As much as I consider myself a fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, I have to admit, I wasn’t following the show from the very beginning. In fact, I started to listen to it a little after the first anniversary episode had aired, advised to start by many of my friends.
There were many reasons I was convinced to do it. First of all, the show has a dark urban fantasy kind of atmosphere, which I consider to be one of my favorite genre. Yet the narrative was presented in an absolutely unique way, where even the darkest and scariest aspects of the story were something you could laugh about.
The other big reason which spiked my interest was a positive portrayal of a same-sex relationship: the host Cecil and his boyfriend, Carlos. Here at the Geekiary, we’ve talked a lot about the lack of positive representation of the LGBT community in the mass media, so a podcast that managed to do it just right was a breath of fresh air. It was also memorable that unlike any other story, including either canon or non-canon pairing, Welcome to Night Vale presented a romantic relationship without including any additional tragic subplots. To put it plainly, it gave us an angst-free relationship.
Angst (adj.: describes a situation or literary piece which contains dark, depressing, angry, and/or brooding emotions from the participating characters. – Urban Dictionary,) is something that many fandoms are familiar with too well. Fiction often portrays a relationship as something to be earned by overcoming a myriad of obstacles before two characters can finally be together. Angst is an even wider occurrence when fandoms ship pairings, especially those that have little to no chance of becoming canonical.
Welcome to Night Vale, meanwhile, has never had an angst-filled relationship. Granted, there were some episodes in which Cecil and Carlos were in dangerous situations, but by the end of each episode, the danger was resolved in an unexpected or funny way, bringing the two back together with minimum emotional struggle for the fandom. Yet, with each passing episode, I couldn’t shake off a feeling that something was missing; that the relationship was lacking some important aspect. In time I realized that the missing element was struggle.
The second anniversary episodes, aired on June 15 and July 1, on the other hand, was the first time in which the plotline of their relationship was left hanging on very unpleasant circumstances. Instead of a happy ending, fans were left unsure how the relationship would continue, or how the ending would affect the plot of the show in general, seeing how important Carlos’ work has become for the town of Night Vale over the past two years. And, after getting past my initial reaction, I realized that it was actually a good thing.
So how did it happen that the lack of angst that attracted me to the show in the first place, turned into something that I started to consider as weakness?
Looking back at each fandom that I’ve ever been a part of, I realize that angst has always played a role in forming an emotional attachment to the production, be it a movie, book, or a TV show. It has always been a way to become more invested into characters or their relationships. In other words, the more we see a fictional couple struggle, the more we want them to overcome the obstacles and finally become happy. It makes us look forward for the resolution of each story-line, which in its turn attracts us more to the work in question.
Heart-wrenching plot arcs were also something that motivated me to go out and seek people who shared my interests, to connect with those who understood what I was going through and supported me. I know that I am making an assumption, but I can’t help but feel that almost everyone reading this should be able to think and remember at least one great fandom friendship born in an act of figurative crying on each other’s shoulders.
And yes, what happened to Cecil and Carlos’ relationship was upsetting, making many fans go through some levels of emotional breakdown, but at the same time it wasn’t the end of the show. The episode opened many opportunities for the creators to develop new angles for the romantic plot-line, as well as many possibilities for moving the general story-arc of Night Vale in interesting directions. And if finding out what is going to happen next must contain an element of angst, I think it is great.
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