Fandoms have 1% Toxic Fans Theory

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Title: The 1% Theory of Fandom (essay does not have an official title, this is the title used here on Fanlore)
Creator: cancerously
Date(s): October 16, 2017 (according to Google)
Medium: Tumblr
Fandom: pan-fandom
Topic: wank
External Links: I feel like with the new ~fandom drama~ or whatever going around, I should re-introduce my favorite theory of fandom, which I call the 1% Theory.; Wayback link
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Fandoms have 1% Toxic Fans Theory is a 2017 essay by cancerously about the proportion of fans who cause trouble in any given fandom, and how larger fandoms therefore have many more absolute numbers of these fans.

It was posted around October 16, 2017, and by December 31, 2017 had 35,490 likes and reblogs. By March 11, 2018, it had 45,871 likes and reblogs.

The Essay

I feel like with the new ~fandom drama~ or whatever going around, I should re-introduce my favorite theory of fandom, which I call the 1% Theory.

Basically, the 1% Theory dictates that in every fandom, on average, 1% of the fans will be a pure, unsalvageable tire fire. We’re talking the people who do physical harm over their fandom, who start riots, cannot be talked down. The sort of things public news stories are made of. We’re not talking necessarily bad fans here- we’re talking people who take this thing so seriously they are willing to start a goddamn fist fight over nothing. The worst of the worst.

The reason I bring this up is because the 1% Theory ties into an important visual of fandom knowledge- that bigger fandoms are always perceived as “worse”, and at a certain point, a fandom always gets big enough to “go bad”. Let me explain.

Say you have a small fandom, like 500 people- the 1% Theory says that out of those 500, only 5 of them will be absolute nutjobs. This is incredibly manageable- it’s five people. The fandom and world at large can easily shut them out, block them, ignore their ramblings. The fandom is a “nice place”.

Now say you have a medium sized fandom- say 100,000 people. Suddenly, the 1% Theory ups your level of calamity to a whopping 1000 people. That’s a lot. That’s a lot for anyone to manage. It is, by nature of fandom, impossible to “manage” because no one owns fan spaces. People start to get nervous. There’s still so much good, but oof, 1000 people.

Now say you have a truly massive fandom- I use Homestuck here because I know the figures. At it’s peak, Homestuck had approximately FIVE MILLION active fans around the globe.

By the 1% Theory, that’s 50,000 people. Fifty THOUSAND starting riots, blackmailing creators, contributing to the worst of the worst of things.

There’s a couple of important points to take away here, in my opinion.

1) The 1% will always be the loudest, because people are always looking for new drama to follow.

2) Ultimately, it is 1%. It is only 1%. I can’t promise the other 99% are perfect, loving angels, but the “terrible fandom” is still only 1% complete utter garbage.

3) No fandom should ever be judged by their 1%. Big fandoms always look worse, small fandoms always look better. It’s not a good metric.

So remember, if you’re ever feeling disheartened by your fandom’s activity- it’s just 1%, people. Do your part not to be a part of it.



This is awesome. In fandom terms, I think whether a fandom tends to be, in general, a pretty decent place to be with a small tire fire here or there, or one big flaming dumpster fire, probably has a lot to do with who the 1% in that fandom are. If you’re unlucky enough to be in a fandom where a couple of the tire-fire people are the ones who run the exchanges, or the most influential shippers of your particular small pairing, or the big BNF, you are screwed. Even though the vast majority of the fandom undoubtedly still consists of sane and decent people, it’s going to be really hard to avoid the 1%, and they’ll actively drive people out.

On the other hand, some of my best times in fandom have been in calm, sane corners of fandoms that I knew had raging dumpster fires going elsewhere, but I never had to deal with them because my part of the fandom was quite nice.

Large fandoms are a mixed blessing that way … more and bigger tire fires (and more visible to outsiders), but also, with more people and more ships, it’s easier to find cozy little pockets of sanity in which to nest.

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

I think this also speaks to how important it is to manage your own fandom experiences too: any fandom will seem like a raging dumpster fire of you follow people who engage in that sort of behavior, even if it’s just as a gawker on the sidelines who reblogs drama posts while eating popcorn. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen some post about ‘all this drama!!!’ and I’m over here like, ‘what? There was drama? Huh. Not in my neck of the woods, I guess.’ Like I literally have no clue what, if any, specific recent drama the OP is referring to that might have prompted this post, but with around 20 years in fandom under my belt, I’ve seen plenty before.

If you feel like a fandom is getting too toxic, that hopefully shouldn’t mean you can no longer enjoy the things you like, either the canon or the fandom. Your first step should be to stop following/engaging with people who propagate the toxic behavior and replace them with people who create things you actually like. This can include unfollowing, tag blocking, or even blocking blogs. You have to actively step away from that 1% – which might take some doing, & will likely require unfollowing more than just one person/blacklisting more than one tag, since toxic fandom types often seem closely interconnected, whether they’re friends encouraging each other’s drama or enemies constantly fighting back and forth – and go looking for the other 99.

I mean, if you allow yourself to stand right next to a tire fire, then of course the whole world will feel like it’s burning!

Those are some great points, and I just want to add that if you’re trying to get out of range of the tire fire, you don’t have to get overwhelmed by trying to go through every blog you follow. My method is this:

Someone posts something that I disagree with/makes me unhappy in some way.

I go to their blog, and check things out. If it was a one off, I’ll keep them around, but try to remember their username. If they post about stuff I don’t really care about or post more things that make me uncomfortable, I unfollow them.

This way is so simple, and quiet, and you do just a little at a time. Hope that helps someone!

This doesn’t just apply to fandoms, this is basic demographical statistics for everything. The larger any group is, the more chances for bad apples there are. Tumblr has a crippling inability to understand that, hence why so many people here have an inherently flawed understanding of so many subjects (politics, law enforcement, race, sexuality, careers, religion, etc.); they act as if the bad examples taint the entire concept, when that is rarely ever true.[1]


  1. October 30, 2019