In preparation for the ATX Festival, I’m rewatching all of Roswell, which I haven’t seen in well over 7 years. It’s amazing which episodes I still know by heart and which episodes I feel like I’m seeing for the first time. And then there are some scenes (and even episodes) that I’m dreading, because I know they will make me cringe. Some of you may be thinking ‘What? That’s crazy! And 7 years! You can’t be a REAL fan!’ Well, I have the original-score VHS recordings to prove it–and they’ve been watched and rewound so often that the tracking is impossible to fix. (And if you don’t understand what that means, then I guess I am just too old!)
I decided to submit a guest article to Crashdown for the benefit of new Roswell fans: ie, fans that first saw the show on Netflix or DVD, years after it aired. You missed out on a very special, very unique community–and I’d like you to have a glimpse into that world. Because, even with all of its ups and downs, for better or for worse, the show and its fandom really did influence our lives in a lasting way.
To this day, I still think of Jason Behr every time I see a J.B. Hunt truck, I still check used book stores for copies of Roswell books, and I still doodle the Four Square symbol when I’m bored.
I was in 8th grade when Roswell premiered on the WB. I caught the very end of Max to the Max on accident–and when I saw Nasedo shapeshift into a clown and felt the fear among Liz, Michael, and Isabel, I was hooked. And then… the next week was the season finale. Back then we didn’t have smart phones or ipads. Nobody uploaded episodes for people to stream online for free. We didn’t have Netflix to binge on previous seasons. But we did have very slow internet.
I went online to find out more about this random show that I had stumbled upon just as the season was ending. As such, I missed the Tabasco “Roswell is Hot” campaign, but I did find out the show was based on the books by Melinda Metz. I spent that summer reading and re-reading the Roswell High books, as well as reading through all the fan-written episode transcripts that were posted online. I started season two still rather ignorant about most of the first season.
Back then, the internet was just finding an identity with the general public. It was exploding with fansites and message boards everywhere. It seemed like everyone had an Angelfire or Geocities site, complete with pixelated animated gifs and busy graphics. At first, the only Roswell site I knew of was called Inside Roswell. Like most other people, I was excited by the internet and all that it could offer–and I wanted to be part of it all. So I created an Angelfire page called Roswellian Pages, which basically stole everything from Inside Roswell, which I later discovered basically stole all of their content from Crashdown.com.
While us fans were trying to find an identity on the internet, I was also obsessively watching the show every week. I recorded every episode and rewatched them, fast forwarding through the scenes that didn’t interest me and rewatching my favorite parts. I used to hide in the living room, quickly shutting off the tv when my parents got home, so they wouldn’t know how much time I was spending living the lives of these alien teens. This was before youtube and streaming and downloading. This was back when people traded VHS tapes (not a joke!). I remember one night, my VCR didn’t record How the Other Half Lives and I was near close to tears for a month. After much begging, my parents agreed to let me send a check to cover shipping to a complete stranger from Karcane’s Tape Trading message board and the next week a VHS tape with the Roswell episode appeared on our front stoop addressed to ‘Ms Bob the Jeep’.
When Roswell was cancelled for the second time, this time I was ready. I had found Crashdown.com by now (and had deleted my knock-off site). I faithfully sent in my handprint postcards to the WB and then later to UPN. For some reason, I gravitated to an E Z Board for a UPN11 affiliate station, and it was there that I posted every week about plot and episodes. I mostly lurked at FanForum.com, but I kept a close eye on the threads there too. Crashdown.com was a daily visit. The fan community lived online and I wanted to be a part of it. I knew my old site had been a ripoff, so I tried to come up with a unique idea. I (shamefully) began making fanlistings and then I created I, the Stud, a re-creation of Alex’s website in the book series by Metz. From there, I continued my books obsession (which I have always loved more than the show) and I think I did an okay job for a high schooler’s fansite. It’s the most comprehensive site for the books on the net, but that might just be because it’s the only one. :)
The Roswell fan community was amazing. All the fans were so nice and willing to help. We would always create birthday threads and holiday threads; we would share important life events like marriages and children; we even shared our grief after 9/11. Crystal from ironicrequiem.com offered to give me free space on her domain so that I could move my content away from Angelfire and not have any ads. I am forever grateful to her. Like any community, us fans fell into our cliques–Dreamers, Candygirls, Stargazers, Rebels. We created names for every type of fan and even named Max’s Jeep ‘Bob’ and Maria’s Jetta ‘Genie’ (from when she sings Christina Aguilera in Monsters). RoswellOracle does a nice job of listing every shipper.
I’m not sure I really ever fell into a specific shipper group. I cared more about the plot/mythology than the relationships and I pretty much liked all the characters equally. I did enjoy watching other fans obsess, and I really enjoyed witnessing the fan outrage when Tess broke up Max and Liz. Tons of fans absolutely hated her. I think Emilie de Ravin even received hate mail. And I think I read somewhere that Jason Katims took the fanmail into consideration when he wrote Max and Liz going forward. I never really had much of a strong opinion about Tess (I did enjoy her relationship with the Valentis), but I loved reading other fans’ opinions about her. My favorite was the Anti-Tess League, which brought up valid points about Tess and then later valid criticisms of the show in general. Some of my other favorite fansites were A Night on the Town, The Maria Filter, Just Another Random Roswell Webpage, and Down in the Flames (which let you send Roswell-related e-cards!).
By the middle of season three, I was conflicted between wanting to save the show and hoping it would be cancelled. Don’t get me wrong. I still recorded every episode and I still rewatched some of them. I still sought out every Roswell-related thing I could: my first concert was Dido, I watched terrible movies just because they had Roswell actors in them (like Darklight), I bought pants from Mudd just because they had a little handprint on them. But when Roswell was finally cancelled, I was glad. The show, in my opinion, lost its direction and momentum. After season one, it never could decide if it was about romance or sci fi and I think the two kept clashing in a way that caused the show to suffer (I know the network may have also influenced some of the decisions made to plot and characters). I could tell some of the actors wanted the show to end as well, and I’m not surprised that Katherine Heigl and Majandra Delfino are not confirmed attendees for the ATX Reunion. The ending of Roswell seemed very bitter for everyone involved, even if for very different reasons.
Nevertheless, there’s just something about the show that grips us fans tightly. It put a spell on us and even now, I troll eBay for copies of Roswell High with the original cover art, I can’t concentrate at work because I’m thinking about the ATX Festival and what I should write in this post, and I still drag my husband to places like Vasquez Rocks (where I made him photograph me pretending to open the pod chamber). I’ve loved other shows–and I’ve obsessively re-watched other shows–but nothing even comes close to Roswell. I never created fansites for any other show. I never joined the online fandom for any other show. Only Roswell captured me in that way.
Maybe because I was a teenager back then. Maybe because the internet and online communities were just starting up back then. Or maybe because Roswell is just something not quite of this Earth.
A big fan of the Roswell High book series by Melinda Metz, bobthejeep continues to enjoy reading more than television. She has mostly fallen away from her internet obsessions, but she’s still happy to chat about all things Roswell-related.