Wednesday, May 10, 2017

FANDOM THOUGHTS: A Visit from the OK Angel

Originally draw by Jo Bee -- it's a sin how long it took me to source this compared to how often it popped up on Google.
Not long ago, I was at an event, minding my own business and chatting about (Re)Generation Who and PotterVerse to potential attendees. I was seated between two nice ladies with whom I had a lot in common, so we killed time between visitors by chatting about upcoming movies we're looking forward to. It's a rich year for a fan, after all.

An older gentleman was idling near our table, being generally chill, but then I committed a major sin: I mentioned that I was looking forward to the new Guardians of the Galaxy.

Honestly, you'd think I'd just said I thought Hitler wasn't all that bad a guy or something, because the floodgates opened and out came a long, angry monologue on just how horrible and wrong the film version of Guardians of the Galaxy was. How Vance Astro could kick Star-Lord's ass. How Yondu was all wrong. How Rocket couldn't hold a candle to Charlie-27. All with the vehemence of someone who's just watched a guy backhand his mother.

The three of us just kind of threw each other occasional quiet glances and waited for his spring to wind down. Once the fella was done explaining the origin of a comic series I already knew to me, he paused for breath. I smiled.

"Well, it sounds like you have a lot of feelings about this." Then I turned back to the others. "Anyway, really looking forward to the next one."

Here's the thing, and when I tell this story people don't quite grok this part: I'm actually completely okay with this dude being dissatisfied with the MCU representation of Guardians of the Galaxy. I don't begrudge him his disappointment at all. If I grew up loving Starhawk and the gang, I'd probably be kind of miffed that they went with Star-Lord and his talking tree and raccoon friends, too. Hell, I've grumped about far less. (Ask me sometime about my feelings on the Eighth Doctor's relative absence from New Who until Night of the Doctor and I might rage more.)

It's not the feeling. I will never mock someone for hating something I like or liking something I hate. It's the introduction of it into a conversation. A conversation he wasn't even in. If I had come to him and said "What do you think of the movies?" and he'd launched into the same diatribe, I wouldn't have had the same reaction. I would have disagreed, but I would have disagreed a lot more quietly because I asked, he answered, he's entitled to feel that way.

It's the intrusion. The act of hearing three people happy about something you dislike, and then stepping in to stomp on it. I may have gone through this phase as a nerdy teenager, but after growing out of it I'm having difficulty remember why I went so hard for it.

Real talk, there are eras of Doctor Who I'm not a fan of. Which? Doesn't matter. If people ask me, I tell them. Privately. But to paraphrase something Paul Cornell once said, very few people make friends by introducing themselves with something they don't like.

I do think the knee-jerk reaction becomes "Oh, so I'm not allowed to dislike things?" And the answer is of course you're allowed to dislike things. A goodly number of advances in entertainment come because someone was dissatisfied with what was out there and decided to make something new or change the playing field. With regards to Doctor Who, many of the things I love about the show now wouldn't have come about without someone deciding they didn't like something about previous years and making a move toward change.

The issue isn't saying it at all. The issue is when and where. And my philosophy is that if I'm in a casual environment where people are sharing what they love, it's not my time to launch into a double-barreled rant on why I cannot stand what the person next to me is gushing about.

"But Kara, isn't it irritating to hear people gush about something you hate?" A little, but not nearly as irritating as having someone stomping on my face for enjoying a piece of fiction. And I don't want to put someone else through that.

"But how the hell am I supposed to talk to someone if the conversation is about something I hate?"

There's a few ways:

Find common ground. If the conversation is about a show you despise, is there a show similar to it that you do enjoy? For example, when things go toward Big Bang Theory (one of my personal nope shows, but one my friends and family are free to enjoy), I may throw in with a similar joke from The IT Crowd or the geek character of Hardison from Leverage.

Ask them why they like it. Not sarcastically, dude. No. But if you're feeling a need to express that you can't get behind it but still want to engage, you could say "I never could get into Mad Men. Was there an episode that hooked you in particular?" You've engaged them, and maybe you'll learn something new.

Shut up and listen. Not every conversation has to include input from you. If friends are talking about something you're not into and you feel like you can't contribute, maybe just sit back and have a listen or let them talk. Not having anything to contribute is not the same as being deliberately left out.

Are you free to express your opinion? Sure. You won't get arrested or anything. You are legally entitled to jump into a conversation that doesn't involve you and begin yelling at the participants about how wrong they are about their favourite actor or show or book. But be aware: you won't change their minds, your opinion won't become any less subjective, and you'll probably be deliberately left out more and more.

Fandom is about sharing what we love. It can also be about having outlets to critique our entertainment. But if you decide to do the second in the middle of others engaging in the first, make sure you come in knowing that it won't accomplish anything.

Go forth and fan responsibly.