/ / Articles

Two Streams of Thought

I am in favor of fandoms. But sometimes I wonder: How much do any of them matter?
| Jul 31, 2019 | 10 comments |

I am, in the abstract, in favor of fandoms. Star Wars, Star Trek, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, Disney, Pixar, and a thousand others – why not? They’re diverting and human and, on occasion, profound. In the concrete, I have adopted a few of my own and gotten uncounted hours of enjoyment out of it. But sometimes I wonder: How much do any of them matter?

I have not decided what to think about that. How I lean depends on varying factors, such as my most recent reflections and how long it has been since I was last on Facebook. I want to insist that it – your fandom, any fandom – doesn’t matter at all when I encounter those indefatigable people who cannot encounter a criticism or a joke against their fandoms without lodging a deadly-earnest objection. There are people who react to any criticism of their beloved fandoms as if someone had insulted Jesus; people who launch endless comment threads to defend them; people who can never see the point of any contrary argument, or the humor of any joke, or even just let it pass. They are indefatigable, but they are exhausting.

Worse yet are the infuriating people, the sort of people who drive celebrities from social media through their viciousness. There are fans – far too many on the Internet – who act as if the fictional objects of their passion matter more than real people. There are people who throw kindness to the wind on the feeblest provocation, but there is absurd blindness in throwing it away for the sake of fandom. And, really, how do people get the energy to care so much that someone doesn’t like what they do?

Fandoms matter a great deal less than some people think – or rather, feel. But that fact doesn’t fix the measure of their true value. When I am in a philosophical mood, or have been reading the commentary of people who are, I am more inclined to see the value of fandoms. I think there is something after all to the idea of sub-creation, that even our fictional worlds are part of our heritage as God’s image-bearers. Even the apparent superfluity of fandoms, when seen through different eyes, can be charming. Touching, even. Those things that seem least necessary are often the most human.

I am conscious, too, of the significance of stories as the expression of imagination and thought, and even of fear and aspiration. Stories are a revelation of humanity, both the good and the bad. They are also an educator of humanity, for better and for worse, and probably more is learned through stories than through school.

And fandoms are based on stories. So these two streams of thought: fandoms possess genuine significance and are annoyingly (sometimes noxiously) overvalued. Unsurprisingly, I haven’t worked out any conclusion as to how much they matter. Perhaps this is the sort of question that can’t be conclusively answered (who is to say?) and it doesn’t even matter (would it make any difference to peg the exact importance of fandoms?).

But this much we can say with scientific certainty: Regardless of exactly how much fandoms matter, it is not enough to justify a social media war.

Shannon McDermott is the author of the fantasy novel The Valley of Decision, as well as the futuristic The Last Heir and the Sons of Tryas series. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website, ShannonMcDermott.com.

10
Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of
notleia
Guest
notleia

It’s kind of awkward, because I’m totally a person who would make melodramatic jokes about someone who disagrees with me on a minor point of fandom to be a heathen.

The more awkward part is using them in contexts where it’s a loaded word that people can use in earnest, like this website. So I don’t, but I think it’s a loss to the quality of humor possible.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

Joking about it is perfectly fine, though, so long as there’s an obvious indication that there’s a joke. Or at least a willingness to immediately clarify that something is a joke if someone accidentally takes it too seriously.

E.F.B.
Guest
E.F.B.

You and I are pretty much agreed on this one, Shannon. A fandom can mean the world for that lonely kid (or adult) who feels rejected by other groups, but is able to form lifelong friendships with people they never would have connected with if not through their favorite fandom. Or for the person going through terrible hardship, but the story they love, as well as their fandom friends, are able to distract and encourage them, and give them the strength to hold on just a little while longer. Or for the elderly father and adult son with a shared love for a story, and that story was able to provide them with times of laughter and bonding in the father’s last days when he was too weak to do anything else. These are all true scenarios that some of my friends from the fandoms I’m part of have experienced.

Things like the above scenarios can be, in my opinion, a huge part of the reason we see fans arguing with and hurting each other (and sometimes celebrities) online. Part of the value of fandom comes from the things we associate with it. For the people I mentioned above, if they’re not careful to stay objective, a disparaging comment about their fandom could feel like an attack on those precious memories, experiences, and life lessons that they associate with the fandom, and therefore trigger a strong emotional response. It’s not an excuse for the terrible fights, but it is a reason. I could also talk about trolls (people with genuine personality disorders, not just people we call trolls because we don’t like what they say) causing fights, but that’s another topic entirely.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

Fandoms are great, people just need to be reasonable about it. Like, treat the author with the respect owed to another human being. Don’t act like it’s ‘ok’ to violate their copyright just because they’re ‘famous’ (because being a famous author makes people automatically assume the person is rich and will never struggle financially in the future). Behaving like that is basically punishing someone for being successful, whether that’s the intention or not.

