Stuff I Don't Get

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Title: Stuff I Don't Get
Creator: Gwyneth Rhys
Date(s): June 28, 2005
Medium: online journal post
External Links: Stuff I Don't Get, Archived version
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Stuff I Don't Get is a 2005 essay by Gwyneth Rhys.

The author calls it a "rant."

"...things I really do not get about fans and fandom, and that drive me nuts."

Some of the topics discussed are shipping, fan and character bashing, and tolerance.


1. If you hate something, or don't get the appeal, why must you keep talking about it?

This one drives me the battiest of all. I really don't understand the need to write pages of well-reasoned abuse about a particular given topic or character or actor if you can't stand them, especially if it's just to remind people how "above" it or how much more taste you have than those idiots who like ___. I mean, I hate the series House with an abiding passion. But I don't feel a need to write journal entry after entry going on at length about precisely why I do, what's wrong with it, why people shouldn't watch it, etc. For those last few years of Buffy fandom, I had to read post after post on lists and boards, read screeds on my LJ, what have you, about how Spike sucked and anyone who liked him sucked. Oh, sure, some of them were really well written, but what they boiled down to was a way for someone who hated the character to make sure that their misguided Spike-loving friends saw the error of their ways. You can insert any character, any show, into this practice -- there will always be someone who'll feel the need to make sure you understand how stupid you are for liking what you like.

2. And by extension, why do people engage in "my ___ is better than your ___" baiting behavior?

What is so appealing about dividing and conquering, or having little contests, or whatever, about who's cuter, or who's sexier, or who's more perfect, or ... name your silly little issue. I admit that I'm very much a pairing girl -- if I like a relationship (as opposed to an individual character, which is a different kettle of comparative fish and please don't even get me started on Angel vs. Spike), I value both characters. I may find one of them more physically appealing, but I don't understand the propensity of a lot of fans to tear down one person in a relationship in favor of the other. I see this a lot lately in my current obsession, especially all the "Oh, Brian is a sexy perfect little angel descended directly from heaven" Fast and the Furious people, but it's been going on since I got into media fandom a million years ago ("Oh," always said with derision, "You're a Doyley." Yup, I think Martin Shaw's slightly more of a cutie pie than cutie pie Lew Collins, so that makes me the spawn of Satan.)

3. Why get into a fandom if you don't, you know, like it?

It's okay to recognize that maybe your show or movie or boy band isn't the greatest thing in the world. My god, if quality was the determinant, we wouldn't have very many fandoms, you know? But it's one thing to say, wow, I love The Fast and the Furious, but it's not the most intelligent movie ever made; it's another thing entirely to go on and on and on about how stupid and poorly done and a ripoff of Point Break or all the errors or whatever. I confess I don't understand people who get into fandoms solely because their friends are in it; conversely, I don't always get people who can't be bothered to learn just a little about their close friends' fandoms, even if they themselves don't feel the love. But I'm damned if I can figure out why you'd spend hours and pages grumbling about the stupidity of the fandom you're supposedly into.

This relates to the first two points, because this kind of thing often seems to be accompanied by the "X is a much better show/character than yours" phenomenon. I don't need to hear you tell me that, say, Deadwood is a much better Western show than Magnificent 7 -- well, no, it's not, it's just different. But if you're not into Mag 7 because you think it's crap, well, then, you don't have to keep telling others about it, do you? Here's a thought if you don't like something: Don't watch vids, don't read fic, don't watch the show, just because your best buddies are into it and you want to be like them, but then remind everyone you're above the fandom.

I mean, I'm no saint. I love to bash characters and shows I hate, I love to criticize fandoms I think are stupid. I love to theorize about why people like what they misguidedly like. But I do it around friends, where it's safer. I tend to do it privately or in small groups. I'm not sure I see the appeal of the desire to post endless criticisms or make polarizing lists or write pages of well-reasoned abuse in public. Why not take the positive tack, and write about what you like and why, rather than follow the negative path and criticize what others like (i.e., here's why I like gen/het, rather than slash; here's why I'm a Wesley fan; this is why I like science fiction more than I generally like real-life drama)? There's a marked difference between writing meta, reviewing, critiquing, and attacking specific aspects of fannish interests, whether they're shows or characters or genres. Asking for or encouraging critical discussion seems far different from encouraging bashing or denigration of the alternate viewpoint. And I honestly don't understand the appeal.

Excerpts from the Comments at the Post

[mlyn]: *Bows down to the Rant Master*



I see this most often in the form of people who were once fans and Can't Let Go. I can see a rant or two as you fall out of love with a former fandom, but I just do not understand the people that hang around for *years* for no apparent reason but to say over and over again why it sucks now. And it's not even necessarily a longlived fandom that is tottering to completion, where maybe you can see someone not being able to let go of a multiyear commitment. I started watching X-Files second season, and got into the fandom per se third season, and there was at the time a group of people hanging out on Usenet, including some of the most prominent fic writers, who would announce that everything after first season had been crap. Third season! And some of them went on for years after that on the same theme.


Well, this is a pretty awesome rant and I don't think I can do justice to the questions you've raised, but I'd like to add in my two cents worth :)

Because people get invested in their shows and they fall in love with the characters and when bad things happen to those characters and things don't go the way the fans want them to, sometimes it's cathartic to complain and bitch. Because you loved it once and you don't necessarily want to leave it, but you hated the way the story played out, so you stay and pick at it, like a scab, so that it can never heal.

