We are seriously at a tipping point when it comes to being of a fan of anything these days, especially franchises that have been standing tall for a long time.
I’ve always heard and accepted that the word “fan” is just short for fanatic, and given the nature of our passion for movies, TV shows, video games, books, comics and anything else, it seemed a fitting description, albeit in a joking sense. No one really wants to be considered a fanatic.
That’s for good reason too because the definition is none too flattering:
Add the word “shill” to that list of synonyms and this could be very personal for some people.
The thing is, we can’t joke about this stuff anymore, at least not the same as we used to, because more than we’ve ever seen before, fans are displaying the behavior of true fanatics and it’s a not a good look. In fact, it’s a disgustingly ignorant look.
This isn’t new, right? All of us have dealt with this stuff in fandoms for years, even before social media became the addictive beast that it is today. Personally, this started for me with Star Trek back in 2009 when the more purist elements of the fanbase took aim at J.J. Abrams’ first film because of how much it decimated their “perfect” view of The Original Series. I seriously know people that wanted the movies to be 60’s style lighting, sound and sets depicting the “push-button click” future that William Shatner and company embodied for three seasons around the time of the Civil Rights Movement. Any deviation from that is nothing short of heresy to them.
It’s the same with the people who grew up with Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman from 1978 to 1987 and blame Zack Snyder for “ruining their childhood” by casting Henry Cavill in a modernized version of the role that gave the character more emotional weight and confliction, ironically the same kind that Superman had dealt with time and time again in the comics by certain writers and artists. To hear these angry fans and bloggers tell it though, there’s ONLY the version they know and love and that’s it. Everything else is irrelevant noise that they don’t want to hear.
Now we see this heavily entitled behavior within the Star Wars fandom, punctuated by a recent revelation that actress Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose Tico in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, removed all her Instagram postings from her account because of constant harassment from those who disliked her performance and the movie itself. We’re all fully aware of how polarizing a movie The Last Jedi has been since it released and Tran has been one of the prime targets for fanboy hatred from the beginning, with people calling her character pointless, a complete waste and going so far as to call it “SJW feminine nonsense.”
That last one is the real nasty kicker. I mean, how dare a franchise like Star Wars that has longtime extolled the values of peace, harmony and balance in the galaxy cast an Asian actress as a new supporting character for the franchise’s future, alongside the female lead they cast in Daisy Ridley’s Rey and her black former stormtrooper friend Finn, played by John Boyega. Spare me the rationalizations about their character design and what you think was “wrong” about them, it should have nothing to do with their race or gender, and yet far too many “fans” have circled the wagons about that very subject and it started well before anything changed in The White House over the past few years.
I remember the backlash over Boyega being cast as a black stormtrooper before The Force Awakens released. I remember outcries over Ridley’s starring role and later Felicity Jones’ turn as Jyn Erso, the female protagonist for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. There are seriously times when it feels like so many self-entitled white males that have been clinging to this franchise since they were young boys are lashing out against any notion of it changing or evolving to include the rest of us. Luke Skywalker is my favorite character in the entire franchise and as far as I’m concerned, he went out like a boss and it ruins nothing for me. I’m ready for new stories with Rey, Finn, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron AND Rose. Maybe especially Rose now.
I’ve always hated the phrase “ruined my childhood” and I have never hated it more than I do at this moment in time. It’s stupid, childish and flat out ignorant to say. The direction that any of these franchises take from here on out does absolutely nothing to ruin my childhood memories of the first time my grandma showed me The Empire Strikes Back and created the geeky monster I am today. Henry Cavill and Zack Snyder’s take on Superman does nothing to affect my memories of watching Superman ’78 for the first time, or any other time after that. J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin have all but honored Star Trek the Original Series with their recent films and I can still sit down and enjoy a binge watch of TOS or any other Star Trek series without anything being “ruined” for me. Stop saying your childhood is ruined by these new movies because the truth is that the only one ruining anything is you. You are a human being in control of your own thoughts and feelings and the only way other things affect you is if you allow it, like I am allowing the behavior of these idiots to provoke me into writing this piece in the first place, but at least this is a constructive outlet for it.
The ”people” who believe that any of these new films ruin what they loved about the franchises in the past are insecure, antiquated, fragile dilettantes, and it doubly sucks that so many of these idiots have blogs, YouTube channels and social media profiles to spew their whiny, self-entitled hatred all over the place. If they go so far as to harass people like Kelly Marie Tran, Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson or Zack Snyder for it, then they need to start going to meetings and get a serious grip on life. That’s been a longtime joke with geeks, that we all take this stuff too seriously and need to get a real life outside of the fiction. Well, the truth is that for some of us, that’s absolutely the case. Dangerously so.
Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with fandom in principle and mostly in operation. If you feel extremely connected and passionate about the things that you enjoy, that is a great thing and you should be able to share that passion with others who share it back with you, but if it emboldens you to the point of entitlement, where you feel that you are owed anything and have the right to attack, harass and drag creatives and other fans for taking or liking an approach to the material that differs from your own preference, you are beyond ignorant and no longer represent rationality for the fanbase you claim as your own. Rational and REAL fans can accept different viewpoints and styles over the course of a franchise, even if they have a preference. They don’t have to like the other viewpoints, but they can still respect them and those who do like them. That’s called tolerance and ironically, it’s a theme that most of these franchises embody in their messages. Sadly, it seems that far too many “fans” missed that part of the message entirely.
Don’t be one of those fans, please. It doesn’t matter how much you hated Rose’s character or The Last Jedi in general, and it doesn’t matter how much any movie disappoints you when you go see it. There’s never an excuse for harassment, ignorance or outright bigotry to make your point. If you think there ever is, then you are what is truly toxic for all fandoms and you need to GTFO. Period.
And just so we are clear, this includes all of the bloggers and YouTubers that perpetuate the situation with their own entitlement encouragement. Clickbait might get you more traffic but it doesn't do anything to make the situation less toxic. They need to be better too. I'm sure many of them are outraged by the Kelly Marie Tran situation as they should be, but you hope they are also taking the time to look at their own social media history and their own YouTube videos and podcasts and check whether or not they are part of the problem as well.