Monday, July 22, 2024

When Fandom Wakes Up

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Boy did I have an interesting week. I’m going along, thinking how great it is that I’m ahead at work and can probably take a decent crack at that Carmen Sandiego fanfic I’ve been planning, and then BAM! allowed half of the upcoming Legend of Korra comics to be previewed. BAM! The Steven Universe art book’s release was met with backlash to the point where Rebecca Sugar issued a formal apology. And of course BAM! That show started up again. You know the one…

Don’t worry, I’m going to talk about Game of Thrones, since that’s an active fandom and people engaging with it the week of a season premiere is the opposite of a surprise. However, The Legend of Korra (LoK) and Steven Universe (SU) fandoms were rather happily sleeping—even if it was just meant to be a 20-minute power nap for the latter—and there was a certain zen that came with it.

Priscilla recently made a wonderful guide so you can decide when it’s time to move on from a fandom. But for me, if I’m fond of the narrative, it’s hard for me to get burned out. I tend towards what I’d call “fandom inertia,” where I settle into interacting and participating in dialogue in a rather specific way.

For SU, I watch episodes without much theory crafting, avoid all youtube videos, and mostly look for posts on social media that verge into the ridiculous. With Korra, I write fanfic that focuses on political and business details, champion Asami and on occasion vomit out love notes to her character, and drown in Beifong Family Feels. (This isn’t even touching my Dorne-philia in the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom.) The rules are clear, and I can just paddle along happily in my own turtle-duck boat without worry, stress, or the feeling that it’s all grown stale.

Turtle-duck Date Night” by Bryan Konietzko

So then imagine my chagrin when two giant waves came and slammed me into the damn Harmony Tower.

My natural instinct is to wade right in and begin writing thousand-word posts that thoroughly explain my reaction to an event and why I am therefore objectively correct in my perspective. But diving right back is a great way to have the experience shift to “no fun,” especially when arguments are recycled that you remember already having months or even years ago. I happen to like these fandoms, because I happen to be a fan of both LoK and SU, so avoiding frustration is ideal. However, avoiding any dialogue would also not sit right, since… Well, if I like a fandom, this is what I enjoy, right?

This leaves a very fine line to walk, but one that I think is completely feasible. So without further ado, I offer the following advice for getting back into a fandom.

1. Pick a social medium based on your energy levels

Fandom exists pretty much anywhere other people do. For most of us, this means different social media platforms, and they all have their personal flairs. Think about what it is that you want to do: do you feel like typing something out? Do you just want to look at fanart? Would you rather short bursts of irritation rather than long, sustained arguments? Perhaps more importantly: is there a social media platform you’ve had trouble stepping away from in the past?

The idea is that you can participate as you’d want, without it tipping into you feeling obligated to reply. For instance, I have a ton of trouble with sub-reddits and fandom-specific forums, since it lends itself to direct, sustained argumentation. I’ll feel as though I’ve said my piece and made my point, but if whoever I’m talking to replies, it’s difficult to detach and let them “get the last word.” With twitter on the other hand, I don’t fully understand reply vs. retweet etiquette, and usually just let a thread completely die because I find it too exhausting to figure out what anyone means.

Think about which platforms have given you the most bang for your buck (time, in this case) and try those first. Odds are the ones you’ve had negative experiences on will still have drawbacks.

2. Always be closing (your tabs)

Odds are, you are going to see something that will piss you off, or at least rub you the wrong way. Heck, it could even be what’s coming from the canon or the media creators.

My best advice is to step away first. It’s not that any reaction on your part is invalid, or that you can’t respond to something. It’s just that you don’t have to take on every single thing you disagree with. Because guess what? There’s no end. The simple task of closing a tab and getting it out of sight, even for a minute, gives your brain a chance to ask the question “is this worth it?” If it is, you’ll be able to find it again. If you’re unsure, you can save it for later. And if it’s really just not…well, you just saved yourself from the frustration of having to lay out an argument.

3. Always be…opening (separate tabs)

Yeah, I know what I just said. See the thing is, closing tabs or stepping away is a great idea if you’re deciding to engage. If you’ve already made the decision to do so, however, the best practice is to construct any argument outside of the forum in which you’re going to post it.

Why? Because then you can’t just click that one button. It will force you to look over your words, as well as think about how you framed everything. It also gives you the chance to step away from what you’ve written, especially if you’re constructing it using something like Google Drive (my go-to) or Word. I can’t tell you how many amazing, and objectively correct, ways of phrasing something have popped into my head as I’ve gone to cook dinner or shower.

Otherwise, you’ll be doomed to this fate:

In fact, follow the “smoothie rule.” Before posting anything at all, go make yourself a smoothie. Gives you that time to separate, and they are light and nourishing, after all.

4. Your truth is not my truth

I don’t want to sound condescending, because I’m quite certain you’re aware that not everyone will have your same reaction to pieces of media. However, it always is worth the continual reminder that what might be quite validating for you is infantilizing or offensive for someone else (and vice versa). You can certainly disagree over what a piece of media is saying, how engaging you find it, or even if you feel the content creator messed up; but disagreeing over whether someone is right to be upset or thrilled is just…no.

I say this because it’s taken quite some time for me to be able to frame my arguments without dipping into the “therefore your conclusion is WRONG” territory. Best solution? Use phrases like “in my opinion” or “for me,” and even call out where there’s likely to be disagreement. “I suspect we may not see eye-to-eye on how progressive this messaging truly was.” It’s so simple, and yet my Tumblr archive is full of cringe-worthy exchanges where I was more focused on being ~objectively correct~. And let’s not get started on my forum receipts…


That’s it! Follow these rules and you’ll be able to dip back into the fandom waters without getting sucked along a riptide. Things will settle again—they always do—the key is knowing that your turtle-duck boat is waiting for you on the other side.

Images courtesy of Bryan Konietzko, Nickelodeon, and NBC

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