I discovered the Syfy series Wynonna Earp completely by accident. I was looking for anniversary footage of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of my favorite chick-powered sci-fi action adventure shows. What I found was a list of comparisons between the long cancelled Buffy and the latest Emily Andras led creation. I showed up late to Emily’s last production, Lost Girl. I’m sure that if I’d been a part of the series when it aired originally, I would have shipped it with the same passion that Buffy invoked. So the more I read about Wynonna Earp the more I HAD to see it. The only problem was finding downloads since season one had aired in it’s entirety. So I did a web search and a list of videos came up on youtube. I couldn’t find complete episodes until it was released on Netflix but what I did find was an overwhelming fan base hell bent on getting a second season for this show.
I spent a few days watching clips until I found a very interesting video from Clexacon. There is quite a story behind the convention. To summarize, Clexacon is a three day event focusing on positive representation of the LGBT+ community and drawing awareness to the “bury your gays” trope. I watched a few videos from the con which led to videos about shows at the con. Youtube was on autoplay and up popped my very first reaction video. I let it run because the reactor was watching an episode of Wynonna Earp.
It was like finding an island in an ocean storm, suddenly there were people talking about my new found program. Adrienne (@legacymermaid) not only had smart things to say but her expressions were like looking in a mirror at a reflection my emotions could not see. Doing reaction videos to a program, when you are so emotionally invested, takes bravery. Posting them for the world to see and to judge is something special.
I continued to watch and Marcie’s (@marciedefeo) video popped up and I was hooked again. Different from Adrienne, Marcie has a more casual reaction and talks to the episode as if it’s going to listen to the quirky demands she is making. Her videos induce laughter and the honesty in her reactions makes you want so much more.
Discovering the reaction videos reminded me of Buffy. When I was a fan, the fandom didn’t have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or any social media beyond the show’s official website and a few fan created spaces. We reacted by writing fan fiction and interacting and reacting was very anonymous. The idea of meeting cast members or sharing how their portrayal of a character affected you, was extremely rare.
Reaction videos are changing the fan experience. I’m intrigued by them and wanted a chance to speak with two of my favorite reactors about their fan experience and how it led to making reaction videos. Warning… spoilers ahead.
Did you watch reaction videos before you started making them?
Adrienne – No, actually, I didn’t even know that they existed until shortly before I started making my own!
Marcie – I’ve always been a big YouTube watcher including reaction videos. I thought it was just a lot of fun seeing if people felt the same way I did about stories and characters. I think the first show reaction videos I watched were for Skins and Person of Interest.
I’d love to know why you started doing the reaction videos?
Adrienne – I guess I saw other people doing it, and it was one of those “I can do that” sort of things? I discovered that reaction videos existed in the middle of the first season of Wynonna Earp and, after thinking about the way I had been reacting to the show all season, especially when Nicole and Waverly first meet, I thought I’d give it a try. And what better time than 1×09, when we knew something was going to happen between them!?
Marcie – I had been thinking about starting a channel for a while but was nervous about it and didn’t know where I should start. It seems simple but I love tv. I consume it and I love talking about it. I can’t usually watch shows live so I can’t live tweet or anything like that, but I wanted to connect with other fans. I guess I also wanted to get more comfortable just being myself all the time and I guess what better way than throwing yourself on the internet.
What show/ topic/ subject was your first video about?
Adrienne – Wynonna Earp was my first, and is still my favorite show, to react to. Unfortunately, I didn’t start making my videos until 1×09, though. But that first video was only my reaction to the Nedley’s Couch scene. I don’t even have the scene on the screen with me, like I do with everything else, so I was surprised it got so much traction. But I guess it’s one of those scenes that everyone has memorized; you only need the audio.
Marcie – My first video was a Wynonna Earp reaction. I was an Emily Andras fan before the show and thought it would be a good starting point with the show just starting too
SYFY channel’s original show Wynonna Earp is based on a popular comic book from the 90’s. This chick-powered scifi/western set in the fictitious town of Purgatory, comes to life for about twelve weeks every season. Even with the short run of episodes this engaging show has quite a following. How does a low budget creation from a cable network grow its fan base in a world loaded with sci-fi choices? It takes a village and reactors like Adrienne and Marcie help bring new viewership to these small budget shows.
