Fandom Hierarchy: Should We Be Allowed to Hate?

On Tuesday I managed to start a very wild discussion about Twilight & hating Twilight fans on Twitter. It’s actually caused a bit of a stir and started to make me think. (Especially with the reaction of fellow manga bloggers.)

(Please be patient with me, this post is going to be my train of thoughts.)

I’ve been a fan of manga (and by extension, anime) for almost 10 full years now. For the past eight years, I’ve been attending cons, usually more than one a year, and interacting with other fans on a person-to-person basis regularly. For the past five years, that regular basis increased to weekly basis. I’m around fans a LOT and although a lot of them are fans of a certain stripe, I still get along with most fans I meet quite well.

But there are still fans that annoy me. You may say that I’m jaded and cranky because I’ve (likely) seen all the horrors of fandom by now, you’d probably be right. And worse yet, I try to be a pacifist. So why do I still hate on fans? Why do I feel like I have the right?

Simply put, I don’t. I shouldn’t hate on Twilight fans, Narutards or any other obsessive fan just because I don’t like what they like. I shouldn’t call them crazy or freaky because obviously their definition of those words is way different than mine and they don’t fit themselves into those words. But I still hate on them. Why?

I’d have to say a lot of it stems from multiple negative incidences I have had with such fans. I don’t even care if Narutards wear those metal headbands that got banned in high school anymore, (Although I still make a snarky comment about how real ninjas wouldn’t wear shiny metal objects when they’re trying to be stealthy.) but more than a few Naruto fans have been rude to me after I said I really dislike Naruto. Which has lead me to say I not only dislike Naruto, but the way the fans behave as well.

My experiences with Twilight fans have been similar. When I answer a Twilight fan’s questions about whether I’ve read the book (I tried, I couldn’t finish it because it was so abhorant to me) or seen the movies (not wasting money and time when I didn’t like the book), I get a lot of peer pressure to “change my ways.” When I start to explain that I am not going to pick up the novels again and why, I get hated on myself. I get told that the reasons why I don’t like it are not what Twilight is about, that I’m missing the point. Even though those words aren’t necessarily insulting on their own, the tone used often is.

It’s totally demeaning to hear someone imply that you’re stupid not to like something. I don’t really take well to being insulted. (I’m trying to work on that.) The little kid that used to get teased so often fights back. The conversation escalates, nasty words are exchanged and we both leave with a bad impression of each other. While I have many valid reasons for not liking the book, my reasons for not liking the more enthusiastic fans are largely my own fault (and, honestly, the fault of the obsessive fans too. Both of us should stop being so petty.)

Then on top of the horrible experiences, I hear that someone’s made a felted fetus from one of the books, someone else has made sex toys (and is selling them), someone else has started a group to “appreciate the values” of Twilight, etc., etc., etc. Well, there goes my faith in humanity. This fandom is going to last just like Star Trek and Star Wars fans have lasted (and so has the merchandising), I’m pretty sure of it. People are going to worship this book all their lives long and raise their kids on it.

So when I can’t stand the book, the fans are downright insulting and they keep doing stuff that’s toe-ing the line of cultish behavior, I feel a little bit justified when I call them crazy. But I’m still not right, mostly because not all Twilight fans are this crazy (I know this, I know many many fairly normal fans of Twilight too. They’re separate groups of fans to me.), and even some of the more enthusiastic fans aren’t participating in the creation of sex toys or knitted reproductive organs or are even deep into the appreciation of Twilight’s “values.” I’m still lumping them together as crazy and generalizing the group as a whole. That’s not fair either, even though I can’t stand screaming ninnies from any fandom.

Melinda Beasi brought up that Twilight fans get a lot of hate because they’re women and that fans who hate on Twilight are basically hating on teenage girls, being girls. This is true, but I don’t feel like I hate Twilight fans because they’re being girls. I hate them for thinking stalking is a plausible lead to a romantic relationship, not because they think Edward or Jacob or whoever is hot. If it was JUST them thinking Edward was hot, THAT I can understand. I do that too, albeit not with characters who are creepy stalkers. I hate them for thinking this book is the greatest thing ever and being annoyingly obsessive and rude to me when I don’t agree.

Do I still have the right to hate on them? No. I’m totally in the wrong no matter how much I explain my feelings about it.

Today’s lesson: Don’t hate on people. You don’t have the right  and it’s of no real benefit to you. You’re not better than them. No one’s better than anyone else, especially in fandom. Remember kids, superiority complexes start fan wars. Take it a little bit further and you can say superiority complexes kill.

Don’t be a jerk and start a fan war. DON’T follow my example.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Fandom Hierarchy: Should We Be Allowed to Hate?

