This is something I’ve been thinking about a bit more recently, in light of various events in numerous media. And I think going forward I need to separate the fans from the fandom. This kind of sparked from something my fellow Reviewers Unknown refugee, Chris “Rowdy C” Moore has been discussing on Facebook and his other internet show persona, the Wrestling Mark. There’s something I’ve kind of been guilty of that I need to correct before I continue commenting on the fans and the fandom, because they’re really two separate groupings.
What is the difference in my mind? Well, a “fan” is someone who loves a particular series, movie, game, book, etcetera. The “fandom” on the surface is a collection of fans who all like a particular thing, right? That’s what the Wikipedia article I linked to basically said. However, there are many things I consider myself a fan of to varying degrees, and I share that with numerous other fans. These days, though, I’m afraid to be part of any fandom because they keep getting taken over by some very bad voices that may well keep others from becoming or admitting to be a fan. Usually I ignore the racists and sexists for these kinds of discussion, as well as those who go after same. This time, however, they may be part of the problem.
Let’s start with pro wrestling and the Wrestling Mark. I don’t follow the “Internet Wrestling Community”. (IWC for short, not to be confused with the ICW, an old wrestling promotion that merged with the WCCW to become the IWCCW. For the three of you who have heard of it.) Chris’s complaints…actually, let me let him explain it.
I made my own issues with modern pro wrestling clear some time ago (also inspired by Rowdy, now that I remember). That said, what the Mark says about the IWC can be pointed at other entertainment fandoms as well, what I like to call the “everything for meeeeeeeeeeeee” crowd. And I see it all the time in the media I cover here at the Spotlight. Let me start with the earliest example of when the fandom went south, when someone developed the term “true fan”.
What’s a true fan you ask? Well, he or she isn’t a casual fan. They have to be hard core dedicated, tearing apart every trailer, news report, and casting report, as well as know minute triva abot that production. If you don’t, and you don’t agree with their opinion you aren’t a “true fan” because true fans all like and hate the exact same thing because we can’t let the creators ruin the series. That’s problematic, because sometimes that IS what’s happening. When the studios don’t care, when the comic editors want to push their vision, while the writers chosen don’t care about the title they’re on, when the TV networks slap a famous name on a show it doesn’t belong on (The Bionic Woman is coming to mind here)–then you do have a case where the people behind a property care nothing for the original product.
Then again, there’s the Star Wars fandom. I’ve written about why I don’t like that fandom even though I still call myself a Star Wars fan. (However, since I’m not steeped in the Expanded Universe that is no longer canon in any form I’m probably not a “true fan” for not gushing about how awesome Boba Fett was in the 10 minutes of screen time he had in the two movies before a blind guy sent him down the throat of a Sarlacc. Oh right, in the novels he got out again because he’s that awesome or some garbage.) The first time I heard about a death threat by fans was after Chewbacca was killed in the novels saving Han and Leia’s kids that JJ Abrams decided to ignore despite being Lucas’ intention with the third trilogy. Plus as a creator, seeing fans demand one of my creations be “saved from me” the way the fandom did about George Lucas after the prequels scares me.
But that’s the real problem with fandoms these days, isn’t it? A sense of entitlement. Anime fandoms seem to have this the worst as one sect of “otaku” demands all anime be shown in Japanese with subtitles and all the honorifics and Japanese culture left unexplained or in a separate subtitle and the rest of us have to do homework to understand what’s going on. I agree that 4Kids turning rice balls into donuts is rather stupid and said so, but no five-year-old is going to sit there and read subtitles while Pikachu is sending Team Rocket into the stratosphere’ which they won’t be ballowed to see if parents see adult humor and language. And those shows you hate like Robotech or Battle Of The Planets (odd that nobody demands Gigantor, Astro Boy, or Speed Racer be called by their Japanese names–it starts at my childhood) were my introduction to Japanese writing and whatever you think of 7-Zark-7 he was one of the reasons I snuck out of bed at 7:30 AM as a kid to not wake my parents so I could watch it. Then again, you have Knights Of The Zodiac or the “Unicron Trilogy” of Transformers which aren’t bad because they’re not in Japanese with all the alleged swears and gore but because they were horribly dubbed. Trying to alter a show to push something to a wider audience is seen as an affront, an insult to the Japanese. Fun fact by the way: the same argument takes place in Japan when it comes to Western programming. I saw an old news report once about Japanese dubbers defending their redub of Hart To Hart, a US series about a rich man and his reporter wife who end up getting wrapped up in murder mysteries.