How do you choose the shows you are reacting to?
Adrienne – Honestly, I mostly make reaction videos to shows that feature a romantic relationship between two women (in case it’s not already well-known, I’m like super gay…). It just so happens that these shows are also unapologetically feminist & have Strong Female Characters, as well as great relationships between women that aren’t romantic- best friends, supportive coworkers, sisters (I think a strong bond between sisters is my favorite kind of relationship)
Marcie – If I really like a show, or a writer or actor on a show I’ll think about filming it. Any show that I can have fun with that is hard to sit through quietly is up for reacting too. There are a lot of shows I think are great but they wouldn’t all be fun to watch me sit through. There has to be and aspect of the show that I want to talk loudly about. The shows I like watching now have even changed because of doing reactions.
Have you ever had a reaction that you had to edit out? Why did you?
Adrienne – The only time I have ever “carefully” edited my videos was for Supergirl. As the second season progressed, and Mon-El became more of a central character, I started editing out my reactions to him, because I do not want to put out negative content, and my feelings and reaction to Mon-El are not the most positive…
Marcie – I mainly cut things for time because I can ramble and go on tangents. In the past I have cut some comments I’ve made before or after an episode if I thought I was being too harsh about something or possibly offensive to someone, or to just avoid too much arguing in the comments, but I try to just let it be now. My reaction is my reaction, good or bad. I don’t worry too much about that now.
How do your real life family & friends feel about your reactions?
Adrienne – My family is really supportive! My mom actually “brags” about it pretty often, especially in the beginning. One time I came home and she had friends over, and they were watching my videos!!! My friends mostly find it hilarious. But that’s most of the reason I make them, so make people smile! And they can’t make fun of me if I am laughing along with them!
Marcie – My family don’t really know about my channel. A couple do but they just think of it as some weird thing I’m doing. A couple friends know and think it’s kind of cool that I’m actually doing it. The first time a coworker said something to me about it was super strange. I knew they would find out because of twitter and at first I tried to be really quiet about it but that ship has sailed. A few of them watch them if it’s a show they watch too, otherwise I just get a lot of questions about it and some good-natured teasing.
How did you feel about posting your first video?
Adrienne – I was extremely nervous!
Marcie – When I posted my first video I was working full time and in school full time so I was super sleep deprived which is probably what gave me the nerve to actually post it. I can’t watch any of the early videos because I just think they’re awful but I’ll leave them up because it’s all part of my experience with it. I definitely had a few moments right away where I thought about taking that first one down but the initial comments were thankfully really nice so that helped.
Do you think reaction videos are the next level of fandom?
Adrienne – Honestly, I don’t really like the proposition that there are “levels” to fandom. I think everyone has their own individual way of being a fan, no one is any better than the other. Writing fanfic is not better than making fan art; someone at home being a silent fan is no less of a fan than someone who records themselves ugly crying when two girls kiss. I think that by assigning quality to “fanness,” we are creating divisive, toxic environments, and I think that fandom should be an inclusive and safe place where people can nerd out together!! BUT I will say, I do think that reaction videos have recently become a popular way for people to express their love for a show/fandom.
Marcie – They are definitely growing in fandom. I love how many people are making them now. I especially love the compilations some people put together. There is one from the cheerleader episode of Wynonna Earp that cracks me up every time. It’s definitely a new way for interacting with not just other fans but the people making the shows. I know the cast of Wynonna Earp and Emily Andras watch them sometimes and I’ve had some comments from a couple people involved in some other shows I react to as well. It’s so strange to think of an actor watching me watch them. I saw Katherine Barrell at DragonCon and she told me one of the things she likes about them is that it almost reminds her of theater being able to see a reaction to what they are doing.
Have your videos ever been censored or flagged because of content?
