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28 November 2005 @ 09:10 pm
Fandom  
In the past few years it's slowly started to dawn on me that frequently fandom is not about liking something, but hating it.  Superhero comics fans gripe about the directions DC and Marvel are going in. Harry Potter fans kick up a fuss when the latest book invalidates their speculation on romantic pairings. Wrestling "smarks" complain about the latest angles. It's like a sort of masochism: those superhero fans hate what DC is doing but continue to buy the titles, those Harry Potter fans will undoubtedly be standing in line to buy the next volume when it comes out, and the smarks who bitch about Vince McMahon and Triple H tune in to RAW and Smackdown every week

This isn't exactly new, but I recently stumbled across a few good essays on the phenomenon:

What is a fanboy?
"What characterizes a fanboy, as opposed to a mere consumer? Paramount sinks a lot of money into producing new episodes of Star Trek, so one assumes that it must have a mainstream audience far beyond the realms of obsessive hobbyists. Either that, or there must be an awful lot of fanboys in the world. Is there a difference between 'Thinking that Star Trek is an enjoyable television programme' and 'Being a Star Trek fanboy?' Can we come up with a definition of Doctor Who fanboy other than "One who has watched 'Creature from the Pit' more than once, and watched 'The Gunfighters' at all"?"
The Third Age of Fan
"It would not be fair to say that the fan-boy does not like the thing which he is a fan-boy of. It would be more accurate to say that liking and disliking is irrelevant to his activity. Fan-boyhood grows out of nostalgia and therefore fixes its gaze on something ephemeral, commonplace and of low artistic value. It then attempts to catalogue it, study it, collect it—or in extreme cases re-enact it, thus investing it with significance and mummifying the memory."
Fandamentalism
" ... (noun, pl.); fans who violently believe the only valid interpretation of any entertainment source is a dogmatic adherence to their favorite version of that source. Any change to the smallest detail is inherently unacceptable (see also heresy) and met with frantic scorn. See also Hal Jordan and Klingons, bumpy vs. smooth."
There also seems to be a growing realization among Internet wrestling writers of this trend and an accompanying backlash. That the griping continued even through the recent death of and memorials to Eddie Guerrero seems to have made some of them realize that something is wrong. There have been a few angry pieces on 411mania.com taking fans to task for astoundingly insensitive comments on the memorial episodes of RAW and Smackdown.

Fortunately, webcomics fandom seems relatively free of this trend. I was going to say that I thought it was because it hasn't been around for long enough to develop, but then I remembered that Harry Potter hasn't been around for very long either. So I'm not really sure why it hasn't developed. It may have something to do with the fact that most webcomics are the products of single creators: there is only one creative voice in effect, so there can be no complaints about the author not being "true to the characters". And the only real examples of it in webcomics (that I can think of) are indeed times when someone other than the original creator stepped in: T Campbell's run writing Cool Cat Studio for Gisele Lagace, and to a lesser extent some artists on Fans. Harry Potter fandom provides a counterexample, though, in the Harmonian Uprising (when the Harry/Hermione shippers, who called themselves "Harmony", got pissed that the latest book hooked Harry up with Ginny and Hermione with Ron, and even produced a re-edited version with names changed to be "romantically correct"), when the series has always been 100% J. K. Rowling.

So I'm really at a loss. Any ideas?
 
 
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
 
 
 
Shortpacked!: WALKY SMASHshortpacked on November 29th, 2005 05:41 am (UTC)
Bring back Roomies!
gwalla: lon chaneygwalla on November 29th, 2005 06:08 am (UTC)
Ha! I'd forgotten that one. Yeah, that's definitely a counterexample to the "new authors' interpretations" theory.
russgoulo on November 29th, 2005 06:28 am (UTC)
Maybe webcomics don't have a sufficently large audience to generate such acrimony. Maybe a certain critical mass is needed before that sort of fanboyism kicks in? (But I'm sure there are counter-examples, so I don't know.)

Or maybe it's because there is often more communication and rapport between audience and creator, so that somehow causes more overall harmony.
gwalla: halloweengwalla on November 29th, 2005 07:27 am (UTC)
The webcomics community as a whole is quite large. But is it too diverse to reach a critical mass?
russgoulo on November 29th, 2005 03:03 pm (UTC)
As a whole it's large, sure - I meant the readership for any given title. People who don't read Harry Potter aren't likely to get into arguments about its characters, nor are people who don't read <insert webcomic title>
gwallagwalla on November 29th, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC)
You've got a point.

