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Fandom Toxicity

Do you have a favorite TV show, book, video game, YouTube channel, or movie? Does it have a passionate fandom?

Fandoms are really interesting to me. I’ve always been a “fan” of things, and I love many of the things that super passionate fandoms create. I loved reading Harry Potter fan fiction in high school when it was at it’s height. I love watching Delena (The Vampire Diaries) and Captain Swan (Once Upon a Time) romantic moment compilations on YouTube. I love looking at fanart of Sailor Moon or Mario or Zelda or Disney characters. I love consuming much of the amazing thoughts, art, and tributes that my favorite fandoms produce, and even contributing to the fandoms myself as I sometimes write about my predictions or hopes for my favorite TV shows here on my blog and on YouTube.

But not everything that passionate fandoms create is beautiful and happy.  I’ve been noticing lately that some of my favorite fandoms have a creeping layer of toxicity under the surface that I’m rather disappointed with.

What seems to be happening is that fans have SUCH a vehement connection to a show/movie/game/character/creator that they feel a sense of ownership over it.  So that when something happens that doesn’t fit with the narrative that they cling to, there is a violent backlash.

To illustrate this a bit, take the Once Upon a Time fandom. I’ve written about the show on the blog here a bit so you know that I love this show. You should also probably know at this point that I have a bit of an addiction to reading online comments (see this vlog for the full confession). Combine these two together, you get me realizing that a show with a lot of distinct storylines and characters opens itself up for some EXTREME rivalry. Like there are people who love Regina and the Evil Queen and who ship Regina and Emma (not just as amazing friends and co-moms like they’ve become on the show but an actual romantic relationship despite there being no signs on the show of such a possibility so far). There are those who love Emma and Captain Hook together and those who think Hook is “trash.” There are those who desperately want Rumple and Belle to find a happy ending and others who think it’s an abusive relationship. Differing opinions on who should be the main focus of the show or who should end up with who is totally normal when it’s an ensemble cast. But if you hang out on Twitter or Facebook or even the Once Upon a Time Wiki long enough, you’ll find people pretty violently attacking each other for their opinions! That’s not what should be happening in a fandom! Isn’t it supposed to be a place where you can share your mutual love for a thing?

Many times it extends to the actors or writers themselves with attacks on their character or physical appearance or spreading questionable rumors about “who’s dating who” or “who hates who” among the cast. A few good examples here come from the Pretty Little Liars fandom (which as a whole I think is actually less toxic than many of the other shows I love, but I suspect it’s because fans have been kept in the dark so much about what’s actually going on). When Sasha Pieterse who plays Allison, the notorious “dead girl” on which the show was based around, ended up not being dead and became a regular on the show, fans attacked her weight viciously, wondering if she was pregnant when in fact, she’d simply grown up (she’d filmed the pilot episode when she was only 13, the youngest of the all the “Liars”), filled out, and discovered she had a hormone imbalance. Similarly, fans speculate on riffs happening between the PLL actresses, claiming that because Troian Bellisario (Spencer), Ashley Benson (Hanna), and Shay Mitchell (Emily) have posted photos together that they are somehow on the outs with Lucy Hale (Aria).

It just makes me wonder, why are some fans are so obsessed with something that they take it beyond just enjoying it and celebrating in a community of like-minded individuals to the point of critiquing every aspect of the story, the creators, or the actors.  Is it because they think they could do a better job? Is it because love turns into misguided ownership? Is it because the immediacy of social media has given the impression that fans have more control over a piece of art than they really do?

Fans and fandoms, of course, have a big voice in the content they love in this digital age, but it’s still up to the creators as to how much control they actually allow fans to have. You can’t just yell about something on social media because it doesn’t fit your “vision” and expect something to change. If you really want it to be different, make fan art or fan fiction.  Create your own version to satisfy your burning passion for a thing. You’ll probably find someone else who enjoys it!

But all the outrage isn’t helping anyone. It just makes for a toxic environment in a community that’s supposed to be about shared passion.  Respectful debate is one thing. It contributes to the awesomeness of fandoms because obviously we’ll have differing opinions, but letting it devolve into hate and trolling and rumor spreading to either hurt other fans or the very people who make the thing inspiring the fandom is just a waste of the potential that fandoms have.

