“Just Right?” Fandoms as Contestable Porridge

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From experience, I have learned that fandoms are a dish best served “lukewarm.” It is like you are Goldilocks. You try chairs, eat porridges and then get into the bed that was just right. However, you can be an innocent Goldilocks, not someone who wrecked another’s home.

Now, imagine, you didn’t know you were Goldilocks. Or rather, the Bears who discovered you decided to ask you where you were from? Are you hurt or lost? And, you apologised. The apology was accepted. Dinner was cooked and eaten together and you had mutual comings and goings with the Bears, a newfound friendship. Or, the classic scenario played out. You were thrown out into the woods and treated as a monster.

Aside accidentally wrecking furniture or porridge, think about those domestic everyday needs portrayed in the fairy tale. What was good for one bear wasn’t for the other. We all have different needs and wants. Not all houses contain them. Not all houses welcome you. As soon as social media became a part of everyday life, we see an aspect of fandoms that may have not been encountered before by many.

Gatekeeping

Fandoms are a mixed bag: from Shippers and Shipping names, sending hate mail and death threats to others, having volatile arguments in online spaces, to telling an author that they’re “sick” because they didn’t write something they wanted. Some even write long posts on the characters people admire and have friends they have known for ten years but never physically met as they live on the other side of the world.

Sometimes, that bag is like this nifty tote bag that is required to carry our needs and wants in. It helps express our creativity or how we find out crucial aspects of our identities, like our sexualities or our socio-political views. Other times, it is plastic, it pollutes the serene ocean of our everyday. It gets littered with abusive comments, harassment, trolling and bullying on another level.

The thing is, fandoms like life, don’t necessarily come with a manual. What Goldilocks found “just right” may have been awfully ill-fitting to the Mama Bear of the household. Thus, fandoms must be tread wisely. Sergio Pereira from Fortress of Solitude wrote an article online titled, “The Games of Thrones Outrage Proves Fandoms Suck.” I may not completely agree with Pereira, yet he did explain how certain fandoms seem to have this sense of entitlement that they must always receive what they desire.

Now, Goldilocks is making sense, isn’t it? Her “just right” policy in this case trashed someone’s household and she seemed to think it was okay. On the other hand, Pereira and I agree that giving criticism where it is required is always something any media should be prepared for. Yet, fandoms are not always welcoming of critique. It has always been this way. It may seem so more now due to the massive online presence.

What we can do is find our “lukewarm”, our balance. If something requires criticism, we structure it, keeping in mind to take into consideration of the emotions of others and the socio-political aims of minorities. However, we should also be in a fandom to enjoy what we can and not get enraged about not having something the way we wanted. Perhaps, we will get what we need later.

And, it may be better than how we could envision it. Fandoms can be balanced as communities we interact with, with certain filters on. We have useful conversations, listen to multiple sides and then unwind. Our oceans do not need the caustic plastic.

Zarin Rafiuddin

Image: The Daily Fandom