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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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How Can You Have the Vampire Diaries Without Elena Gilbert?

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Nina Dobrev announced on Monday that her 6-year journey with The Vampire Diaries on The CW would be coming to an end at the close of the 6th season, and all the fangirls cried. What’s interesting to me is that they don’t intend to end the show all together, but rather have already been renewed for a 7th season. But how can you continue a show when a character that I would consider to be a main if not THE main character is leaving?

It’s still unclear as to how she’ll be leaving the show. We’ll just have to watch the rest of this season to find out, but I hope it’s something spectacular and cry-worthy. The most common way for a character to leave TVD is to die, and since the Other Side is no longer in existence when you die now, YOU DIE. No miraculous two-season-later resurrections like Alaric Saltzman. (But no really, Julie Plec, thank you for bringing him back!) However it seems rather anti-climatic for Elena Gilbert to end her TVD run by dying since we’ve spent the majority of the last 6 seasons watching the characters do everything in their power to make sure that she DOESN’T die—or at least survive after death in some capacity. It would be like what was the point of all the blood the Salvatore brothers spilled? And Bonnie dying several times? And Jeremy dying and being resurrected more than anyone ever should be? And Matty Blue Eyes being oblivious to everything and ALMOST dying several times a season. And how can you have Elena exit the show (by dying or otherwise) and not have Damon go on a bloodthirsty rampage across the South? Haven’t we seen him do that enough? I really don’t want to go back to that humanity-switch-off place anymore. It’s not very becoming on you, Mr. Salvatore.

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Since Bonnie brought back the Cure from 1994, I do see an opportunity to turn Elena back into a human and maybe erase her memories and send her off in the sunset to have a happy life. It would kind of destroy the personal independence thing she’s built while being a vampire that I would find disappointing because I have this dream that a girl can get involved with vampires and NOT have to be a mindless waif being pushed around to everyone’s agenda but her own (*cough* Twilight *cough*). But in the case of Elena, she falls into that stereotype quite easily most of the time.

Okay, but if Elena is going to leave in some capacity and TVD is still going to continue, where could Julie Plec take us? Like a dedicated TVD fangirl, I have some theories (aka ridiculous fanfiction ideas).

  1. Sarah Salvatore – Besides Elena Gilbert, the Salvatore brothers hold the greatest weight storyline-wise and with Julie Plec’s official announcement it seems we’ll still be seeing a fair bit of Salvatore bromance in the coming season. So why not add another girl to the mix? Sarah Salvatore’s story (which has been minimal at best in the second half of season 6) intrigues me. She’s the only human Salvatore left and humanity-less Damon is responsible for the death of her mother and essential orphan-hood at birth (since her father was compelled to forget she even exists. That was a jerk move, Stefan.) Eventually her existence is going to have to come out to Damon and perhaps that revelation will become a new obsession for him.
  2. Mama Salvatore – I can actually see TVD taking this route. We have such little information about MaMa Salvatore that I can’t even really speculate where this storyline might go, but if TVD is still going to center around the Salvatore brothers, what better direction to take than backwards to explore more of their past?
  3. Matt the Haphazard Vampire Hunter – Okay, this isn’t a real theory, but you never know. He’s gotten a little crazy with the anti-vampire attitude lately despite the fact that all of his friends are vampires. Maybe he’s been wearing that supernatural-death-repellant ring too long and will decide to start a vampire Armageddon himself. (Although it’s obvious from previous attempts, he won’t get very far).
  4. Jolaric Baby – Perhaps we’ll do a time-jump 16 years when Jo and Alaric’s baby is turning 16 and the Salvatore brothers return to Mystic Falls once again. I imagine some weird incestual-feeling relationship between Stefan and Jolaric (Grown-Up) Baby. Like Jacob imprinting on Bella and Edward’s child. It would be creepy and weird and totally shake everything up.
  5. Witchy Prison World – Perhaps because of all the trouble the Mystic Falls vampire crew has caused they’ll be imprisoned in a prison world. And it will be survival of the fittest with the pressure of rationing bloodbags.
  6. Kai and Bonnie – While it seems insane to me that Bonnie could ever fall for the guy who TORTURED her, there is a weird sexual tension going on between them that I’m interested in seeing carried through which means Kai needs to get out of MaMa Salvatore’s prison world.
  7. Caroline the Ripper – I assume Caroline’s humanity-switch problem will be resolved through the rest of season’s 6’s episodes, but you never know, Caroline could become the new big villain! It could happen! I don’t want it to happen because she’s my favorite character, but it could still happen!
  8. The Gilberts – With both Elena and Jeremy leaving this season, I’m sad that nothing was really explored with their parents. It always felt like there was a sinister storyline waiting to be discovered. Sheriff Forbes and Damon even tried to uncover what really happened to the Gilberts that fateful night Elena almost died, but it anticlimactically turned out to be nothing more than an accident. Can TVD still follow a Gilbert storyline without having any living Gilberts around? Maybe Elena and Jeremy have an unknown cousin that will show up and take over the mystery?

