Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always seen fandom as an innately positive thing. After all, fandom is about liking something, and liking it unashamedly. Talking about, and thinking about, and being inspired by things you like is a brilliant positive force, as far as I’m concerned. So sometimes it puzzles me when people are just flat-out negative about it.
I don’t know if it’s just been my corner of the internet, Wanderers, but lately there seems to have been a sudden surge of division between fandoms. This sort of makes sense in the case of poll votes asking us to vote for the best show on TV at the moment, but I’ve also been seeing it between fandoms that aren’t in any kind of competition – TV fandoms being nasty about specific music fandoms, for example, and those fandoms fighting back… and I don’t really understand it.
See, even if we’re in competition for some magazine’s ‘Best Show of 2013’ award, that doesn’t make us enemies. We’re all fans, after all – we all like things. So when fans start taking cheap shots at each other’s fandoms, or mocking each other for liking different things, it weakens fandom as a whole, and makes it that much easier for people who don’t particularly identify as fans of anything to laugh us off as obsessive weirdos.
“It’s not bad to like something a lot! It’s better than not liking anything,” we argue, and the people outside of fandom laugh.
“That’s not what you said yesterday about those people who queued for eight hours to meet that pop star.” And no matter how hard we try to argue against that, they have a point. If we’re going to judge other fans by their fandoms, we can’t really complain about being judged on our fandoms ourselves.
I’m not going to grump on about this for too long, but here’s the thing. Shakespeare fans are no inherently better than Pokémon fans; being a fan of One Direction and being a fan of Nightwish are both equally valid lifestyles; being a fan of Shakespeare, Pokémon, One Direction AND Nightwish all at once is both possible and acceptable. If you used to like Glee when you were younger but now you prefer Pitch Perfect, that doesn’t make liking your old fandom inherently childish, and nor does it make someone who still likes it a child. Girls liking Power Rangers is awesome; guys liking Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse is awesome. Anyone, liking anything, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, is brilliant.
I know a few fandoms have, of late, received bad publicity as a result of the actions of specific fans. Fans have led other fans into unhealthy behaviours, or appeared to do so, and that reflects badly on their fandoms. Some fans are still learning how to resist bad influences in the wonderful world of fandom we inhabit, but that’s OK. To some extent, we’re all still learning to be the best fans – and the best people – we can possibly be, and every fandom has at some point been touched by negativity. Whether that’s self-destructive behaviour or a particularly violent ship war, no fandom’s hands are completely clean – we’ve all got parts of our history we’d rather gloss over, and there are things about every fandom that kind of annoy other fandoms.
When it comes right down to it, though, we’re all part of this community that loves with all its heart, that embraces the side of itself that is truly passionate about things, and while we all make slip-ups it’s important that we stick together as a community. If we start focusing on the negatives of each other’s fandoms – especially while blinded to our own faults – we’ll never move past them. So why not give the boyband-bashing a break and focus on how brilliant it is that we all enjoy assorted media so much? I’m pretty sure we’ll all feel better for it.
Eleanor Musgrove (is a fan of being a fan)