  1. Pingback: Fandom, food, and falling sales « MangaBlog

  2. Daniella:

    I know some of us older, grouchier manga fans were a little tough on you during that Twitter conversation. Looking back on the vehemence of my comments, I apologize — you must of felt you were being hazed by the Sean Cassidy Fan Club! Your essay here shows a lot of class on your part, especially in your willingness to acknowledge other points of view.

    One thing that probably didn’t come through in our Twitter conversation is that I also share a lot of your frustrations with fandom. I’m constantly baffled by hardcore fans’ sense of entitlement — “publish this book with this cover or I won’t buy it!” — and rationalization for piracy — “I could do a better job than a publisher with a professional translation and editorial staff!” Nor do I really understand the way die-hard fans express their intense passion for series like Naruto and Twilight. I’ve adored certain books and movies, many of them trashy, but I’ve never written a fan fic or cosplayed; the last time I re-enacted anything from a favorite movie or book was playing Little House on the Prairie in elementary school or dressed up as Princess Leia for fourth grade trick-or-treating. I’ve never refused to talk to someone who hated InuYasha (or Lawrence of Arabia, for that matter, one of the few things in my life that comes close to an obsession for me), nor would I think less of someone who didn’t share my glowing opinion of Mitsukazu Mihara.

    Yet the fan cultures irritate me less because I was in my thirties when I discovered manga. Young fans viewed me as the Crypt Keeper, so I wasn’t subjected to evangelizing or hazing, even at conventions. (Try painting on a few crows’ feet — it works wonders in keeping the young’uns at bay.) It also helps that I don’t work in the field; I can retreat to my Russian music tower when I’m sick of the foolishness. The only thing that really shakes me loose is when people attack a fandom primarily on the basis of gender. And that’s what’s happening when someone suggests that “Twitards can have shit delivered right back up their @$$3$ … if they like cold hard vampires soo much they can shove a popsicle up their Vajayjays.” It doesn’t get more explicit or personal than that, and it depresses me a lot more than excessive fan behavior because it is a really rancid put-down of girls for the very fact of their biology. In a word: yuck.

    I hope your post starts a good, thoughtful conversation on the subject. I’ll sprinkle the comment thread with a little Troll Be Gone before hitting the “Submit Comment” button.

    –Kate

    • I guess you were a little tough, but I think it was for a good reason. (Which is why I wrote this post.) There’s really no good reason to be nasty to other fans.

      It’s not really fan entitlement that I feel frustrated at because I know a lot of industry people work hard to make these products as close to the original as possible. They usually share the fans’ frustrations when they can’t do it. (Usually because someone higher up interjects.) Sure, fans can be a little whiny when they don’t get their way in such things, but they want the experience.

      I’ve cosplayed and attempted fanfic (then sworn myself off it forever), but it’s not like I won’t talk to people who like Naruto or Twilight. I’ve met many a fan who is perfectly reasonable and still way into a certain series that I don’t like. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, the deal breaker is when they start treating me like shit when I say I don’t like what they love so damn much. I guess the biggest problem there is that they want to know why I don’t like their favorite show and I have to explain in more explicit language what I don’t like. Then they get mad at me, I start becoming mad at them for being so rude to me and the chaos ensues. I’m starting to really think I hate them more because they treat the whole “I don’t like your favorite series” issue like it’s life or death more than because they like something that I don’t.

      I don’t mind being around fans more often because I do pick my friends fairly carefully and try hard not to get embroiled in serious drama. (More serious than battling over fandom hierarchy anyway) I also don’t mind it because we can all enjoy stuff like Doctor Who sometimes instead of JUST anime and manga. I don’t mind being an about-average-age fan because it kind of does allow me to make more friends while I’m around others. What I mind is when someone just ASSUMES I am going to like EVERYTHING they like and start getting nasty when I say: “Eh, well I’m not a fan of that show/manga/videogame/book/whatever.”

      That said, I don’t like the idea of Twilight fans being hated on for their gender either. No one should be told to shove popsicles up their anything JUST because they’re fangirls. There’s nothing really wrong with thinking a character or an actor is hot because, HELL, guys drool all over Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox and Mio ALL THE TIME. It’s very hypocritical for guys to say they should stop fangirling over Edward or Jacob unless said guys are totally and utterly asexual. Even then, no one deserves that kind of language. They are not THAT annoying.

      I’m not too worried about trolls. I’ve been ready for them ever since I hit the publish button. :P

  3. Hi Daniella,

    I, too, would like to acknowledge your generosity of spirit here, especially considering how hard I was on you the other day.

