Sleepy Hollow Fans Tell Writers to Wake Up

 

Fox’s quirky series, Sleepy Hollowbecame an instant addiction for many. With its focus on a time-traveling British guy from the 18th century who partners up with a young Black female cop to fight supernatural phenomenon and Armageddon using clues from history and the Bible, no one expected Sleepy Hollow to ascend to The Wire or Breaking Bad. Sleepy Hollow, had the same combination of supernatural phenomena and goofiness that created longevity and cult followings for The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire SlayerIn its 1st season, Sleepy Hollow‘s social media savvy fans created dedicated fan sites, Tumblr accounts, fan art/fiction. Sleepy Hollow‘s producers embraced and encouraged the free promotion, by tweeting with fans and suggesting hashtag campaigns.Almost half-way into its sophomore season, Sleepy Hollow, has had a tough few weeks. Ratings for Deliverance and Heartless, the 7th and 8th episodes of the current 18-episode season are at an all-time low – 1.5 in the coveted 18-49 demographic, down from a Season 1 high of 3.5. After a successful first season, Sleepy Hollow writers inexplicably abandoned the show’s strongest  elements to focus instead on its weakest links. Sleepy Hollow producers are now learning that when they deputize fans into an unpaid (and therefore uncontrollable) arm of their marketing team, those fans feel invested in the series like never before. They also feel entitled to have their voices heard.As the end credits of Deliverance still scrolled, some of Sleepy Hollow’s most loyal fans decided they’d had enough. Instead of silently abandoning the show, they developed a plan on Tumblr (where they can express themselves with more than 140 characters) to voice their concerns about Deliverance and the general direction of Season 2 directly to Sleepy Hollow‘s writers and producers on Twitter using the hashtag, #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter.That’s right Sleepy Hollow fans used Tumblr to develop a Twitter campaign. As uncomfortable as it may have been for Sleepy Hollow‘s writers to receive this public critique, this new brand of fan activism may prod writers to return the show to its former greatness.

Birth of the #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter Campaign

The #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter campaign was not just about the Deliverance episode.

In September 2014, before the Sleepy Hollow Season 2 premiere, a NYT TV critic referred to Sleepy Hollow’s lead female character, Abbie Mills, as Ichabod Crane’s “sidekick.” Sleepy Heads originally thought this was merely the error of a sloppy journalist.

By the second episode of Season 2, fans started to wonder whether the critic’s comment was prophetic. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) still had significant screen time, however, there was a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) shift in the writing for her character. Abbie defers to her partner, Ichabod, even when it puts her own life and their work against the apocalypse in jeopardy. Multiple scenes have been devoted to Abbie consoling Ichabod as he discusses marital problems. She brings him food, cheers him up, and pays his bills. All of this would be fine if the Ichabod character was ever shown reciprocating or even expressing gratitude. Never happens. Frankly, this is probably a realistic depiction of how a wealthy British man from the 18th Century would treat the always helpful Miss Abbie Mills. It would seem normal to Ichabod for her to serve him and his wife without complaint; but the show didn’t start out as Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs, so the new dynamic made some feel offended and betrayed.

For casual fans, subtle frustrations about character direction are unlikely to become fan activism. But, the avid fans who helped make Sleepy Hollow a surprise hit use IMDB forum boards, Tumblr and Twitter to discuss the characters and story lines of their favorite shows. Because the Internet is the place where civility goes to die, show-related discussions often turn into a virtual free-for-all where the anonymity of the Internet means racist, sexist, and homophobic comments are on full display, like this recent thread on the Sleepy Hollow IMDB fan board, which appeared just a few days before the #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter Campaign launched.

Sleepy Hollow Fans on IMDB Message Board

During the same time period, as reported on TVJuriste.com, the actress who portrays the unpopular Katrina Crane character posted a now-deleted tweet that “jokingly” mocked a substantial part of the fan base.

Such was the environment that existed in Sleepy Hollow fan communities when Deliverance and Heartless aired two episodes that depicted Abbie Mills serving the Cranes. She comforts Katrina Crane as she suffers labor pains, brings her clothes, offers to get the Cranes food; but in a particularly poignant scene, when it comes time to make a decision, Ichabod and Katrina Crane outvote Abbie. Fans took to their tablets, laptops, and smart phones to tell Sleepy Hollow writers, enough!

Yes, some tweets in the #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter campaign were odd. Some of the tweeters were obnoxious – welcome to the Internet. But, most of the tweets were thoughtful concerns about what appeared to be the gradual transformation of Abbie Mills into a sidekick not in terms of screen time, but in terms of story lines.

A popular science fiction author, Tananrive Due, joined the campaign:

 

Next: Response to the Campaign

  • tvjuriste

    If you are the person who actually started the #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter Campaign, use the contact us form in the footer. I’ve been looking for you . . .would like to get a quote, etc.

    I’ve located the person who created the campaign. We’ve had a back and forth. I’ll update with a quote when I have one. 😀

  • Haloismyb*tch12

    Thanks for the article. Nicely done and really fascinating. This whole “fandom” thing is new to me as far as TV shows. I’ve read sports fan boards for years and I’m interested in seeing your take on the “etiquette” of the various types of forums.

