Above: Kerry Washington on the cover of PEOPLE (Source: EOnline)

Ever since news broke about Scandal star Kerry Washington’s real-life pregnancy, first reported by US Weekly in October, Gladiators have been wondering if the show would incorporate the Emmy nominated actress’s current status into the third season’s story arc.

This type of subsequent information and conversation touches on what Henry Jenkins’ views as extratexual information that viewers and fans alike acquire through the release of publications that “feed this desire for insider knowledge.” Some of those major reputable publications today that Jenkins’ describes can include People, US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, and TV Guide. This type of insider information, or “what they don’t show you during an episode,” is at the core of extratexual discourse, roughly described as outside or situational factors, which include but not limited to production, set design, wardrobe, make-up, casting availability, etc. (Textual Poachers, Chapter 2: How Texts Become Real)

Jenkins goes onto cite Cassandra Amsley’s study of how Star Trek fans viewed the fictional characters in relation to the actors playing the roles and discovered that many fans viewed the show with a second lens, understanding that while the characters are real within the fictional world created by Star Trek, there are other elements could potential affect the character’s actions (production decisions, writer’s room changes, available of actor/actresses) that really plays into the storyline arc.

Just yesterday, TVLine received word from the ABC network that Scandal’s third season order had been cut from 22 to 18 episodes. Scandal’s mid-season finale will air on December 12, meaning once the show returns from its winter hiatus, there will be only eight episodes left to air. Although no confirmation was given, many believe Washington’s real-life pregnancy was the reason for the cutback, as a source revealed to TVLine, writing the character of Olivia Pope out of the show for a small period time “was not an option.”

When we hear about episodes being cut from an original order, especially for networks, the reasons have more to do with ratings and money, just look at the FOX comedy Dads, which scaled back by three episodes yesterday. The reason for Scandal’s episode order was simply real-life taking priority.

Finding out about this news left a few Gladiators up in arms, proof of how extratexuality plays a role in how fans view a television show. Some were concerned about the show’s current storyline, when the air would again/scheduling issues and syndication options.

Comments from TVbytheNumbers (cropped by Diigo)

User comments (above and below) from TVbytheNumbers (cropped by Diigo)

tvbythenumberscomment1

While Jenkins said female fans needed explanations within the fictional world before looking to the production or extratexual process (Textual Poachers, Chapter 3: Fan Critics) I don’t think that is the norm anymore. I think any fan, regardless of gender, seeks out information about the object of their desire beyond what is placed in front of them: fans want to know about the behind the scenes makings, hear the songs that didn’t make the album, watch scenes left on the cutting room floor, and yes, what is going on in the lives of their favorite actors and actresses and how it could potentially impact the product. I think having instant access to this extratexual information caters to all fans.

Written with StackEdit.

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Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. “I think having instant access to this extratexual information caters to all fans.”

    I think you’re right. Going back to our talk Thursday about where or not knowing how the “magic” of an operation changes how you view a text, maybe the time has changed that people appreciate knowing how things operate. There’s certainly an increased level of transparency; people on production crews tweeting what they see (heck, actors tweeting from the set), production notes being leaked (or just shared with media outlets)…we appreciate the back-stage stuff.

    When I was a kid, there was a show about the making of Star Wars…it was a cool documentary about how Industrial Light and Magic built the props and puppets, hoe the animatronics worked, how lightsaber fights were choreographed…I loved it. I appreciated the films so much more, knowing how my heroes made it to the screen.

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  2. Indeed, when we see Ben and Jerry Stiller on screen together, or Angelina Jolie and Jon Voight or Will Smit and whatever his son’s name is, I think fans get an extra sense of wondering from being privy to the knowledge of their relationships (“I wonder what it must be like to film a movie scene with your own father/son?”). One of the best examples of extratextuality giving meaning to an artistic work is Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt,” a song about the isolation felt when drug addiction alienates all those around you. Because of Cash’s storied drug use, his rendition of “Hurt” in his old age added a heaviness to the song that others may not have associated with it before. Trent Reznor even said of the cover after hearing it “That song isn’t mine anymore.”

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  3. Great post, Christina. I wonder if you, Mike, and Wayne, might touch upon the differences between extratextual discourse and intertextuality. Wayne’s example of “Hurt” seems to be more an example of intertextuality: in order to gain a full(er) appreciation of the song it helps to know Cash’s own drug use history. . . .

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About Christina Maxwell

I’m a young professional journalist with a dual B.A. degree in Radio-TV-Film and Journalism and I am currently working on my M.A. in Writing, specializing in Journalism and New Media Studies (both at Rowan University). Although my advanced degree allows me to have options in the future, for now, my main goal is finding a job in journalism. I am a journalist at heart. First hand knowledge, original reporting and precisive answers are what I strive for when I'm working. For the past two years, I have done freelance reporting with the Gloucester Township Patch, but my goal is to have a sustainable, consistent job in journalism.

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