deird1: Fred reading a book (Fred book)
[personal profile] deird1
There is a reason why sequels flop, McDonalds succeeds, blurbs are important, and Dawn Summers was hated by many fans when she first appeared.
That reason is known as The Vegemite Effect, and I am here to explain it to you.

Of course, to explain The Vegemite Effect, I must begin by explaining Vegemite.
Vegemite, according to Wikipedia, is a dark brown savoury food paste made from yeast extract. It originated in Australia, and is now considered a national icon, but it has quite definitely failed to catch on with the rest of the world (despite being a yummy substance of goodness that should be known as the most awesome food in existence… but I digress).
Actually – no. I don’t digress. That last point was important. Why is it that Vegemite, which is really really delicious, is so despised by everyone who didn’t grow up in Australia? Is it racism? Aussie tastebuds being numbed by all the beer drinking? Cultural snobbery?
None of those, actually. It’s the salt.

I’ve met a number of Americans over the years, and no matter what I said or did, they all hated Vegemite with a firey passion. Until, one day, I suddenly realised how to get them to like it.
It goes something like this:
“Have you ever tried Vegemite? Yeah, it's this really salty stuff that you eat on toast, and it's pretty salty. You should try some - it's really nice, and really salty. Did I mention it's salty? Anyway, I'll make some toast, and spread some of this really salty Vegemite on it, and it'll taste kind of salty...”

As a general rule, I need to mention the word “salty” at least six times to get an American to like Vegemite when they first try it. Why? Because pretty much every time they have ever eaten something that you spread on toast, it will have been sweet. Jam, jelly, honey, peanut butter - all fairly high in sugar. And eating Vegemite for the first time is like putting a spoon of sugar in your mouth, and discovering it was actually table salt. A horrible experience.

This is what I call The Vegemite Effect: No matter how good something is, if you were expecting something else, you'll hate it.

It’s not just the horrible taste of salt, either. Expecting something to be salty and finding out it’s sweet will get the same reaction of disgust. Because you were expecting something else.

How can we see this principle in action? Well, staying with the food theme for a moment, let’s look at McDonalds.
I like good food. And, no matter what way you look at it, McDonalds does not sell ‘good’ food. But when I spent three months in Munich, I quite often ended up eating at McDonalds – even though I was surrounded by places selling authentic Bavarian cuisine. Why? Because as delicious as the Bavarian food might be, I hadn’t eaten it before, so I didn’t know what it would taste like until I started eating. Surrounded by a world providing me with more new experiences than I could handle, there was something incredibly comforting about ordering a Quarter Pounder meal, and knowing exactly what it would taste like before I even opened the bag.
People like food to taste like they think it will. This is why McDonalds will never go out of style.

As well as going to Munich, I’ve also been to Adelaide. Yes, that’s right – I braved the culture of a town a whole day’s journey away from Melbourne. It was pretty fun, actually. But their bus tickets sucked.
After getting home, I had a protracted argument with a South Australian friend about this issue. Surprisingly, she couldn’t see the obvious stupidity of their bus tickets – instead, she kept maintaining that Melburnian tickets were the crappy ones.
It took several hours before we realised that this was purely Vegemite Effect. As wonderful as Melbourne bus tickets are, an Adelaidian won’t see them that way, because they’re not like the tickets back home. And no matter how many times the virtues of Adelaide’s tickets are explained to me, I’m still going to be put off because they’re not like tickets are supposed to be.

Let’s move on to the much more interesting area of mass entertainment.

There is a very good reason why Star Trek: Enterprise didn’t do well. Rick Berman has been quoted as saying he was trying to make the show “dramatically different” from the normal Star Trek style. Well surprise, surprise – the fans didn’t want something different. This was supposed to be a prequel for the show they already loved, and it was messing with their ideas of what the backstory should look like.

