Call for Comments: Toxic Fandom

From Wayne: Last week actress Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, deleted her Instagram account because of the constant abuse she was receiving from people who consider themselves “fans” of the Star War franchise. She was ridiculed for her race, her body, her performance, and basically took the brunt of anger from those who did like the movie.

This is an all too common occurrence online. Fans of a thing take umbrage at anything that violates their personal head canon of that thing. Behavior that would have been unthinkable in the past takes place on a grand scale every day. Participants in an entertainment product, whether actors, or writers, or artists, or editors, find themselves the target of threats of death and rape and bodily harm. There is a segment of fandom that seems to think this behavior is okay. The anonymity of the internet allows them to lash out in ways that they would never do in a real life face-to-face situation. Or would they? There have been instances where fans have crossed this line in real life.

How I imagine they look when confronted with something they don’t like.

What causes this sort of behavior among those who profess to love something? There is a long held stereotype of the comic book fan, applicable to other fandoms as well, as the lonely geek bereft of social skills living in their parents basement. There is this one thing that they love and feel a need to protect it. It is the one thing that makes them feel special and sharing it with others feels threatening to their identity. Like the troll in the classic fairy tale of Three Billy Goats Gruff, they don’t want to allow anyone new into their pasture and set themselves up as the gatekeepers to their fandom. This stereotype is obviously not true for the vast majority of fandom. But the behavior persists.

On this episode we plan on discussing this phenomenon. Toxic Fandom is a serious issue that not only undermines the enjoyment of a thing, it can turn criminal and deadly. The idea that it is okay to threaten a real person over a difference of opinions over fictional persons is kind of fucked up.

David’s attitude toward Toxic Fandom

We will be joined on this episode by Abigail Palbus, who last appeared here on our Violence in Video Games episode. Also joining us will be actor and writer David Fielding who originated the role of Zordon on the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, David has been appearing at conventions the last couple of years and has experienced some of what we’re talking about first hand.

Let us know your thoughts and experiences, or anything else about this topic you would like us to talk about.

Authors:

3 Replies to “Call for Comments: Toxic Fandom”

  1. This may not be an exact fit for the discussion you want to have, but a tangential issue worth considering: Because our society is so prone to binary thought, toxic fandom results in the marginalization of those who do not love the property, even if for legitimate reasons. In some circles, you either loved TLJ or you’re an alt-right asshole. Personally, I hated TLJ. I wouldn’t consider myself a toxic fan by any means, first and foremost because I wouldn’t consider myself much of a fan. I grew up on SW and loved 4-6 as a kid, but found them largely unwatchable as an adult. I think Lucas is a great idea man and a pretty terrible writer. Like most, I thought the prequels were a dumpster fire. I actually enjoyed TFA (for what it was–a cleaned up version of A New Hope) and Rogue One. But I thought Johnson dropped the ball on TLJ. I thought the character development was sloppy and inconsistent, the writing had a Lucas-esque quality of banality, the meta-narrative was a bit up its own ass, and Ren’s motivation is more laughable than terrifying. That said, Rose was one of my favorite characters and I thought Dern did as a good a job as could be done with the material given to her. I don’t have any issues with the direction that Johnson wants to take the story–I just don’t think he did a particularly good job navigating. Unfortunately, toxic fandom has stifled legitimate debate to some extent by causing well-meaning fans who like the property to dismiss legitimate critics outright as “one of those” (worst case) or at least subconsciously defend the property more vigorously than they normally would because it’s no longer just an issue of taste, but rather an issue of maintaining the moral high ground.

    Obviously this isn’t the main problem, and I’m certainly not a victim in any sense of the word, but I do think the phenomena deserves some consideration (though it may be more of a symptom of our crippling propensity for binary thought than the existence of toxic fandom).

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