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Love Triangles before Twitter: Felicity and the Ben vs. Noel Debate

7 Nov

Over at This Was TV I have recently started watching Felicity for the first time and going into the show this is pretty much all I knew:

  • Felicity went to college in New York City
  • It is J.J. Abrams first TV venture
  • Keri Russell cutting off all of her hair impacted the ratings (or something like that)
  • I would have strong Ben or Noel feelings

It’s the last point that I want to address because love triangles can be all consuming in terms of how the narrative plays out and with the discourse that surrounds a show. I’m only on episode 5 so it’s early doors and I don’t know who, if anyone Felicity ends up with (no spoilers please) but I want to discuss the impact of social media on storylines like these and how Scott Foley who is now part of a second love triangle compares his two experiences.

Felicity ep 1 Noel

Scott Foley has re-entered the fractious love triangle fray on Scandal and the social media involvement from those who work on Scandal as well as those who watch it is one of the most interactive and vocal. Some fans have made it clear to Foley that his presence is unwanted and he spoke to Vulture recently regarding the negative tweets that come his way and he’s taking it in his stride “Well, you have to see it as humorous. When they pop up, I read them. I click on the links. I share them with my wife and of course my wife wants to fucking kill everybody. For me, it shows that Scandal does something for people. It really resonates with them.” He follows on from this by mentioning the first huge love triangle he was a part of as “Felicity had sort of the same reaction, thankfully before the proliferation of social media.”

This somewhat intense experience Foley had when he was younger didn’t come with the current level of immediacy or dialogue with fans that can turn super nasty and that’s a good thing, as age can help with perspective. For the most part I think fans are generally cordial and understand that conflict can be good for the story, sadly some people go way to far all in the name of a character they feel they need to protect.

Turning away from Scandal (though I will say it’s an odd experience watching these two shows at the same time) and back to Felicity and while a love triangle asks you to pick a side, it helps if you can understand why the character at the center of it all would pick the other guy. So far with Felicity there are pros and cons for both Noel and Ben and I’m sure this will continue to evolve – or at least I hope it will otherwise it’s going to get boring pretty fast. I’m currently leaning one way (Noel) and I have a habit of going for the ‘good’ guy (not that Ben isn’t good so far, but he’s definitely meant to be the less safe choice). I will say that Ben has the smile thing down.

Felicity ep 1 BenWhat I really want for the character in the middle of it all is for the choice to make sense to the overall narrative. The love triangle should stay faithful to the characters that are in it, so if a decision is made between suitors, then the story will be able to back this up. Viewers will be unhappy if this is disingenuous or goes against what they have previously seen. If the choice isn’t the one that a viewer wants then they might rage against it, but if the moment is sold to them then they might come around. The key is to treat the audience with respect and then hopefully they will respect the resolution to this narrative device.  I can totally get behind the central love triangle as long as it doesn’t consume everything else. It also helps to have other pairings to root for on the peripheries (so far with Felicity it’s all about Julie and Brian Krakow from My So-Called Life, with Scandal David and Abby are my favorite couple).

So Ben vs. Noel? Scott Foley mentions in the Vulture interview that “I think toward the end, though, Team Ben was much more vocal in their support, right?” There were message boards and I’m sure if I delve into the TWoP Felicity forums there will be plenty of passionate arguments raging but the immediacy and ability to talk to the actors (unless you saw them on the street) wasn’t the same in 1998 as it is in 2013. It does sound like Scott Foley’s early experience with fervent Felicity fans has given him the right perspective he needs to deal with some of the less kind Scandal fans (though no one should be subjected to some of the really extreme tweets that are sent his way).

It’s funny because my version of watching Felicity is in the age of Twitter and I’ve already had several discussions about the Noel and Ben of it all, but it will never capture what it was like to be watching the show when it originally aired. Sites like Tumblr and Twitter do offer a glimpse and my own experience watching shows like Dawson’s Creek and seeing how people respond to love triangles on Scandal and The Vampire Diaries gives an insight into what it would have been like. Watching a show this long after it has aired gives a gentle impression, but if I head over to those forums I’m sure I will get a more accurate idea of what it was like.

The other thing to mention when it comes to a love triangle storyline is the person at the center of it and Foley mentions how the Ben and Noel choice wasn’t necessarily an obvious one “You didn’t know who was really “better” for her, and you were happy with whoever she chose. You just wanted Felicity to be okay.” I’m going to leave it with that sentiment because I think that’s what lies at the heart of any of these X vs. Y debates; it’s the character in the middle that plays the most important role in all of this.

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3 Responses to “Love Triangles before Twitter: Felicity and the Ben vs. Noel Debate”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Drama Roundtable | TV Ate My Wardrobe - June 2, 2014

    […] I’m currently watching Felicity for the first time and I’ve written about the love triangle in a pre-social media era, a question about this show and how its defining moment in pop culture would have been received on […]

  2. For Everyone Who Would’ve Chosen Noel Over Ben | What's Trending Now - July 8, 2015

    […] tvatemywardrobe.com […]

  3. Felicity Covers the Entertainment Weekly Reunion Issue | TV Ate My Wardrobe - October 8, 2015

    […] when I first started watching Felicity I discussed the notion of love triangles before Twitter and so it was fun to see a hint of what social media would have looked like if it had been around […]

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