I love a good holiday tradition! Sleigh-rides, eggnog and bourbon, a confident Mariah Carey performing on the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. These are all things I look forward to each December. Thanks to NBC, we can add live televised musical theatre to that list — as well as the proud preachiness that comes from friends and colleagues if you so much as consider typing one word that hints at snark.
NBC has provided us with something truly special. I mean it. Given all the elements that had to go into creating something as complex as a live presentation of Peter Pan, one cannot help but marvel at the sheer guts. I applaud everyone involved. It’s incredible that in 2014, musical theatre can be at the forefront of a conversation that inspires such divided opinions. More importantly, that it inspires discussion at all.
Millions of families tuned into Peter Pan Live and were captivated by its magic. I think that’s freaking awesome. That’s who it was made for. I’d like to take a moment for a different part of the audience. The Sarcastics, the Jadeds, and the “Non-Supporters.” (Not to be confused with bullies or trolls. Those guys are dicks.)
Last year, The Sound of Music Live was a trending topic on Twitter for a full forty-eight hours following the broadcast. A lot of the discussion was negative, but people were talking. That was something that could not be ignored. In the days of DVR, ratings mean a hell of a lot more when commercials can’t be fast forwarded. I recall that The Sound of Music Live’s ratings actually improved throughout the performance and social media contributed greatly to that — both the good posts and the bad.
We live in a world of non-existent attention spans. Our tweets are 140 characters. Our vines are 6 seconds. We send pictures to each other that disappear once they’ve been viewed. Retaining an audience through three consecutive hours is almost as impossible as converting a hate-watcher. For a large portion of the people who watched Peter Pan Live, the entertainment was not in the product, but in the discussion of said product. The virtual water-cooler puts the audience on stage with the actors, and we tuned in because we found a way to make it about us.
Everything these days is a race to see who can be the most funny or profound. The Oscars. The Super Bowl. The Death of a Beloved Celebrity. We want the Likes, the Retweets, the Favorites. Peter Pan Live provided a pretty large platform for people to feel popular.
I can say with certainty that NBC endorsed and encouraged us to publicly share our opinions, no matter what they were. Take another look at the photo at the top. THEY LITERALLY ASKED US TO DO THIS. Publicity is publicity. The very presence of “non-supporters” on social media makes them supporters.
Shaming someone for how they contribute to the conversation is actually dangerous for the ratings. It’s not like that person is going to suddenly change their mind and post something positive. You risk them not posting at all. That’s one less person using a hashtag that could drive another person to changing the channel to what their friend is watching.
Furthermore, art is subjective —
art (n.) : something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.
Art is meant to spark discussion, conversation, emotions, and yes, critiques. Nowhere in the definition does it say what those feelings and conversations are supposed to be. For a community that boasts musical theatre as one of the only true American art forms, discouraging half of the conversation that challenges the artist in question is actually discrediting the very thing they are trying to defend.