For a TVD fangirl, now is the time for mourning. I’ll miss Nina and her million characters on the show, but I am surprisingly excited about how losing a main character could affect the show for the better. TVD has felt a little stale since the Original vampire storyline without a villain that held serious weight and could terrorize for as long as Klaus did. A new cast of characters might shake things up enough to make TVD insatiable again.

So what do you think? What’s your TVD theory for how the story might progress with Elena/Nina’s exit?

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Good Brother, Bad Brother

I have a confession to make: I am an EXTREME fan of the CW’s “The Vampire Diaries.”  I discovered it on Netflix the summer after my college graduation when I was trying (and failing) to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, and I watched the first 2 seasons in a month.  This may not sound like an extreme Netflix binge, but for someone who rarely watches television, that is a lot of TV consumption! I’m now up to the latest season, and the celebrated 100th episode in which the infamous Katherine Pierce is dying.  And it was in this episode that I really ask myself what makes a person good or bad?  The major love triangle of the show is between the heroine Elena Gilbert (a human at the beginning of the series) and the two Salvatore brothers, Stefan and Damon.  Putting aside all the “fated doppelgänger” rhetoric and which “team” I’m a member of, what I find really interesting about this series is the characterization of the Salvatore Brothers.

Angry Damon

From the beginning Stefan is considered the “good brother,” he doesn’t drink human blood (at least not from the vein), he wants to protect Elena from the dangers of Mystic Falls, and he fills the classic “knight-in-shining-armor” coming-to-the-rescue male role.  His older brother, Damon, on the other hand, is the “bad brother” from his very first scene in which is heartlessly murders a young couple on a rural road.  This dynamic of “good versus bad” continues throughout the series.  Both brothers love Elena but they enact their love in different ways. Stefan always considers what will make Elena happy while Damon will do anything to keep Elena alive.  This means that Damon commits many more acts of murder, torture, and angry destruction for the sake of Elena’s safety than does Stefan.  But does this make Damon the “evil” brother?

Stefan The Ripper

As the series progresses we learn that Stefan has, in fact, murdered far more innocent humans in cold blood than even Damon because of his past as “The Ripper.”  When Stefan turns off his humanity, all he wants is blood.  This is his vampiric metaphor for having an acute addiction.  Addictions are diseases that you carry with you your whole life. Being an alcoholic or a Ripper can’t just be “cured,” you can never have a beer again if you want to stay sober nor can Stefan drink from the vein if he wants to keep his humanity.  Once this new dimension of Stefan is established, the two brothers are on a more equal playing field, and their characterization in the show begs the question: “which evil is worse?” A barely controllable addiction or a compulsive need to have control even if it means pain and murder?

Damon consistently labels himself as the bad brother, while Stefan bounces back and forth between caring boyfriend and cold-blooded killer.  I would suggest that we can learn something from these two brothers.  Neither one is fully good nor totally evil.  When they accept their faults and strive for a better future, they are more “human.”  When they accept defeat and “turn off” their humanity, they fail to be the best versions of themselves.  Life isn’t about a righteous journey in which you never make mistakes.  It’s about failing and getting back up.  Only when one of the Salvatore brothers gives up by turning off his humanity does he become the “bad brother,” and as such, we are not truly “bad people” unless we completely give up on ourselves.  No matter our faults, no matter our mistakes, no matter how horrifying our sins, as long as we believe and strive for betterment in ourselves, we will always find a way to be human. Not good. Not evil. But the glorious amalgam of the two that is humanity as we learn more about who we are every day.