Thoughts on Fandom(s)

Adventures in Fangirling: Blind Fandom

Originally written for Fandom Following.

I used to be a John Campea fan. I listened to his podcast when it was AMC Movie Talk, I cried with him when he quit to do something else, and I even made the switch when the crew moved to Collider. I may have put money into his Kickstarter. I put a good bit of thought into rolling with him when he decided to do his own thing whilst also covering San Diego Comic Con, because I liked John Campea’s opinions about films and television. I also agreed heavily with something that he had once said about fandom.

A little over a year ago, when Movie Talk was still with AMC, Campea, who is a big Star Wars fan, was asked about why he would point out the flaws in the prequels if he loved the franchise so much. The answer that followed was five and a half minutes of greatness, but the thing that stood out to me was when he said that “blind fandom is not fandom at all”. He basically said that just because you love something doesn’t mean that you should “stick your head in the sand,” and pretend that all of the things that you don’t like about it are okay because they are just parts of this awesome whole. You shouldn’t pretend that those things that you don’t like don’t exist.

That rant was uploaded to YouTube on April 24th of 2015  and starts at about 22:50. It came right after I had lost faith in Arrow, and right before I had begun to lose faith in Game of Thrones. It has stayed with me for over a year. This is actually not even the first time that I have made an attempt to write this post, but it will be the first time it gets published. Blind fandom will never not be a relevant topic.

We are all humans with individual opinions and unique ideas. We like what we like, and we want what we want. Sometimes the things that we like do what we want, and sometimes they don’t. What matters is how we choose to react to them. Do we accept every move because it is part of a good whole? Or, do we stand up and say, no, I have an issue with this?

Here’s the thing though: I don’t think that blind fandom is just accepting everything because it’s part of this great whole. I think that blind fandom can also be vehemently hating a part so much that you cannot accept the whole. I think that blind hatred and blind fandom are two sides of the same coin.

John Campea hates the Star Wars prequels. He thinks that they are terrible films, and has done commentary videos on all three of them. There’s videos of this man ranking the prequels as eons behind whichever of the original three films and The Force Awakens is in the fourth spot. However, Campea doesn’t knock what the prequels do for Star Wars as a whole. They’re good world-building films, even though they don’t seamlessly transition into first trilogy. And they do something new, which was a criticism for The Force Awakens. Still, there are parts of the prequel that Campea, and many other fans, refuse to accept.

So what would count as blind fandom in today’s franchises / entertainment products? Blind fandom is both the dismissal of book snobs’ disdain of the writing decisions made in Game of Thrones, as well as A Song of Ice and Fire fans’ dismissal of Game of Thrones as a whole. The criticism of Game of Thrones is, in some ways, the lifeblood of Fandom Following, as well as a few minor blogs. It’s really hard to get down with the show if you’ve bothered to crack open the books. You either hate that your favorite character is missing, don’t like what they’ve done to your favorite character, or just can’t understand how the show is still getting Emmys with this terrible writing. Then there’s the show fans who think that the books are too long and too boring, and book fans need to get over themselves because they’re just mad that they don’t know anything, and Game of Thrones is awesome.

Except it isn’t. But we’re all still here, week after week.

I think that there’s merit to both arguments. A Song of Ice and Fire fans can be snobs, and our only options are to pretend Game of Thrones doesn’t exist, or suffer. But when you’re in a twenty-year-old fandom for a series that is unfinished – with an author whom you don’t want to rush, but is getting up there in age – you tend to take what you can get. Written fanfiction is great, but nothing beats a good visual. GoT fans will tell you that they’re here for the sex and the dragons, but are honestly daunted by the fact that we could be waiting another ten years for this old man to finish, and seven to eight consistent years of dramatic television is better than nothing.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t criticise what’s being given to us. We should criticise it, because we know that it can be better. However, we shouldn’t wholesale continue to drag it for filth, because there are other, much better written things available to us.

Game of Thrones is not the only franchise prone to blind fandom (and neither is A Song of Ice and Fire, but George is a bit better about his foolery). Whether we are blind to bad writing, problematic themes, or just other fans, every fandom has people who are willing to cosplay as ostriches if it means that they don’t have to confront the issues within their community. I have been one of them; at times, I am still one of them.

