Monday, July 10, 2017

A Fandom's Path of Defiance

(Personal fan art created by yours truly)
Occasional ideas flow once again from the depths of Real Racing 3. I can't be more happier than this when I completed the final goal of the game's newest event "Path of Defiance" which pitted me to get one of the motorsports' icons: the Mazda 787B. Just what I needed to complete my race car collections. Right now, I've made my call to skip the XJR9 event in favor of the Porsche 962C one because I kinda want to make a Taisan Starcard 962C livery whenever possible. Back to the special event, the first days were normal until I reached the sixth day where things got intense in Catalunya. But, the last two days were more forgiving than the day in question despite having a far lower PR from the recommended number.

But knowing the event's name "Path of Defiance" reminds me of something that qualified as such. No, it's not something motorsport-related sadly, but this time it's related to fandoms: there was a story where a TV show nobody would heard of blazed its way to the victory in a fandom competition, going as far as defeating 63 of the "usual suspects" in process, even managed to topple the reigning champions. To embrace such a story, one has to flashback months ago where the mentioned miracle took place: the 2017 edition of E!Online's TV's Top Couple competition.

The TV's Top Couple competition is one of E!Online's fandom competitions where 64 couples from television shows battle in a March Madness format until only one remains as the victor. Unlike the March Madness format though where winners from specific brackets compete against each other and onwards for the next couple of rounds, the site's format grouped all 64 couples in one in the first round, with the following rounds being in a head-to-head format where ties were decided by, perhaps, the number of votes cast during the previous rounds.

Alas, the 64 couples spanned from 44 popular television shows. There are reigning champions from 2015 and 2016, namely The Vampire Diaries' Caroline Forbes and Stefan Salvatore, and The 100's Clarke Griffin and Lexa respectively, with both going for their title #2. Teen Choice Awards-winning TV show Pretty Little Liars came with a full-on valiant effort of 4 ships involving all the 'liars' including Emily Fields and Alison DiLaurentis, while popular ships such as Claire and Jamie Fraser from Outlander, Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak from Arrow, and Stiles Stilinski and Lydia Martin from Teen Wolf, among others, also came out to play, as well as last year's breakout debutant Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood of Shadowhunters who fell short losing in the final round against Clarke and Lexa last year.

Isak (left) and Even (right) from Skam (Image: NRK / DramaQueerz)
Then we have the competition's dark horse out of nowhere, not even an English-language one, bearing the number 64 in the first round of voting: meet Isak Valtersen and Even Bech Næsheim from Norwegian TV show called Skam. The show, a Norwegian word for 'Shame', is a low-budget teen drama production by creator Julie Andem, with the first season being aired in 2015 and airs both on the Norwegian channel NRK and on its website, with clips from the show being put online in "real time" without warning. Each season, the series centers around a different character, with the third season being centered around Isak Valtersen, played by Tarjei Sandvik Moe, with Even, played by Henrik Holm, as his love interest in the season. The show itself has been running for four seasons.

Yes, a Norwegian fandom just threw their hat to the ring against some of the giants, and by the end of the first round, they had a go, giving other fandoms a run of their money, by finishing third out of 64 in a single-group first round elimination, and even winning the head-to-head second round with ease, even having the most percentage out of all ties.

Later rounds however saw their journey got even more challenging: in the third round, they had to face the 2015 competition's winners Stefan and Caroline meant the dark forces of Evak had to strengthen their game up, but not even Steroline could stand a chance against them. In the fourth round however things got even more heated as Evak faced the 2016 winners Clarke Griffin and Lexa from The 100 who all dominated several other fandom competitions in wake of Lexa's death which brought controversy within the fandom. Amazingly enough, not even the Norwegian forces backed down, managing to maintain their lead after 54 hours of voting. By now they managed to slain two of the site's reigning champions in a single year.

Next couple facing the unstoppable Norwegian dark horse would be Stiles and Lydia, relentlessly voting their heart out knowing that the couple they were facing were in fact the competition's breakout stars. They managed to seize the lead at the early hours, but not long after the breakout couple would take the lead, resulting in an arms race between two couples that lasted for the remainder of the round. A fairly close gap upon Evak's victory made for the couple's "barely made it" round win which eventually earned them a chance to win the competition against another gay adversaries: Magnus and Alec, finally second time going to the competition's final round since their debut in 2015.

The stage was set for the 80 hours worth of final round which would decide either the Shadowhunters couple or the Skam couple would win this year's race. A win for Malec meant that this year would mark their success in the competition, but on the other hand a win for Evak meant that their path of defiance would be complete. Alas, as the clock reached 9 in the PT morning, the round began, with Evak easily rocketing away from Malec with a fairly large gap, almost within 60%. Despite this, Malec went lengths to decrease the large gap, which seemed to prove effective many hours later as they managed to close down their gap for a potential win. However, just when the Shadowhunters couple were to succeed overtaking the Norwegian couple, all of the former's progress went lost thanks to the persistence of the Evak fandom. In the end, they won the competition, but that wasn't all: they were the first ones who made history, being the only occasion where characters from a non-English show won a top-flight fandom polling competition before. Cue the cherishing reactions from the Skam fandom.

But it wasn't just their victory that has become the spotlight of the competition. There's another aspect which made the Skam couple fandom special: the analytical aspect, something that's rarely touched in the fandom polling competition square. I covered this aspect a couple of times in various polling competitions on my Fandom Warrior blog in terms of character's participations, and competitions on the SpoilerTV site often does end-of-competition analysis post, most prominently in its Character Cup. The fandom however does the part in the number of votes tallied starting from the Final 4 round, with two places promoting the tallies: the site, and the Twitter account by the name of @vote4evak (tweet above). Both were made for the purpose of the fandom's campaign, telling everyone how many exact number of votes were cast for each competitor in one tie. This wasn't even possible in E!Online's polling system which only shows the percentage down to one decimal place, especially knowing the fact that the voting widget would be deleted once the voting for the round is closed, barring any chance of seeing past percentages at all.

All the brilliance was courtesy of a team effort from Magni Onsoien and Nicolaj Paaske Holm Hansen. They were able to figure out the number of votes cast by checking the numbers in two different versions of the site by the means of the browser's View Source feature: the exact percentage in the desktop version, and the total number of votes cast in one tie in the mobile version. Magni would then write a script that automatically fetched the data which eventually made it possible for the fandom to provide all the data as mentioned above, posting and updating all the numbers in both aforementioned sites. This article details all the process in full.

"Alt er love", Norwegians say. (Image: The Guyliner)
At the end, who would have thought that Skam might have learned from Mazda's 1991 Le Mans campaign? In that year, Mazda defied the norm by being the first (and only, for now) Japanese manufacturer to date and the only car with a rotary engine to win that year's 24 Hours of Le Mans race. 26 years later, the Norwegian television show defied the fandom's counterpart of the defiance, being the first non-English show to win a top-flight fandom polling competition. Both have traversed their own path of defiance, and succeeded.

Sadly, after four seasons of Skam, all the good things must came to an end for the show. I don't know if there's another show that will follow its footsteps in the competition since this might be a once-in-a-lifetime rarity happened, but the show's fandom will be remembered for this valiant effort. May we meet again someday.


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