Geek culture isn’t ‘broken, ‘ but it does have a harassment problem

3 months, 26 days ago

In his latest thinkpiece on Birth Movies Death , geek culture critic Devin Faraci was contended that “Fandom is Broken.” Bringing together the Ghostbusters reboot controversy, HYDRA Captain America, fanboydeath threats, and a bizarre criticism of romantic fanfiction, he describes a community ruined by the zealotry of “entitled” fans.

Except none of these instances are remotely comparable, representing different issues from different corners of fandom. Criticism is not the same as entitlement. Death threats are not the same as social media activism. And death threats aren’t strictly the realm of disgruntled fans sending hate mail to inventors; harassment is a broader issue of sexism and bigotry online.

Characterizing fan entitlement as a plague on geek culture, Faraci places the Ghostbusters trailer backlash on the same level as the #GiveElsaAGirlfriendhashtag and the criticism of HYDRA Captain America, a trio of social media campaigns that couldn’t be more different.While the Ghostbusters backlash is motivated by misogynist fans objecting to a female-led movie reboot, #GiveElsaAGirlfriend was a brief campaign for Disney to include queer representation in a children’s cartoon.

Meanwhile, the Captain America outrage is a response to the content of a recent comic, which revealedCaptain America as a secret member of the Nazi-affiliated organization HYDRA. Some fans responded with critical blog posts about Captain America’s history as an anti-Nazi hero; others donated money to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in protest. A few sent death threats to the comic’s novelist and editor.

As Faraci points out, geek culture has a harassment problem. But if this means fandom is “broken, ” then so is the rest of the Internet. Harassment is everywhere, from PoliticsTwitter to book review sites to science vlogging. It’s also demonstrably worse for women and people of color, matters that Faraci ignores in favor of detailing the threats received by Marvel editor Tom Brevoort and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn.

As an insignium of fan entitlement, Faraci name-checks a fictional character from a Stephen King novel, a woman who kidnaps her favorite writer and forces him to write a volume to her specifications. Yes, the people organizing hashtag campaigns in support of bisexual Poe Dameron are just as bad as fictional offenders, when you really think about it.

Perhaps Faraci’s strangest instance of fan entitlement is his grievance about “the popularity of fan fics set in coffee shop or bakeries.” He writes 😛 TAGEND

“I had an argument with a younger fan on Twitter lately and she told me that what she wants out of a Captain America story is to see Steve Rogers be happy and get whatever he wants – ie, the exact opposite of what you want from good drama.”

It feels very odd to align this harmless fanfic trope with what he describes as the “powder keg” of entitled fandom. For one thing, coffeeshop fanfic is not demanding anything from anyone. Fans aren’t organizing Marvel boycotts because Civil War wasn’t a romcom. They enjoy both: the morally conflicted, action-heavy experience of the Captain America movies, followed by a lighthearted chaser of romantic fanfiction. And since fanfic is usually kept separate from the creators of the original source material, it’s basically the opposite of in-your-face demands from overly invested fans.

I can’t help but is hypothesized that Faraci’s dismissal of lighthearted fanfic is rooted in sexism. Most fanfic is written by young women, and coffeeshop fic falls into the same category as Gilmore Girls or Pride& Prejudice stories about relationships, played out on a small scale, but with satisfying emotional impact. There’s always a happy objective, but are these stories any more frivolous than your median Spider-Man movie? It surely isn’t “the opposite of good drama.” Good drama is a well-told story; bad drama is Batman v Superman .

Fans can be loud and obnoxious on social media, making it easy for people to lump valid criticism into the same category as stupid overreactions( “The new Batmobile seems even worse I’m never reading a DC comic again”) and outright harassment. For writers and creators, this can start to feel like one huge mass of negative commentarywhich is probably why Faraci’s article resonated with so many people.

In a lot of ways, he’s right. He merely doesn’t seem to recognize the difference between outright harassment and vocal but constructive campaigns to improve fandom for everyone.

Fans and creators are still negotiating their borders online .

Fan entitlement, or something like it, can be hurtfulespecially for inventors who work on beloved franchises like Doctor Who or Star Wars , where fans feel a strong sense of ownership of long-running characters. But fan entitlement is an attitude problem, brings with it by a lack of thoughtfulness and empathy. It’s not an umbrella word for every fandom reaction, from death threats to hashtag activism.

With social media increasing consumers’ access to producers, fans and inventors are still negotiatingtheir bounds online. Sometimes, a handful of fans will wildly overreact to a creative decision and behave like immature dicks. Sometimes, a creator will misinterpret a piece of constructive criticism as a personal attack and freak out. Occasionally, a hashtag campaign like #OscarsSoWhite or The 100 ‘s lesbian death backlash will start a productive conversation that might inspire real, positive change.

Fandom isn’t broken. It’s just going through some growing pains.

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