Random: So, what do you do for fun?
Me: Well, I help run a fansite for an Aussie fantasy author –
Random: *thought process* Fansite? Fantasy? OMG, nerd! *walks off*
I think we’ve all been in the scenario at some time: a social get-together or work gathering where you’ve been given THAT look when mentioning your interest in sci-fi or fantasy. The “weirdo” look. And, just like that, you’re labelled fangirl/fanboy. Defined by urban dictionary as: “A person who has a compulsive dedication to a videogame series, anime series, and/or music artist.” And I would add “novel, tv show, or movie” to that list through personal experience.
Despite our level of involvement, our other interests, or our previous relationships with said Randoms, we are thereafter branded as “just a little bit odd”.
Fair? No. All we’re doing is searching for what we perceive as quality entertainment. For some, it’s the footy. For others, it’s So You Think You Can Dance. For us, it includes – but isn’t limited to – the speculative genres.
So where did this stigma against anyone interested in those genres come from? Why isn’t it socially acceptable to enjoy something that can bring so much happiness, when it’s – frustratingly – appropriate for others to talk endlessly about what happened on last night’s cop show or soapie, or carry on about whatever book Oprah is reading this week?
In an attempt to study this, I’m going to liken entertainment to religion. Not the faith aspect, but the social, earthbound side of it.
Entertainment is used to control the masses. To feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, we find other people who share our interests and beliefs. Higher powers take advantage of this, feeding us targeted advertising to endorse a product or way of life. To make money.
And, as in all religions, there are extremists. Those who really do take things too far.
If you watch Star Trek, then you must be on a waitlist to have your ears surgically altered, and speak that Klingon language. If you play WoW, then you’re a 16-to-24-year-old obese person living in your mother’s basement. Inevitably, you’ll forget to stop playing and die after forgetting to eat for three days.
And, as with religion, we define the whole by the actions of the few. In our beloved speculative genres, we have fangirls, fanboys, trekkies, twi-hards, etc. The label is forced on us as soon as we mention a fandom, just as mental pictures and labels form if anyone mentions Scientologists, Catholics, Muslims, Seventh-day Adventists, etc.
This article doesn’t intend to presume any solutions – ’tis more a ramble for my own interest’s sake. But, if any part rings true to you…Which labels are you pushing on people? Do you judge people by their fandoms?
In categorising and dismissing them, you might be missing out on a valuable friendship or the discovery of some new quality entertainment, one you’d like if you gave it a shot. And you could be needlessly wounding someone who’s doing nothing more than expressing anything from love to a passing interest in work that deserves credit, at least in their opinion. We should all be entitled to squee about something every so often without feeling judged for it.