We are living in a truly golden age of nerdom. There are several superhero films out each year — the amount of films increase each subsequent year; damn near every night of the week you can watch a superhero, supernatural, paranormal, or spy-fi program, comics are everywhere, graphic novels are taught in the academy — our once exclusive (and highly ridiculed) club is, gasp, mainstream. Going mainstream comes with its own set of problems. But I want to focus on what I feel is the primary problem of this golden age: Toxic Fandom.
Make no mistake, I was the Galactus of toxic fans. Nothing was good enough. No matter how much of the stuff I loved was available to me, I would seek out the flaws and amplify them to gargantuan proportions — though I do stick by my review of the first Guardians of the Galaxy film. My review is precisely why I won’t be seeing the sequel. It would be easy to see it and rip it apart, but to what end?
There are so many good things out there in nerdom that deserve wider audiences. Why do so many of us waste our times tearing things down and apart? How can you possibly have an opinion of a property based on a 1:30 trailer or a set photo or a concept design? Why not wait until the thing is completed and released before making a determination as to its worthiness? Even then, really, does anyone (aside from you) actually care what you think about it?
Criticism is a valid and necessary art. Yes, effective and entertaining and enlightening criticism is an art. Don’t believe me, read some Hilton Als. Criticism is thought out, intelligently presented, and the best of it will complicate the material, forcing the reader to see and consider all facets of the thing under review. The thing I want all of us nerds to strive for is marrying the criticism impulse with our fandom — they shouldn’t be separate.
Being a fan is about championing what you love. We see evidence of this with cosplay (props to all the folks who came out in costume for #FreeComicBookDay2017, took pictures with the people who asked, and turned those long-ass lines into a celebration), we see it with fanfic, and with fan-made films. The beauty of our current fandom is that it isn’t a one-way street. We have the ability to talk back to and (possibly) get a response from the creators of our favorite fandoms. But so many of us use this as a bully pulpit.
Granted, things like misogyny, racism, homophobia, ableism, Matt Damon, and other social ills need to be called out loudly and frequently. But if you’re spending time, energy, and words (or video) railing against how Superman’s color palette in the films “suck donkey’s balls” (a real quote) you have too much time and anger on your hands and you might need to undergo some kind of therapy.
The thing about nerdom/fandom is that it is supposed to be fun. It is mean to be a laugh, a mini-vacation from our more pressing responsibilities. Hell, some folks have monetized their fandom and have made careers form themselves. If we aren’t having fun, if we’re dissecting every little thing to find the rotten part, or if we’re so indescribably angry because a property doesn’t conform to our mutated sense of nostalgia, why in the hell are we still a part of it? It just doesn’t make any kind of sense. If you’re unhappy, it is probably time to find a new hobby.
It is this Toxic Fandom that has caused me to contribute less to The Nerds of Color than I would like. I had to (almost literally) detox myself from my negative feelings for so many nerd properties.
While I do believe that many of the corporations who control the stuff we love (Captain America is a Nazi? Dumb ass storytelling) are just giving us whatever because we are all so desperate for it, and will spend the money on whatever it is, from films to maquettes. I also believe that each and every denizen of the fanscape should use whatever access they have to promote only what they love. There is so much cool stuff out there that deserves shine.
So, dear readers, I will make a promise to you, that is simultaneously a challenge. From this point forward, on this site, I will only signal boost the properties I want other folks to dig as much as I do. I challenge you to do the same.
In the comment section below, please post what you love. If you are a creator and want something featured or reviewed, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I dig it, I will cover it. If I don’t, I will tell you, but I won’t write a negative review.
We are lucky to be Scrooge McDucking in a nerdom treasure trove. There is no reason for us to ruin it with our silly anger.
But let’s not get it twisted. If something is egregiously offensive, then the gloves will come off. Until then, it is all about giving props and exposing folks to the new and the fresh.