Recently, I wrote a post for Fandom Following called “Blind Fandom”, as part of an ongoing “Adventures In Fangirling” series. The intention of the post was to talk about how one should be aware of the things that go on both in their fandoms and the franchises that those fandoms are centered around. However, the comments ended up devolving into both a critique and defense of the way that the site I write for criticizes Game of Thrones. So that brought me to this thought: when arguing about fandom, even before you decide to pick your battle, you have to be sure that this particular fandom is the hill you want to die on.
Fighting for something, or rather arguing a point, is entirely unavoidable in fandom. Trust me; I’ve tried to get around it. People get passionate about the things that they love, and some of us really hate to be wrong. Even the most innocent of fandom discussions can, at any point, devolve into a massive fight. The bigger the fandom, the worse it can be.
However, everytime I so much as feel like I’m about to be dragged into a never-ending fandom fight, I ask myself if [insert fandom] is honestly worth it. More often than not, it’s not. This has kept me out of a ton of internet fights.
I like the phrase “the hill you choose to die on”, it’s very much in the vein of “pick your battles”, and less gory than “the sword you want to fall on”. There’s also “the mountain you’re willing to die on”, but a hill works well enough for me. It’s a defensible point, and making a stand on it means you’re willing to fight for it. When it comes to fandom, you have to be aware of the things you are willing to fight for because it’s inevitable that you will fight somebody on something.
Game of Thrones is not a hill I plan to die on any time soon, but I will admit to arguing a few points about the show’s plausibility in regards to it’s own rules. I also have no problem arguing with anyone about how much better A Song of Ice and Fire is to Game of Thrones; it’s actually one of the few fights I’m willing to have because I’m strong in my conviction that GRRM’s work will always be better. Yet and still, those are the only points I’m willing to argue when it comes to Game of Thrones in particular.
I’m not going to say that I don’t care about Game of Thrones; that’d be an absolute lie. However, I will be the first to tell you that caring too much about Game of Thrones has left me feeling more frustrated and depressed about fictional characters than I have ever been in my fourteen years of active fangirling. I couldn’t have that, so I reminded myself that this was not the hill for me.
I used to think that one has to be fully immersed into a particular property’s canon in order to best argue in it defense, or even to best criticize it. If that was truly the case, my hill would be Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series, or Sherwood Smith’s Court Duel, or even Victoria Hanley’s The Seer and the Sword. I have read all of these things at least three times, and I have followed Tamora Pierce’s Tortall stories for a good fifteen years. If there is anyone who can talk to you about how well Tamora Pierce has done heroines, whilst making a concerted effort to move away from the white savior trope that plagued her earlier works, it’s me.
However, I so rarely get to have those discussions these days. Nobody is going to die on a hill about Jonathan of Conte because we can all agree that he’s the Bad Trope King in his particular series. Nobody is writing Buzzfeed articles about George Cooper the feminist. Geeks like me don’t need hills to die on for these lesser known fandoms because we’ve already carved out our little hobbit holes and built our round tables for our peaceful discussions.
Anakin Skywalker, though? I have yet to take in the whole of Star Wars canon, but the movies, and the few novels I have read, are enough fuel to help me fight the world for my problematic fave. And a lot of people are like that; they’ve only taken in parts of the canon, but will fight you tooth and nail to defend the bits that they have seen.
The biggest and truly passionate arguments come when there is more than one interpretation of canon. Most fantasy readers barely know about Tamora Pierce, despite the amount of works she has written, because none of it has made the move to another medium. However, millions of people can argue with you about Star Wars and Game of Thrones because there are technically several interpretations of their individual canon.
So what hill am I willing to die on? The Star Wars prequels. I like the original trilogy, and I have no problems admitting that there are issues with the second trilogy, but I felt like the prequels really made the series worth being continued. As I have said before, I will fight anyone about Anakin Skywalker; I’ve written a four thousand word essay on how he never got to be great.
I still love A Song of Ice and Fire, and I’ll never stop telling people how much better it is than Game of Thrones. It’s not impossible for a fanfic to be better than the source material, but Game of Thrones is a particularly bad fanfic, in my opinion. It is not the best interpretation of the canon.
There are a few other hills that I am okay with dying on, but I’ve let this post go on longer than I intended it to. However, if you’re interested, why don’t you tell me about your hills in the comments? What fandom will you go to bat for, time and time again? What’s better: the original canon, or the current interpretation? Let me know what you think!