You Are Not A Fan: Addressing Toxic Nerd Culture
It’s 2018, and unfortunately, nerd culture is as insufferable as it’s ever been. Despite white male protagonists dominating mainstream media for decades, there is still a very loud portion of “fans” who can’t handle change. In the wake of recent news about Kelly Marie Tran’s decision to delete her Instagram, it’s time we all come together to address the very large, very loud, and very destructive elephant in the room.
If you’ve ever heard the term “SJW” used in online discussions about your favorite brand of entertainment, then you’re well aware of the problem at hand. Being a fan of something doesn’t mean you absolutely have to love every change that comes through, however, if you find yourself harassing celebrities online, or engaging in any kind of coded language that perpetuates misogyny, or racism, chances are you’re not actually a fan. To be clear: just because you claim to be a fan of something, does not mean that you are entitled to anything. You are not “passionate”, you are not “die-hard”, you are not even “spirited”. You are simply abusive.
Remember when fans said Donald couldn’t be Spider-Man? Or when Rick & Morty fans doxed the female writers of the show? Or maybe you can recall a time when literally any superhero in a comic series has passed on the mantle to a person of a different race and/or gender? Being a nerd is supposed to be easier than ever, and yet far too often, a good majority of us have to hear complaints from (typically) white, male nerds about what changes are god awful, and why a change from the norm is “pandering” as if these people have more claim to a fandom than anybody else. Ironically enough, these same people are the ones who are forgetting why these books, games, shows, etc. are supposed to be accessible in the first place. Then again, these are the same people who probably unabashedly love Fight Club, and strive to be as emotionally unintelligent as Rick Sanchez. These are the people who think they own the content they consume, and cannot fathom any world-fictional or not-that does not need them. They’ll complain that if people want a black superhero, new ones should be created rather than trying to live in the shadow of already existing characters, and yet somehow they’ll still find a way to complain about a Black Panther movie. They forget that original characters get demolished in sales, and fail to see the validity in any story where the character’s identity is even remotely attributed to their race or gender.
To put it simply, we need to stop labeling these people as “fans” and start calling them out for exactly what they are. Now, I know this sounds preachy, and no one is 100% problem free, but it’s time we really start to look at ourselves, and readjust where our values lie. It’s hard to call yourself a “fan” of something if you spend the majority of your time hating on it, or negatively affecting the community, or image of those who actually do enjoy the work. There comes a certain point where you have to be self-aware enough to understand that you’ve crossed the border out of “fan” territory, and into “troll” territory. Play devil’s advocate all you want, but in reality, you perpetuating an unpopular, or even unwanted opinion doesn’t reflect positively on your character or the fanbase you claim to represent. And quite frankly, it’s sad that somebody has to point all this out to you.
If you require any further supplemental reading, be sure to check out the article 5 Guidelines That Will Make You A Better Geek, and adjust yourself accordingly. For everyone else, it’s time we stop engaging these people in their false attribution to fandom and start shifting the dialogue to shutting them down entirely. Remember: keeping yourself in check is your own responsibility. That being said, the rest of us will be adamant about calling you out from here on out.