Then you have the group who demands that a kids show is only good if it pleases the adults. Shows like Gravity Falls or Avatar: The Last Airbender are treated as good kids shows because they, the college-age kids, enjoy it even though they aren’t the target audience. I like Avatar: TLA and the DCAU but they were intended for older kids. However, I can still enjoy Super Friends, Paw Patrol, Rusty Rivets, and shows I grew up with for different reasons. You know who they remind me of?
Apparently you’re only allowed to like certain kinds of kids shows if there’s some adult comedy or deep character moments or something. It’s why My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic gets a pass while the original My Little Pony And Friends won’t. And let’s not get started on the “brony” thing right now. I have frinds who identify as bronies and they aren’t superobsessed. Even I have a favorite Pony (Pinkie Pie if you care) and I barely watch it.
Then you have the shippers. I don’t always get it, but whatever. Shipping can be fun. (For those of you who don’t know what that is I’ll make it the next Trope Shark even though it’s more a fan thing than a story thing, unless you count fanfic.) The short version is pairing two characters together in a romantic relationship even though they really aren’t. The problem is when they demand their headcanon romances become the norm and throw a fit when one of those characters are paired with someone else that the creator had been building up to, even the straight ones. (Shipping has a lot of gay couplings even if the characters are straight. Kirk and Spock come to mind.) They have become so convinced by Cheers and Moonlighting and various harem anime that bickering people will become a romantic couple, which in real life would be a dysfunctional and possibly even abusive relationship. Although that last one doesn’t stop some people from being deluded enough to see Joker and Harley’s relationship as romantic even though Joker has smacked around and on occasion even try to kill or leave her to die/get arrested on multiple occasions.
And of course there was the whole fiasco with the Ghostbusters remake, but since sexism and extreme feminism (is there such thing as extreme sexism, because I’d rather not see that; what we have is bad enough) were part of that, it’s a whole other article. There may be another commentary about remakes and purists and me having to defend some of my views, so I’ll keep that one in the future as well. You also have the war between hardcore and casual gamers which may stretch the usual discussion topics but I know I’ll be inspired to write that commentary someday as well.
The problem is that while fans will ask for changes they want to see, fandoms will demand it and will even send death threats to enforce how “right” they are that they and they alone need to be catered to, the writers/showrunner/mainstream audience/creator’s intentions be dashed. There’s this sense of entitlement, that everything that happens in the story must reflect how they see it and if you don’t see it that way you’re not a “true fan” and you need to shut up because you aren’t towing the party line, which apparently isn’t just for bad politics anymore. And sometimes fandoms even break down with bickering over the difference of opinion, so it becomes a contest over whose voice is loudest. Did you know there are Star Wars fans who actually like Jar Jar Binks?
This is why it is tough for me to be part of any fandom. Even the internet review community gets into this as there are a group of fans who don’t like that Doug Walker uses skits to make his point as part of Nostalgia Critic or even complain when he uses a wall with a different color in the back of him. (Apparently that actually happened.) And yet some of us (which means including but not just me…for a change) honestly like the addition to better demonstrate his defenses and complaints about a given movie. There’s also a war against storylines like the ones Lewis Lovhag does for Atop The Fourth Wall which I happen to enjoy as a fan of good stories.
Have I made my point? I am a fan of many things and will continue to be so, but there’s this vocal group among the fandom even without the bigots, sexists, and so-called “social justice warriors” (extremes are everywhere, my side and yours) that want to take control of properties and make them in their image. That’s how Superman keeps getting ruined for me, why I have an article series called Death Of DC that STILL gets added to as a category, and why I’m almost afraid at times to tell anyone I’m a fan of something because people outside the message boards hear what happens, or hear about the awful things that get said over live gaming that they look at you like your one of “them”. I can’t openly love something anymore because of this group of people who have gathered together as a vocal and sometimes violent group mind have taken over (or is trying to) the conversation. I won’t let them stop me from loving what I love but I will get mad when they corrupt it (and not just porn) or turn what I like into what they like. Remember that Reconstruction Zone was originally going to be payback from that but I decided to take a higher course.
So I’m a fan of many things, and love to meet other fans of those things. I also like to see what fans can create to show their love of whatever property they’re drawn to. It’s why I like fan comics, GOOD fanfic, fanfilms and fan-made audio drama, fan art, and cosplayers. And as anyone who has read enough of this site knows I will complain when I don’t like things done to shows or comics or what have you that I grew up with and love. However, I refuse to join a fandom again until they clean up their act, stop telling me what to like and what to hate or how deeply devoted I need to be to not be a fake fan (oh yes, that term exists too). I seem to have a long wait.