Hello, Wanderers! As we’ve probably said before at some point, it’s easy to get carried away in your fandom-related activities and forget that what you’re doing still needs to be bound by some societal conventions (and no, I don’t mean the kind you cosplay for).
Fandoms have a great deal of power these days, with the struggle for TV ratings and a vast array of awards to vote for in many mediums – not to mention the power the internet has given us to come together as a group and make ourselves heard – but as you’ve no doubt heard already, with great power comes great responsibility. So how do you make sure you don’t cross the line into unreasonable behaviour? Fear not, Wanderers; as usual, we have a few suggestions:
- Don’t send hate. To other fans, to writers, to actors, to anyone. If you want to politely disagree with someone, or point out a problem, that’s a different matter – see our article on Criticism as a Fan – but read it through a few times and check that you’re not being cruel. A nice message may make someone smile for a few minutes, but a nasty one can ruin someone’s entire week, especially if you’re not the only one sending it. So don’t.
- Respect your centre-of-fandom’s requests. If Benedict Cumberbatch puts a sign over his face to walk between Sherlock locations, that means stop photographing. If someone asks fans not to fuel an imaginary feud between themselves and another celebrity, stay out of it. If you’re asked not to tweet about the preview you’ve just seen, or tell people how the book you got at midnight on the release date ends, keep it to yourself. If you respect the people at the centre of your fandom, you’ll respect their wishes, too.
- Don’t spread misinformation. Whether it’s something you read in a magazine quoting ‘an insider’ as the source, or a lie you’ve just thought up but which would be really funny if it was true, don’t go spreading rumours about people. If it’s the latter, by all means post it on the internet, but make sure it’s in the format ‘It would be funny if Taylor Lautner had been born with dog ears’ as opposed to ‘Apparently when Taylor Lautner was born they had to remove his weird dog ears with plastic surgery’. See the difference? One is a joke, and one is a lie. Similarly, check out the source of a ‘fact’ before you pass it on – if it turns out not to be true, you could end up feeling embarrassed and guilty, and your centre-of-fandom’s reputation could be damaged. Plus, you can get into a lot of legal trouble if you’re the source of an untrue story. Which reminds me…
- Don’t break any laws. This means no following people home, no breaking into buildings, no impersonating someone to get somewhere you shouldn’t be. It should go without saying, Wanderers, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t say it.
- Don’t take creepshot photos. If you see a celebrity out and about, and you want to take a picture of them, ask them first (see our more detailed article on celebrity photos). If it’s impossible to get permission to take the photo – for example, while they’re signing something at a convention or event and you’re not close by – either don’t take the picture, or at least hold the camera up where they have the chance to see it and ask you not to. Photos of people sitting in waiting rooms, or on the bus, with a plant or a book or anything in the foreground clearly being used to hide the camera are not on. And they definitely don’t need to go on the internet.
- Don’t get bitter. If someone asks you not to come to the set, or doesn’t stop to sign things at the stage door, or even asks you not to create/sell fanworks for their particular fandom, try not to get angry and turn on them. The chances are that they have a very good reason for it, and even if they don’t, it’s their life, their work and their choice. We all deserve our privacy, and the people around which our fandoms revolve are no exception. Don’t hate them for being people.
- Just be nice! Most of the time, these things will come naturally to you. But sometimes we all need reminders. If you’re ever in doubt about whether you’re about to cross the line, hopefully these tips will be of use.
Eleanor Musgrove (gets sad when bad things happen in good fandoms)