Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Not a Fan

Last weekend as I finished the pamphlet chapter of my dissertation I kept loading YouTube videos of panels of shows I liked from the San Diego Comic-Con 2015 to play in the background, get me through, and as a reward.

When I spoke to Dad a couple of days later he asked me what the takeaways were from Comic-Con. Anything he should look at.
I loved the chemistry on the Agents of Shield panel. The actual trailer for Batman v. Superman leads me to believe it might not suck, or at least the plot was clearer than the leaked stuff. The Arrow cast is always fun. Misha Collins and Mark Shepherd are always funny and Jensen Ackles continues to show his disdain for fans at every opportunity. I love Teen Wolf and love hearing from Jeff Davis but gosh those kids are young. And have not yet mastered the art of speaking without a script. The Sherlock bit was funny. I didn't watch the Doctor Who one because Moffat makes me batshit crazy. The bit on Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great, emptying Hall H and shafting Kevin Smith's panel afterwards was not. The preview of Conmen was hysterical. The Nerdist HQ talks are always good.

As I was talking to Dad, and explaining some of these things the more I got to thinking about being a fan. I would love one day to go to SDCC but there seem to be so many rules to it, and so many chances of getting shafted, that it doesn't seem real appealing.
With so many panels now available online, it seems like maybe it's not worth the hassle I hear SDCC is in so many ways.

And it got me thinking that maybe I'm not a fan.

Don't get me wrong, I grew up on Star Trek and Star Wars and science fiction and fantasy and horror are my favorite genres. I've seen most of these movies, can quote them, and have seen the shows and can quote them. I have Crowley and Castiel Funko Pop dolls on my desk. Star Wars figures on my bedside table. Dozens of fan themed t-shirts.

But let me tell you what I can't/don't do.
I often don't learn the names of the actors or follow them online because when Tom Cruise went nuts on Oprah's couch it took me years to enjoy watching him again and I love him. I still can't watch Mel Gibson, and Lethal Weapon is an all time favorite. Teen Wolf has taken a ding since I heard Tyler Posey in interviews.

I don't follow many actors on shows I love on Twitter or Facebook because I don't want things to pull me out of liking the show. So I follow the show, but not the person. There are some exceptions, people that do it well, but I read, I follow, I do not comment.

In order to protect the thing I am a fan of I have set certain parameters. I don't collect. I don't cosplay. I rarely go to cons. I don't read paratexts. I don't write paratexts. I go on Tumblr only to find funny gifs for blog posts. I have no idea what Reddit is but it seems evil.

I memorize all the trivia on IMDB but I can't tell you what the ship designation of the ship in the background of episode 53 of Star Trek:OS was at minute twelve.

But I have friends who can/do.
And more importantly, I know whole groups who gate keep about who gets to be fans in THEIR fandom based on this level of obsession. And I realize that obsession is a word bound to trigger some responses.

For me, a lot of these decisions come down to time. Because I like so many things I often have to choose. I can watch the show and stay up to date OR I can spend time online talking about past episodes. Liking so many things means I prioritize. And because of negative reactions and interactions, I prefer to choose to watch what I like. And if that means I can't interact with people about it, well, I've made my peace with that. I also don't have a lot of money and am not into things, so something has to be special if I'm going to add STUFF.

I'm not falling into the trap made so famous by Shatner of accusing fans (fanboys) of never kissing a girl and living in their mom's basement (although I can tell you that out of all the fanboys I know, few DON'T fit this profile so make of that what you will).
Obsession is often characterized negatively, and I don't think it has to be, but I do think that "the domination of one's thoughts" is the key here.
As I told Dad, I think maybe part of the problem is that I like LOTS of things- Star Trek AND Star Wars. Battlestar Galactica. Supernatural. X-Files. Arrow. Flash. Sherlock. Doctor Who. Teen Wolf. Beauty and the Beast. NCIS. Person of Interest. Hannibal. Buffy. Angel. Pretty much anything on CW. My DVR is full. Most nights I have shows to watch all through prime time. I spend Saturdays working in my office just running things on the DVR to clear it. With liking so many things, I don't have the time for the level of detail seemingly necessary to pass the fan test. I also don't see why I have to choose.

A few months ago, the NCIS Facebook page posted that a character died. I made the mistake of commenting that this was a spoiler. And was promptly jumped on by hundreds of people within minutes that the actor had died and I was an idiot because I didn't realize that there would be a corresponding death on the show.
And this interaction is typical. It seems that not only is there a level of detail knowledge that is required in order to pass into any specific fandom, but the default mode has become nasty.
To these people, liking the show, watching every week, and having watched since it was a JAG spin off was not enough. I didn't qualify as a fan under their rules.
My experience is not a new one. I have an academic friend who shared a conference paper who is getting hate all over the place. I, and most of the women I know, avoid using hashtags on Twitter because it cuts down on the likelihood you'll get trolled by fans of those shows/movies.

When Agent Carter, a limited run series, first premiered suddenly a Renew Agent Carter hashtag appeared. I made the mistake of pointing out that the language was inaccurate as it was not designed to be a series, it was intended to be a limited run, so "renew" was not the right word. Asking for another season was.

I then spent the next two days blocking people and getting ugliness from all kinds of people.
And these are every day, low threat interactions. I don't get death threats, or violent threats. And lots of women do. In fact negative, violently themed interactions are more the norm.
But think about this for a minute, what it means that women's voices in the things they are a fan of are silenced by others, and by themselves for their own safety.

These interactions ultimately mean that I don't share my fandom online.
When I share movies I like or tv shows I do it only on Facebook where I am friends with only face to face friends, not Twitter where at large people could go after me.

I like comic book superheroes and their movies, but I won't comment on them for fear of fanboys jumping all over me for not knowing what the comic is "really about." Or being lectured that superhero comics aren't "real" comics.
I like Supernatural but find their hot and cold reactions to fans insulting most of the time. But I won't say that for fear of hearing about it from the very fans that the show insults.
I like to talk to friends about shows and movies but when I can't state my opinion without people jumping in to yell at me because they think the opposite, I lose interest.
I follow shows on Twitter and Facebook, but I've learned not to comment on anything.

I think in a lot of ways social media allows for us to share our fandoms.
It allows us to widen the participation of our fandom.
It allows us to interact with and have the illusion of access to people we like.
But it also seems like it has drawn clear, solid lines in the sand about who is and isn't a fan. If you add in the added complication of being an academic who is also a fan, and therefore often interrogates the very things they love, and things get murky.

It seems as though it's impossible to express your opinion without someone saying the opposite. As my mother would say, the entire Internet seems to become part of the Contrary tribe when opinions come up.

I went round and round this past week about Go Set a Watchman. I said as an English teacher who taught it for over a decade, and one who grew up loving Peck as Finch, I just had no desire to read it, and taint the memories I had.
My social media promptly because this:
Others: Well I DO! And let me know condescend to you about why you're stupid because you don't.

Fandom encompasses a lot of things. We like different things. We participate in different ways. We interpret in different ways. And we use fan practices and fandoms to different ends.

But it'd sure be nice if we could stop knee-jerking to hate as our first response.
And it's be even nicer if we could be secure in what like, and not feel the need to judge or be nasty to others who don't see fandom as we do.

Because more and more I don't participate in fandoms because I lack the energy to fight the trolls I know will appear.
And that's sad.

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