Sunday, January 29, 2017

Opinion: What Fandoms are Like

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By: Emma B.
As a start to this article, I’d like to propose to you, my theory. I think fan-bases love pop culture. Even though fandoms can be very original, often times they are inspired they are heavily influenced by pop culture and fads. This means (just like a-lot of other things in life) fandoms can be just as dark or as light as people want them to be. 
However I believe this doesn’t mean that fandoms should automatically be judged just because they can be a bit dark or overly fluffy. So today I will be sharing my personal experiences with fandoms.

A Brief Overview:
Since I have talked about fan-bases once or twice before for the Lime Green Giraffe. Most recently, I wrote about fandoms in an article I wrote for the August issue in 2015, I’ll try to keep this overview brief. However a lot of you might still be asking, what is a fandom?
Well a fandom is a group of people who all enjoy the same general thing. Usually a fandom starts off in small groups before rising into the Internet scene. From here the the members of the fandom get names. Some common ones are Trekies (Star Trek fans), Whovians (Doctor Who fans), Bronies (My Little Pony fans), etc. The groups after this point start becoming sub-divided into fan-artists (writers, illustrators, etc.), critics and finally casual fans. All of this creativity finally culminates online. This means fans start gather together on websites such as fanfiction.net, Deviantart, Tumblr, Twitter, and especially YouTube. There are also types of fans that fall into each of the sub-divisions.
One of them (which I proudly admit to being) are shippers. These are people who focus on pairings between characters usually called “ships” (which is derived from the term relationship). The reason this group of people are called “shippers” is because they used to be called “relation-shippers” but the phrase was shortened to “shippers” due to the original phrase being such a mouthful. These fans are usually a further subdivision of artists. There is another major subdivision that many call “analysts”. These are people who (as the name would dictate) analyze the content they love and express how they think it could improve. These are usually a subdivision of critics.

My Personal History:
My personal history with fan-bases started when I was around 10-years old. I was browsing the Internet one night when I came across some (I have to admit) adorable fan-fictions and art involving a wedding between my favorite couple (or ship as I called it) at the time, Mario and Princess Peach. This caused me to investigate deeper. Needless to say, this led to me seeing and hearing some rather mature things. Now even though it was nothing horribly awful, it still was a lot to take in for a 10-year old. This scared me away from fan-bases for a rather long time. (Internet note: If you see things on the Internet that make you uncomfortable, you should talk to an adult whot you trust.)
Now, back to my story, I didn’t stop creating my own stories and artwork for the Mario fandom. I even watched videos now and then. This is because I always wanted a fandom that was kinder to minors. However when I was 11-years old and entering middle school I discovered something new.
I was once again on the Internet when I discovered the game Kid Icarus Uprising. My curiosity got the best of me and I looked it up. I instantly fell in love and discovered something even more bizarre. I discovered that the Kid Icarus fan-base was a-lot more merciful than the Mario one appeared to be at the time. Mature content was few and far in-between and when it did appear it was actually labeled. This allowed me to avoid content that made me uncomfortable, which was amazing to say the least. After this game-changing experience I started learning what other fandoms/fan-bases were like.
The more I researched, the more the results became similar. This prompted me to go back to the Mario fandom and I quickly found out something shocking: half the reason I made the discoveries I did in regards to mature content is because I looked in the wrong places. This made me realize that (much like riding a bike) as long as one is careful there is a part of fandom that is kinder and merciful to younger ones. Now I often revisit that part of fandom and try my best to help it grow.

A Modern Lens:
Now even though my personal story sheds some light on how I view fandoms, there is another piece to this puzzle. That piece is how fan-bases have matured and evolved over time. Back in the early 2000’s, fan-bases were treated far less seriously than they are now. In fact, when I did research for this article, some of the Internet’s most popular joke videos emerged in this time. However as times have changes, fans have started to come out of the shadows and defend what they love, because they are so passionate about these topics. This led to a lot more serious fan created works releasing which caused certain fandoms or groups of fandoms to mature.
There is also the rise of Internet stars like Markiplier and Pewdipie to consider in this puzzle too. These are men and woman who, to this day, are making sometimes millions of dollars a year by just being themselves-- die-hard fans. Not only that, but most of them are kind people who often donate to charity. I feel this combined with people’s desire for their fandoms to mature led to the way people view fandoms today. I also think it gave way to a nice balance or comedy and tragedy in fan-works.

My Personal Tastes:
In fact as a writer, I think fandoms be amazingly effective teaching tools for writing practice as well as good practice for social interaction. However I do believe there could room for improvement in many fan-bases and how people react to them.  
Give Mature Content Its Own Space
At this point it’s fairly obvious that unless it’s content that is targeted to adults, I feel overly mature content in fan-bases can be somewhat unpleasant. However, as a decent human being I don’t feel the people who find this appealing should be shunned out of fan-bases. So what is the solution to this problem? Personally, I feel fan-bases should have their own websites and forums dedicated to mature content. This way the mature content has a place to go without scaring young children but a person can view it if they choose so.  
Have Parents Get More Involved
Another situation that I feel happens a lot is that young children and pre-teens could be exposed to something they aren’t ready to see. For example, my sister, who is six-years old was watching YouTube. She was watching a YouTube channel I had been watching for a while and I thought was kid-appropriate. However when I saw her watching videos she almost watched a video from that channel that contained extreme amounts of violence. I simply got lucky and stopped her from watching it in time.
This lesson taught me something, that even the seemingly most kid friendly YouTube channels can have a darker edge. It also taught me that maybe I should check in on my sister more often. I think something similar applies to many people.
So as a second thing fans could do is let their parents check in on what they look at online every now and then. I’m not saying they should do it all the time but at least once a month until they are 17 and hypothetically mature enough to handle such content. This could also serve as good bonding time if the parent and child are watching things online together.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Six years ago, I was just starting to enter the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic fan-base. Back in those early days I heard many stories about “MLP” controversy. This is because many people outside of the fan-base thought the fans were absolute crazies because they enjoyed something. These assumptions that caused the controversy would shape the fandom for almost three years until finally the controversy went away and moved to the next fandom. This taught me a valuable lesson about how assumptions can either make or break a fan-base. Therefore I really think in order for fan-bases to improve, people should assume as little as possible about the fans themselves. This is because if constantly make assumptions you may paint a picture that isn’t even true.
Overall, fandoms act very much like glass cannons. They can be amazing tools for teaching and social interaction yet some of the backlash behind them can shatter them entirely. However with a few more adjustments this glass cannon can become even stronger.


Emma B.

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