Communities of people who have a shared passion are incredibly powerful. Spread the love, friends! Not hate!

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First-time Job Hunting Tips for the Creative Industry

Until recently, I’ve pretty much always been on the “interviewee” side of the job interview equation.  But my current job (which recently had its grant extended for a second year, yay!) started the process of hiring a student assistant video editor. This is both exciting (because help!), but also a bit nerve wracking because it meant that I would be looking at resumes, interviewing candidates, and deciding who I would trust to work with me on this project.

It’s a weird and awkward process, and I don’t envy anyone who has to do it. But since I know what it’s like to spend several years job hunting as well as trying to break into an entry level position, I thought I might round up some observations for first-time job hunters. I know the insight I gained from interviewing would have helped me immensely when I was in their shoes!

Getting the Interview

The one time I was previously involved in the hiring process, I didn’t have to pick through resumes. My supervisor had done that for me and we just interviewed the 8 or so candidates together. So my perusal of resumes was to get the basics. I wasn’t really weeding anyone out that way.

But for my most recent experience, we ended up with about 35 resumes. And while my supervisor and I both went through the resumes, it really fell to me to decide who to interview because I’m the technical expert on the project. And that was a little daunting of a task.

I found through my resume sifting that I favor a few things:

  1. A unique layout → I definitely gravitated toward resumes that weren’t “average” looking. I know this doesn’t apply to all fields, but in a creative field, an interesting looking resume is a must if you want to stand out.
  2. Having a reel/website/work samples → Since I needed to know their skill level in After Effects, it was much easier to skim through their work visually rather than trying to parse it out by just their resume.
  3. A skills list → Having worked in After Effects was really important and because there were so many resumes it was easier to throw out resumes that didn’t prominently list After Effects as a skill. It might have been reasoned that they’d worked with the program from something else in their resume, but if the job posting says you need X skills, make sure you list those skills out if you have them.
  4. A cover letter/statement of interest → A resume is important, but I was much more apt to linger on a resume if they had also included a cover letter or a note in the “additional information” section explaining why they wanted the position. Only about 10 of the 35 applicants did this, and almost all of the applicants we interviewed did.
  5. No extraneous/unrelated job history → While it looks like a “full” resume from a glance, if you’re trying to get a job as a video editor, I don’t need to know that you worked at JCPenney or a summer camp. I know it shows that you can hold a job and maybe that you have leadership skills, but I feel a bit tricked when I read through your work experience and none of it pertains to video production. I would rather see no “traditional” work experience section and instead a section on projects you’ve worked on and explanations for what you did. (One of the applicants we interviewed had just that.)

Acing the Interview

I’ll be honest with you and say that after our four interviews, we weren’t really any closer to knowing who to pick.  Not because they were bad interviews, but because with students and an entry-level position like this, everything feels about the same.

It really came down to “who did I like best?” That’s a hard thing for me. It’s far too subjective. And I spend too much time second-guessing myself and my motives to make a decision like that.  But I did notice a few things that ultimately helped me decide:

  1. Being overconfident and overqualified can be a detriment →  We ended up not choosing the applicant I thought would be a shoo-in because they were SO qualified. Not that they were really THAT much more qualified than the other candidates but they had an actual reel (which as a college student, I knew I needed to have, but never seemed to find the time to make) and had demonstrable evidence of doing lots of different editing and motion graphics for several projects and companies. I had no doubt that they would do whatever I asked them and do it well.  But because they could show their experience doing so MANY things, something felt lacking.
  2. Vague statements about why you left a previous job are unsettling → My supervisor helped make the first cut because she found concern in one interviewee’s vagueness about their previous employment “just not working out.”  Honestly, this didn’t really bother me much until my supervisor pointed it out and then it became a glaring problem that ultimately took them out of the running.  The vagueness around the statement made us think, “Would this job, ‘just not work out’ for them too? Would we be left in the lurch?”  This is a good place to point out that you should avoid giving vague statements like this. We asked if this previous job would affect their work hours and they answered with the “it didn’t work out” statement. A much better way to have handled this would have been to give us just a bit more information as to why or how it didn’t work. Over-explaining things like this is NOT a bad thing!
  3. Being “too busy” may make your interviewers question how high of priority this job is → I’m so guilty of this. I like to show ALL the things I’m doing because to me, it shows initiative and work ethic, but in this case, we found it made us question this applicant’s priorities. Would we be ditched for a more interesting looking internship when the going got tough?
  4. Make sure you say you want the job and why, it may be just what sets you apart → The applicant we ended up offering the job to was not the one during the interview that I thought we would pick. They were rather shy, even if very qualified.  But what ended up standing out over everyone was that they expressed that they WANTED the job very much and how the job fit in with their professional goals. It’s funny that something as simple as “Hey! I want to do this job!” would make a difference. You’d think that coming to the interview would make that obvious. But there’s something heartening to an interviewer to hear it genuinely spoken.

