How to be a Good Fan: Introduction

Off the Edge

We’re all fans of something.  It doesn’t matter what; we can be fans of sports, food, TV shows, video games, books, characters, just about anything.  I personally have been a fan of numerous things including history, comic books, art, bands, and games.  I still am a big fan of too many things to count, though admittedly I only throw myself completely into a few.  After all, there are only so many hours a day to spend on one’s obsessions.

There has been a move recently away from being a “fan” and being a “good fan.”  Too many people nowadays are what I think of as “bad fans.”  These are the people who are belligerent and haughty with their fandom, and not only obsess about certain things, but belittle, attack, or denounce those who don’t share the interest or, even worse, dislike the interest.

These kinds of fans I mostly run into with the “geek” subculture.  Though I have seen them in the limited experience I’ve had in the sports subculture as well.

Commodus was a “Bad Fan”

I feel it necessary to mention something about the “new geek” subculture.  All my life I’ve been considered a “nerd” for whatever that’s worth.  I’ve never been into sports or popular culture much.  I grew up in the Save by the Bell, Real World, and Beverly Hills 90210, and never enjoyed a full episode of any of them.  Except for Tai Kwon Do and recently boxing, I never played sports and spent most of my time reading, drawing, or playing with action figures into my teens (I admit that happily.  It’s fun and ya know what? Still is!)  Thus, during school, several of my friends (who shared similar interests) and I were labeled by the @55holes of the world as “dorks” and “nerds.”  I distinctly remember a kid in middle school asking me and my buddy Mike where our “neon-colored pocket protectors” were.  I’m not sure the insult there, since I never wore neon and never owned a pocket protector, but it speaks to how we were viewed.

Nowadays due to internet and tech culture, “geek” has become cool.  While “back in the day” geeks banded together because of distinct lack of “cool” perception from the popular culture, they have become a section of the popular culture and, much to my dismay, have adopted many of the negative features popular culture has always had; negativity, exclusionism, derision, and segregation.  People “aren’t enough” of a geek or “aren’t real” geeks.  People are “geek posers” or “faux geeks.”  While I was growing up, the geek groups tended to be more accepting to people — we were outcasts, how on earth could we exclude other outcasts?  So you had comic dorks, video game dorks, and school dorks all crowded together.  Today, these groups have broken up and even actively dislike other “geek factions,” a lot like various denominations of a church that don’t get along.  We’ve all interpreted the nerd scripture differently, and not only are those who disagree with us WRONG, they aren’t welcome in our presence.

This brings me back to fandom.  It feels like geek fans have completely lost control recently, and many have gone from being “good fans” to being the worst of “bad fans.”  I think of the difference as being the difference between “patriotism” and “nationalism.”  Patriotism I have always seen as a positive.  It’s a feeling of pride and stating, “Despite all its flaws, I love my country.”  Nationalism is pejorative, a negative and superlative view of, “Not only do I love my country, but my country has no flaws, and is not only BETTER than yours but the BEST there can be.”  This breeds nothing but hostility.

In this series (I’m not sure how long it will be, but it’ll run and run…) I plan to lay out what I think the best ways are of being a “good fan” in the hopes of maybe getting it across that you can love, obsess, and immerse yourself into something without being a toxic individual to those who don’t share the interest or disagree with it.

The first topic will start next week with Accepting All Paths to Fandom.

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