John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Sic transit gloria Tubey

I've had it in the back of my head that at some point this year I would write about 2014 being my 20th year in online television fandom. I don't remember exactly how or when it happened, but I signed up for AOL in 1994 and somehow stumbled upon the TV Gossip section and its Melrose Place bulletin board, where I found a community of like-minded folk who enjoyed talking about the show as much or more than they enjoyed watching it. As time went on, we started talking about ourselves and our lives as much if not more than about Melrose Place, and eventually I had the pleasure of meeting several of my fellow "Placemats" in person, and I remain friends with many of them today.

Multiply that experience by ten or more and that pretty well describes my experience with Television Without Pity too. I happened upon the site -- which was called Mighty Big TV at the time -- in December 1999 or January 2000, just as my enthusiasm for Buffy the Vampire Slayer was approaching its peak. On January 4, 2000, I registered and started reading and posting in the Buffy forums.

Not only did I get to know a lot of great people via the forums, I met a ton of them in person as well. First there were the Buffycons, informal gatherings of people from the Buffy forums at which we watched old episodes and played Buffy charades -- you would not believe how quickly a phrase like "Gavrok spiders" can be guessed when you've got the right people playing -- and visited locations where the show had been filmed and otherwise just enjoyed being in one another's company. I literally have traveled thousands of miles to take part in Buffycons: New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Houston, Tennessee, and New Jersey, plus the one I helped host in the DC area.

(And that's to say nothing of the informal meetups in the years since, like the trip to Florida and the Bahamas I took with boliver and rustydog. Or the lunch I had in Santa Monica with gorimek and jmatonak. Or the too-brief visit with Chyna when she ran through Madison -- literally; she was part of a team running the Ragnar relay -- in 2012, or going to see Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing with journeywoman when it was Madison last year.)

Then there were the TWoPcons. At one point in the early aughts, the people who ran the site were having trouble paying the bills. Many of the members wanted to pitch in to help, but the owners at the time wanted to build a business, and their position was that businesses didn't take charitable donations to make ends meet. They did, however, start allowing members to buy banner ads on the site. To that end, groups of TWoP members in cities around the country got together to raise money to buy ads. in the DC area, where I was living at the time, we had several such events. We had a couple of KaraokeCons, at which you could pay to force people to sing. One of them was a competition with TWoP fans in New York; they were holding a fundraiser simultaneously, and the con that raised less money had to buy a banner ad extolling the fundraising prowess of the winner. (DC won handily, by the way.) Another was at a pool hall in Arlington. They were a blast, and I ended up meeting a bunch of TWoPpers from outside the BUffy forum.

Another thing that happened as a direct result of my involvement with the Buffy forum at TWoP: this journal. Back in 2002, a lot of forumgoers were establishing LiveJournal accounts, so I wangled an invitation from fellow forumgoer zengoalie and started posting. I was also urged to join Facebook by people I first met on TWoP; now, close to 20% of my Facebook friends are people I was TWoP friends with first. Most are from the Buffy forums, of course, but there are a fair few I met at the DC TWoPcons.

The reason I'm bringing this up today is that yesterday, NBCUniversal, which bought the site from it founders a few years ago, announced that the site would be shut down soon. I haven't been active in the forums for several years -- look like it was 2009 that I was last posting there, during the time I was obsessed with Food Network Star -- but nevertheless I'm saddened by the news. It would be hard to overstate how important the Buffy forum has been to me, nor would it be inaccurate to say that participating in the forums is what kept me going during certain parts of my life. Nothing lasts forever, of course, especially in digital culture, and by Internet standards TWoP had a healthy lifespan, and its influence on the way television is written about will last for years, but it's still sort of hard to comprehend that it's just going to vanish into the ether in the near future.

Luckily, the people will still be around, and if my experience with the Placemats are any indication, they'll be around and part of my life for many years to come. And in a very small way, a part of the site will live on as long as I have a Tumblr, because one of the tags I use there is CUTE!, and when I write it like that, in all caps with an explanation point, I'm quoting a Gilmore Girls recap. (It's on page 6 of the recap, but you really have to start on page 4 to understand the context.) Is it weird that I remember that tiny detail of that one particular recap 13 years after I read it? Possibly, but what can I say? Television Without Pity had that kind of effect on a lot of people, and I'll miss it.
Tags: halcyon days of yore, social media: facebook, television without pity, tv: whedonverse

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