Fandom is a funny thing. As an academic, fandom is complicated.
For instance, I can watch, and enjoy a movie or television show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I can be a fan of it and at the same time, I can dissect it, and deconstruct it, and analyze it. Both are enjoyable to me. Often, it's just a matter of putting on a different hat.
This juxtaposition was reinforced for me this weekend. This weekend, both Star Trek Into Darkness and the Doctor Who series 7 finale, premiered. Two gigantic fandoms collided. And the Internet has been abuzz with fans on both sides duking it out. Battle lines have been drawn, and shots fired. And I had a front row seat.
I am a staff writer for 8 Days a Geek, a website that caters to geeks, providing reviews on the latest apps and technology toys, comics, movies, television shows, and books. Because I'm a geek girl at heart, I tend to write reviews of things of movies and tv shows. Just this past week, I've written reviews of Iron Man 3, Arrow, Doctor Who, and Star Trek Into Darkness.
Because of the nature of the website, and the audience, I write very differently than when I write academic articles. My audience is fellow geeks, not academics, so I don't cite my reviews, I don't bog it down with theorists, or references. I try to write solid reviews for people like me- other geeks. And I am a geek, a Trekker to be specific- I grew up watching ST: TOS, I used Spock as my campaigning strategy when I ran for class officer in high school, I wanted to be Wesley Crusher when I grew up. I can kick your ass on trivia. I was a loyal fan of Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine. I had issues with Enterprise, but I enjoyed it because it was MORE Star Trek. I love the movies, even the crappy ones. So, I'm a fan.
However, once I posted my review, another academic made sure I saw his review of Star Trek Into Darkness ‘Star Trek: Wrath of Fan’.
To say that they are very different reviews is an understatement. His is part of a larger work about reboots, and is aimed at an academic audience. And I acknowledge a lot of his points- the new Star Trek does forward a lot of the sexist ideals from the original series, which is interesting to me, because incarnations after the original series made pretty big strides in regards to this, so it's definitely a step back. It got me thinking about WHY they'd made this choice- was it just a result of the film playing with homage? Was it an inadvertent forward? Is it a symptom of films in general? I did not have the same reaction to the "whitewashing" of Khan, as played by Benedict Cumberbatch, but that's me in general. I don't see race, so I tend not to notice it in films or tv. Do I think there should be more diversity in media? Of course, our media should reflect reality. Do I think there should be more diversity in sexual roles? Again, of course. On the flip side, I'm often more interested in the story being told, so depending on the story, there are some things I overlook if the story is good. I can recognize that there are issues, but still enjoy the story- again, it's a matter of changing hats.
But even knowing how rabid fans can be, I've been surprised at the vitriol of the response over Star Trek Into Darkness. With things like this, you're always going to have fans drawing battle lines, people pick sides, and argue their side LOUDLY. As though we were in Ancient Rome, and whoever yells the loudest is proved right.
I got into a shouting match yesterday with one of my oldest friends over a tv show. And it immediately devolved into "Well you can think that but you'd be wrong, and I'm right". It's an old argument with us- he always takes that stance, and I ignore him. But in light of the opening of Star Trek Into Darkness, and the fan response, it got me thinking. Because this is how most fan arguments go-
"I'm right and you're wrong."
"No, I'm right and you're wrong"
Why? Most fans I know are smart people, they're well read, they get all the intertextual references, they're upper level folks. So what is it about fandom that turns these people into foaming at the mouth fanatics, as in "A person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, esp. for an extreme religious or political cause"? Too often the last couple of days, I've seen good friends tearing each other to shreds over differing opinions on a movie or tv show, and then back it up with an insincere, "Just kidding".
Why can't fans look at other reviews and opinions and take something away from them? Realizing we're all fans? I'm not saying I'm going to change my mind about anything, but I LIKE seeing other people's readings of movies and tv shows. I always take something away from it. And, shouldn't that be what we do? Why can't ALL readings have a place?
The geek in me squeed during through most of Star Trek Into Darkness. So please, send me your differing opinions, because I love learning from others, and supporting other academics, but to (mis)quote another cult favorite-