Ever bought a cd by a band you loved, even though you hadn’t heard any of the songs on it yet? Chances are you probably liked it better the second time you played it. Because bands try to re-invent themselves slightly with every new album, it takes some time to get past the fact that it doesn’t sound like the old album did. Once you do, you might love it. Or you might hate it. But when you listen to it again, it will at least sound like you think it will – and that jarring Vegemitey reaction will be gone.

The Empire Strikes Back is widely considered as the best film in the Star Wars universe. But, interestingly enough, when it was first released, it wasn’t very well liked. People were expecting it to ‘taste’ like the original Star Wars, and when it tasted all salty they got annoyed. It was only when they rewatched it on its own terms that they realised how awesome it was.

There’s a reason that I don’t like the Harry Potter movies: they suck.
But as well as that, there’s the fact that scenes aren’t playing out the way I picture them. And Hermione’s hair is different to what I thought. And the Weasley twins should have dark red hair. And when they say “Expecto Patronum” they’re emphasising a different syllable to the one I do. And Lupin shouldn’t wear cardigans. And Voldemort’s eyes…
You get the idea. A lot of this stuff has nothing to do with the quality of the film, and everything to do with things being different from the way I thought they’d be. That’s pure Vegemite.
But the movies are still crap.

This is why blurbs, summaries, or previews (depending on the medium) are important. You don’t want to give away the plot, but you want the readers/viewers to know what they’re getting into – so that they won’t go in expecting one thing and then get smacked in the face with The Vegemite Effect halfway through.
Firefly was a victim of this, actually. Fox wasn’t quite sure how to market it, and they got their previews wrong. Viewers who might have liked it didn’t tune in, and viewers who did tune in watched an episode, went “Eww. It’s all… salty…”, and never returned.

Angel season 5 almost fell to The Vegemite Effect too. It was so dramatically different from the previous seasons that it took viewers quite a while to make the jump into the ‘nice Wolfram & Hart employees’ mindset. Thankfully, the fans had been through enough of the show by that time that they were willing to give it a chance, and wait until they got used to the new flavour.

The Vegemite Effect is weird, actually: the more popular and long-running a show is, the more likely it is to go all Vegemitey at people.
The reason? It’s been on for a while, so viewers know what they think it should be like. And it’s got a lot of viewers, so they can all talk amongst themselves, and reinforce each other’s expectations.

Take Buffy, for instance.
I started watching this show after it had already finished, so when I read episode reviews that people had written while it was still going, I got to see them from a having-seen-the-whole-thing perspective. And they’re fascinating.

It starts in season four: “Remember when Buffy was in high school? That was so much better...”
And continues in season five: “Remember when Buffy was in college every episode? That was so much better. And before that, when she was in high school? That was the best...”

By the time season seven arrives, it's got six other seasons to be compared with, and they're all different from season seven. It doesn't matter how good season seven is, it will never have as good reviews, because it's not what people were expecting.

This is even more noticeable because, by the time season seven started, the internet fandoms were out in full force, dissecting every element of Buffy the moment it arrived. And the fandom would make predictions about future episodes, establish a consensus between themselves about what they expected to see, and then complain when that wasn't delivered because “we weren't expecting this!” Thus the enormous attention paid to “the Scrappies”. Even by episode 14, some reviewers are still complaining that we aren't seeing enough of the Scrappies, even though we haven't seen them since episode 1, and the show never promised more of them. Regardless of how good the episodes are, at least three quarters of each review will be spent lamenting the absence of the Scrappies, and complaining that the show isn't delivering what the fans expected.

This, in my opinion, is the main reason why people tend to think the show wasn’t as good in the later seasons. It’s just getting Vegemitey.

The same thing happens with the introduction of Dawn.
She appeared at the start of season 5, so viewers were pretty confident that they knew how the storylines tended to go. And then Dawn arrived.
Not only did her appearance change the storylines, it also changed the characters around her.
Buffy, instead of being a slightly spoiled only child, was now wishing that she would get spoiled like her sister. And then, later in the season, morphing into a parent.
Xander, rather than being the slightly goofy guy, was now the cool guy who younger girls might have a crush on.
And so on.
All this stuff was really great - it showed us another aspect of the characters that we would never have been able to see. But it wasn't what we were expecting.