Adrienne – When that whole labeling LGBTQ+ content as “inappropriate content” went on, I did find out that, if you had restricted access on, a lot of my videos were hidden. But, because I do not monetize my videos, I don’t really know how much they are flagged, but my Supergirl reactions are titled “Supergay Supergirl Reaction,” so I would not be surprised if they were “inappropriate.”
Marcie – If your YouTube is set on restricted mode I have entire show playlists that disappear. Last time I tried that all of my The 100, Dark Matter and American Horror Storys were blocked, and a couple Supergirl episodes.
Do you ever have a plan or watch spoilers before reacting?
Adrienne – NEVER!!! I am annoyingly anti-spoiler. My outro is literally “#NoSpoilers!!” A lot of the time I don’t even watch the “next week on…” promo at the end of an episode!! I even avoid officially promoted “sneak peaks,” especially when they are full scenes; I want everything in context! I want my reactions to be as truthful and real as possible, so I avoid even the slightest spoilers. And the only “plan” I have is that I try to be consistent in the location of my videos.
Marcie – I don’t have a plan going into an episode. Sometimes there will be things I want to say after rewatching an episode or because I missed something the first time but that’s about it. My thoughts at the end are usually pretty jumbled and it takes me a day or two of thinking about the episode to really put it all together. I do actively avoid spoilers. It just takes away from actually reacting if I know what’s coming. I don’t watch trailers. I’ll see some promotional pics from episodes because it’s hard to avoid the internet every day but if someone does accidentally spoil something I’ll mention it. Even shows I don’t react to I don’t like spoilers for either.
I watched my first reaction videos after listening to the 2017 Clexacon Panel with the women of Wynonna Earp. Do you feel like you are part of positive queer representation in the media?
Adrienne – I guess so? I didn’t even know about the problem of representation until 3×07, but once I discovered it’s all I could think about! I talk about the need for, and benefit of positive representation quite a bit in my videos (I talk about it to pretty much anyone and everyone, really), so I suppose I would, reluctantly, include myself in that category.
Marcie – That panel was amazing! I hope that I am. I never thought of myself that way. I didn’t start my channel to be a positive representative of anything, but now I also realize how much more important that is. I think it’s important to not let any possible YouTube restrictions to stop me. There is so much that needs to be done, and said, and shown and so many that don’t have access to that, and access is a big key. I’m not going to be supportive of something I think is bad representation and I will do my best to be vocal about it. Wynonna Earp and ClexaCon is so amazing and have been a big spark for me.
Expanding on queer representation. Emily Andras did an unprecedented thing as a show runner for the end of season one of Wynona Earp. Tell me your thoughts about that. How do you feel about the way fans have become so invested, yourself included?
Adrienne – The 5 or so minutes between Nicole getting shot, and the reveal that she was wearing a bulletproof vest were some of the most intense of my life!! But I just kept repeating to myself “Emily said they would be ok, Emily said they would be ok.” It was such a simple thing, and very in-character for Nicole, and yet it seems so revolutionary!
I have noticed a trend, possibly starting with Emily, that actors and creators involved in a queer ship, specifically a queer female ship, have felt the need to announce that the characters will survive. It kind of makes me sad, honestly. This is a great way to see how prolific the BYG trope is! We are so jaded, and have been burnt so many times, that we can’t watch an amazing relationship develop on our screen without the dread in the back of our mind that one, or both won’t see the end of the season. I know it gives me great whiplash to go from the euphoria of all the feels of a new ship, to the pit-in-my-stomach feeling of dread, wondering which one will die first. I think that the extent to which fans are invested in a show is kind of double-edged sword, honestly; we have the joy and love for that show, the creative team, and the fandom, but that also sets us up to have seriously damaging reactions when something terrible like BYG happens.
Marcie – I’m glad Emily Andras said that Nicole was going to survive season 1. I think, similar to what she has said about it, it was necessary at the time for fans to feel safe watching. There was a lot of fear and hurt, there still is, making it hard to just watch and enjoy a story when the odds were good it wasn’t going to end well. Fans needed some reassurance that they could trust it. Someone to say I’m here, I’m listening, I’m not going to hurt you. And that helped a lot of people to be able to embrace it and actually enjoy story again. At the same time I don’t want to be told any more. I understand why many people do, but for me, at least with Wynonna Earp I just want to sit back and see where it goes. I think there is a fine line between fans and creators and who has control of the story. Creators need to be aware of issues and the power they hold, and fans need to know where they can put their trust and let them do what they need to do for their stories to fully unfold.