    I think I personally fall into a grayer area than you and Kate do, which makes it easier for me to be tolerant of obsessive fans. I have written fanfiction (pages and pages of it). I’ve stood in line for hours on the opening day of a favorite sci-fi or fantasy movie with geek paraphernalia on hand (a fan-made Blue Sun shirt or Hufflepuff scarf, for example). I’ve held marathons of favorite TV series in my home in an attempt to sway friends. With the exception of bona fide cosplay (there is no *way* I’m going to end up on one of those websites that mocks fat cosplayers), if it falls into the realm of obsessive geekery, chances are I’ve done it.

    That doesn’t mean that I’ve never become annoyed with other fans, because certainly I have–and in many of the same ways as you’ve expressed here. But I’ve long accepted that as part of being a genre geek. Strong social skills are not high on my list of expectations when it comes to fans.

    If I had one piece of old-lady-nerd wisdom to share with you (and mind you, this is for the benefit of your own sanity more than anything else) it would be the single most important thing I learned from LiveJournal fandom:

    “Don’t harsh my squee.”

    I’m not actually talking about my squee here, but you get my drift. Just as you’ve felt hurt and defensive when another fan tries too hard to “convert” you or derides you for not liking whatever they are a fan of, there is nothing a devoted fan (of anything) will take more personally than being told that the thing they love most is stupid, bad, or (in your words) “abhorrent.” To someone who identifies strongly with a work of fiction (and most of us geeks do), harsh criticism of what they love feels (to them) like criticism of them. Like… if you think the book they love more than any other in the world (at least right now) is abhorrent, what must you think of them for caring so much about it? And if you’re offering up this criticism in the same moment when they are expressing their love for or excitement of the work in question (their “squee”), it’s like a knife to the heart.

    Now everyone’s got the right to an opinion, of course, and the right to express it too. But having spent many years in an emotionally-charged, multi-fandom environment, I’ve learned that the key to cross-fandom harmony (and even inter-fandom harmony half the time) is to let people love what they love (whatever way they love it) in their own spaces and reserve my strong opinions for my own. This can be complicated in real-world settings, of course, where fannish territory is largely undefined, but I think the principle still applies. It takes serious willpower, I know, to hold back criticism when your own opinion of something is incredibly strong, as yours is with Twilight (and rightly so, from what I understand). But man will it save you some pain. I learned this the hard way over the years (imagine being someone who despises the musical “Rent”) but doing so has improved my personal fan experience one hundred-fold.

    Thanks for being so honest in this post, Daniella. Your continued willingness to examine your own biases and reactions is a breath of fresh air in the manga blogosphere. I’m happy and honored to know you.

    One note to Kate: You have no idea how happy I am to know that I was not the only girl in elementary school playing Little House on the Prairie!

    • gia

      Cosplay mockery was one of the reasons why I made up my own mini-hierarchy instead of using the original. It is amazing to me how horrendous people can be about cosplayers that aren’t a size 2. Blech.

      /off-topic!

      • Lol. You have no idea. I participated in a Haruhi dance-off at AX one year. The video of our dance is/was very popular on Youtube because it was very good and close to the animation. TO THIS VERY DAY, we get tons of comments on the video about our Haruhi being a bitch (um, in character, HELLO), how it’s a shame Mikuru cosplayers can’t have huge tits without being fat (that was me AND I stuffed my bra), and that our Yuki, Kyon and Koizumi were crossplayers. (Despite the fact that everyone in our group was the right gender for their roles.) All of us still laugh about it to this day.

    • Like I said to Kate, I don’t think you guys were that bad and even so, you had good reason. I think I became more frustrated because I wasn’t able to explain myself more clearly.

      I’ve done a lot of weird fandom stuff myself. I’ve cosplayed, tried to write fanfic, done fanart, marathoned series with the intentions of getting my friends hooked, stood in line for hours for a certain panel or a signing. I’m definitely involved in the fandom.

      I guess the difference between you and me is that I expect some level of social skills. I don’t care how long you’ve been socially awkward because I was able to do it after years and years and years being teased and bullied. I guess in some ways it’s misconstrued hope that awkward fans will learn to be more socially adept. I was taught a lot of tough love over the years, so that hope comes across poorly.

      I don’t really want to harsh anyone’s squee either. When I get asked if I like this or that, I usually just say “I don’t like Twilight” instead of “I find Twilight abhorrent.” It’s when I get asked why and they continue to dig deeper in disbelief that someone doesn’t like what they like that I have to explain why in more unsavory language. It’s not like I’m totally unwilling to like Twilight fans JUST because they like Twilight. I have PLENTY of friends who have come out of such conversations with me with our friendship still intact because it just isn’t life or death to them. The more obsessive a fan is, however, the more life and death that conversation becomes to them. There is never such a conversation where I wish they would drop it after I say “I don’t like it” and if I happen to be on the opposite side, it’s never life or death for me. If I want to try to correct their view, I’ll try to go into a healthy debate. More importantly, I try hard to never tell someone that they shouldn’t like something just because I don’t. I’m more likely to wish that think just didn’t exist period.

