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I’m writing a later post, and I realized that I was getting really upset while writing it. And I wanted to backtrack and sort of examine where this was all coming from.

I think I’m going to start with John Green. I don’t always agree with him, but sometimes his words are just so right: “…nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

Fanndom is enmeshed in the unironic celebration of the human consciousness. Which is frequently wonderful and lots of fun. But it’s also very emotional, a lot of the time.

We joke about feels and devastation and loss in fandom. But we also sometimes admit that a particular character can pull us through a really hard time, or inspire us when we’re alone, or make us smile when nothing else will do it. We celebrate fictional birthdays and we help others because we’ve been inspired. These things affect us in our everyday lives.

Fandom is delicate.

And I think it’s delicate because it’s so emotional. Fandom, by and large, struggles to maintain respect for that emotional investment. We set up warning systems and ways to ensure that a person reading a fic or meta will know before going in if this is going to impact them emotionally. We try to provide emotional support for each other in all sorts of situations. Sometimes we fail – when a fandom is mean or uninviting, people might be turned off from it whatever their feelings on the source text. Fandoms can and have bullied people away. Sometimes people leave fandoms because they can’t handle it, and fandoms can kill a love for a character with other emotional stuff.

When a fandom is warm and fun, people might be drawn in regardless of the source text as well.

We tend to make fun of people who flounce from a fandom for certain reasons. We also understand when a person untangles themselves and walk away for other reasons. If you’re only watching a show for the rush of positive emotions you associate with a certain character, it’s ok if you walk away when that character is killed. It’s also ok for other people to stay.

When fandoms get into really horrible screaming matches, it’s sometimes hard to see the other side. But the other side is generally making these comments because it’s hitting them in the feels, as it were. Their reasons might be bad and their arguments might be awful, but I once argued that some of the (really bad) anti-Gwen people in Torchwood fandom were probably getting a lot of catharsis from other issues out through their ranting. I didn’t agree with them and I also felt bad for the other side of the equation, the people who adore Gwen and were really hurt that there were such vile things being said. I don’t think both sides ever reconciled so much as the hubbub died down with the fandom. (Warnings were my only real solution there. I didn’t read anything marked “anti-Gwen” but you bet I appreciated the heads-up.)

I just want to point out, I suppose, that these feelings are genuine. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I can thankfully see something and say “nope” and walk away from it without consequences. I know what is going to make me sad or unhappy and when I should avoid it. In fandom, it’s been an important skill.

The worst, though, is when I’m really struggling with my feelings on a topic. Like when I can’t read fics about depression, because it’s too close to home. Or when I have to walk away from a fandom because it’s making me unhappy. Or when a fic writer writes something that just sours all of their fic for me. Maybe I shouldn’t be so sensitive?

Or maybe this is one of the dark sides to unironic enthusiasm. (I’ve seen much darker.) I have coping mechanisms in place and I handle it ok, and despite the crying jags that seemed to have hit a lot of people after COE, most people get by with some hyperbolic joking and moving on with life.

I dunno where I was going with this. Getting a post out a day means I don’t always have the time to really organize my thoughts. But I also don’t have the time to back out and never post.

Fandom is full of feelings, and I suppose I just wanted to acknowledge how fragile and thin the lines between the good and bad can be.

June 2017

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