    I hope at some point to hear what actions the writers/producers/show-runner took after getting this social media tsunami of criticism from fans and what their reactions were. I was interested to see an interview with Nicole Beharie from yesterday that appears to address a concern we both have had with her saying the Witnesses are getting “proactive” and saying,””They’re trying to get ahead of Henry and Moloch. You see them planning and…doing all the little things that you would do to win a war,” http://www.buddytv.com/articles/sleepy-hollow/sleepy-hollow-interview-nicole-55105.aspx Maybe they are going to right the ship?

    • tvjuriste

      I’m new to the TV fan world and know very little about sports fans. However, when I mentioned the debate going on about Sleepy Hollow and the “hall monitors” to the sports fans closest to me, none of them could think of anything similar happening on sports fan boards/blogs, etc.

      Sounds like you’re actually in a better position to write about the difference between sports fan boards/blogs and TV fan boards/blogs. Any interest in creating a guest TVJuriste blog post, maybe??? 😀

      • Haloismyb*tch12

        I HAVE seen some of the “hall monitor” activity on certain sports teams fan boards. To be honest, there are a lot of similarities in the TV fan boards and sports teams fan boards–the main differences are those you’d expect given the gender differences on the two types of forums. I don’t think sports fandom has influenced the direction of a sports team like TV show fandom appears (at times) able to influence the direction of a TV show but I may be wrong. I’d be happy to write a guest blog post but won’t be able to until next weekend if that’s OK?

        • tvjuriste

          Ha! Well that’s what I get for winging it. I’m wrong.

          Any time is a good time for a guest blog post. Thank you and have a nice weekend.

  • Haloismyb*tch12

    Oh, and this casting call looks promising in making the show “bigger.” http://www.projectcasting.com/casting-calls-acting-auditions/fox-sleepy-hollow-season-2-casting-call-for-a-huge-bazaar-scene-in-wilmington-north-carolina/

    “FOX’s hit TV series Sleepy Hollow is looking for people of all ethnicities, 18 years and older to work as paid extras in a “Bazaar” scene that will be filmed sometime between Wednesday, Nov 12th and Friday, Nov 14th. This is a scene that will feature an exceptionally diverse group, and we have a specific need for people of Asian, African American, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, Latino, and Indian descent.

    The scene will also feature unique characters, so we are also looking for individuals with significant scars, face tattoos, face piercings, rough and tough body builders, and people who are not of standard height but are exceptionally short or tall.”

    • tvjuriste

      That IS interesting. I’m praying it’s not a casting call for extras needed for a scene depicting hell or anything hell or Moloch-related. *praying* Maybe it’s for a scene from one of Jenny’s or Hawley’s adventures.

      • Haloismyb*tch12

        That’s what I was hoping as well! Maybe obtaining a powerful artifact or scroll needed in the war. Actually showing intelligence gathering in exotic locations would be a step up from just sitting in the bat cave reading Franklin’s journal…

  • Sinque

    I don’t really think that’s true, that Ichabod doesn’t “reciprocate”. He’s always shown as interested in Abbie’s mental and emotional well being as well as her physical safety and been willing to listen to her. There have been scenes where Ichabod has tried to comfort Abbie or tried to get her to talk to him about stuff. He asked her more than once about Purgatory for example. Even in this episode, many of us may not like Hawley(I kind of wish he’d disappear), but the writers think they’ve been setting him up as some sort of reasonable potential romantic interest – Crane tried to play “wingman”, awkwardly, because he DOES notice Abbie’s feelings – maybe not for Hawley specifically but that she is kind of isolated and lonely, esp. with the Katrina business lately. So I don’t think it’s true that he doesn’t reciprocate, there just hasn’t been much of an opportunity because as has been mentioned, they haven’t delved that much into what’s going on with Abbie in that way.

    When it comes to the money situation I don’t really understand it, I would have thought Irving would have arranged some sort of stipend for him as a consultant. Consultants don’t generally work for free and it probably raise more suspicions if he did. Reyes could have stopped it(all the more reason for them to try and get on her good side) but there should have been something for most of the time and if there wasn’t, that’s bad writing more than anything. I almost feel like the writers went for what they think is the laugh when they brought it up this season instead of really thinking it through.

    Although maybe they are planning to write an episode where Ichabod manages to get his hands on some unclaimed Crane millions that are laying around. 🙂 I don’t know an episode where he has to prove he’s his own great, great, etc grandson. LOL

    • tvjuriste

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, the show has been written so that Abbie has been put in the position to help Ichabod far more than he has been able to help her. Even in the succubus episode recently, Ichabod tells Abbie “go protect” Katrina. Hopefully, they will write some episodes where Ichabod is able to show himself to be a true partner to Abbie in terms of his actions as well as his words. The money isn’t a huge issue, but it was interesting that when Abbie said something about it in the deliverance episode, there wasn’t a little line from him expressing gratitude. I suspect the writers aren’t aware at all of how they have integrated some subtle things into the show this season that make Abbie more of a subordinate/sidekick than an equal partner. From what I understand there are a decent number of new writers in season 2 who didn’t work on the show in season 1. I suspect that’s why there’s a slight difference in the way their writing the Abbie character this season.