The very first time that I realized that John Campea might be problematic was about a week after I had started following him on Facebook. It was during football season, and one of the players had done something, so Campea went on a rant about how they needed to be fired. Now John Campea is known for his rants, and I became a fan because of one of them, but the difference between his scripted rants and his unscripted rants are startling. He wasn’t even saying anything outright offensive, but it made me pause because I didn’t think that the level of anger was necessary. The player he was ranting about may have committed a reprehensible foul in the game, but there were other players on that team who had committed some reprehensible fouls in life. I brushed it off though, because Campea is human. He is allowed to be passionate about things.

Right?

I gave up on Arrow in the spring of 2015, and essentially gave up on Felicity Smoak as well. I was never an Olicity fan, despite the obvious chemistry. It didn’t help that I just could not give her a pass when she cheated on Ray with Oliver, but the decision to drug Oliver right after was one strike too many. And there were people who shipped Olicity that agreed with me.

I found myself with a lot of time to pay attention to the fandoms that I interacted with on Tumblr, last year. So I had a front row seat to watch someone, who was a major player in the fanfiction portion of the Arrow fandom, divorce herself from the show. I remember being so shocked because I had never seen someone so publicly rage quit a show before. I felt her pain though, because it was bad enough that they we ruining Felicity’s characterization by making her act like nothing more than a Love Interest, but having her violate Oliver’s trust like that was too much. That particular fangirl did not quit the fandom, but she refused to write any of the show’s canon from that point going forward.

When John Campea had his Star Wars rant a few weeks later, I thought of her. And I thought of her again when Sansa was raped in Game of Thrones. It is not blind hatred to feel betrayed in such a way by something you had loved. It’s not blind fandom to decide that you can’t move forward from that betrayal. It’s terrible that one has to practice self-care for something that they had used to escape, but there is a point where you have to pull your head up out of the sand, and both Arrow and Game of Thrones had crossed it.

Scores of people have written about why Sansa’s rape was a terrible move, and at least five have taken issue with Oliver’s drugging. You can go to them for further explanation about what was wrong with those scenes. I just want to talk about how they affected my experience with fandom.

I don’t watch Arrow anymore. I don’t think that Olicity outright ruined it, but I legitimately cannot stand to see them on screen anymore. I only bother with the show for crossovers with The Flash and big moments like Laurel’s death. That’s a far cry from two years ago when I thought Arrow was everything that comic book shows needed to be.

I watch Game of Thrones out of obligation. If I hadn’t been invited to live blog the premiere, I think I would have still been wondering if I should bother to watch it. I used to go into every episode with a weary heart, and come out of it confused as to how people still liked it. Surely, I must have been missing something? Everyday, I would look up and see people praising it, and I got so frustrated, wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn’t enjoy it liked everyone else did.

Finally, I just gave up trying to make sense of it. I didn’t put my head back in the sand, but I learned to accept it for the bad fanfic it was. Cracking jokes with black Twitter and one of my Facebook groups helps. It’s not blind fandom, but it’s not blind hatred either, and that helped me moved forward.

So what happened with Mr. Campea? About two months back, John and one of his Collider buddies, Kristian Harloff – who is the whole reason that I care about Star Wars canon, and was able to even remotely piece together my theories after only one viewing – were supposed to have a guest on Collider Movie Talk (but it might have been Heroes) to talk about their differing opinions on Batman vs. Superman. At some point before the guest was supposed to appear, either John or Kristian said something about her, and she took offense. I don’t know what was said, and I personally don’t care, but the rant John Campea went on on Facebook had me pulling my head all of the way out of the sand.

I have since stopped following Mr. Campea on Facebook, and am too far behind on my podcasts to know when he was last on Collider Movie Talk. I will always appreciate the insight that he gave, and everything that I have learned about the film industry in the last year is because of him. He has a passion for his craft, and I applaud him for it. However, those angry rants triggered the mess out of me. As he has said, “blind fandom is not fandom at all”, and it would be stupid of me to continue to follow a man so prone to something that triggers me just because he gave good film critiques.

Take a good look at your fandoms. This post mostly looks at the product side of fandom, but we as fans have to beware of the other consumers (fans) as well. We cannot be blind in our fandoms or in our hatred; praise the things these entertainment products and fan communities do right, and constructively criticize the things that they need to work on. Condemn the things that they have done wrong. Take your head out of the sand and practice self-care, even before they betray you. Because they will betray you. Maybe not enough for you to leave, but enough for you to think about how it made you feel.


If you would like to keep up with me and my adventures in appreciating all kinds of things, please be sure to subscribe to this blog. If you just want to chat with me about this particular topic, make sure to hit me up in the comment section.

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