Friday, January 26, 2018

A Message to Fandom Before the Super Bowl

Dear fellow geeks, nerds, and other individuals of laser-focused interest.

Hi. My name is Kara. I make my living being a geek. I've been a geek since I was old enough to choose what I watched on TV. I got bullied at school for being better at Latin than volleyball. I had a difficult time making friends with similar interests until I got to college and found the sci-fi and anime clubs. I was (and still am) pretty bad at sport. At my day job, I received "friendly" mocking for my taste in entertainment.

I'm just front-loading all that so that the people who inevitably think I'm a geek who's not "served her time" will have some comfort. I "served the time," believe me. I lived the lamentable young geek life. Glasses, braces, baby fat and all. Take a slice out of my childhood for your Stereotypical Geek Coming-of-Age story.

Now, fandom friends, I have a request for all of you: let's lay off the sports fans this year.


I know, I know. I'm with you. Okay? I'm with you. The jocks were awful to you in high school. They got the preferential treatment. They still do get the preferential treatment in many cases. They mock us for being obsessed with things and dressing up funny, but then they paint their faces and get all tribal about their favorite teams. They're hypocrites and they've been mean to you specifically and it's awful and you have a right to vent off steam back.

Let's talk about that.

First off, the fact that you -- sorry, we -- were hurt in the past by people who mocked us for being fans of things that were not sports, even though the attitude of fandoms in general is largely the same across fan-things. We have favorites we support. We have "big days" we look forward to. We have frankly ridiculous modes of dress that we see no problem with because we do it as a way to celebrate and become a part of what we love and the people involved therein. And the really devoted among us will sometimes get out pencil and paper and play like we're doing the thing ourselves.

As human beings, we are creators and curators. We want to become a part of what we love, and we'll do some ridiculous shit to do that. But to us, and to them, it's not ridiculous shit. Because it achieves, at least to some degree, what we're hoping to do. You and I will never time travel, but we can go to an event about our favorite time traveler. Bob from down the hall will probably never score a touchdown, but he can get together with friends and enjoy watching people who can.

But sport is more publicly accepted than fandom.


Okay. I'll grant you that we still have shows like The Big Bang Theory that paint a very odd, stereotypical picture of nerds. And we are absolutely going to see more commercials, ads, tie-ins, and merch in mainstream places for the Super Bowl than we are for any convention.

These are true points. However, while the Super Bowl continues to lead the charge when it comes to ad-based entertainment, fandom has begun to front the zeitgeist in actual entertainment. With Marvel and DC leading the action industry on both television and film, Star Wars currently being the most talked-about film series, and entire multi-million-dollar organizations existing solely for the dissemination of geek news, merchandise, and videos of people playing D&D... we are not as small as we used to be.

People still make fun, yes. Don't I know it. The minute I try to say anything intelligent online, a stranger's first response is usually to attack me for paying the rent by writing anime news. Trust me. I know. But there is mocking in and outside of and around everything. Why do we hear geeks get mocked more viciously than sports fans? Because we're geeks. We are more inclined to hear negativity we are the target of, either because we have assholes directing it as us more or because our brains literally process negatives as carrying more weight than positives.

But in my case I have been personally bullied.

Same. Cool. Are you retaliating against the specific individual? Or is the Sport Community serving as an avatar for the people who hurt you?

In the case of the former, that's a one-on-one issue for you and the specific individual(s) to resolve.

But in the case of the other, there are a lot of imponderables. Perhaps you have led a life in which you have never met a football fan who did not mock you or punch you in the face. (In which case, hail and well met, fellow Catholic school student.) But, despite your proof, it is untrue that every sports fan is violent. You might need to expand your social circles to learn this, but it's a fact.

Hell, the biggest geeks I know in my personal circles (and even people I'm a fan of!) are also sport fans. Honestly, everything I know about sports, I learned from someone I know via a geek circle who's a big fan of a particular sport and/or team. M'kouhai took me to my first pro baseball game. My friend Rob taught me about hockey. The two are really, truly not mutually exclusive.

But being a sports fan makes you violent and mean.

So here's a side lesson for anyone who believes liking a certain thing makes you a certain way: the people who are being jerks in their chosen area of interest are jerks everywhere else, too.

I'm a Doctor Who fan. I work Doctor Who events. When I go to them, I love to take photos of good costumes, interact with families who watch the show together, share creative endeavors, and just talk. If I were not a Doctor Who fan, would that not be the case in other areas of my life? Well, I'd be a slightly different person, but my love of creativity and family togetherness and hella good cosplay would remain. Nor does that switch off in other areas of my life.

If a football fan is a dick about football, they are a dick about other things, too. No one just stops being what they are when the TV is turned off. If they do, I think there might be a medical term for that. I don't know. Someone help me out here.

Do high-impact sports potentially attract a more violent set? Of course. That's gonna happen. Just as with violent film genres and video games. There will always be That Side of any interest. If your problem is with them, with that side of it, then approach it in a way that is productive to doing something about the problem.

But the professional sports scene has a lot of problems.

Okay, I won't argue with you there.

But ask yourself: is that truly what is driving you to be mean? Or is that your final hand-hold because nothing else is working? If the former, then there are absolutely steps you can take that are useful. If the latter... well.

So Kara you're saying make NO SUPER BOWL JOKES?

No. Ma'am. Jokes are awesome and fun. Jokes also rely on both parties enjoying it. If you wanna crack wise about it, sure. But if you're looking for an excuse to attack the sports community because you're bitter about how you've been treated by others... look into something else.

Are you hurt by how you were treated, and how others are treated? Work harder in a fandom-based community to build and maintain a community of openness and kindness. Combat the unkindness. Do things actively if you feel there is a problem, so that others can benefit -- not so that you can play out a power fantasy against a school bully.

While you're at it, enjoy the halftime show and commercials. Those tend to be fun for all.


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