Elitism in Fandoms

I often make the joke that ‘I have never met a fandom I didn’t like’, when asked about what kind of things I like. It is no great secret that I embrace many things geek, and therefore there are lot of people I interact with within these various fandoms on a day-to-day basis. Sadly, in almost every one I have seen, or occasionally experienced, elitism. I am not the first to put my opinion out there on this subject and I am sure I will not be the last, but I feel like this is something that bares repeating.

If you are wondering what I am talking about it is the ‘My way is better your way!’ of being a fan, specifically, those people that believe to enjoy something we have to do it their way. Those people that tell you cannot appreciate the X-Men movies without having read 60 years of back comics (though to me that does sound like a bit of an epic adventure), the ‘You haven’t read the book lot!’, the you cannot enjoy the reboot without having seen the original lot. Those who ask us to show our geek card on every comment or post, which annoyingly still happens a lot more to women than to men. We all know this kind of elitism and frankly I find this view confusing.

Read the book

Today is great time to be a fan, with movie studios realising that superheroes can make money, with TV studios embracing great sci-fi and fantasy, Netflix creating great content that realises that sometimes fandoms need to build and a culture needs to grow, and with all of this stuff entering the mainstream, we just keep getting more of what we want and the budgets keep getting higher and higher.

When Game of Thrones first came out as a TV show I remember walking into work one day and seeing a poster for it. Somehow I had missed that this was being made, no idea how, I had been reading the books from the start and was obsessed with them and, though they were kind of popular among my group, there were not many people I could talk to about them. Seeing this huge image of Sean Bean on a poster had me searching on my smart phone for more information. I went into work and excited frothed about it, telling them it was going to be amazing and that, though they had no idea what I was talking about, they should watch it as it was going to be huge. I was right, one year later and everyone knew what I was talking about, people at work were discussing fan theories and talking about characters they hoped would hook up or survive (there was a lot of keeping my mouth shut). Suddenly there were a whole bunch of people who loved what I loved and did not look at me like I was a weirdo when I got excited about it, my mum has even started to talk to me about it.

GOT meme.jpg

I didn’t care that these people had not read the books, I still do not, I can point out that things are a little different at points or that there are things they are missing out on, but I do not feel that I am better in my love of this than they are, I just cared that they were excited too. It was amazing to me that I could make obscure fandom references and my work colleagues were getting them.

Understood that reference

What I am saying is embrace new fans, they help build change and keep the things we love interesting. You do not have to be the special snowflake who knows the obscure thing, you can be surrounded by other excited beings like yourself…how is that bad? Knowing more about a fandom does not make you a better person.

I have seen this kind of elitism aimed at teenage girls, who were enthusiastically talking about their favourite Spiderman actor. The response from an older man was ‘These young girls know nothing, it is like they think it all sprung up in the year 2000 or something.’ Their response, was ‘It is not that we think it all sprung up in the year 2000, it is that we did!’ A perfect response really.

Fandoms evolve with generations, they give us changes in characters, they give them darker themes or lighter themes, change their skin colour, religion or gender, change their sexuality, change their powers, change their personality. It is this ability to adapt to changing times that keep fandoms fresh. Yes we are always going to appreciate Batman in a tight suit, with his flashy gadgets and millionaire lifestyle but, even though we have not had any huge changes in the fundamentals, the portrayals are all different and how old we are often has an effect on which portrayal we like the most.

Batman over the years.jpg

I think to think of it like Doctor Who. When it came back on our screen I was thrilled, I loved Tom Baker as The Doctor, but I was also used to seeing him portrayed by other people.  When it was rebooted I was so excited, and Christopher Eccelstone’s sassy and passionate portrayal did not disappoint, add into that a female lead that did not scream and fall over all the time (I know she is not the first, it was just something we did not get very often) and it was a recipe for success. The best thing though, merchandise, merchandise every where, new fans everywhere and a great budget. They seemed to know it was in it for the long-haul.

It is also weird to see animosity between fandoms, a kind of ‘Mine is better than yours’ ideology. I can understand light-hearted banter between DC and Marvel fans, or jokes between console players and the PC Master race, but it all too often gets hostile and this makes no sense to me at all. Liking one fandom over another does not harm that fandom. If we all liked the same thing the world would be a boring place. Someone liking something you do not does not make their passion some how less or unimportant. Our hobbies and interests are a way to enjoy life, a way to have fun and often a form of escapism from the world around us. In the majority of cases this is a good thing.

That is to say that if you have read the books and do not like the movie that is your choice, if you have read the books and love the movies too, that is great, if someone has not read the books, but loves the movies it is also OK. Let people enjoy things in their own way, essentially that is what being a fan is about, it is loving something and wanting to enjoy it, it is having a passion for something, and in my opinion it is having people to share that love and passion with.

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