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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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Haters Gonna Hate

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The Internet is a scary place. It’s filled with trolls and jerks and unhappy people looking to spread their unhappiness by commenting cruel things anonymously on other people’s work. I don’t think I’m popular enough on the Internet to feel the true brute force of the troll community, but I do get my fair share of mean people on my YouTube channel.

It’s a funny thing too because the point of my channel is to be a place of positivity and support for people trying to accept themselves as they are. So to seek me out and then say such nasty things seems rather contradictory, don’t you think? One series of comments hit me hard recently because I was already in a not-so-happy place. As you can see below, two separate people decided to publicly tell me that I basically needed to die. Thanks guys!

Haters 6I posted the screenshot on my personal facebook page and I received an outpouring of love and support from friends. Which despite what it might have seemed, wasn’t the reason I posted it. I wasn’t searching for reassurance or attention. I wasn’t trying to drum up pity from friends or get more views on my videos. It’s just hard for me to read those things alone in my room and move on from them. I want more of the world to be witness to the cruelty that people dole out. And if anyone ever thinks about posting a nasty comment on someone else’s video or blog or online contribution to think twice.

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Those haters are gonna hate, man.
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I got a lot of Taylor Swift-esque “haters gonna hate so shake it off” advice which I did do eventually. But the sting took a little longer to wear off this time. These comments were specifically reminiscent of the shooting that happened at WDBJ7 in my area only a few days prior. I was already upset about the entire situation and loss of life, especially of a young woman of 24—so close to my own age and aspirations—that the suggestion that I should die in a similar fashion (and because of the videos I make, at that!) was rather traumatizing.

Why do people write such horrific things?

I don’t know.

How could someone sleep at night knowing they’re possibly saying something that could give someone the final nudge off the edge toward ending their life?

I don’t think they realize the seriousness of what they’re doing.

When will the trolls stop?

Probably never. But we can at least all individually stop being trolls. There are always going to be unhappy people filling the world with unhappiness, but we don’t have to participate. I like to publicly post the hurtful things trolls say because it’s a form of healing for me. It takes away their power when I’m the one posting it and framing it in the ridiculous manner that it really should be viewed in and when the audience reading it knows that nothing in it is true because that audience knows me personally not just through the internet.

So don’t be trolls.

And help someone else “shake it off” if they are ever a victim of Internet trolling.

Because the haters are gonna hate. But we can fight back with positivity!

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This is me shaking it off like Taylor Swift.

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Five Reasons Being “Cool” is Overrated

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When you’re in middle school, you eat, breathe, and live “coolness.”  Most likely, you’re not part of the “cool crowd” because that’s reserved for only a select demographic, but you want to be in that group desperately. Maybe if you buy those latest tennis shoes or cut your hair like the most notorious celebrity, they’ll notice you, and you can begin your ascent into the heavenly realm of “coolness.”

But seriously, is “coolness” really all that cool? Is it even a real thing? When you’re young and naïve, there is absolutely no question of “coolness’s” clout, but once you reach your twenties, it doesn’t quite hold up the same importance. Sure, there are still people trying to convince themselves that they have style and “swag” and fame—that is, the adult definitions of “cool”—but is it really worth all the trouble?

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I recently had someone comment on one of my videos to say that I “try too hard to be funny and ‘cool’” which I thought rather interesting. At first, I just rolled my eyes: “People are mean. Get over it, Kaitlyn.”  Then I realized that no one had ever made that kind of comment before. Sure, people tell me I’m ugly or stupid or “not funny,” but no one had ever claimed I was trying unsuccessfully to be “cool.” Then it became funny for me because I have never been “cool” nor would I ever try to be “cool.” I learned a long time ago that “coolness” is overrated.  Not just because I wasn’t part of the “cool” crowd, but because I realized it did nothing to enrich my life.

1.) “Coolness” doesn’t make you friends.

I don’t know if it’s movies or books or just grade school folklore, but somewhere during our maturation we come to believe that if we are “cool” and “popular”” then we will have lots of friends and be happy because of it.  No one likes to point out the dark half of this idea: that your “popular” friends are only worried about one thing, maintaining their own popularity.  Friendships are supposed to be based on mutual interests, care, and compassion for one another.  When all you care about is how “cool” you are, how can you have compassion and concern for other people?  What kind of a mutual interest is that anyway?  I imagine I would tire of discussing how popular I am all the time.  And yet somehow, this fake friendship is so enticing to our youth and really anyone who feels like an “outsider” to society.

2.) “Coolness” doesn’t help you excel at anything.

Maybe having straight A’s on your report card isn’t your ideal goal, but striving for “coolness” takes up your time and mental real estate that might have been better utilized for your own personal growth endeavors.  When you’re always worrying about your social status, how can you achieve any other goals?  If your whole life’s goal is to be popular, you might excel at that, but I can’t imagine it would be too rewarding.

3.) “Coolness” doesn’t garner you a perfect romance.

If you’re the most popular girl in school then you’re guaranteed to lock lips with the most popular guy at some point.  Or at least have a trail of suitors everywhere you go.  But these romances are about establishing, maintaining and destroying social standings.  The football team captain doesn’t date the head cheerleader because he loves her (although its within reason that he could) but because of who she is and how it will look to his friends if he’s with her and what kind of social power it will give him over his peers.  Unfortunately, people use relationships to grow their “coolness” and garner popularity—from teens to celebrities—so most likely, you won’t find the love of your life by climbing the social ladder.

4.) “Coolness” doesn’t teach you to value others.

As points one and three illustrate, “coolness” uses people and then disposes of them when they’re no longer worthwhile to the cause of gaining and maintaining popularity.  People just become objects, pawns in a massive, meaningless game of Life.  In your quest for coolness, assigning value to your peers means comparing yourself which would then cause your own inflated image of yourself to shrink—coming back down to normal size.  Essentially, if you correctly value others, you can’t lie to yourself about your own coolness.

5.) “Coolness” doesn’t build your self-esteem. 

Seeking coolness is one enormous attempt at convincing yourself that you’re better than the negative version you see of yourself in your head.  In my opinion, the “coolest” people are those who would scoff at the idea of being called “cool.”  (Can you say “hipster?” No, really. A real “hipster” doesn’t consider themselves a hipster either.)  They know who they are and are extremely confident in that identity.  It doesn’t mean they are without self-doubt at times, but they are comfortable in their own skin.  They don’t have to put people down or use others to make themselves feel “cool” or “popular” or worthwhile.  True coolness comes from inside us, and it’s never something we have to defend.

We just are who we are.  And that’s “cool” in itself.