You’re trapped, really. As a writer, if you change things around occasionally, people will start complaining about the Vegemite everywhere. If you keep everything the same, you end up with Friends.

Of course, tv shows have an extra issue to deal with: multiple writers. Because each writer brings different things to the show, individual episodes will be markedly different from each other – and you’re in danger of viewers being Vegemited every single week.
No matter how good your show runners are at fitting it all together, the different styles will still make themselves known: I defy anyone with sense to confuse a Jane Espenson-written episode with one by Marti Noxon.
This is why I tend to pay close attention to the opening credits, these days. If I know going in who the writer was, I’ll have a much better idea of what to expect – and I’m much less likely to encounter The Vegemite Effect.

A change of medium can do it, too.
There are a lot of valid reasons not to like the Buffy Season 8 comics. Whether it be giant girls, bank robbers, or just a refusal to believe that someone could survive being skinned alive – it’s your choice. But quite a few people stopped reading early on, because the story was in comic book form. And it’s not that they think comic books are crap, exactly. It’s the fact that they’ve never really read comics before, so they don’t know how stories are supposed to ‘flow’. The story just isn’t hitting the same ‘four acts with ad breaks’ structure, so they can’t get into it. That’s Vegemite for you.

The Vegemite Effect is the reason franchises tend to work. If you go to a Die Hard movie, you expect to see Bruce Willis blow things up, lose his shirt, swear at idiot policemen, and say “Yippee Ki Yay!” a lot. And lo and behold, the franchise delivers. No Vegemite required.

It’s also the reason sequels tend to do badly. Studios know that, if they change anything, they risk viewers being Vegemited and annoyed – so they don’t change anything. And what happens? Everyone who sees the movie walks out complaining that “it’s just a rehash of last time”. You can’t win, really.

Of course, once you get past the Vegemite obscuring your vision, you might discover that the story really is crap, that the characters really are that uninspired, and the writers really should go into hibernation until they learn how to make a show that doesn’t require a lobotomy to tolerate. But you should always be conscious of your own potential to be Vegemited. Never let an unfamiliar flavour drive you away from something worth watching.
’Cause sometimes? Vegemite can taste pretty fantastic.


here via metafandom

Date: 2010-06-18 10:32 am (UTC)
janice_lester: Spock's chest (Default)
From: [personal profile] janice_lester
Awesome post. You know we have family arguments in NZ about Vegemite vs. Marmite? I find Vegemite too "weak" and mum finds Marmite too "strong", so we have to have both in the house. In intermediate school, we did a blind taste test--Vegemite vs. Marmite vs. some store brand called Promite. Despite everyone claiming to have a strong preference, I was one of two people from a class of 30 who could actually tell the three apart. But this is neither here nor there.

I think you're right on a great number of points here. I'll be interested to see what others say.

Re: here via metafandom

Date: 2010-06-19 09:18 am (UTC)
redsnake05: vegetables with a sign saying "organic" (Creative: Food organic)
From: [personal profile] redsnake05
Another NZer chipping in to say that, yeah, we had to have both Marmite and Vegemite in the cupboard for our differing tastes. My brother and I loved Marmite, but my mum preferred Vegemite. The thing that intrigues me is how we ever got to taste Marmite in the first place.
menomegirl: (When I Was Your Age)
From: [personal profile] menomegirl
Ha! I love this rambling post-lots of good points, sweetie.

Date: 2010-06-19 05:53 am (UTC)
affablyevil: for I am human (& you are human, too) (human)
From: [personal profile] affablyevil
Excellent post, I definitely agree, and it's a great way to look at things.

The Vegemite Effect is weird, actually: the more popular and long-running a show is, the more likely it is to go all Vegemitey at people. The reason? It’s been on for a while, so viewers know what they think it should be like. And it’s got a lot of viewers, so they can all talk amongst themselves, and reinforce each other’s expectations.

