My Problems with: The Toxicity of Fan Culture

So this rant was gonna take an entirely different direction originally. It was mostly gonna be about the pissy overreaction to Thundercats Roar and how folks seriously need to let go of shit from their childhood. Then Kelly Marie Tran deleted her Instagram account due to harassment from so-called ‘fans’ of Star Wars. With that in mind, this amazingly original take went from ‘Fans need to stop being immature’ to ‘Fans need to stop being arseholes’. I hope it can keep that original energy and spirit as we continue.

Tran’s story is not unique in the world of Star Wars fandom. Jake Lloyd, who played young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, quit acting due to harassment for his part in the film. It’s almost fortuitous that the young actor gained his infamy during the larvae stage of online geek culture. He mostly faced the ire of his peers and not grown ass people who personally blamed an 8 year old for not acting all that well as the reason their  childhoods were ruined. Not that his classmates bullying him did the poor guy any favours.

There’s been a growing hostility in the Star Wars fandom for months now, especially coming to a head with the polarising reaction to The Last Jedi. This appears to have culminated in an actress who was hired to play a part deciding to remove her social media presence for her own personal safety. This has to stop. The growing levels of fan worship is reaching kind of uncomfortable levels here.

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Now the Star Wars fandom isn’t the only perpetrator of this kind of weird overreaction that leads to seriously dangerous behaviour. Recently, an individual on Twitter made a post implying he would shoot up CalArts, causing an understandable panic at the university. The tweet was a joke, but what sparked this alleged ‘rage’? Reportedly it’s due to the ‘CalArts style’, where a distinctive art style has been used on several shows for the past few years.

Now, similar templates for animation is nothing new (they’ve been around since animating on a budget has been a thing), but the ire of this particular offense came from a rebooted Thundercats show called Thundercats Roar. It’s taking a more comedic stance in comparison to the original Thundercats and people are not happy about it. And yes, you heard that right; a new Thundercats show and the art style they’ve adopted pissed off somebody so much they expressed their rage by acting like they were going to go on a school shooting. Which is absolutely a threat you don’t take seriously in America, but that’s another story altogether.

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Thundercats Roar seems to be taking a lot of its cues from another rebooted series, Teen Titans Go!. For the uninitiated, TTG is a comedically-bent revival of the 2003 Teen Titans, which saw a group of teenage superheroes fight crime. The original voice cast returned for their parts, but they dumbed down the show entirely and didn’t have exactly the most respectful attitude to the original series that fans loved, where the showrunners admitted they had barely seen it. The level of anger this series bring on is astonishing, what’s made even worse is that TTG seems to have found success where the original never did. It’s even getting its own feature length film released in cinemas and all.

One of my main reasons for bringing this show up is because I was a huge fan of the original Teen Titans (though I faded away at around season 4 because I reached that phase that I was ‘too old’ for cartoons). It had an awesome art design and combined superhero action with teen drama and comedy with an excellently balanced cast and engaging, intelligent storytelling. As a former fan of the show, I take a look at Teen Titans Go! and, yeah, it does not look very good. It does not look like something I would enjoy. Based on the clips and the sparse bits of it I’ve watched, it does not entertain me. And at the risk of coming off as insensitive to those who really have an axe to grind with this show, I don’t really care. If anything, I’m happy this show got the cast from the original an easy pay cheque and it got me to watch snippets of seasons 4 and 5 of Teen Titans that I missed. I gotta thank the show for closing that long-open chapter in my life and finding television I genuinely appreciate (I LIKED THE FINAL EPISODE, AND I WILL FIGHT YOU!!!).

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This doesn’t just apply to nostalgic properties, mind you. Lest we forget the amazing, well-publicised disaster that was McDonald’s Szechuan sauce? This shitty promotion they made for Mulan back in 1998? That nobody fucking remembered until a cartoon made a metatextual joke with it last year, causing McDonald’s to hop on the bandwagon and send out not enough of this fucking sauce for all the mouth breathers that went apeshit and over-the fuck-reacted because they couldn’t get their memes?  Thus somewhat ruining the reputation of said show because of just how toxic and immature this fanbase is, at least from people I’ve heard from? We all remember that? Yeah, cool, I figured as such.

And don’t get me wrong here-I get how important some of this media can be to people. I can be protective of properties that I grew up with and shaped me, and you are perfectly entitled to not like these things based on your adoration of their original source material. You can be offended that The Last Jedi ruined something about Star Wars for you. You can be pissed off that Thundercats Roar and Teen Titans Go! are pale imitations of shows you loved. You can like Rick and Morty and…actually I got nothing for this. Don’t be an asshole and overwhelm low wage service crew because of a joke in a cartoon.

I suppose that’s the line at the end of the day; don’t let your adoration and emotional connection for something define your personality in a way that causes you to defend it so fervently and irrationally. Or causes you to become irrational in some weird way of defending its honour or…executing a meme. A show, a movie series, comics, books, etc. can be as good as bad as they are made and as how you view them, but at the end of the day this relationship is entirely one-sided. It’s a piece of media made with the sole purpose of having your appreciation of it be exchanged for profit. The target of this love does not, and cannot, love you back.

That’s not a bad thing-if anything, it helps mature your bond for this media in a way that you couldn’t see it more clearly when you have way too narrow a view of how this works. But that can never give you the right to completely turn your object of love into a source of hate. At the end of the day, how do you know that The Last Jedi, Teen Titans Go!, whatever, isn’t affecting some kid the same way The Original Trilogy or the Teen Titans ’03 affected you? Who are you to take away that from somebody?

Also bullying a woman off social media will never not make you look like a complete asshole. Nobody gives that much of a shit that you don’t like a movie she was in.

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