Fandom As Distinct from Following

Wanderers, you’re all your own people – pretty awesome people, if you don’t mind me saying so. But sometimes, when you’re a fan of a person, a company or a character, it can be easy to forget that we don’t have to agree with everything that person, company or character says and does. That’s not our fault, as fans – when we like someone, of course we want to believe they’re great in every respect. When we look up to someone, it’s natural to want to emulate them. Whether we take them as a role model, or simply think they’re cool, we often see only the best in our favourites. But sometimes, it’s important to acknowledge the bad along with the good.

Now, don’t get me wrong; if you like a person, company or character and there’s nothing you dislike about them at all, that’s great! Maybe there are only tiny things that bother you about them, like always using the wrong kind of ‘your’ in fanmail responses or always chewing gum during interviews. That’s all fine. I’m not saying you have to go out and find something to disagree with them about. You keep thinking what you’re thinking.

In fact, that’s sort of the point I’m trying to make here. You have your own opinions, moral code, and sense of judgement. You don’t have to adapt that to blindly follow your favourite person, company or character. Liking Dean from Supernatural does not mean that you need to decide alcohol is a valid solution to all problems, and being a fan of a vegetarian celebrity doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating burgers. Of course, you can do those things, but you should weigh the pros and cons of such a course of action yourself, rather than doing it solely because someone you admire has made that choice. The same, of course, works in reverse; if you don’t like someone who agrees with you on a particular point – like preferring diet cola to the regular kind, as a trivial example – you don’t have to switch your stance just to oppose them. It’s fine, you can both like diet cola.

The important thing to remember is that you and your favourite celebrity or character are very different people. You can both have completely different perspectives on life and still get by quite happily (or… well, most characters don’t get along so happily, but you get my point). As for companies, like your favourite film studio or merchandise supplier, if you have a serious problem with the way they conduct their business, by all means let them know, or avoid doing business with them if that’s what you feel is best, but don’t allow your opinions to be solely dictated by what your favourites are doing.

This brings me onto another point; you can like and respect someone without sharing their opinions on everything. There are some things that can and should be deal breakers, things where you feel so strongly about an issue that a celebrity’s disagreement makes you like them less – but again, that’s down to your own personal feeling. Moreover, you can appreciate someone’s work – their music, or their acting talent, or their eight-foot high portrait of their penpal’s sober companion – without sharing their personal opinions. You can admire some aspects of someone while being completely opposed to others, especially when it comes to characters – for example, I love Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but while I admire her resilience and sympathise with her background, I’m not so keen on emulating her occasional tendency to stab people. That reminds me, actually – characters and real people can change, and that doesn’t mean that your feelings have to change with them. If they do, that’s fine, but don’t force it.

This brings me to my final point, which unfortunately is a bit of a harsh truth – and I’m not talking about characters so much any more, or even companies, but individuals. We, as fans, have to remember that nobody, however much we like them, is above the law. The only possible exceptions to this are, theoretically, certain heads of state, and even then… But the point is, you can support someone as they go through the tough situation of being in legal trouble. You can even argue that the law they were charged under is unjust, if that’s how you feel even when it’s not a favourite celebrity of yours behind bars. What you can’t do, really, is argue that they shouldn’t have been arrested or get nasty towards those who argue that what they did deserved the consequences. Especially where what they were doing posed a threat to life, or potentially funded criminal organisations, a lot of people have strong feelings and good reasons for them. It may well be that you disagree with the law in question, but it remains the law, and those who break it do so knowing what to expect if they get caught. If your favourite celebrity took that risk and lost, there will always be a lot of people who think it only right they’re punished for it – and, while I can’t speak for all laws everywhere, quite often they’re right. Respect the opinions of others, and respect the law even if you don’t like it.

So, what’s the point of this article? Well… you’re a fan, not a follower. You don’t have to walk in your favourite’s footsteps, and you can keep hold of your own opinions while still respecting other people. Yes, your favourite celebrity or character might be great, but we don’t actually need another one of them. The world would much rather have you, Wanderer. Just as you are.

Eleanor Musgrove (is getting soppy in her old age)

This entry was posted in Fandom As..., Issue Forty-Two and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Fandom As Distinct from Following

  1. Marta Layton says:

    I am a BBC Sherlock fan, which means I must relate all things to Sherlock apparently. Or to Tolkien, but today my mind is fixated on Sherlock. And this has me thinking about Sally Donovan and the way that many people on the show have an almost visceral hatred of Saly Donovan. She does have her faults, but also her actions on that particular show are defensible if you think about them – not as moral perfection, but at least as a reasonable way of responding to a certain circumstance. I also wrote an essay on my blog trying to develop a more sympathetic view of her character than a lot of fans have, in case anyone’s interested. (Here.)

    But the point regarding this post: I think that when we have a favorite character, we tend to react badly to any other characters on the show that aren’t wholly positive about said character. Sally reacts badly to Sherlock because he acts like a horse’s patootey and waltzes into her workplace, making hassles and acting all entitled. Sherlock rubs most people the wrong way, even he admits this, and Sally in many ways is the embodiment of those people. Her reactions make sense IMO even if I don’t agree with them. And I’ve gone on a bit of a journey from being irritated by her to a sort of half-begrudging respect of who she is. So I know how easy it is for a favorite character to drag us into their viewpoint, make us hate the people that are mean to or critical of said favorite character. I think the points you mention here give us as good an argument as any I’ve seen for why we should be wary of that and at least conscious of how our love of a certain character can affect our perception of situations.

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