To continue with your examples, I think this is exactly what caused massive fandom division in Supernatural when the premiere of season 4 aired — a really important plot action was done by a new character and a new mythology was introduced. Reactions to it are either wholly "I hate it!" or "I love it!" because nobody saw it coming at all.

also via metafandom

Date: 2010-06-19 07:16 am (UTC)
sashajwolf: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
From: [personal profile] sashajwolf
This is really interesting. There's an example playing out here in the UK at the moment with the film 4..3..2..1, which I think is excellent, but which has got almost universally bad reviews - and I think it's because the teasers deliberately set you up to expect a different film than you actually get. I actually enjoyed that, because I like things that play with audience expectations - but it was a high-risk strategy, and a lot of critics didn't get it.

Re: also via metafandom

Date: 2010-06-20 04:52 pm (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
I also think it explains the problem with Torchwood: Childen of Earth (well, apart from the fact that everyone behaved like idiots for the sake of the plot, and the plot made no sense): the viewers were expecting Torchwood and they got Spooks with Aliens (or, as I prefer to think of it, Spocks).

The vegemite effect.

Actually, you know what's worse? The vitamin pill effect; that is, where someone has taken something which you expected to be unhealthy comfort food, laden with e-numbers, saturated fats and brown crunchy bits and slipped a really good-for-you extended metaphor about global warming or the need to care for a fragile ecosystem right in the middle of it. And somehow it's even more vegemity if the moral backbone is something which you agree with, because then it's ,"Why's someone putting the stuff I do for serious into the stuff I do for fun?"

Re: also via metafandom

Date: 2010-06-26 11:40 pm (UTC)
ceindreadh: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceindreadh
I also think it explains the problem with Torchwood: Childen of Earth (well, apart from the fact that everyone behaved like idiots for the sake of the plot, and the plot made no sense): the viewers were expecting Torchwood and they got Spooks with Aliens (or, as I prefer to think of it, Spocks).

So much word to this comment!

Date: 2010-06-19 07:48 am (UTC)
michelel72: (SGA-RodneySam-Reading)
From: [personal profile] michelel72
Here via metafandom. Yes, this pretty much explains my entire life!

(There's also not just comfort but safety in knowing what things will be like, whether that's trusting chains over local restaurants when it comes to unexpected animal products or allergens in food, or trusting certain authors not to challenge you with content you don't want to approach.)

And you're so right about the summary problem. I recently skipped a fic because the summary made it sound like middle-of-the-road BJ Friday fare (perfectly fine; not at all my thing). It actually had some really cool newish trope intersection stuff going on that made me love it, but I only know that because of a rec post. Having read it, I can see that the summary makes sense, but it was exactly the wrong approach for me. "It's that Vegemite stuff! I know I don't like that!"

Date: 2010-06-19 09:27 pm (UTC)
ext_417449: Atlantis, 50,000 C.E. (The Last Man) (Default)
From: [identity profile] skaredykat.livejournal.com
Um, so which fic did fear of vegemite not end up scaring you away from? (Just curious/greedy as I tend to like your recs.)

Date: 2010-06-20 03:32 pm (UTC)
michelel72: (SGA-John-ISaidSo)
From: [personal profile] michelel72
Control Chair — I avoid anything that looks as if it's PWP, because usually I only skim explicit sex (I get nothing out of it). This is explicit, boy howdy, but it just happens to hit something that works for me. There are masked warnings, so take heed; this fic won't be for everyone. (And this is why I don't make a policy of just never reading explicit fics, just "no PWPs unless a rec piques my interest or the author's one of my exceptions": Every rare now and again, I find something that really fascinates me. Similarly, I'm almost always read Toft no matter the summary, because I've learned that Toft pretty much always can take just about anything and make it interesting to me.)

