It has been a longer series than I planned, but it helped get some of the frustrations I’ve experienced just being a fan in the current day and age. As a wrap up, I thought I’d do summation, kind of a quick-n-easy guide to being a good fan.
1.) Be Accepting, Not Exclusionist: It’s hard to become a fan of something if people who are already fan exclude you and deride you for not having been a fan as long as they have. Would you, as a neophyte, want such derision? If you are criticizing them for not being experts as neophytes, you are now part of the problem.
2.) Be Discerning for Personal Tastes, but Not Judgmental: It’s good to be critical and desire the “best” of things, but nothing’s perfect. And just because something isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean it’s bad.
3.) Constructive Criticism, Please: Be critical. Please everyone be critical — don’t just accept what’s been given to you — but be constructive in criticism. If it’s bad, how could it be better? If it could use improvement, how? If you don’t like it, why? If enough people say the same thing, maybe it can become something you’ll enjoy.
4.) Debate, Don’t Argue: Debating is very healthy for an active mind. Arguing is personal and taps into aggression. NOTHING you can be a fan of is worth real rage. Even the things I love the most I wouldn’t defend with violence. Even verbal violence. Would you win new fans that way?
5.) The Impermanence of All Things: Possibly most important, remember the impermanence of ALL the things we love. What we’re fans of today, we may not like tomorrow. The most important thing to our brains may only hold that position for a brief period. Before ending friendships, making new enemies, acting like a petulant child over the things we’re fans of, remember it’s just a thing that we like right now.
Of course there are many aspects to being a “good fan” and, of course, many opinions. It seems strange to think it all comes down to, “can’t we all just get along?” but hanging around the Internet long enough has gotten me to this point! I think we CAN all get along. I think various kinds of fans CAN get along, and many kinds of fans can exist within one person — you can be a fan of games, electronic entertainment, sports, literature, history, natural science, etc. I know you can be, because I am a fan of aspects of all those things. And if someone wanted to debate them or learn about them, I’d be happy to participate!
I feel sure there will be more topics on fandom that come up, and you can be sure I’ll be happy to post about them! Until then, I hope everyone makes the Internet a better place to be a fan!
This topic is one of the most alarming to me, it says a lot about the nature of our culture’s priorities and mentality. I’ll leave geek culture for a bit and enter the only part of the sports realm I know.
Manny Pacquiao circa 2003 was an incredible, but one-dimensional fighter. Aggressive, courageous, talented, fast, powerful. He had it all. He shocked challengers, from up and comers to established, brilliant, hard-fighting, more skilled boxers (Marco Antonio Barrera anyone? Styles really do make fights…). He his reputation increased when he stepped up from Featherweight to Super Featherweight to Lightweight. Even fighting a draw and disputed victory with Marquez, he was hailed for giving a great fight. He demolished champions, sometimes ferocious long-running champions like Ricky Hatton, crushed Oscar De La Hoya in a fight OSCAR sought, so he could beat the best fighter of the era and retire (thinking the little Pacquiao would be too small to be effective), pounded dangerous fighter Miguel Cotto. He did even more by fighting the massive but stationary Antonio Margarito. Manny’s showing some rust a bit now, but even worse, going all the way back to his conquest of De La Hoya, a fight many ring experts picked him to lose based on the legend and size of Oscar, fans started to turn against him.
“Overrated,” he “picks his fights,” “he’s limited in ability and just made to look good by fighting old, drained, and chosen fighters.” Media started to look into his private life. How’s his marriage? How are his taxes? What kind of business is he in? Is he overspending his money? He’s not that nice, he can’t be. His movie was a bomb. He lost his first election. Etc. Etc. Eeetttc…
It’s this kind of attitude I just can’t understand. We love you, we love you! Oh wait no we don’t. We hate you! We hate you!
It happens in so many areas of entertainment. TV shows are the “new” thing, then quickly abandoned as the “worst” thing. Bands and musical artists sell more than anyone ever has, then are quickly hated. Some of it is over-exposure. The “summer hit” rarely means the artist will be the next U2. For example: The Macarena. Biggest hit of the summer one year when I was in school… In the U.S., Los Del Rio never showed up again, and the dance and song Macarena went from national pastime to a reviled joke. The opinion changes from, “this is fun, this guy’s great, this show is the best” to not only “this isn’t good anymore” but to “this is the worst thing that ever existed and, not only that, but it always has been.” Then why did you love it six months ago? Like I said in the CBG post, maybe you’re the one who’s changed. If you hate the exact same song you loved six months ago, it may mean that you hate a little bit of who you were when you loved that song, too. Maybe that’s why we so violently turn against things.