  • BAM

    Thanks for the great insights Terri. I agree that the outcry from fans comes from a place of love and concern for our favorite show. Fans are concerned that ratings are down and rightly so. Some of this stems from the long hiatus. Fox dropped the ball in promoting to the casual fans. Lots of attention went to the hardcore fans and that was great and deserved. But the hardcore fans will always be there for the show. Fox needed to remind others about the show too. We only want the best for the show and now those hardcore fans are demanding attention also. We fell in love with this show in season 1 and want to continue this love affair with the team we fell in love with.

  • latonya

    I wish Scandal fans were as thorough as Sleepy Hollow Fans are. Shonda has ruined Olivia Pope Character so bad I can’t even recognized her anymore. The writing for Scandal has been terrible every since Season 2b. The fans complain and say they are not gonna watch until the writing gets better but the ratings prove otherwise. Shonda Rhimes treat her fans like trash even though they saved Scandal from being cancelled after season 1. But I guess being a WOC she gets a pass for writing the 1st female WOC in 40 years like a confuse sex craze whore. And yes I don’t watch anymore but still mad that this show could of been something so much better than what its is now. I feel bad for Kerry cause she promoted this show tirelessly and this is the thanks she get from the writer and showrunner. So sad but continue to fight the good fight SH fans because #Abbymillsdeservebetter

    • I only barely watch Scandal. Is Olivia back with Jake or is she w/ Fitz again?

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  • Bob Mansell

    I hope the writers are listening. As annoying as it may be to have people publicly criticize your work, these writers have a golden opportunity to fix things and re-engage their loyal fans. I think it would be incredibly hard to write a long running T.V. show. After awhile you have to start grasping at straws, and if you work in a vacuum, you can get totally off course. How fortunate that thanks to the internet people can receive instant feedback. Maybe the writers should ask for the public’s opinion BEFORE they air the show. How about a contest to see which viewer can come up with the best episode? You’d get all kinds of great
    ideas, and also get a feel for where people want the show to go. Just sayin’.

  • charlygree

    I disagree – I think the writers should work in kind of a vacuum. That’s how they get into the great grooves and produce shows like Game of Thrones etc. When someone has a vision for where a series is headed they need to stick with it.. While I like the idea of a contest for the best script idea, I think as a rule asking for outside input would be really distracting and could throw things completely out of whack. Speaking of out of whack – Does anyone remember the series Heroes? It started out really well, but slowly disintegrated into a mess of too many characters and plot lines. What happened there?

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  • Jussdre

    Hi i am a big fan of Sleepy Hollow and i live in Trinidad WI and but you all need get more information on the myths that you are using. I am speaking about season 3 episode 6 The Red Lady of the Caribbean “the Soucouyant”.

    The soucouyant is a
    shape-shifting Caribbean folklore character who appears as a reclusive old
    woman by day. By night, she strips off her wrinkled skin and puts it in a
    mortar. In her true form, as a fireball she flies
    across the dark sky in search of a victim. The soucouyant can enters the home
    of her victim through any sized hole like cracks, crevices and keyholes.

    Soucouyants suck
    people’s blood from their arms, legs and soft parts while they sleep leaving
    blue-black marks on the body in the morning

    If the soucouyant
    draws too much blood, it is believed that the victim will either die and become
    a soucouyant or perish entirely, leaving her killer to assume her skin. The
    soucouyant practices black magic. Soucouyants trade their victims’ blood for
    evil powers with Bazil, the demon who resides in the silk cotton tree.

    To expose a
    soucouyant, one should heap rice around the house or at the village cross roads
    as the creature will be obligated to gather every grain, grain by grain (a
    herculean task to do before dawn) so that she can be caught in the act.

    To destroy her,
    coarse salt must be placed in the mortar containing her skin so she perishes,
    unable to put the skin back on. Belief in soucouyants is still preserved to an
    extent in some Caribbean islands, including Dominica, St. Lucia, Haiti,
    Suriname and Trinidad.

    ORIGIN

    Soucouyants belong
    to a class of spirits called jumbies.
    Some believe that soucouyants were brought to the Caribbean from European
    countries in the form of French vampire-myths. These beliefs intermingled with
    those of enslaved Africans.

    In the French West
    Indies, specifically the island of Guadeloupe, and also in Suriname, the
    Soukougnan or Soukounian is a person able to shed his or her skin to turn into
    a vampiric fireball. In general these figures can be anyone, not only old
    women, although some affirm that only women could become Soukounian, because
    only female breasts could disguise the creature’s wings.

    The term
    “Loogaroo” also used to describe the soucouyant, possibly comes from
    the French mythological creature called the Loup-garou, a type of
    werewolf, and is common in the Culture
    of Mauritius. In Suriname this creature is called “Asema”.

    So with respect do more research to make the show more realistic.

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