Recently my friend Tom had a long Twitter thread about what he calls “the SNL Syndrome” and how it applies to not just Saturday Night Live but also soap operas, wrestling and while he doesn’t say it this idea can be applied to dozens of examples across pop culture. The thread starts with the following tweet, and its worth going online to read through it then come back for my further thoughts.
The point is that in the middle of something, the fans very often hate it. The long time lovers of these things will embrace how it was when they first discovered the media, how bad the current product is, and how great past ones were — even and especially though they said it was awful when it was current.
SNL is the first example. Its not as good as it was with the original cast, or during Mike Meyers, or during Will Ferrell, or during Tina Fey, or during Keenan. Well, maybe not Keenan. Everytime there is a major cast change the show is awful, everyone sucks, “Saturday Night Dead” and so on. Yet a season later at least, and years later for sure, people talk about how great these shows were. Fans that were watching in the late 80’s and early 90’s hated Will Ferrell. Hated him. Yet now his work on those seasons and many others on the show at the same time are seen as comedic geniuses.
Wrestling is another huge example. Everything current sucks. How dare they end the show this way, have this person win, that person as champion, why didn’t they do this instead of that? Then years later, and as Tom points out, even as recently as 2016, fans rave about how great some of the same work they previously crapped on is currently held. I think it’s fair to expand on this and throw in comic books. Week after week, waiting for the next issue, everything is horrible. But when the story is over and collected and some time has passed, these same stories are put on pedestals.
And in comics is where we find the answer. SNL, soap operas, wrestling, comics and more are told in chapters and it takes months if not years to complete a story. Only when the story is finished and can be seen in whole do the fans truly embrace it. Until the story is over there is always the infinite possibilities of what might happen next. Every fan is both right and wrong about what will happen next until the next installment is actually available. I could say that on the next episode of Monday Night Raw, Michael Cole will leave the announce table and get in the ring for a match thus becoming WWE Champion. And until that episode airs I’m not wrong. I’m not right either, but I’m not wrong. I could say Batman will be in space next issue and until it comes out, I’m not wrong. Once the current story on Raw is over or the latest arc from DC Comics is done, we can speculate and rant and say what we think should be done next all day long.
Then, the biggest part of this syndrome, the next chapter is unveiled and people get mad that they were wrong. This character should have died. This person should have won. Whatever it might be. Anger at being wrong. Then the months or years pass and the same story can be enjoyed again with the beginning, middle, and end available. Now, with the story complete the possibilities are gone. There is only one ending, the ending that already exists and waiting for the fan to discover. Without the infinite parallel universes to cast an angry shadow, the actual story can be enjoyed for what it is, or rather what it was. Now the joy that didn’t exist in the now has been discovered.
All that being said, it is not a waste of time to dissect and debate these stories in the middle of an arc. Be nice to the creators, accept their stories, but enjoy figuring out what will happen next. Because, what I’ve been busy discovering is that this is not a new form of debate caused by the immediacy of the internet. There are stacks and stacks of trash pop culture periodicals just waiting to be rediscovered. Theories, scoops, exclusives and more that proved to be wrong. Stories that no one paid attention to in the now that are now considered classics.
To consider the syndrome analogy I’m about to do some research in hopes of education.