Fandom comes with a strange attachment to it that borders on, not just elitism, but also on fanatical idealism… hell the word fan is the start of the word fanatical. When you are deeply entrenched into a fandom, any fandom from toy trains to buttplugs shaped like Mickey Rooney, you tend to lose sight of things outside that fandom the same as all forms of brainwashing or indoctrination. Brainwashing? Indoctrination? Yes, brainwashing and indoctrination. It is quite disturbing how close fandom comes to cult-like status at times but there is no denying that this is the case more often than it is not. Firefly fans, Sailor Moon fans, Doctor Who fans, My Little Pony fans and the most obvious example, Trekkies* are all some of the most recognizable doms out there but make no mistake they are hardly the only ardent fandoms which ride the edge of sanity (Big Lebowski fans, cough cough). You even have engrained fandoms of brands and not of products, Microsoft/X-Box Fanboys, Apple Acolytes, Sony Herders etc… and this is no better, just different in the same scary way.
What IS a Fan?
Creators of the properties also invoke a strange kind of worship which involves giving oneself over, body and mind, to a charismatic charlatan within whom only corruption and degradation lie in wait. Joss Whedon has the most ardent and frankly blind (coupled with insane) disciples to the point of it not even being hyperbole to call them a cult the same as you would Heavens Gate or the Jonestown group. Whedon is not alone though in his demanding absolute divinity from his minions he is simply the most recognizable of those who practice this form of ego masturbation. What happens when you canonize your fandom though? You end up ceasing to be a fan and begin to be a believer which very quickly mutates into devotion which morphs into the cult I speak of. Make no mistake that I am talking in real terms here and not being facetious or snide, I have witnessed real cults (in the traditional sense of the word) from my time in the news and these fandoms built around TV shows or books are perilously close to the same central ideal. Now, this is not to say that anyone who follows a TV series or the like is some kind of mindless drone, only those who LIVE their fandom are lost to us… it is possible and even likely that most of you reading this are fans of pop culture segments and yet can discern real life from the fandom of choice, but you must also be aware that not everyone in these cults is as grounded as you may be.
Fans and Cults
The reason I had to establish the cultish behavior of these fanatics is that I wanted to follow up on last weeks column involving the verbal assault that Jane Asselin took at the hands of male comic fans who refused to accept that a GIRL might have had something to say about their (erroneously thought) male dominated industry. They saw an “outsider” (ignoring her actual credits and ability to do exactly what she did) attacking their fandom and reacted in about the worst (and yet most predictable) manner possible and I wish this was the exception to FANatics but it is far more of the rule. For instance, with my comments about Joss Whedon I already know the reaction, it will be messages to Jowski to fire me (as I have stated in my tagline at the bottom of the page), posts on Whedon forums and fanpages calling me a mindless hater along with comparisons to various figures of ridicule. That is how it has happened in the past and how it will continue to happen when “god” is pilloried, lashing out in the darkness with no accountability to anyone other than “god”. That is how Asselin was decried and how I have been in the past and that is the point of all of this, that for all of the outward attempts to use fandom for simple enjoyment of a pop culture venture there is a very dark and hardened underbelly that must be addressed and this is hardly exclusive to nerd fandom. Look at the pointless and increasingly violent confrontations in the area of sports fandom or the protracted battles in the musical community to see just how splintered and exclusive things have become.
Fandoms carry with them an air of superiority among those “in the know” towards “outsiders” and more often than not are as xenophobic as anything else, despite their mantra of being inclusive and welcoming. Just try being black and getting any respect in the punk or heavy metal world lest you be considered a poser or a straight out intruder which is odd considering that most fandoms like to think (or at least put forth the illusion) of inclusiveness and yet the slightest intrusion by the outside is cause for alarm and panic. Try joining a TV show in it’s 5th season or a game series at the 4th game and you will be a “noob” or a wagon jumper trying to be kool and you will find the most virulent hate and anger (not to mention snobishness) for not having been there from the very start. Obviously this is not everyone, but I have never once joined a fan community without these kinds of acts being displayed by a few of the larger jackasses and that does not even account for casual fandom. Casual fandom where you might just watch Doctor Who but you don’t LIVE it or you may simply enjoy Star Trek but you don’t know any of the stardates of episodes, you are not a REAL FAN then. Yes, I hear the term REAL FAN all the time and it sickens me to my core… so if I have a life and partake in the sex with the womens or the imbibing of tastes outside the fandom I am some kind of hipster douchebag that is horning in on your exclusive little circle-jerk huh? I have found that overall most fans (REAL FANS) of the aspects of geek culture are actually more exclusionist than anything and they seek to protect their little corner of the dom with such fervor that they lose sight of what it was like when they started and how the good people in the dom were INCLUSIVE and helped you catch up and they get destroyed by the shitheads (who tend to be the most vocal unfortunately).
What Fandom should Be
Fandom should not be like a cult and yet I see more of that than I see it being simply like minded people gathering in a group to enjoy whatever it is that they enjoy. Stop viewing the pop culture item of your choice with such a tunnel-visioned perspective and learn to live outside as well and most of all, if you take nothing else away from this column let it be this… don’t attack those who support your love of whatever, their inclusion is not something to be taken as a negative until (unless) it actually becomes a negative. Sure fandoms tend to swallow themselves from time to time and more often they are such fandoms that they refuse to let criticism (legitimate or otherwise) seep in but they are still just fandoms… you and others like you gain enjoyment from this product and that is not a bad thing… until you turn it into a bad thing.
Take a step back and look at yourself and those around you, do you really want to be part of a cult or do you want simply to have a pleasant time with your chosen passtime?
*And to show just how nuts they are, try calling them Trekkers and see what happens.