Did you have intentions behind reaction videos or is it for entertainment?
Adrienne – Once in a while I will have some stuff to say, like the importance of positive representation of marginalized communities, but it’s pretty much for entertainment. It’s the best I know to express how important the shows are to me.
Marcie – My intentions were always about entertainment and connection. They still are. Initially, it may seem selfish, but it was about my growth and exploring. Now that I’ve been doing it a bit more, and talking to people, and have gotten to meet people it’s a lot deeper than that for me. When someone says I helped them through something, it’s something I take pretty seriously and am very grateful to be a part of. We need to be able to have fun and laugh, but we also need something more.
Do you think what you do helps to build the fandom?
Adrienne – Yeah, I think it’s another great way for people to connect and share their love for a show and a fandom. As I have met more and more people who watch my videos, one thing I have learned is that they love them because it’s great to watch someone else who has the same reactions as them. That has become my favorite part of making the videos; knowing that, for those 15-20 minutes, those people don’t feel alone, or weird, for having such a visceral reaction to something on their screen. I also often hear that watching my videos lifts people’s moods; all I want in life is for people to smile and be happy, so knowing that I play a small part in doing that gives me so much joy!
Marcie – I’d like to think it helps to build the fandom and bring us all together. I want the shows I love to stick around for a long time and the stronger we are together, the better our chances of keeping them are. Fandom gets a bad rap often, and with reason sadly, but there are amazing things about it too. The more we can focus on the positive side the more we can change everything.
Do you have a favorite reaction video? Least favorite?
Adrienne – Of course, my very first reaction video will always have a special place in my heart! But I don’t know that I really have a favorite, but I often think about, or sometimes go back and watch, the ones in which I am just a crying mess (i.e: Supergirl 2×08). I would also say that I don’t have a specific least favorite, but I don’t really like the ones before I started editing out my reactions and feelings toward Mon-El.
Marcie – My favorite video is probably Wynonna Earp 1×12. It made me laugh to edit and it might be when I realized I had sort of settled into making them. I had a lot of fun with 2×03 and 2×11 too. I don’t have any specific least favorite reactions. Any that I don’t like are because I was either sick that day or just having a rough day personally and it can be hard to just shut that off and enjoy the show completely.
If there is one thing you’d want people to do after watching a video, what would it be?
Adrienne – I just really want people to spread love! Find your own individual way of expressing you love for a show or a fandom! And, like I said before, I don’t want people to “police” who is a “true” fan, or a “big enough” fan of anything; everyone’s way of being a fan is right, and we should all support each other. And, if there is something that doesn’t sit right with you, express your opinions and views respectfully, don’t spread hate and toxicity. Your feelings and experiences are valid, but it’s hard for people to listen to you when your own words are hurtful. And I also want to encourage people to go out and educate about positive representation in the media, even better, I want to see people creating content that has positive representation!
Marcie – I love reading everyone’s comments and seeing other opinions. For me, making these videos has changed the way I watch tv. I’m more aware and involved with what I’m spending my time watching and where I’m giving my energy. I would hope other people feel that way too and are more aware of how people relate to characters differently and the responsibility we have to support the things supporting us and things we believe in, in a respectful manner.
Adrienne and Marcie can be found on Youtube and Twitter. Please take some time to watch their favorite reactions and when you’ve navigated their entire playlist let them know what you think. As creatives, it’s great to hear how projects affect you. I was trying to understand what it is about watching reaction videos that I find so entertaining and then it hit me. While re-watching Adrienne’s first post it was so very clear. I witnessed the moment she saw herself represented on the small screen. She saw love and affection between women and it was good. She found a community and not only embraced it but moved in to make it grow.
- Reaction Videos Matter: Genre, Women and Representation - October 10, 2017