Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Not Be a Raging Fanboy!

Let us consider the Raging Fanboy.

The Raging Fanboy, despite the name, can just as easily be female as male.  They can be of any educational level, any income level, come from any nation on the planet and can subscribe to nearly any fandom.  What distinguishes Raging Fanboys from regular fans is this:  they take things way too far.


These are the fans who see the world a little differently from the rest of us.  To the Raging Fanboy, the only things of importance somehow relate back to their Fandom.  Everything, with no exceptions.  And because of this attitude, they assume that their Fandom is much more popular than it actually is (and they do this even when their Fandom is truly and collossally popular around the world), and generally assume that everyone else holds the Fandom in the same esteem they do.


Their perspective is a little warped because they are so close to their Fandom that it disassociates them slightly with the real world.  And because their friends tend to hold the same warped perceptions as they do, their attitudes are self-enforcing.  The Internet is a huge enabler of the Raging Fanboy, because it allows the Raging Fanboy to expand his circle of fellow Raging Fanboys exponentially.  And when the only people you talk to are also Raging Fanboys, soon enough you become convinced that everybody is a Raging Fanboy, just like you are.


Naturally, the most blatant effect of Raging Fanboyism is what I call "Fan Elitism."  This is the attitude that (to borrow George Carlin's phrase) "their stuff is shit, and your shit is stuff."  The attitude that the Raging Fanboy's Fandom is the best thing ever, while all other Fandoms are garbage.  This attitude is found more often among younger fans than older ones, who have over time seen works come and go, and some of whom have seen entire media come and go.  But even then, the older fans can still have this attitude.


So, some quick advice on how to avoid being a Raging Fanboy.


Your Fandom did not spring up out of nothing.
Please realize that no matter how wonderful your Fandom happens to be, it is highly unlikely that the elements that make up its story originated with it.  Some of those story elements are, in fact, hundreds if not thousands of years older than your Fandom.  So please stop acting as if your Fandom is the originator of all things good and true in the universe.

Not everyone likes your Fandom the same way you like it.
Its true.  No matter how much you love your Fandom, the greater majority of the human race probably doesn't hold the same feelings for it as you do.  That's not to say there aren't other fans out there.  Its even possible that your Fandom is almost universally loved (looking right at you, Star Trek fans).  The point is, other people aren't going to be as single-minded about it as you are.  Hell, even other fans might not be as single-minded as you re.


What this means is that it is entirely possible that your favorite TV show was canceled because of poor ratings, and not because it was intentionally screwed by the network.  Its possible that your favorite film failed at the box office it really wasn't that good, when you're honest about it, and not because the studio didn't know how to promote it.


The actors, directors, and writers who helped create the object of your Fandom do not owe you a God-damned thing.
Do not assume that the creator of your favorite thing holds the same attitudes toward their creation as you do.  Let me give you a quick example:  George Lucas has admitted that he hasn't ever really been a Star Wars fan.  Oh sure, he wrote it, and devoted time to it, and seemed to enjoy playing around in that universe, but he wasn't a fan of Star Wars in the same way the fans of Star Wars are fans of Star Wars.  To him, Star Wars was a source of income, not a source of entertainment.


Similarly, for the writers and directors, and artists, and actors involved in creating your fandom, sometimes all they see your Fandom as is this:  a job.  It might have been a fun job, or a well-paying job, or a job they loved doing with fellow actors they became friends with, but at the end of the day, they might have seen it as nothing more than a job.  And that's a perfectly proper and acceptable attitude for them to have.  They (the actors and writers and directors) are under no obligation to have every single little detail about the Fandom memorized.


Bill Shatner's classic "Get a Life" skit that he did for Saturday Night Live was right on the money.  Unfortunately, there have been plenty of people involved in the creation of a work who were treated as pariahs by the fans when it became apparent that they weren't fans themselves.  For example, Sarah Michelle Gellar's shoddy treatment at the hands of Buffy fans after she made it clear that she wasn't particularly a Buffy fan herself is a good example of what I mean.  And the less said about how Gates McFadden's early treatment at the hands of Star Trek fans for the same "crime", the better.  (Don't worry, both fandoms eventually made their peace with both actresses.)


Not everyone is going to get your constant Fandom references and in-jokes.
And when they do, don't act as if they are bad people.  They aren't bad people.  They just aren't fans.


Your Fandom really isn't a special and unique snowflake.
Do not assume that your Fandom is more "unique" or "original" or "special" than all other similar types of work, media, or genre.  Your Fandom is, in fact, very similar to all other words of its kind.  It doesn't "transcend" its niche just because you are a fan of it.


Do not assume that your Fandoms are universal.
While it is true that some Fandoms really do have world-wide reach (Star Trek, for example, is a true global phenomenon), most don't.  There are even some Fandoms that seem universal, but actually aren't simply because the Fandoms are so vocal and visible (Star Wars, for example, is nowhere near as popular outside of the United States, Australia, England, France, Japan, and Germany as it is inside those countries).


Do not assume everyone knows the Fandom down to the minute-detail level.
Do not assume that every single detail has entered the public consciousness of the general public, regardless of how well-known the work is.  Sure, while anyone whose seen anything with Star Wars in the title can identify the guy with the asthma and the black helmet, this does not mean that every single fact about Star Wars is well-known to everyone.


To give you a specific example, a Raging Star Wars Fanboy will assume that not only does everyone know who the scary black-armored asthmatic is, but will also know the name of the bald cyborg guy who acts as Lando Calrissian's sidekick, and they simply don't.


The guy's name is Lobot, by the way.  Just saying.


"You wouldn't be here if it weren't for us fans, so this Fandom belongs to us more than it belongs to you" is arrogant nonsense.
That's all it is.  Nonsense.  The property at the center of the Fandom belongs to its creators, not to its fans.  The fans don't get to call the shots except when they become one of the owners.  So get over yourselves.  I remember reading a public Question and Answer session that J.K. Rowling held with Harry Potter fans, and one of the fans tried this line on her.  She burst out laughing at the guy and told him he was full of it.


Of particular note when it comes to this point are those fans of a children's work who refuse to acknowledge, and indeed get hostile to the idea, that their Fandom was in fact intended for children.  Now, I want to make it clear that many perfectly respectable and laudible works were originally intended for children and yet are still enjoyable when you're an adult.  But that doesn't change the fact that My Little Pony and Sonic the Hedgehog (to name two examples off the top of my head) are cartoons for kids.


On a related note, the creators of the Fandom are not under any requirement to tell the story you want them to tell.
Its their creation.  Let them tell the story they want.  If they don't do what you want them to, boo hoo for you.  And no, you don't get to tell them that they "did it wrong."  Just because your preferred couple didn't hitch up, or because the creators left certain questions unanswered, or they didn't spotlight your favorite character enough, or whatever, doesn't make them bad people.  They are under no obligation to cater to your whim.


Just because you've built your life around your Fandom doesn't mean everyone else does.  Or should, for that matter.
Dude, seriously, just take a break.  Put down the remote, turn off the game, stop the movie and go outside and walk around on the grass for a while.  You'll thank me if you do.

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