May 10, 2014

"True Fan" Thoughts

Such a disgusting label.

So I am making my way through Doctor Who (2005-Present), and am enjoying it very much. I started on a recommendation from a friend, and ended up officially hooked. Most of it resonates very well with me. And as soon as I catch up to present day, I plan on watching as much of the original run as possible, as well as related spin-off material.

Naturally, I wanted to find out more than the show presents. Since there are loads of books, comics, and the like, it is a pretty much never-ending task (which I'm okay with). And I can definitely accept that I will never see some of these items in person, and therefore be unable to actually read them. So a lot of the time I just have to settle for summaries that are available online, and try to see/make all the connections on my own. The Tardis Data Core is a great place for this. It's not entirely easy to keep everything in order. It's actually damn near impossible, since there is so much information, and it's all presented in a massively tangled web of continuity. But I do my best, and enjoy trying to do so. It's fun to find out all this stuff, but I'm doing it for myself because I have a genuine interest to know. I doubt I will ever really discuss it with anybody.

With any popular form of media (e.g. television show, books, movies, etc.), you will always find a lot of hardcore fans. But you'll also find casual enjoyers, people that are kind of indifferent towards the whole thing, and people that simply don't enjoy it at all. This is a fact of life. And through searching for information, it's pretty unsettling the way some "fans" treat others.

It is my firm belief that truly enjoying something like a television show, video game, comic book, or any form of popular media means that in addition to loving it for what it is, you can take a step back and analyze things that you don't like about it. You can logically discuss it, with evidence to back up your opinions. It's odd how some people are absolutely blinded by their love for these things, and downright scary how they will outright attack those who state any dissatisfaction whatsoever.

I've noticed this much more in online forums and articles, because it's way easier to verbally assault someone's views when you don't have to face them in person (not to mention you're doing it anonymously). But it's really, really irritating how the defenders' arguments almost always boil down to statements like:

"You obviously just don't understand the show."
"Because you don't like [Character], you're not a true fan."
"Anyone who thinks [Opinion] is not a real fan."
"Anyone who doesn't think [Opinion] is not a real fan."
"Anyone who doesn't like [Character] isn't really a fan."
"If you liked [This], then you're not a fan of the series."
"Well, you're just not a true fan then."

What the hell is a "true fan?" Are there specific guidelines written down somewhere that you have to follow in order to be this "true fan?" Does it mean that everyone must think the same thing about the same stuff? That's a very counter-intuitive thought process, because it disdains people from forming their own opinions, which is what makes it interesting in the first place. And it quickly turns any conversation into a one-up competition, which is tiring and utterly pointless.

What do things like this even mean?

If I want to talk about the show, then I want to actually talk about the show. I want to discuss why certain things happened, what I thought about it, what I think will happen next, things that annoyed me, and on and on. I don't want to get into a conversational tournament about "who knows more," and often about very trivial facts. To me, that says that the person has more passion for their ego than the show itself. They will continually steer any conversation (often wildly) back to a subject that they have memorized, even though it has nothing to do with the original topic.

Imagine you really like Doctor Who. You've watched a bunch of episodes You enjoy the writing, characters, and the like. It's just a lot of fun. You start to talk to someone who also likes the show. The conversation proceeds as such:

"I really like Doctor Who."
"Oh really? Can you name at least five people on the Doctor's family tree?"
"Um, no."
"Can you name all the actors who have played the Doctor in order, including alter egos?"
"Um, no."
"Do you know which 1930's classic sci-fi story inspired the episode, [Episode]?"
"Um, no."
"Can you tell me how many classic Dalek episodes there are, not including dream sequences by either the 2nd or 3rd Doctor?"
"Um, what?"
"Psh, I thought you said you liked it. You're not a real fan."

How incredibly insulting. And I've heard conversations like this. All someone does is say they like something, and somebody else feels like it's their job to shut that person down, because apparently the person is masquerading as a "true fan." The initial person is being told, "No, you don't actually like it, you're just saying you do."

The level of dedication is irrelevant. If you like it, then you like it. Stamping "I like this" on something solely for social reasons is just stupid. Saying that you're a "bigger fan" because other people just don't "get it" is idiotic. Get over yourself.

Holy crap.

I'll say it up front. There are things in Doctor Who that I flat-out don't like. Big things, too. Large events, entire episodes, some major character development, writing practices, and the ways some seasons are run in general. And if we talked about it, I would tell you why I think this. I would use specific examples have logical counter-arguments to the opposing side. But I wouldn't try to force you to agree with me. And if you had strong convincing points as well, then holy crap, my opinion might be altered. It would be a discussion, not a verbal attack.

I think it's also pretty scary how when people make the above "true fan" statements online, so many people upvote those comments. It's like a riotous mob. I think when someone says, "Well, I didn't like [Development] because [Logical Reasoning]," it's daring. But it shouldn't be daring. It should be normal! And the fact that the comment after it with 3400+ upvotes is, "That's because you're not a DW fan and should just go die in an alley somewhere, you should never be allowed to reproduce or talk and are a poor excuse for a human being," is positively terrifying. "If you don't love it unconditionally, then you should be executed." Yeah, that's a rational mindset.

Haha, what?

And on the other hand, thinkin that going against the majority simply because they're the majority makes you a "bigger fan" than others is silly too. "Those 'conformists' don't understand the real message behind the source material. I'm a 'true' fan because I disagree with the majority." What? Do you even have any actual opinions, or do you just like to boost your ego by making statements like that? If you like something, it's just as bad to abandon it as soon as it changes as it is to blindly follow it.

There's no way to know how many of these irrational people there are. But the fact that they're so loud, annoying, and foolish creates a stereotype for everyone across the board. It's really a shame.

If you instinctively say you love everything, regardless of how good it actually is, then it means that the writers/producers/etc. can get lazy due to no one telling them it should be better. Then that becomes the new norm, and the cycle is free to continue. There is no such thing as the "biggest" fan or a "true" fan. You like it, you like parts of it, or you don't. Thinking that mindlessly accepting anything that comes up makes you a "bigger fan" is just silly. It's not a competition. You are not trying to "prove something" to anybody. It's an individual preference. It is not a two-sided "us or them" feud, but so many people act like it is. It's not something that can be measured in any way.

Yeah, doesn't that make you feel good?

Bottom line, think what you want to think. Don't shut other people down just because they don't agree with you. Support what you want to, but don't be blinded by your passion. Your opinion is only that, and people are going to disagree with you, so get over it. Try listening to people that have a dissenting opinion. You might actually learn something, as scary as that sounds. If you like something, then say it. If you don't like something, then say it. Just be able to discuss it rationally. There's nothing worse than finding out that somebody loves the same thing as you, but is nothing more than a smarmy, egotistical, smug, irrational know-it-all. They give a bad name to everyone else. Oh, and if you don't want to talk about it, then don't. Accept that some people love it, some people like it, some people dislike it, and some people just don't care. Enjoy that the community exists, but be able to enjoy it for yourself too.

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