For first-time job hunters in the creative industry, I know it’s incredibly hard to stand out and get the job. (Been there! Done that!) Sometimes you have to take jobs that don’t exactly fit with your long-term goals in order to get your foot in the door. But if you’re at least using and improving some of your skills, it’s 100% worth it. I hope that some of these resume and interview tips will strike a chord with you and help you improve your next job hunt! I know I wish I’d know some of these things before!

 

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Celebrating Women | International Women’s Day 2017

A day like today has never seemed so important, but the current social and political climate has made the desire to celebrate women and the privileges I benefit from on a daily basis that were hard-fought and won by women who would not just sit down and shut up and let the men do the governing/voting/working/”insert thing women have been told not to do because it’s a man’s thing.”  Because I have so many more privileges than say, women in the 1950s or 1850s or, dare I say it, 1450s *shivers,* I can see how easy it would be to say, “Women are already equal! Stop whining and moaning for no reason!” I can see how it might look like women are 100% equal from certain point-of-views (both male and female!) I can see how rally cries against something that you don’t see as a problem or even existing can be exhausting.

But I also know how exhausting it is to be a woman in today’s society. No matter the rights that have been won for me, there is still so much work to be done. (And so much work to do to keep the rights that were previously won too!)  It comes in many different forms.  Organizing rallies and protests for the activist soul. Teaching your children how to recognize and understand sexism’s historical and current influence on our society. (This sounds lofty, but it’s really as simple as “Hey, did you know women AND men can make sandwiches? For each other even!”) Making art that portrays your experience or calls out wrongs you see in the world. Leading by example in whatever field you might be working.

I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say today on this topic, and my problem is that there’s too much! But most of it is calling out wrongs, and I’ve found that when I do that, while I might connect with a few, the louder voices always seem to be those who so viscerally disagree with me that rather than trying to understand my point-of-view, they call me names and dismiss me because of the way I look or something related to my gender. So rather than opening that proverbial can of worms, I thought I’d throw some confetti in the air and celebrate women with a few truths I like to hold close to my heart.

 

We are all our own superheroes. Don’t ever let anyone beat you down to the point of convincing you otherwise.

Women helping women is a beautiful and powerful thing. (This is something that took me a long time to realize because I didn’t understand “sisterhood” until I actually made close, REAL female friends. I think it’s completely possible for a woman to go through life without really connecting with or trusting other women. And I’m so glad that I was able to crawl out of that terrible, lonely hole).

All bodies are beautiful. All colors. All sizes. Every jiggle or scar or muscle or patch of hair. They are also not inherently sexual, no matter their level of covering. Take back your body. Love your body for what it is and how you wish to wear it.

In other words, love yourself. Love others. Make the world a better place by being the truest version of you.

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Sailor Moon and the Power of Female Friendship

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One of the things I include in “My Favorite Things” video is Sailor Moon, and as I was editing down my passion-filled ravings to fit in the allotted video time, I realized that my love for Sailor Moon deserves a bit more than a shout-out in a video. It’s still one of my favorite things to this day. (And I eagerly await the next season of Sailor Moon Crystal). But it was also an extremely influential part of my childhood.

I had a hard time making female friends growing up. Scratch that. I still have a hard time making female friends, but at least now I have a greater understanding for what’s causing it than I did when I was a kid. As an awkward 11-year-old, I felt like a fish out of water with large groups of girls. Sometimes I would make a connection with one girl for a while, but eventually my “best friend” would (from my perspective) be stolen away by another “cooler” girl or group. I was inconsolably lonely for a long time. I knew female friendship was important from an objective point-of-view, but I just couldn’t seem to find other girls who I authentically connected with.

