Posts Tagged ‘MLP’

Fandom: Passion vs. Toxicity

March 12, 2018

Being part of a fandom is a great thing. Fandom used to be a more solitary thing. If you loved a television show, for example, there was a limited group of people you could share that with. If the other people at the dinner table or the water cooler did not also enjoy the thing you loved, you would just get polite nods or eye-rolls. You became an island unto yourself at least when it came to that one subject. Sure, there were conventions and fan club newsletters but mainly you just loved content quietly. That is, until the dawn of the Internet. The Internet connected people on an unprecedented scale and suddenly it allowed people of similar interests to find each other over humongous distances. This was the point where fandoms really took off as communities. These fandoms can be a powerful force for good and for bad. The difference is the line between passion and toxicity.

I was a big fan of a show called Community although I only discovered it well into the fourth season. When the creator, Dan Harmon, teamed up with an old friend, Justin Roiland, to produce a new cartoon show, I was ready to get in on the ground floor. The show they created was Rick and Morty. Rick and Morty started life as a parody of Back to the Future but evolved into a clever dark comedy science fiction adventure that still includes fart jokes. It juxtaposes insightful, reflective moments with parody and absolute silliness. I love the show because it is intelligent but it also does not take itself too seriously. The show has seen a very positive response from fans who definitely get the show. However, there is a section of the fanbase that even the creators disavow. These are the same people who hated the third season because it felt more progressive and they blamed that on the creators being forced to hire female writers. These are the same kind of people who use “SJW” as an insult. These are also the same people who threw fits when they could not obtain Schezuan sauce from a McDonalds Rick and Morty promotion. It makes me so embarrassed to have these people as part of the fandom and when that news story broke, I quickly explained to friends that I was not part of that.

Readers will know that I am a big fan of professional wrestling. This is really a loaded fandom when it comes to public perception. I will just set aside the whole problem I have with the alt-right connections the WWE leadership has. The fanbase for sports entertainment is incredibly passionate. Everybody has their favorite performers and everybody is quick to praise or criticize storylines as they are happening. I have seen plenty of positive discussions online about certain performers and their merits or flaws. I have disagreed with some of it but I can definitely respect when somebody has an opinion. For example, I love Finn Balor but if other people just are not feeling his energy then so be it. However, I have read comments on websites that are so negative. It is apparently a big thing in the fandom to hate performers because everybody else hates them. This phenomenon is still so weird to me. I have read plenty of comments from people who want fewer matches with women because they just seem to hate all the female performers which is kind of a red flag. I have read so many comments that seem to spew so much hate against the performers and not the characters they play. I just wish the WWE fandom, in particular, could be more positive about things.

I don’t talk about it much but I watched a lot of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. As a guy who once wanted to be an animator when I grow up, I retain a big interest in animation and I watch a ton of it. When the show started to gain a huge fandom, I wanted to check it out. When I did, I genuinely liked the show for being witty and creating interesting characters and a deeper plot than I see on most shows intended for children. It enjoyed a lot of deserved popularity as everyone had fun with it. Then I found about the “bronies”. Hoo boy. Bronies (a portmanteau of bro and pony) are grown men some of which seem to obsess over this show in a very creepy manner. I am all for fighting gender stereotypes as I have loved plenty of stuff with a mostly female demographic. Erasing gender stereotypes and going against toxic masculinity is a great thing. However, when you start to crowd the original intended audience out of their own events and fandom, you need to self-examine. This one is not completely negative but I was glad when bronies got their own convention and seemed to start to divide themselves from the main fandom.

It’s not all negative, though. The vast majority of fans that I have met are positive and passionate about things they like and apathetic about stuff they don’t like. I would hope that most people do not have time to sit around talking about how much and why they hate something in pop culture. Those people are out there but I do not really wish to know them. I made a decision more than a year ago to try and be more positive about things in general and I have been trying to follow through with that. I hope that anybody who reads this really thinks about how they approach fandoms and try not to be too negative. Also, don’t hate women. Reminder: Don’t crap on something too hard because somebody out there might like it and it hurts when somebody craps on your thing.

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