Aaaaand, just because a fan doesn’t like the way an author wrote a story, doesn’t mean the author is ‘bad’, a lazy writer, or that the author’s work should be rejected from the canon. It’s alright for someone to have their own ‘head canon’, or invent their own fan timeline for the sake of fanfiction. But don’t take it to the point if denying or rejecting the official canon of what the author wrote. Criticizing the author is perfectly fine, but there’s a difference between that and pretty much hijacking and denying the original author’s work. Like it or not, the canon story is still technically the author’s at the end of the day. Saying otherwise is basically spitting in the face of the person who worked hard to make the story the fans supposedly love.

And then of course there’s how fans treat others in and out of the fandom. That’s probably more obvious, though. In some ways fans probably have a slightly easier time defending themselves, though. Like, authors have to be more afraid of coming off the like the bad guy if they stand up for themselves too much or (accidentally) in the wrong ways.

notleia
Guest
notleia

See, I’m more party to the school of Death of the Author (don’t worry it’s just metaphorical death). Or at least I’m not afraid of cherry-picking my headcanon like the fruit just came ripe. Fandoms are supposed to be fun, and if the author is going to ruin my fun with terrible plots or colonialism (lookin’ at you, JK Rowling), I’m going to completely ignore it.

Take Star Wars. Clone Wars is canon, most of the movies surrounding it I reduce to broad hints and specific scenes and the rest I refuse to accept as canon.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

It doesn’t have to ‘ruin the fun’, though. Like, I have my own fanfiction timeline for what is practically my own Naruto novel series. It’s an AU in so many ways, and I personally have a LOT of complaints about the way the sequel anime series, Boruto, is going. But accepting Boruto as canon in no way interferes with the fun I have in the fandom. In some ways it’s actually a good thing, because if Boruto was perfect, it would be HARDER to write fanfiction about. Like…I don’t know how to explain it, but if a story is a complete masterpiece, it can sometimes be harder to explore/add to in fanfiction. So it’s not that the author’s authority as canon maker is bad, it’s just that fans have the wrong mindset.

I think there were some aspects of Death of the Author that I agreed with, but for the most part, no. And even if a canon series is bad (poor Boruto, which I will keep picking on right now) there are still redeemable aspects to it. Like, worldbuilding and plot IDEAS that can be good fanfiction fuel, even if they weren’t executed well in canon.

notleia
Guest
notleia

You could argue that fanfiction in of itself is taking part in the Death of the Author. We reject the word of god (TV Tropes version, as in: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WordOfGod) and substitute our own version that may or may not jive well with the established canon, but WE DO WHAT WE WANT AND THEY CAN’T STOP US MWAHAHAHAHAHHAHA.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

I don’t really consider it Death of the Author when someone still accepts that canon exists and is what actually happened in that story universe. Personally, I respect the fact that the canon story is still the author’s and am grateful for the chance to play around in their story worlds and show the results of that with others.

notleia
Guest
notleia

Off topic: I had something of an existentialism today because my one-time high school classmate who had a baby just after graduation re-friended me on Fbook. It’s one thing that this person who was a baby bump last time I saw them in-person(?) is now long ambulatory and somewhat elementary-educated (OH KRISHNA AM I OLD NOW).

But relating back to an earlier topic of conversation, she did marry the baby daddy soon after graduation, but it does not surprise me that, tho she kept his name (prob for the kid’s sake), they are no longer together. Chalk up another stat for early marriage –> early divorce. She’s dating some other guy, and I’m happy for her because baby daddy was unstable and unreliable af even in high school (I don’t understand what she saw in the guy [well, you could say the same about my boyfriend at the time], but chances were he was a symbol of teenage rebellion against parents with high expectations. BUT FOR HECK’S SAKE YOU COULD’VE USED A CONDOM.)

People who’ve kept in contact with her are probably long over it and I’m just super late for the party.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

I think I’m so used to people’s drama right now that it doesn’t usually surprise me anymore(so my reactions to situations like that are probably more boring than yours), though I guess depending on what happens I can still get a little worried and upset about stuff.

Sometimes it does feel weird to see people my age or younger with kids, though. Like, I know some people that got married and started having kids when they were around 20 (and they’re still with their spouses, as far as I know) I don’t think them marrying at that age is automatically bad or anything, so I don’t know why it’s odd to think about my peers having families of their own already. Maybe it seems a little surreal to me since I don’t really worry about or participate in romantic relationships.