I had female “friends.” I was invited to various sleepovers and pool parties and birthday celebrations over the years. But I always remember being a bit of an outsider no matter how hard I tried to connect or the other girls attempted to be accepting. I remember one sleepover with a group of girls I considered to be the “popular” crowd when I was 8 or 9. They watched the Spice Girls and performed their own choreography to the music and snuck into some of their mom’s makeup and gave each other makeovers and had a fashion show. I remember feeling so very out of place. I’d never heard of the Spice Girls (i.e. I was pretty sheltered). I knew I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or short-shorts. And even though this was all just fun and games into the late-night, it felt like a violation of my core values. Even though I wanted to fit in and have friends, this wasn’t the way I felt comfortable doing it.

Instead, I spent a large portion of my childhood and teen years imagining what my “real” best friends would be like. While I couldn’t seem to find a best friend in my everyday life, I was still convinced that she was out there. There were just dark forces keeping us apart like in my favorite TV shows and movies.

Consequently, I devoured the magical girl genre–in anime, books, and movies. And Sailor Moon was always at the forefront. It was a much less distressing idea to my fantasy-obsessed child self that dark forces were separating me from my true friends rather than accepting that I didn’t have any female friends.

Instead, I drew cartoon sketches of how my imagined friends would look and wrote detailed notes about their likes and dislikes, taste in fashion and TV, and of course, their magical powers. I imagined stories for us: how we would find one another, how we would save the world, what our nemesis would be like. Essentially, I reconciled my loneliness and lack of female companionship with the tools that shows like Sailor Moon gave me. That I was a special “magical girl” and I would find my friends and place in the world once I came into my magical powers.

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Maybe it seems sad to you. Maybe you had a really amazing childhood with close friends or you didn’t feel as outcast as I did by struggling to make friends so this seems a little foreign to you.  But for me, even though my “best friends” as a child were imagined magical girls inspired by anime, Sailor Moon gave me peace. I struggled a lot with the need to be loved and accepted but also my inherent desire to be myself and invariably stand-out. And I was in the unfortunate situation of not finding the connection I desperately wanted with other girls despite how much I craved it.

So I never became a magical girl (at least not yet!), but I did find female friends as I grew older (especially once I went to college). And I found what Sailor Moon had taught me about female friendship still held true.

That it’s not about finding people that are exactly like you, but rather finding those girls who compliment you. (And no I don’t mean “Oh I love you outfit” kind of compliments). What was cool about Sailor Moon was that the Sailor Scouts each had their own unique powers and personality and they were always more powerful when combined. Two Usagi’s would probably destroy the world rather than save it (she’s just a bit too clumsy, ya know?) But throw in Ami, Rei, Makoto, and Minako, and you have a pretty powerful team.

When I started to understand female friendship this way, I felt like I really began to grow as a friend to other women. Because of the experiences I had as a kid and tween, I was fearful of trusting my friendship with other women for a long time. I always assumed I would be quickly and easily judged unworthy or weird and cast aside for someone else. But I started to learn that my weirdness (rather my uniqueness, one might even say, my “magical power”) was valuable to a friendship. Because these other girls had their own weirdness/uniqueness too. We had our similarities (in Sailor Moon it’s a love for Sailor V and the need to save the universe) like wanting to make movies or loving to sing or having the same favorite color or being introverts which initially brought us together. But it was our “magical powers” that grew our friendship as we learned more about each other and from each other.

Women and especially female friendship is many times characterized by cattiness and backstabbing. And it generally just sounds unpleasant. Like women can’t actually be friends because it’s all a competition for who’s the prettiest and can get the most guys to chase after her. I know there are women that do this. But this is not true female friendship. It’s far more powerful and meaningful than that. It’s really just as magical as the Sailor Scouts if you learn to be open and loving and celebrate other women’s “magic” rather than tear it down, cast it out, or label it as undesirable.

So this is a story about a girl who couldn’t find a connection with other girls like she so desired. But who, over time, learned about the “magic” in each of us and started to trust and respond to others who also recognized it. And in doing so, found other women who inspired and awed her. And made up her own magical girl gang. 🙂

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