      Also, I hate Rent too. I find it really whiny and when the movie came out, I had to listen to one of the songs like 10 million times a day at work. It was kind of torture.

      I have to thank you guys for keeping me on my toes. If you had never contested my dislike of Twilight fans, who knows if I would have tried to work out my issues with them. It’s terribly beneficial to me.

      And Mitsukazu Mihara <3 But then again I love gothic lolita stuff. :3

      • >I expect some level of social skills

        You, milady, doth ask too much.

        Joking aside, there needs to be some sort of “social skills” course or buffer at conventions. Although the people that need it the most probably wouldn’t be bothered.

        • I don’t know. I was awkward as a kid. If I could push myself up to a level where I could make friends, be generally liked and start conversations with ease, I’m PRETTY SURE someone else can.

          I wish cons could have panels like that, but something tells me they just try to do con etiquette pages in their program guides.

  4. Sam Kusek

    Interesting post, Daniella! I’m sorry to see that I missed that conversation but I’m glad to have read your collected thoughts on it.

    In terms of Twilight, I don’t really understand the appeal personally. I guess part of me understands the fantasy/romance appeal and I hate to say it but it sort of reminds me of the days when Harry Potter was coming out. Similar merchandising tactics with a wide appeal to mass audiences.

    I’ve watched movie. I honestly had no problems with the story (easy to follow, but lacking any reason/substance to really care to continue), however, looking at the film technically and objectively, it was just very poorly constructed. Really rough sequencing, super contrasted visually (How pale can everyone really be?). It was very hap-hazardly put together and honestly, could’ve been done much better.

    In terms of Fandom, the entire “basis of gender” attacks, as Kate put it, is just depressing. Putting down Twilight fans on the basis that they are all Girls wrapped up in the fantasy of unrealistic romance is just as bad as putting down 12 year old boys who want to be an unstoppable fighter or card player. I know when I had my fair share of fantasies when I started reading Manga. That’s the appeal of a lot of stories, being able to interject yourself into these situations.

    I also think a lot of the fandom hate, on both sides really, just stems from age. When I was younger, I was certainly very intolerant of other peoples opinions, especially the negative ones, and really lacked to the tact to handle myself in a conversation. I also think that when I was younger, discovering Anime was cool, exciting and new. You get wrapped up in it and it becomes so emotionally important to you and your existence.

    As I got older, exposing myself to more Manga and real-world experiences, I came to become much more tolerant of other people and their likes and dislikes.

    Basically what I am saying is that, Fandom, hopefully for most of these people, is a growing process. I agree with your point about not hating on anyone at the moment though, it really doesn’t help anyone.

    -Sam

    • It was a long, drawn out convo, so you should feel lucky you didn’t have to read all that tweet spam! Lol.

      I can understand the appeal of vampires and romance. After all, I grew up around Anne Rice. Interview with a Vampire was totally sexy stuff. XD It does remind me a bit of Harry Potter, but at least HP was gender-neutral and even age-neutral enough for everyone to enjoy. It was a lot cooler that way because so many people really did like it, not just girls, not just teenagers. There was such a large group of people who just liked it because it was an entertaining book. I know plenty of people who think Twilight is just an entertaining book, but it’s not like my mom is pushing me to hurry up and finish the book so she can read it.

      I’m not sure if you’re talking about the HP movies or the Twilight movies there, but I haven’t seen Twilight nor a number of the HP movies, so I can’t really talk about them. I have absolutely no desire to see Twilight. Nothing draws me into them.

      You’re totally right about the gender-based hating stuff. It’s not like guys don’t drool over hot girls like Megan Fox, etc. either. They shouldn’t bash on girls for thinking this guy is hot unless they’re totally asexual themselves. It’s just hypocritical.

      I don’t know if it’s JUST age. I know plenty of people who are willing to be brats about what they’re obsessed with who are well into their 20s, 30s and beyond. You either have to develop an open mind as you grow into the fandom or already have one.

      • You are right about the age thing and that’s more what I was trying to get at with my comments.

        As for the film, I was talking about the Twilight film (the first one). Its not worth it, I wanted to prove that to myself since I don’t have as much time as I would like to for reading, making me very selective.

  5. Pingback: The Hypocrisy of Manga Fans about the Twilight Manga, and Cultural Masochism — SNAG Vs. World

  6. Pingback: Happy 1st Blogoversary, All About Manga! « All About Manga

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