The Fandom Paradox (Coming of Age Week)

(Coming of Age Week)

Nerddom is often divided into clans, even within something like comics you’ll find divisions. You’ll get hardcore DC fans, ride or die Marvel fans and diehard indie comics, even within that you have subdivisions that people swear by. All of these ‘clans’ have their purpose, everyone needs somewhere to belong and us nerds are no exception, especially given the more niche nature of our interests.  But do these groups cause more trouble than they’re worth?

On the one hand, these groups provide people with a place to belong to for people who don’t feel like they’re a part of society – outsiders brought together by a common interest. These groups can also have massive positive effects, there are countless numbers of charitable gaming live-streams and challenges that these groups and communities support, raising money and awareness for worthy causes. Alongside this, groups and fandoms like these can come together to create so much. Groups like these mean that mods are made in video games, further enhancing games like Fallout and even creating whole new games like Day Z. Through these people, great mysteries and secrets within much of entertainment can be solved and there is something truly admirable about a group of people united under one banner working towards a common goal.

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Extra Life: A charity that uses such gaming live-streams to raise money for children’s hospitals

There is so much good that arises out of these groups but at the same time, so much bad as well. So many of these groups and clans are filled with hatred and toxicity directed at anyone who isn’t exactly like them. It can be something as petty as feuds over which system they use or which particular game or film or writer they collectively think is the best, there is a place for reasonable debate but such deep anger over something so futile is simply ridiculous and infantile.

Then comes the more sinister side of these groups and fandoms. You have groups of ‘classic’ comics fans who use their supposed love of the classics as a thinly veiled justification for their desire to keep the heroes of the heroes of their comics white, straight, cis and male. Then there are groups within the gaming community in which women are harassed merely for their gender, where women are seen as sex objects and nothing more. Here female gamers, even live-streamers, and professionals within the industry, still receive claims that they’re ‘fake gamers’ and the whole idea of ‘gamer girls’ arises. Then groups of people within the gaming industry also throw out ridiculous amounts of homophobic and transphobic slurs. Not to mention the amount of abuse within groups in other types of fandom as well.

Michael-B-Jordan-as-The-Human-Torch-in-Fantastic-Four.jpg

Huge swathes of racists came out of the woodwork after this casting – one tweet says: “Getting somebody Black to play Johnny Storm & somebody white to play Susan Storm is the equivalent of getting a white guy to play Malcolm X.”

The problems are clear and the question that needs to be asked is why? Well, I think I’ve got an answer to that. It seems to me that these problems arise when people tie their entire identities to something which should, in reality, just be a part of who they are. These aforementioned abusive groups tend to have that attitude if you were to ask one of these people who they were as a person they’d only say ‘gamer’ or ‘comics fan’. In doing this all other layers of their personality and being are basically thrown away and they become a one-dimensional character. This tribalism then creates divides and conflicts between groups and people as all that they have are their particular tribe so they feel compelled to endlessly fight for it and create issues with others.

Since these ‘tribes’ are composed of similar people, with similar interests and similar lives an echo chamber is often formed, meaning the members of this group have no perspective on what they’re saying or doing. This then results in the vile hatred from many ‘hardcore’ fans against people who don’t fit into their world.

300

You know there’s a problem when the groups you form are less diverse (and massively less buff) than the Spartans in 300

The end result is grown adults acting like they’re in a high school out of a shitty Disney movie. In their minds, they’re the nerds and every other ‘social clique’, from the popular jocks to the girls who won’t pay them any attention, are out to get them. When in reality life just isn’t that simple, people can and should have different dimensions and facets to them. There is nothing wrong with having a group of friends that you can have fun with and belong to but there is more to life than the sect of your hobby which you belong to, people need to grow up and realize that.

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