With Pacquiao, I think it’s partially the change from “up and comer” to “made it.” For some reason, fans love the up and comer, but can’t wait for the NEXT up and comer. Once Manny made it, the only thing fans wanted to see was the next guy whose coming up to beat him. When no one really showed up (he beat Bradley…sorry guys) it just became, “I just want to see him beaten!” I haven’t quite pinpointed this mentality. It’s like the fans of a band who only like the underground stuff. Once they release a studio album, they “sold out” and are no longer worthy of our undying love. Like Maynard says though, they likely sold out long before you’d ever heard of them. Is the music still good? If the answer’s “yes” just sit back and enjoy it without complaining, “it was better when” just to be pretentious and snobbish.
On the other side of the coin, sometimes something that doesn’t last long causes outcry simply because it didn’t. Three popular examples: the original Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Edgar Wright collaboration Spaced, the UK Office, and Firefly. I haven’t seen the latter yet, but the other two were written to be limited in run. Firefly wasn’t, but many feel it was unjustly cancelled as it was a terrific sci-fi show. One of the things I feel about Spaced and the BBC Office is these shows were great because they were so short in their run. They packed hilarious good ideas into 14 episodes or so each and never grew stale, or made dumb sitcom mistakes. It makes me wonder if the same is true about other shows many feel ended before their time. If Firefly went 12 seasons, would it have been as incredible? Joss Whedon has been elevated into a geek god, but Buffy eventually ran out of steam… I can’t think of any shows that maintain the same level of quality throughout their run. I wonder if Spaced had gone into season 8 would it have had a fan outcry of “this show is terrible…it’s not what it used to be” — some fans say that about the difference between its TWO seasons, though fans of the first tend to agree both are terrific.
The only lesson I can think of with this is “enjoy what we have while we have it.” Fighters, as Marcellus Wallace said, “have a short shelf life and don’t age like wine.” Manny, Jones Jr., Tyson, Duran, Ali, all had great careers. They have (or will eventually) turn to vinegar in the ring. It’s the aging process. So why do we hate them for getting old and not being what they used to be? Stupid songs can be terrific fun. Almost ALL popular 80s music has that stupid sing-along quality that can grate at your brain. But still fun to sing along to! Even shows you loved as a kid that may seem incredibly lousy now (I’m thinking Thundercats), why hate them for being lousy now? Just love the fact that you loved them then.
Fans shouldn’t see things in black and white. It’s not the “greatest of all time” or, related to the last post the, “worst thing ever.” I think of them as “things I loved then,” “things I’m into now,” and of course, “things I can’t believe I ever liked!” All said with a smile. After all, we’re always changing; the things we love will change as we do. But we shouldn’t hate the things we used to love. They help explain who we were then and helped make us who we are today.
This is kind of a case study of the quintessential “bad fan.” Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons as a character pre-dates the spread of internet criticism, but it seems every forum, website that allows commentary, or YouTube video is packed with almost nothing but Comic Book Guys (hereafter referred to as “CBGs”).
What makes the CBG type such a bad fan? He’s the one who loves something so much he ends up obsessing about it without end; then his love (as love of anything can do) turns to passive-aggressive hatred. He can’t wait to take something he loves, and tell the world why it’s not good, not what it used to be, or somehow a “betrayal” of his obsessed loyalties. He knows everything about it. He’s the kind of “fan” who takes the time to learn all things about something (including it seems watching entire films in slo-o-o-o mo-o-o-o-tion) just so he can point out its flaws.
The most famous and now apparently meme-worthy quote ever uttered by CBG was from the “Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” episode of The Simpsons. After Poochie’s “hilariously unfunny debut” CBG commented that it was the “Worst. Episode. Ever.” And later went on to state that “As a loyal fan I feel they owe me.” To which Bart responds, “What could they owe you? They’ve given you thousands of hours of entertainment for free! If anything, YOU owe THEM!” CBG’s retort, “Worst. Episode. Ever.” This exchange pretty much sums up what bad fans like CBG are all about. There’s a bit of narcissism to them — they feel that entertainment is all about what should entertain them personally, and they are somehow owed this for their patronage. I can see CBG on every 4Chan, Bell of Lost Souls, YouTube, and TV show webpage I’ve ever been to. Even sometimes quoting CBG proudly, “Worst. ::WHATEVER::. Ever.”