It's so hard to leave a fandom you've poured your sweat, blood and tears into.

And they care. In a not-healthy way, commenting and complaining is still a form of caring.

I hope I made some sense here :)

When I watched 'Beauty and the Beast' and they killed off 'Beauty', I was enraged! I ranted to my B&B group about it and just about *died* when other fans didn't feel the way *I* felt. They weren't outraged, they didn't feel betrayed - and I kept thinking, 'what is *wrong* with them?' Well, nothing actually, but it hurt that they didn't feel the pain the way I did. We watched the *same* show, and I really thought we were all on the same page, but we weren't. That was a big shock for me.

[minim calibre]: I know when I've been tempted to rant about something I've hated hated hated on a show I like, it's because of that. ESPECIALLY if all my friends loved it. And if I do rant, it's to get someone to share my pain, because there's nothing like a rant for dragging the other unhappy souls out of the wood work. Misery does, at times, adore throwing an open house.

[minotaurs]: ITA. Even when I don't particularly care about a pairing or fandom, it's much more fun to watch other people squee rather than bitch. This is fandom, isn't it supposed to be, you know, fun?


I recall being at a con once (I think it was a Zebra Con) where a fan wearing a scary, Doyle-ish type, curly wig and a t-shirt dripping in Doyle buttons stomped up to me (deadly serious she was, too) and demanded to know why I kept making "only 'Bodie Bozos' vids, for all the 'Bodie Bozos'". I assured her that there was plenty of Doyle in the Pros vids I made, 'cuz they really wouldn't work (ditto the fandom) without the PAIR of them together (IMO). I'm pretty sure I overheard the term "Doyley" used for the first time there, too, come to think about it. May well have been a contrary "Bodie Bozo" in retaliation, lol....

Ya gotta wonder what anyone would see in a fannish "couple" at all if only one of them were worthy of their worship and the other to them complete ca-ca. Except for some silly teasing, maybe.


And, I have to ask, why? Why the need to expend hundreds or thousands of poor beleaguered words just to tell people why you hate what they like, and then theorize about their intellectually deficient reasons for liking it?

Playing devil's advocate here, but I actually think (while it annoys me sometimes) that's what makes fandom a good thing. Even those annoying people that, as you said, expend hundreds or thousands of poor beleaguered words to tell people they hate what they like, make up an important part of fandom. In fandom, they feel free to write such venom-filled screeds, and while it's not productive I'm not a utilitarian and even if I were, I do think that those negative viewpoints bring something of value to the table. It shows me that those people still care and that's why fandom drew me in the first place: it's a place where there's a bunch of other weirdos like me that care an inordinate and socially inappropriate amount about a media product. Fandom is great because I can bitch and complain all I want or rhapsodize all I want about a TV show or something of the sort and it is generally tolerated, if not liked. I can't get that from my RL. I suspect in most of our 'real lives,' our friends/family/coworkers would look at us strangely, make fun of us, and consider us freaks if we ranted or praised a TV show excessively. Because it is just not socially acceptable for adults to be overly interested in such minor things; it's all right to be consumed by one's work or family or amassing wealth, but to be consumed by a movie/tv show/book makes you a weirdo or a nerd. So, yes, while it does often annoy me when people go on and on about what they hate about a certain show or pairing, it bothers me even more when people in fandom (I'm not pointing a finger at you specifically) say something along the lines of if you don't have something positive to say, just keep it to yourself or 'get over it, it's just a tv show.' If I thought it was just a tv show, or just a movie, or just a book, I wouldn't be here in fandom in the first place. I'd be like all my real life friends and just enjoy the product for what it is and not bother to think about its creation or its consequences after the moment of consumption.

[gwyn r]:

I think that's fair enough, and I do like it when people play devil's advocate. But I think there's a difference in levels -- I mean, if you had a couple people on your flist who just never seemed to shut up about how disgusting Sark is and the whole concept of Sark with Sydney or Sark with anyone is repugnant, and they just kept writing lengthy tomes about it, wouldn't you just either defriend them, or stop reading, or filter them? Wouldn't you wonder a little at why they are spending so much time and energy to write volumes about this awful show and this awful character they hate -- because where's the productivity? If it was an occasional rant about Sark or quickie comment, or someone doing a meta analysis about why, say, a bad boy character like that isn't appealing to her, I would say that's a really different take than the kinds of things that have driven me insane lately.

I'd definitely never advocate the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" because boy would I be in trouble if I couldn't! But a lot of what I see seems designed, not to elucidate an opinion or get deeper about what's appealing about ___, but rather to criticize the fans who are into that thing, or, in some cases, berate people and make them feel small for liking it. I might think my friends are just bewildering lunatics for liking something I find so offensive or detestable, but I'm not sure anything's gained by me writing post after post or making snarky email comment after comment designed to make sure everyone knows how much I hate it. The only thing it would seem to do is wound.

I do like all kinds of discussions, but I'm really not thinking of isolated posts or someone who just suddenly lost their rag when they couldn't take anymore discussion of ___. I'm more concerned with people who just cannot shut up about being critical of a fandom, BSO, genre, what have you. I love a good rant, but when it's the rant you've seen before, and know you'll see again and again... then I guess I'm not made of as stern a stuff as you!