I think William G may be right about the nonexistence of any sort of unified "webcomics community".
Justin Grahamstr1 on November 29th, 2005 06:32 am (UTC)
I wouldn't say that webcomics are free of the trend. While it's not as severe as the Harry Potter "Harmony" rewrites, there are sections of communities that have a love/hate relationship with webcomics. Typically, however, they aren't as vocal in an overtly hostile manner because webcomic fans generally have much more direct access to the comic creator through the comic's forum or IRC channel. That way, a lot of steam can be blown off by taking questions and complaints directly to the creator rather than by writing an elaborate thirty chapter alternate take on why the toast should have landed butter side up.

The biggest form of hatred that I've seen, at least in terms of the webcomics community, comes from the arguments that errupt between different fan factions. The D&M/D&B war at CRFH was absolutely ridiculous, and this is coming from someone that actively participated in that stupidity. Factions like these will, in extreme circumstances, go to war for their belief in where the comic should go, giving little thought to what the creator actually intends. Should one side supposedly come out on top (such as Dave dating Margaret instead of Blue, or vice versa), then the winning side will inevitably act like a bunch of spoiled brats and beat the "losers" into hiding like a game of whack-a-mole, only for the situation to become reversed at some point in the future. Of course, if the author decides to go in a direction that neither faction predicted or supported, then everyone's collective jaw will simply drop.

Going back to the topic in general, however, I think that the notion of fans complaining about the direction a comic/novel series/TV show/what have you is going in while continuing to follow it religiously can be explained, at least in part, by the following:

1. The fan or fanboy/girl in question has developed an attachment to the story in question and has a clear desire of where he or she wants it to go. As you noted in your post, if the path to that desired objective isn't achieved precisely the way that the fan wants it, bitching will ensue.

2. Should the plot not go in the desired direction, then the fan's desires will travel down one of two possible paths.
a. The fan will ultimately lose interest in the storyline, but rather than cut him/herself off from it entirely, he/she will continue to follow it until something else gives them notice, possibly in a different hobby entirely. It's sort of like jumping from the Wheel of Time ship to check out what Harry Potter is about.

b. More likely, the fan will continue to follow the storyline, grumbling all the while in the vain hope that their desired outcome will eventually be achieved, no matter how slim or non-existent the odds. However, before that happens, their attention will likely be grabbed by a different subplot or concept that the author/artist/master of ceremonies has presented. This would be like dropping the D&M flag and picking up a different cause within the comic. Return to step one.

Honestly, a lot of this sort of behavior simply comes along because the fan is too serious about their hobby to actually enjoy it. There's a difference between a Star Trek fan that will dress up as a Klingon at conventions, growling about how such-and-such an episode or season wasn't up to par, and the ludicrous fans that write 300 page essays picking apart an entire story arc simply because a minor continuity error shared with an episode of a previous series from four decades ago prevented its simple resolution. The only people that would have any interest in reading that crap are like-minded fanboys that came to the same conclusion by placing far too much focus on something insignificant enough that it shouldn't hinder the enjoyment of most people. In short, they're finding their hobby to be more work than fun, whereas the Klingon at the convention could make criticisms while still maintaining an overall positive view of the series as a whole.

Whoa. That was a serious case of rambling. I'm stopping here before I start sounding like a deranged fanboy.
gwalla: king crimson fingergwalla on November 29th, 2005 07:23 am (UTC)
Oy. I can't believe I forgot about the Dave's Girlfriend Wars. I was right there for that! I guess I was thinking more of the webcomics community as a whole than about the fanbases of specific strips—but I think William G may have a point, that there really isn't a "webcomics community" per se, but rather a bunch of smaller, more strip- or collective-oriented communities that overlap in places. And even still, I was overlooking the perennial griping about Keenspot coming from the Keenspacers (although that may be a different kind of resentment).

