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Toxicity in Fandom
We have encountered a major problem within the geek community. The Pop Culture Fandoms that used to serve as an escape from the less than pleasant parts of life for myself and so many others are becoming more and more hostile.
When the jerks of the world made it hard to get through the day, I could turn to my fictional retreats, as well as my friends – both online and in person – that shared the same passions (and Fandoms). I could get on Twitter or Instagram and nerd out. I remember being excited for new adaptations of comics, books, games, or whatever, just because I had something I cared about to look forward to.
But Fandoms have been going downhill for a while now – and not just for me.
The Online Effect on Fandom
While the internet is a wonderful way to connect with new people all over the world, share your ideas, and help build each other up, it’s also an outlet for some to let out their worst selves. People attack each other verbally just for one fan having a different opinion than their own, somehow forgetting the key factor in the entertainment industry – everything is subjective. What works for one person may not work for another.
Twitter is becoming well known for vicious users going after creators, comic artists and writers. Never forget the countless cyberbullies that harass actors, directors, etc over movies and show adaptations, just because they didn’t like the approach taken, casting, costume choices, or how a character is written. It’s hard to even enjoy a trailer without being make uncomfortable, because so many people are trying to aggressively convince everyone their opinion is the correct one.
Consider how insane it is that people make death threats to voice actors and developers over video games. There is something sucking the soul out of things that are meant to entertain audiences and bring joy. The people determined to do so are demolishing our progress and taking the world backwards.
Excuse me Mr Fandom, I’d like to Speak to your Manager
A lot of people are guilty of going on online rants. And, to an extent, I get it. Sometimes you feel the need to vent when whatever version of your favorite thing gets messed up big time. The writing was off. The casting was less than desirable. Art didn’t live up to what you personally wanted.
But here’s the thing often forgotten: our opinion, in the end, doesn’t really matter when it comes to another person’s vision. We have the right to our opinion, which isn’t the issue. The world would be massively boring if we all had the same tastes in everything. But a line must be drawn when a person decides to step beyond disliking something, crossing into harassment and toxic fandom behavior.
I have my comics, versions of characters, movies, actors, etc that I don’t particularly care for. However, I understand that on the other end of whatever negativity I may put out into the world, is another person. Someone that wanted to complete their vision. Someone that earned a role and has little to no direction on their costume or the plot of a show/film. Someone that has gobs of talent and deserves their chance to shine.
Comic Book Creators Aren’t Safe from Fandom Toxicity
Attacking directors like Zack Snyder, or actresses like Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico, Star Wars), for example, because you don’t like a film. An actress does not deserve to be harassed until she leaves social media after she got the role of a lifetime in one of the biggest franchises there is. Or, in the case of Zack Snyder – just because someone doesn’t like a film, doesn’t give anyone a right to sink so low as to make disgusting comments regarding his daughter’s suicide.
Comic book creators aren’t safe from the wrath of angry fans, either. Take Tom King, for example. When the infamous BatCat Wedding issue released, they had to have extra security for King at signings because people were sending death threats. Yes. You read that correctly: Death threats. Over a fictional wedding. But he isn’t the only one that’s suffered loads of harassment. Some creators have left Twitter, or in some cases social media all together, over the perpetual nonsense online, robbing the fans that aren’t disrespectful of the opportunity to connect with some of our favorite talents.
So much energy is spent tearing down others. But what if we could use our collective energies to raise each other up, and support the creators we love instead of spewing hate? A few years back, we had the awful incident over the Rise of Skywalker trailer, when passionate fan Eric Butts posted a tearful reaction, and was publicly bullied by someone outside of the community of fans, mocking one of our own.
But the nerdy community did something beautiful – they banded together to show him support. Even Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, reached out to Eric. But more importantly – we proved that we can be more than the hateful comments and bad opinions. We can progress forward. We can take fandom in the right direction.
Basically, what I’m getting at, is that we need to all take a moment to consider the damage we’re inflicting to people, just because we think we have the safety of our screens to hide behind. We need to develop a willingness to accept others will have opinions different than our own and disliking something will not be the end of our world. Before sending a Tweet that belittles a creator, actor, or even another fan – consider how much that would hurt you.
Or if it was someone you loved that made something, and they received hate messages, some even escalating to people hellbent to ruin lives, threaten people, etc. It is worth it to make a lengthy post or video trashing someone’s creation? Would you want to see that done to yourself?
Let go of the Fandom Negativity
We have enough hate circling various fandom communities with groups like Comicsgate and Fandom Menace – I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do things that lump them into the same category as hate groups. I can assure you, there are plenty of things other people love that I dislike, but I see no reason to attack anyone else over it. No creator needs to know I dislike their work. No fan needs to be belittled for things that make them happy.
Didn’t dig the most recent arc on a series? Don’t buy it, or take a break, and instead, tell one of your favorite writers online that you love their work. Don’t like the looks of a movie from the trailer? Don’t see it, or if you do, don’t be a jerk to people who enjoyed it. There is absolutely no reason to try to make someone feel bad for liking something you do not.
You would be surprised how much better things can be when you allow yourself to let go of some of this negativity and toxic fandom behavior. There won’t be a need for you to go on a crusade alongside Rotten Tomatoes if they give a bad rating to a movie you hate. Because I can promise you – people like myself do not care about your opinion or theirs when it comes to deciding what we watch and enjoy.
So, the next time you feel a burning urge to be a coward behind a keyboard, reuse that energy to send a positive message to someone that you appreciate what they do. Quit ruining fandom and this community.