Date: 2010-06-19 10:53 am (UTC)
pensnest: Dalek bearing tray with cup and saucer (Dalek stops for tea)
From: [personal profile] pensnest
Vegemited. Awesome concept. Admittedly I should prefer Marmited, because I'm English and *Marmite is best*. But yes, you're absolutely right, and that's a very smart way of looking at things.

Date: 2010-06-19 03:33 pm (UTC)
summerstorm: (disney ∫ swift)
From: [personal profile] summerstorm
Nothing to add -- just wanted to say this is a fantastic post.

Date: 2010-06-19 04:25 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] nic
I love this - it explains so much!

Date: 2010-06-19 04:52 pm (UTC)
fizzyblogic: [Game of Thrones] detail on a map of Westeros (life; shake out in the breeze)
From: [personal profile] fizzyblogic
This. I really like the term 'Vegemite Effect', it says so much in so few words. It's why I work harder at storyboarding the intro to a vid than any other part of it; when watching vids, you expect the rest of it to be as the first twenty or so seconds promises. The ones that don't do that feel jarring, because it's just not what you expected.

Perhaps this is also why I love Dawn so much, while most of fandom hates her? While I watched it as it aired (in the UK, anyway), it was often shown at inconvenient times, or I missed episodes, or the network lost the rights to show it; so it was only when I started buying the DVDs that I really got to see the show all in order and context. And the first season I bought was season five.

This also explains the second Panic! at the Disco album. I hated it less on fourth or fifth listen, but on the first I really hated it, partly because it was so very different to the first album. I expect some sort of musical progression in a band's albums as time goes on, not a complete genre switch.

Also! This is why I loved Iron Man 2 so much! All I was expecting from it was Tony being a hot douche, some robots beating each other up, and a montage of ~technology~. I got all of those things, thus, I was happy.

Here via metafandom

Date: 2010-06-19 06:59 pm (UTC)
amaresu: Sapphire and Steel from the opening (Default)
From: [personal profile] amaresu
This is a post of brilliance. And really explains my reaction to S6 and S9-10 of Stargate SG-1 the first times I saw them. Going back and watching them again I can appreciate and like them, but when they were airing I utterly hated them.

It makes me laugh. Thanks.

here via metafandom

Date: 2010-06-19 09:21 pm (UTC)
ext_417449: Atlantis, 50,000 C.E. (The Last Man) (Default)
From: [identity profile] skaredykat.livejournal.com
Great post; expect this will result in a "Vegemite effect" page on fanlore, if not tvtropes. :)

Date: 2010-06-19 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] readingz
Now I want to taste Vegemite! XD.

Thanks for this, I had never thought in depth to which extent habit affected taste :p

Date: 2010-06-20 09:10 am (UTC)
calystarose: Callisto from Xena & a rose (Default)
From: [personal profile] calystarose
Brilliant post, and so very true. My personal vegemite moment came when I took a big sip of dr pepper that ended up actually being sweetened ice tea. That vivid experience has stuck with me and is the defining memory I have of that restaurant. Which I think applies to the Vegemite Effect within fandom too. If the VE is too over-powering it totally ruins the show/book/movie/etc for you, retroactively as well.

Date: 2010-06-20 04:42 pm (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
Why is it that Vegemite, which is really really delicious, is so despised by everyone who didn’t grow up in Australia? Is it racism?

I think it's because it tastes almost, but not quite, like Marmite, so for me it's the pale-imitation-of-something-which-tastes-fantastically-delicious sense.

This is awesome

Date: 2010-06-20 08:17 pm (UTC)
sherrold: Rse from Dr Who, smiling and full of love (Default)
From: [personal profile] sherrold
Absolutely true, and what fun to read all of the Buffy examples that I still remember so vividly!

Date: 2010-06-28 04:09 pm (UTC)
pattisplace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pattisplace
Wow. This was wonderfully insightful. I don't know how I missed it. (assuming it was cross posted to LJ, cause I'm shamefully negligent about checking here)
Definitely words to remember when my knee-jerk reaction to something is "Oh no! That's not right! How awful!" :)

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