show, which parcel out the narrative beats over a wider period of time. Books, while they take longer to consume as a unit, tend to be more similar to movies in that way. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, there are obviously dedicated fans to movies and books that DO complain about endings and have fervent discussions about the source material. But the modern television audience ratchets this up to 11 (i.e. it's different at least in scale if not in kind). The serialization forces the viewers to wait for narrative pay-off over a much wider period of time, with larger breaks, with essentially nothing to due in the interim EXCEPT discuss the source material, hypothesize, argue, and everything. This methodical pace makes it sting all the more if the pay-off isn't what was expected going in, almost like a sunk cost fallacy.
- The internet changing the means of discussion. This has effected pretty much all forms of narrative media, so high tides raise all boats sort of thing, but again seems especially pronounced for television shows. But quite simply the internet has encouraged broader audience participation in discussion in a way that other narrative forms simply do not, and has also to a large extent diminished the influence of professional critics, because for any given media property you can find people who will die on a hill defending or attacking it. The longevity of TV shows (sees number 1) acts as a force multiplier on this.
What I would like to do is try to find sources that look at the way people at the time reacted to the endings of such serials when they were released. Now, without the internet having existed the pool of reactions to draw from will be limited entirely to articles written in periodicals, which would give a biased sample, but I think it would still be interesting to look at the degree to which people at the time may or may not have reacted similarly to the endings of narratives to which they'd grown quite attached. It's possible there just isn't enough available primary source material to make a firm conclusion, but I would very much like to try and find some. I'm not quite sure yet what cross-section of works to choose from, but something along the lines of choosing 5 or 10 "prestige" serial novels and 5 or 10 of the most popular / most sold "pulp" serial novels, and compiling some of the written responses to the endings of those.
I'm just not quite sure how to get started with this, without doing something so tedious as looking up the individual release date of the final chapter(s) of such serials, and then manually looking through the archives of various popular periodicals from the time at the days after those release dates to look for any reviews or letters about them. Does anybody have any idea of how I might make this task easier, or of any available resources that may have already compiled something similar? And more generally does anybody have any thoughts or knowledge about the question, or would just be interested in discussing this theme further?