In my Warhammer experience I see it a lot. Games Workshop comes out with new models. Annoying posters all say, then build on each other’s comments like, “Wow that’s ugly I won’t get one.” “Why are they so expensive!!! I’m quitting.” “They ruined xxx by changing the rule to do xxx.” Yet…they still sell the miniatures, special editions of books, and these people are coming to the site day after day…just to say how much they hate everything? One post I saw kind of summed these posts up, “Will you all quit complaining? You’re going to end up buying them…” I bet that person was right.
Another point is, like CBG did to Poochie (who was designed to be awful), focusing on something bad and channeling all fan hatred on it. Nothing shows this better than Jar-Jar Binks. People were severely disappointed with Phantom Menace. It was kind of a slow, mediocre movie, but it had its fun parts. I liked Darth Maul. But for some reason what everyone heaped their rage on was Jar-Jar Binks. He was almost a scapegoat. Fans didn’t like the movie like they thought they would, so it became Jar-Jar’s fault. I don’t find him any more annoying that C3P0 or the Ewoks honestly…But all the fury was directed right at him. I thought Anakin’s “chosen one” story was far more tired than the comic relief character.
I won’t say CBG doesn’t have a point; any kind of entertainment eventually suffers from its age. Again from that episode of The Simpsons, Lisa points out that over the years the innovation and characters can’t maintain the same impact they once had. To try to make the show, comic book, music, whatever fresh creators try all kinds of things. They add new characters, kill someone off (often only to bring them back…somehow), or totally change their style (say going from hard rock to techno or rap). Some fans actually love these changes. Some don’t. But I actually feel it’s more impactful to simply change one’s own behavior than complain without end about the new status of whatever you’re obsessing about.
Going back to The Simpsons, for its first 9 seasons it was close to my favorite show ever. After season 9 it seemed to get a bit “stupider” in its jokes and, to me, became more about watching Homer scream and guest stars. Now that was to ME. My response was to try it for a bit. Watch the odd one here and there…and then give it up. I haven’t watched a full episode since season 11. I didn’t continue to watch it just so I could go to the forums later and complain about how it was the Worst. Episode. Ever.
One of my favorites, that I came to very late, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love that Joss Whedon style of humor+drama+weird. But even it made the classic changes. It went for “introduce new character” (only kinda made sense, even in fantasy world), then “kill character” as options for extending its life. It was still great, but not as good. Same goes for Eureka. TERRIFIC sci-fi show. Then they went back in time, changed the reality, and kind of rebooted the show. Still great, but I personally preferred the original set up.
The same goes for The Walking Dead. Great show. Great story, fresh characters, interesting take on the zombie apocalypse. Halfway through last season I kind of lost interest. The show wasn’t any different really, but I just stopped watching unless I wanted to catch up later.
I’m not saying voicing your opinion isn’t positive. But it should be constructive and not just bitching for bitching’s sake. Constructive complaints are what happened with Futurama. The show was cancelled. The fanbase came together and made its support so publicly known that they eventually released new episodes on DVD and then returned to TV (sadly ending this year…). THAT is how fans should work. The constructive way to voice your beliefs about something you’re a fan of is to do so positively, seeking to change what’s wrong, not just repeating what you don’t like in snarky and anonymous form in the internet. The positive way I expressed my dislike for the newer Simpsons was to stop watching. I didn’t like it, but people do, so why should I spend my time complaining a.) The show is bad now, b.) These new stupid fans are the reason it’s bad c.) They should just go back to “the way it was.” Who am I to say what other people should like? New fans like the new version, they shouldn’t make a show just for me…and maybe, just maybe, I’m the one who changed. Maybe the things I once obsessed about don’t, as Lisa said, have the same impact.
