For most of my life it was a struggle to be a fan of the things I loved. I grew up in a time where simply reading a comic book would get you beat-up, and I was. I remember laying on the grown, clenching my stomach after a punch to the bread basket and looking up to see the comic I was reading being ripped in half. In this instance the only thing I was guilty of, to receive such a physical punishment, was sitting by myself and reading a comic book quietly.
The abuse I suffered went throughout my Elementary and Middle School “careers” and finally stopped by the time I got to High School. But that is almost 9 years of constant bullying over being a fan of things that are deemed a bad thing from the popular people, the people looking for an easy target, and from the powers that be. Grown-ups thought the easiest way to stop the attacks I suffered through was for me to simply stop being into comics, Dungeons & Dragons, science fiction, fantasy, toys, and cartoons. Their divine wisdom was to become like everyone else and not make waves by being different. (that still didn’t help that I was over-weight, poor, and wore glasses.) In the end I was to blame for the damaged clothes, destroyed property, and bruises I had to live with.
It wasn’t until I got to High School that I wasn’t punished for “being me” (there was a small rest in 5th grade when I made my first real friend). I found a group of like minded people that all liked the same things I did. I think it also helped that people had their own shit to worry about and didn’t have time to hassle me. Sure, being over-weight, poor, and wearing glasses was still fair game for verbal attacks but I could live with that better than random punches to my face and being pushed to the ground.
As time went by the world has come around. The world has embraced the notion of “fringe culture” to the point of propelling most of it to “pop culture”. Normal people now throw money at comic book inspired movies, hunker down to watch sci-fi influenced television, and even wear 80s metal band t-shirts to be hip. We have dozens of comic inspired and sci-fi/fantasy movies hitting the theaters, shows on TV, and even the return of Star Wars (even though it never truly went away). It is a great time to be a dork (or nerd, or geek…whatever you want to call yourself).
Or is it?
With the world finally on “our side” when it comes to the nerdy things in life and people actually using the terms nerd and geek in a positive to describe themselves, things should be a lot better, but they’re not. Honestly, we as a global community of outcasts that “made good” are now turning on each other. We don’t have to worry about parents, churches, jocks, law enforcement, and the popular people like I (we) once did, no, we have to look over our shoulder for the people we once had a “family” bond with.
We once had a brotherhood, a sisterhood, a camaraderie with one another because we shared a love of something few people understood. We shared a language that let us know we were not strangers in a strange land. Did this mean we ALL got along? No. Did it mean we ALL liked the same things? No. Of course there was in-fighting BUT the level of attack was so minuet and common ground was shared. Because at one time all we had was each other.
And of course there were the die-hard haters out there but you would only hear their bellows of discontent within the letter pages at the back of a comic book or within the “Communications” of a Starlog magazine. Back then their pithy and negative comments were either met with a thoughtful response or a humorous reply from the editors and that was the end of it. Of course on the other end, the “hater” was probably seething with anger because it wasn’t the response they craved.
Is that what people are desperate for nowadays? Is a response what they crave? Is that the reason someone would say “I hope you die” when they don’t agree with what the other one thought about a movie? A movie? Would you really wish harm and death on anyone over a movie? Hell, would you even really wish ill-will on the director, the actors, the studio for making a movie? A movie is a piece of art that tells a story created by many people who have their own visions and have shared visions in the journey from thought, to page, to props, to costumes…the list goes on and on.
T.F.S. is a problem that infects all fandoms. Whether it be sports, movies, comics, TV shows, nostalgia…what have you. Wherever there are fans, there are toxic fans. People who spew their venom (and in some cases violence) at anyone who has a differing opinion than them . This goes for either side of the aisle either you’re for something or against something. We see it in politics everyday nowadays. Now I’m not talking about REAL issues, I’m only talking about being a fan of something. Stating your opinion isn’t enough anymore, no, you have to be right and you must win. Win what, I have no idea but you must win at all costs. After a while it all becomes a monosyllabic din of “THIS NO GOOD” or “THIS GOOD”.
If anyone has kids they know the struggle. The tug-of-war battle of “Yes”, “No”, Yes”, “No” you engage in with your child over normal run-of-the-mill stuff like food, baths, and chores. Sometimes when it comes heated enough your child will stamp their feet and blurt out “I HATE YOU”. To a child that is a strong statement and to be honest first hearing it stings but you realize they don’t mean it, they just want to be heard and they want to be right. “No, I do not want to eat these peas and I hate you for making me eat them.” Sounds kinda silly right? Now apply that to say….The Justice League movie “No, I do not like this movie and I hate you for liking it…and hey, I want you to die too”. Sounds equally silly right?
You can say you don’t like something, hell make a list of 100 reasons why you don’t like it. Just be prepared for someone to have a list of a 100 reasons why they did like it, and vice-versa. BUT also be prepared to have an honest to god conversation about it, a discussion. Is that concept so alien nowadays? Why does the first salvo have to be “shut up and die” or “I don’t need reasons, it sucked. Die!”. Whatever happened to the art of debate? Back in the day you could talk…and yes even over the ol’ computer…and share thoughts. You didn’t change anyone’s mind but you could stand on even ground and end the conversation knowing that even though you disagree you still both are fans. Hell, there could be shouting and cursing but that is just the passion coming out.
Recently I had a person write to me about disagreeing with something I said. It was a venom drenched comment but they had the right to say how they felt. This person didn’t agree with my disappointment in a toy from the 80s. Even though they came on strong I defending my thoughts in a calm manner and summed it up with “To each their own”, heck I even said I was disappointed but I still loved the toy and I wish I still had it today, but it was a disappoint to ME. The next comment I got from this fellow called me a pig, a troll, and ended with hopes of my demise. Wow! All over a piece of plastic that is over 30 years old that I never said I hated or even disliked, just that I was disappointed in.
We live in a very negative time in the world. It doesn’t help that the orange figure head in charge of America is negative and attacks EVERYTHING (well, not everything. He seems to favor white supremacies and other hate mongers). It also doesn’t help that everyone has the access now to be a media outlet, me included. In an effort to garner more readers/viewers people rely on negativity to sell. People are quicker to click on a link that states their story tells you why you need to hate something or why something failed. In those cases people who like something and want to see the reasons why someone disliked it -or- someone hated it and wants to feed off of the article’s similar displeasure.
That’s enough ranting for one day. Please just remember we are all fans and that should be the glue that binds, not the wedge that keeps us apart. There are no winners or losers.
I hope this rant makes sense….