Written and Illustrated by Koriander Bullard
Not too long ago, a friend of mine joined a Facebook community for book lovers. For the sake of protecting her privacy, let's pretend her name is “Mina”.
Now Mina is a very friendly and generous lady. She didn’t just want to promote her own book, she wanted to promote the books of authors she thought were really cool. So she would share their links, talk about how wonderful their stories are, and then she would buy a book or two, read it and then offer a spare copy in online giveaways. Her community is set to “open” so I could read for myself that she is always minding her P's and Q's and doesn't troll.
Then one day, it happened. I log onto Facebook to find that some psycho has started a social media campaign against Mina. Let's call the psycho woman “Avery”.
From what I can piece together from the long-winded ramblings Avery posted, at one point, Avery considered herself to be Mina's Facebook “friend”. (Note the quotations?) One day, Avery took a comment Mina made about a romance novel WAY out of context, thinking it was about her and not about the fictitious character Mina was talking about. Then she threw a hissy fit because Mina shared a picture Avery had set to “public” and had the nerve to say it was a cute photo. Before anybody could figure out what was going on, Avery launched a Twitter and Facebook campaign, accusing Mina of trying to steal her husband, (who lives three states away and had no clue this was going on) trying to seduce her son (who is turning one next week) and of trying to claim one of her books as Mina's book (a book that by the way, was ripped off of someone else) and sell it on Amazon (which at the time, Mina did not have access to) while demanding Mina be blacklisted by every book community around the globe.
A week earlier, my brother told me of another “community crisis” involving two men over the age of 25 on one of Capcom's forums. The two fought over which interpretation of Mega Man was the best and whether or not Capcom was hiding pro-Muslim sentiment in the background of a game they released two PlayStation consoles ago. The same day, my husband told me of a public meltdown he saw a 22 year old man had on a Fallout Facebook group over someone else's fan-fiction, and I had to ban nine people from one of my Sailor Moon pages when I caught them (ages 19-35) hurling slurs at each other because they couldn't agree on what level of Transgender Sailor Uranus is.
The streets of my home town are still stained with dried blood splatters over countless fights among tween and teenage girls (and 25-45 year old men who behave like tween girls) over which boy band was hotter, Jacob vs. Edward and whether or not John Cena belongs in the Hall of Fame.
The sad part is that this is all very normal in the average fan community.
Back in 2010, I started receiving death and rape threats, because I made a three minute music video where I dressed up a CGI model of Vocaloid's Miku Hatsune in a Hello Kitty costume. I was hacked several times, earned a hate shrine on the internet, and then had strangers send death threats to my family members. It wasn't until the ring leader came out as a 30+ year old math teacher who was also stalking several tween girls that I saw a break in the madness, and the emails themselves didn't cease until I started sharing around my wedding photos, proving I was now under the watch of a gun owner. And why did my family and I get harassed?
Because I offended a “community” I never even asked to be part of.
Worldwide, we have always had problems with fan based communities, ever since the first “fan club” was ever created. Fans of anything imagine a list of “rules” they insist complete strangers obey in order to enjoy the same thing(s) as the rest of the hive, and when they catch someone not 100% like they are, they rally their troupes for an all out war. Then, they flip the script, pretend to be a victim, and claim they're only “protecting” their concept of “art” in the form of stalker behavior.
And if we are going to claim the title of adulthood, then we need to stop accepting this madness as “normal fandom” and start rejecting it.
The celebrities and companies responsible for our fandoms already did, and decades ago. Have you ever seen a celebrity reaction when they hear about their own fan clubs?
For as much money as people have dumped into fan clubs over the years, it never has gotten them any closer to their favorite stars. These clubs, half fan-made and the other half marketing scheme, sometimes charge exorbitant fees to get a membership card and a t-shirt, and yet not one single, solitary member has ever been on a first-name basis with their favorite star or creator. Not a single fan-Wikia has ever gotten anybody a better spot in line, better concert seats or even a mention on an official album, video game credit roll or even a spot as a gopher for the merchandise table of a Power Ranger at a Comic Con.
In fact, the average celebrity doesn't even know they have a fan community or club, and they never see a dime from either. And certainly not from those fan-drawn shirts being hawked all over the place.
Don't believe me? Just mention your fan community to a celebrity at the next convention, and watch as their eyes widen, they open-mouth smile a “WOW um thank you!” and then dart their little, overpaid pupils in the direction of the next fan or security, depending on their level of discomfort.
Trust me, all that Facebook drama you put yourself through is just not worth it.
Let's pretend that I'm a fan of Captain Folder and his sidekick Manilla Mike, the Legal Lad.
My Facebook profile is a picture of me, wearing my Captain Folder cap, a Captain Folder t-shirt while holding my Captain Folder and Legal Lad action figures. I share this photo on Twitter.
If Ka-POW comix (publisher of this pretend series) likes my picture and re-tweets it, cool.
If Belvadere Twizzlestix Esquire (the pretend creator) likes my picture and thanks me for being a fan, that's beyond awesome!
If a few people happen to “Like” my picture, hashtag and share me, great!
But I really don't need to join a community to like Captain Folder and Legal Lad.
I don't need a group of strangers harassing me all day and night about whether or not my picture is “offensive” to them, or if I'm wearing a shirt now deemed “uncool” or dictating to me how to address Legal Lad's budding sexuality. He's ten years old.
I don’t need some fashion challenged hipster psycho-analyzing Captain Folder, trying to convince him or herself that the power suit and cape are all a part of his super-ego “persey” any more than I'd want to listen to a long-winded speech about whether or not the story takes place in an alternate reality in which the Foldermobile is a real-life hybrid, or if this series is all just a fantasy Frank Folder is having in a dream somewhere, after coping with the loss of his secret Mistress, Penny Pencil.
I don't need some Emo kid with “daddy issues” and a sexually confused DeviantArt page bombarding me with their depressing re-imaginings of the characters, when there's a movie studio already working on it. I also don't need their graphic and age-inappropriate “Loli” digital tracings of Legal Lad in his underwear.
If a fellow Captain Folder fan wants to befriend me, awesome! I'll be glad to chat all day with you about Legal Lad helping to foil the plot of The Stormy Stapler in order to rescue Damsel Deadline. I'd also be happy to look up the answers to any question you have about the characters.
But don't be surprised if I skip out on joining the Facebook Community. There's just not enough hours in the day to handle that much fan-created drama.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!