Fandom Is Broken

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News Media Commentary
Title: Fandom Is Broken
Date(s): May 30, 2016
Venue: online
External Links: Fandom Is Broken, Archived version
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Fandom Is Broken is an article by Devin Faraci. It has the subtitle: "Controversies and entitlement shine a light on a deeply troubling side of fandom."

There were 2364 comments as of June 4, 2016, most of them male, most of them in agreement with the post.

Some Topics Discussed


What if Annie Wilkes had the internet?

Annie, of course, is the antagonist of Stephen King's Misery, a pre-web story about the dark side of the relationship between fan and creator. When Annie finds novelist Paul Sheldon - the author of her favorite romance series, about a woman named Misery Chastain - in a car accident off a mountain road she takes him home to convalesce. A nurse, she tends to Paul's broken legs but refuses to take him to a hospital; you see, Paul has recently killed off Misery and Annie will have none of that. While she has the man in her care she brutally forces him to write a new Misery Chastain novel that will bring the heroine back from the dead. The story is a very, very thinly veiled metaphor for the relationship between pop fiction creators and their most dedicated, most rabid fanbases and the way the creators can be trapped, bullied and tortured by their own creations and the people who love them.

But what if Annie Wilkes had the internet? What if she didn't have to kidnap Paul in order to make her displeasure with him known? What if she could tweet hate at him all day, or could fill message boards with personal bile about him or could directly send him death threats through Facebook, email or Tumblr? If Annie Wilkes had the internet she would fit right in with a disturbingly large segment of fandom.

This isn't really a new thing - way back in 2012 I named Annie Wilkes the Patron Saint of Fandom after the childish, ridiculous uproar over the ending of Mass Effect 3.
These fans are treating stories like ordering at a restaurant - hold the pickles, please, and can I substitute kale for the lettuce? But that isn't how art works, and that shouldn't be how art lovers react to art. They shouldn't be bringing a bucket of paint to the museum to take out some of the blue from those Picassos, you know?
This immediate access to the people who create the stuff we love was supposed to be the greatest thing that ever happened to fandom. If you talk to old TV writers or scifi novelists they'll tell you that they were often creating work in a void, not sure what people thought of what they were doing. It took a lot of effort to send a letter, so the only people who did that were the truly committed, but the general populace was largely silent. You just knew if they were watching or buying. But social media bridged the gap, and creators are no longer working in a void. Instead they're working in some kind of a chamber of screams, where people can and do voice their immediate and often personal displeasure directly and horribly.
In a lot of ways fandom has always been a powder keg just waiting for the right moment to explode, and that moment is the ubiquity of social media. Twitter is the match that has been touched to this powder keg, and all of a sudden the uglier parts of fandom - the entitlement, the demands, the frankly poor understanding of how drama and storytelling work - have blown the fuck up.

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