So many of us fans still watch shows they no longer love just to make bad jokes (usually just quotes from something else, or different versions of memes that have been around since 2006) on forums and sites later. THAT’S being a bad fan I think. If the toys you once loved aren’t fun anymore…stop playing with them, and maybe, pick up something new. It’s the only way to grow. Staying with the same-old-same-old that you now hate is to decay. Again, it only breeds hostility and negativity. Why do that to yourself, or worse, inflict your negativity on others?
The Simpsons gave us many perfect caricatures of nerd fans. I remember one who asked, “In episode 2F09, when Itchy plays Scratchy’s skeleton like a xylophone, he strikes that same rib twice in succession, yet he produces two clearly different tones. I mean, what are we to believe that this is some sort of a…a magic xylophone or something? Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.” Homer’s response, “I’ll field this one. Let me ask you a question. Why would a man whose shirt says “Genius at Work” spend all of his time watching a children’s cartoon show?” Yep. That about sums it up.
For the sake of all fans, please don’t be the Comic Book Guy…
The next post ties into this one, Don’t Build Them Up Just to Tear Them Down.
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.
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.
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…
It’s interesting that people judge your level of interest based on when and how you first discovered said interest. This feels like it’s been around forever and pertains to any kind of fan. I remember in middle school “true” Nirvana fans looked down their noses at the ones who just liked Nevermind. It was the “pop” album. The “sellout” album. And a great album. Instead of sharing the interest with the newcomers and welcoming them, they were thought of as “posers” and not really into the grunge scene.
Recently I’ve seen it occur with other things. I’ll give some examples of a few that I’ve found through other means, and I believe it doesn’t make me any less of a fan than those who have been with it from first release, day one:
Warhammer/Warhammer 40k: I admit freely that the Space Marine PS3 game got me into it. From there, I played the Dawn of War games, started reading the books, collecting miniatures (I have four 40k armies and two fantasy armies) and playing practice games. It doesn’t make me any less of a fan that I found it through the video game, and since discovering the world and hobby, I’ve done my best to learn all about it. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m still a fan of it and love every aspect of the world and gameplay.
The Dresden Files: A friend at my previous job recommended the TV show to me based on our similar interests. I thought the show was a great, fun, and an innovative take on fantasy and magic + detective story. So I picked up the first book and was hooked. I’ve read all of them but the last one (I’m in the midst of another reading marathon right now…). They’re obviously different from the show, but like Jim Butcher himself said, the show is the show, the books are the books, they aren’t the same thing and are to be appreciated differently. Just because I found the books due to the show, doesn’t mean I appreciate the books any less than someone who found the books first.
Frank Sinatra and The Ink Spots: I first heard lots of Frank Sinatra music in the mediocre rom/com What Women Want. I loved what I heard and got a box set right after I saw the film, and I still periodically listen to it as great background music that is also a blast to sing along to. The Ink Spots I first heard in Fallout 3. Loved the tenor and melodies and they introduced me to the world of 30s and 40s jazz. I actually remember listening to a new Ink Spots song on YouTube and seeing a comment “God I’m so sick of people who found them because of Fallout showing up here…” Even then, all I could think is “Why? Can’t anyone appreciate good music?”
It’s this last judgment I see constantly. I’ve even seen a meme “I liked the book before it had the movie poster as a cover.” Reading that one I think the same thing, “So? Does that somehow make you better or a bigger fan, who for some reason appreciates the book more? We’ve both read and enjoy them.” I go back to something James Rolfe said when discussing MonsterVision, “to be a fan of anything, you have to be exposed to it first.” Maybe some fans don’t spend as much time in used bookstores, or scrounging through old records, or browsing the Web, or didn’t grow up in a house where reading, playing games, or listening music was something they “did.” It DOES happen after all.
So why, because I found out about something via adjunct media, does it make me less of a fan? I’d like to think that people who share common interests, who reach the same destination, can be more open and accepting rather than exclusionary no matter how they got there. We don’t need to take the hipster route of fandom! If someone says to me, “Oh I love Lord of the Rings I read them all right after I saw the movies!” I don’t roll my eyes and judge them because they saw the movies first. My first thought is, “How did you like them in comparison? What do you wish they should have included/left out of the film? Read anything else or seen any other films in the genre, maybe I’d like what you’ve found!”
Thinking on those terms expands the culture instead of limiting it. And the more we expand it, the more there is for all of us to enjoy!
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.
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.