I know what you’re thinking – @achilleswasbi, what are you talking about? Fan Service? That thing TV shows and movies do? In public policy? What are you even talking about?
Oh, dear reader. Let’s take a journey.
Fan service is when a piece of media adds material to intentionally please the audience according to Achieving a Global Reach on Children’s Cultural Markets: Managing the Stakes of Inter-Textuality in Digital Cultures (a chapter from Play, Creativity, and Digital Cultures by Valérie-Inès De La Ville and Laurent Durup). Fan service doesn’t have to have anything to due with the overall plot or pacing of the show. It doesn’t have to service the show in any way besides being a wink and acknowledgement to the audience. This term originally appeared in connection to manga, but is broadly applicable to various sources of fiction and media.
Take the television show Supernatural. This show, produced by the CW, focuses on the adventures of brothers Sam & Dean Winchester and, what is best described as their Guardian Angel, Castiel. This show became famous through writing and inventive plots, and then because of the “shipping” of Dean and Castiel, one of the most iconic romantic relationship pairings in and outside of the show. Every time the characters are alone together, with the characters engaging in blatant homoerotic subtext that a 4 year old could spot, is an act of fan-service, of pleasing the majority of the fan-base while still being able to deny that relationship and that the “moments” presented by a team of script writers and producers have nothing to do with the overall plot.
At it’s core, that’s all fan service is – service to a public without consequences of what is actually happening? But, I hear you say “that’s interesting, I don’t care, I clicked on this to see how this relates to public policy. What does a TV show have to do with government?” And we’re getting there.
A regular tool of this administration is to announce a stance or action President Cheeto has on a particular issue, and while the media and public eat up the storm, quietly pass through different legislation. Recently, the President engaged in an act of war against Iran while the Democrats were gearing up for debates for the upcoming 2020 election. The act of war against Iran is a form of fan service – the administration presenting to the American public the America we want to see. The America that is strong, just, and willing to beat up bad guys to protect the world. The administration is offering a fan-service to the nation while quietly advancing their own plot. In the case of Iran, the plot is to distract from the Democratic debates in order to make civilians less engaged.
Fan-service is in our government, and always has been. I’m not so pessimistic to add an “always will be” to the end of that sentence, but it’s up to the public to address these acts. We cannot afford to be distracted or overwhelmed – this is not a call to care about everything, but for us to find the things we should be caring about and paying attention to.