Fandom as Religion Part 3: The following is an excerpt from the editorial in Hippogryph Issue One, now available for download at DriveThruRPG. You can read parts 1 & 2 here, or buy the issue and read it in its entirety.
Allow me to step back and open this concept up to a broader arena. I can understand — not agree with, not condone, not give a pass to, but understand — disgruntled straight white men in Flyover Country, USA. They’re suffering from unemployment, under-employment, increased housing costs, and a lack of affordable health care, too. Yet when they turn on the television they hear about women’s rights, gay rights, immigrant rights, everyone else’s rights. No one seems to be talking about their rights. Well, except the people talking about Second Amendment rights. People tell them they have privilege, but having never experienced what it’s like to lack that privilege it doesn’t feel like any sort of advantage to them. This opens them up to accept hate, exclusion, and bigotry in the name of self-defense.
Again, because I know I’m going to have to repeat this a half-dozen times to the monkey puncher who skips this part and willfully misconstrues what I said: I understand why they feel the way that they feel, I grasp how they reached the wrong conclusions, but I do not agree with them, condone their actions, or give them a pass for what they have done, are doing, and will invariably continue to do.
Transfer this paradigm to fandom, and we have people who feel attacked because media companies are creating content for audiences that aren’t them. Having played every edition, it’s galling that Hasbro is now releasing books aimed at those Johnny-come-lately Critical Role fans, rather than rebooting a “classic” setting. After watching every film, reading every novel, and playing every video game, seeing Star Wars placing more emphasis on new, diverse characters rather than the beloved family of rebels you grew up with seems like a betrayal of your loyalty. And space aliens, time travel, and physics-defying superpowers aside, the mantle of Thor being taken up by a woman was the last straw, the storyline that finally shattered your suspension of disbelief.
Understand, yes. Agree, no. Condone, never.
Life is not a zero-sum game. There is not a finite amount of “liking stuff” to go around. Other people having some fin doesn’t mean that you now have less fun. The way that others come to enjoy something does not negate your ability to revel in it. No one is stealing your toys. There is no contest to see who is the biggest, truest fan in the universe. Calm down.
The problem is that large pockets of fandom have developed a feeling of ownership and a sense of entitlement. One online knucklehead, prior to the release of The Rise of Skywalker, asked what their legal recourse would be if they didn’t like the movie. As if it belonged to them, and Disney were merely a contractor paid to make this movie and not the holder of the intellectual property. They felt that their long-time fandom granted them special rights and privileges.
These people suffer from the illusion that the loudest voices are the majority. Yes, among the list of people you follow on Twitter, or in the comments section of that one YouTuber, or on that discussion forum that somehow still exists this deep into the 21st century, you may all be in alignment. What you’re missing are the voices of all the people that aren’t there. There is no awareness of what’s happening beyond the echo chamber.
Most people buy their comics, take them home to read them, and that’s it. Folks roleplay in their home game with their friends and family, rarely go to the friendly local game store, and may never visit a convention. Normal folks go to the movies, have a pleasant couple of hours, and go on about their lives. It’s a rarity, I believe, to spend time obsessing over a thing for months prior to its release, and then dissecting, analyzing, and complaining about it for years afterward. To be continued…