I think you're right about your explanation of the love/hate dynamic. But that prompts another question: why is this such a common trend? Is there something about being a fan that tends to bring this out in people? Is it that the typical fannish topics tend to attract that sort of personality? Is it just that the negative elements of fandom are more visible and this "trend" is just the result of unconscious publication bias?
Stephen "FPilot" Bierce / 美朝深恬: napalmfrustratedpilot on November 29th, 2005 07:09 am (UTC)
Unconditional affection seems to be a rare thing...or perhaps this critical thinking is a variation on the "sticker shock" that comes from buying something and realizing that it doesn't measure to expectation. You pay for the book, or the movie ticket, and somehow you feel that the content must live up to the work that you did to earn the money you spent. No matter that the creator doesn't share this view in the slightest...it could have just been banged out in three days (like a couple Roger Corman flicks).
Maritza Camposmaritzac on November 29th, 2005 07:21 am (UTC)
Yeah, I agree with the pilot. On webcomics a lot of people say you shouldn't complain about something you didn't pay.

Maritza
CRFH.net
loweko on November 29th, 2005 11:22 am (UTC)
Not that this stops anybody. Who thinks of themselves as paying for a TV show?
Forsythforsythferret on November 29th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC)
There really isn't a unified "webcomics community" as such. Not even among people who read way too many and hang out at news and criticism sites. And in some ways, there's surprisingly little communication between the different factions.

I also suspect part of it's due to the nature of webcomics. There's a zillion of them, so unless the comic's one somebody's been reading for years and managed to get totally invested in, it's easier to just leave it and go read something else. Because there's almost always something else out there that can give you what you're looking for. The only ones that're gonna get that kind of fanboy-ism are the big popular ones that have been around for years. There's not nearly those kinds of options in sci-fi/fantasy television.

On the other hand, I'd be willing to bet there's plenty of fanboys outside of nerd-dom. Non-genre television shows and sports would be the first areas I'd guess. Or romance and mystery novel readers. We're not as unique as we think we are, a lot of the time.
gwalla: king crimson fingergwalla on November 29th, 2005 10:08 pm (UTC)
But there are those sorts of options in sci-fi/fantasy literature.

As for fanboys outside of nerd-dom, I pointed out that it takes place in pro wrestling fandom, which is hardly considered a haven for geeks.
mr_smeggers: calmmr_smeggers on November 29th, 2005 06:04 pm (UTC)
There are serious fandoms for webcomics out there.

Ask Scott Kurtz -- He had angry backlash from dropping gag-a-week storylines revolving around gaming and going to more character-driven storylines.

Or Jin Wicked's "Crap I drew on my Lunch Break" -- complete fandomonium from her changing her art style for a single week.

Scott Thigpen, who went from "Schwerve" to "Boomslang," and then seems to have sworn off comics entirely after "Whats wrong with you" hit too many nerves.

I was a former Trekkie who gave up entirely on the fandom once I relaized how polaraized the fanbase was getting. Hell, my own comic had two storylines that pissed people off.

Personally, I now gravitate to comics and stories that surprise me; not play to me or what I would potentially think as "Correct." That to me is fandom: Enjoying a storyline as a whole.

I coined a phrase for the other face of fandom over coffee some years back -- NERDSESSION. Its a good descriptive phrase for anyone who gets completely out of whack over specific aspects and tiny details on their favorite show, comic, or whatever.
Stephen "FPilot" Bierce / 美朝深恬: napalmfrustratedpilot on November 29th, 2005 06:51 pm (UTC)
The Defense Department has a term similar to NERDSESSION--NITNOIA (from the Vietnamese Nitnoi [something trivial or small]). People who suffer from Nitnoia affliction (or, more likely, make others suffer) are refered to as NITNOIDS.

I think people in general don't have an appreciation for artistic self-authenticity. A self-authentic artist doesn't go looking to do something sucessful and live off it his whole life, he's always creating and trying new things.

Or put another way, consider the rock group that is still touring but only playing their greatest hits from thirty years ago--never thinking of writing new songs because they're afraid of losing their audience?
wanderingbhikkhwanderingbhikkh on November 29th, 2005 07:56 pm (UTC)
This is why I admit that Kirk was more fun by far, but Picard the superior officer and why I'm a member of the D&WPHWTSHSI (Dave & ... actually, I probably shouldn't spell out the acronym given the amount of salty language in, but it's basically Dave & Whoever).

Then again, I believe in moderation in everything, especially moderation.