How to be a Good Fan: You Like this, I Like That…Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off…

Off the Edge

In my “Just War” philosophy course in grad school, we learned that during any kind of conflict there comes a time where combatants start to see the situation as “us” versus “them.”  Viewing an opponent this way essentially dehumanizes them and makes it easier for people to do horrible things to each other they wouldn’t do in any other circumstances.

While that might seem like a strange opener for a series about fandom, the same holds true for disagreeing fans.  We all fall victim to it, but recently I’ve started to catch myself doing it and tried to curtail it when I feel it creeping in.

I remember during what James Rolfe calls “The Bit Wars” between Sega and Nintendo; I was in the Sega camp.  But I don’t remember hating Super Nintendo.  I just never played it and vehemently disagreed with comments disparaging Sega’s games or systems.  I still do.  I had loads of fun on Sega CD and 32X!

It’s gotten much worse with Xbox and Playstation fans.  I’ve had both systems from previous and current generations.  I prefer Playstation simply because I’ve found it to be more reliable, more a fit for my gaming needs, and more consumer-friendly.  I admit I have sunk down to the “us versus them” mentality, especially when the now recanted Xbox One specs were announced.  But the truth is both are good systems for their fan bases, both have a good line up of games, and we NEED both to keep competition healthy.  Monopoly is always bad for the consumer.

Here are some thoughts on one opinion versus another opinion and ways that have helped me avoid “Us Versus Them” situations:

Realizing Nothing is Perfect:  I love my PS3.  I had a launch system that lasted 5-6 years in the same time my bro-in law had 3-4 Xboxes that red-ringed.  That being said, I know lots of people apparently had disc read problems with launch PS3s.  Even when mine died, it did so while a disc was in, and I had to take the #*%^@#$%@&$ apart to get the disc out.  PS3 isn’t perfect, just a better fit for me.  Because Xbox is a better fit for you doesn’t make you wrong, just different from me.  Everything has issues and we enjoy them in spite of them.

Even the chaos god of perfection isn’t perfect…poor, poor chaos god…

Understanding That a Difference of Opinion is OK:  It’s good to truly enjoy something.  If you immerse yourself entirely into the world of whatever your love may be (Star Trek or Star Wars, Final Fantasy, Mario, Legend of Zelda, X-Men etc…) it’s good for you.  Any kind of learning exercises the mind.  I even think it’s ok to drive your friends crazy with your enthusiasm.  You’ve learned ALL this stuff; you want to share it.  Your friends always have the right to say, “You know I’m a little tired of hearing about Spiderman…,” and if they do, that should be respected.  Going a step further, it’s even ok for them to say, “You know I really don’t like Spiderman…”  If they do, even though it may seem incomprehensible to your obsessed brain, it is OK too.  It doesn’t matter what it is, how popular, how important it is to your day, if someone else isn’t interested or doesn’t like it…they don’t like it and they aren’t crazy for having that opinion.  Recently I’ve seen TONS of this.  I was shown three episodes of Game of Thrones.  It was like a high-production value, fantasy realm soap opera to me.  I didn’t care for it.  I’ve had family and friends get me to watch some of Dr. Who.  It was mediocre sci-fi TV to me; I just couldn’t get into it.  I like Joss Whedon, but I don’t feel like trying Firefly right now.  I’m not WRONG for these beliefs.  Certainly not just because someone else thinks these are the greatest things ever.  If you absolutely despise Warhammer, or history, or boxing, or Lovecraft it doesn’t make you wrong just because I love them.  Again, what fits for you, isn’t necessarily what fits for me.  And judging each other because we don’t share obsessions doesn’t help anyone.

The Running Man audience. Definitely the worst kind of obsessed, bad fans!

Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off:  Debating is good.  If you want to explain to me WHY Christopher Nolan’s Batman films weren’t a pretentious drag that essentially told the same story three times (someone tries to make fear take over Gotham, so the city destroys itself…) feel free.  I will explain why I feel how I feel.  We can show counterpoints, logic, and conclusions — we can attempt to persuade through example.  It can be fun.  It can be enlightening.  It’s almost always mentally stimulating.  It’s a debate, and it’s good.  Arguing is bad.  Arguing is what occurs when respect and logic abandon a discussion in favor of bias and hostility.  If we’ve both made our points, repeating them or insisting, “You just don’t get it,” “You need to see it from the beginning,” or “I’m not surprised you don’t like it, you’re into stupid stuff like XXXX” doesn’t add to the discussion.  Once points are made and opinions finalized, if neither side budges, in the terminology of the Napoleonic Wars, we should both be allowed to “leave the field with our weapons and colors.”  It’s a sign of respect of each other and our opposing opinions and an acknowledgement that we’re agreeing to disagree.

Methinks any kind of debating with this guy…likely won’t be fair…

With all there is out there to become a fan of, no one can ever be a fan of everything, and even amongst the closest of relationships there are bound to be differences, sometimes VAST differences, of opinion.  If we all agreed on everything, imagine how dull life would be.  But it’s important, no matter how much you love something, how much you devote your life to it, and how much you know about it to respect the opinions of others who may be neutrally disinterested or actively opposed to it — even if they insist on sinking to the negative level — take the high road…people who take the low road probably do so often, and it won’t be in anyone’s best interest to pursue them into the depths.

And finally, maybe most importantly, share the things you are a fan of with those you care about as long as they are receptive, but not if they suggest they are not.  Our interests are a big part of showing who we are.  But people don’t necessarily need or want converting.  Respect that and respect them for their opinions, even if they directly oppose yours.  You’ve said poe-tay-toe, they’ve said poe-tah-toe…so yeah…

And just for fun…Christopher Walken’s sings!

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