“Some men just want to watch the world burn”- Alfred, Batman Begins
Being part of a fandom is fantastic…usually
You get to meet new people, discuss the things you love, connect with fellow fans, and above all create a sense of community.
But something that people forget is that fandoms by its very name are derived from the word fanatic. We have all been guilty of obsessively studying the books or movies, writing fanfic, drawing and shipping characters and getting into very passionate arguments about the material. And for the most part this is fine, but sometimes it goes too far and sometimes, very sadly, it goes toxic.
Now Coins of McGuffin is all about celebrating fandoms, but unlike the Jedi, we believe it is important to understand both the light and the dark and those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. If you are part of one of the fandoms mentioned this is not an attack on you. You might be the single light in a sea of darkness but if you have found yourself perhaps partaking in some of this less than exemplary behaviour hopefully this will be the nudge to put you back on the right path.
So what makes a fandom go toxic? What makes a group of men and women turn into bullies and horrible people? Well there might be many factors, but usually it boils down to one thing…entitlement.
If you feel that any deviation from the cannon is a sin against nature, you are part of the problem. If you feel the interpretation of a character doesn’t meet your expectations and therefore wrong, you are part of the problem. However it doesn’t mean you ARE the problem, only part of it. Everyone has their own thoughts and perceptions and disagreeing and arguing about it is perfectly healthy, but as soon as you start inflicting your will and forcing others to agree with you, then your entitlement becomes toxic.
The most recent case file we can look at is the Steven Universe fandom.
Steven Universe is a US cartoon about a boy and three magical humanoid aliens known as “The Crystal Gems” and the adventures they get up to. It is hailed by many as champion for showcasing LGBT+ relationships, positive body image and complex story telling between characters. It is also notorious for being one of the most toxic fandoms on the internet.
The storyboard artist for the show Lauren Zuke left twitter and deleted her account after harassment from fans regarding shipping certain characters.
In 2015 a fan artist by the username Zamii070 was bullied by the fandom on Tumblr and she attempted to commit suicide. The reason? She depicted the character Rose Quartz (traditionally a big boned/chubby character) as ‘too thin’. Fans tagged her artwork with the hashtag #fatphobia and she received wave after wave of hateful comments which lead to her hospitalisation after the attempt.
Jumping to a different fandom in the Harry Potter universe, recently a stage play called “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” came out which is the confirmed eighth story in the series. It shows the cast of Harry, Ron and Hermione all grown up with children of their own. It also has cast Noma Dumezweni, a black actress, in the role of Hermoine.
The internet lost its mind since the movies had Emma Watson as the teptichular even though the books never say what skin colour she was.
Eventually author JK Rowling stepped in saying that yes, Hermonie’s skin colour was never mentioned in the books and that she fully supports the casting of a black actress for the role.
A lot of this hate comes back to fan’s feeling entitled. THEIR version of Hermonie has always been white so how dare someone else envision her differently. THEIR version of Rose Quatz is a cute chubby character and how DARE someone portray her in any other body type image. And of course the hatred of someone putting two fictional characters together in a non-cannon story is TOTALLY justified in giving hate to one of the people who helped bring the show to life because the fan thinks this OTHER COUPLE would be a better ship.
This entitlement is what makes fandoms, and in fact anything, toxic.
Just over 90 years ago, men felt entitled that women should not get the vote in decisions of government. Less than 55 years ago, people felt entitled that white people and black people should be segregated, and less than 1 year ago, traditionalists thought entitled that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
Some things you are entitled to- safety, healthcare, clean water, human rights. These things were and in some place still are being fought for and if you don’t believe these should be given to everyone, you obviously gave up your humanity a long time ago. But believing your feelings, your viewpoint, or your ships are more valid, more important, more ENTITLED than anyone else’s, perhaps you have too much toxic in you.
Remember, we live in a world of diversity so please be kind to each other and before you type in a comment section nasty and hate filled comments based solely on someone’s opinion, ask yourself if this is what you truly wish to be.
Leave a comment on why you think certain fandoms create a toxic environment and what can we do to fix the problem.