Fandom is shallow, superficial, and teeming with mediocrity. It is a microcosm of society, bringing with it all the sexism, racism, heterosexism, etc. that is prevalent in Western society. Is it important? In theory, sure. It's important to be able to criticize and subvert mass media works. It's important to be able to gather in groups and be creative. Fandom can be a great place to learn about writing, to people-watch, and to entertain one another. It can be a good place for people who aren't very good at socializing to get practice, to learn about give and take, and to make friends. In theory, it's great. In practice, I want to use my laptop to brain most of the people who participate.
Internet fandom was a fairly formative part of my adolescence, and I'm not too ashamed to admit that (under a screenname, anyway). It pushed me to develop my drawing and writing skills, so I went into a lot of college classes (even at CCAD) with more experience and ability than my peers. It's one of many things that has allowed me to observe people, to understand how discourse typically functions within a group, and to allow me to better project my personality as I would like to. Despite some of the social pitfalls I've had, I think it's mostly been worthwhile. But I've come to a point where fandom's flaws have become glaring and creepy. Some of those flaws are directly related to my own interests: I'm interested in smaller or older things, mostly movies or actors, that tend to attract fewer people; I'm interested in queer history and queer theory; I'm interested in gutting the "values" of works that intrigue me, but that reflect ideas that I find distasteful (like Back to the Future); I'm interested in laughing at what's ridiculous about a piece of media or a fandom; and I'm interested, ultimately, in how what I like informs the work I do that is really meant to be art. Fandom does not particularly invite all of this, and I have no interest in trying to change it. Instead, I'll just move on.
But fandom has its own, intrinsic faults: groupthink; over-sexualization; freaks, geeks, and social ills; tastelessness; hierarchical organization; poor definitions with little centralized organization (or is that a plus?); academic pretension; over-identification with the subculture; pettiness and grudges among those involved; over-tolerance; and the all-important fault of people taking things too seriously. Many of these things can be overlooked or skimmed over if you like the activity or subculture enough. But if love is over, suddenly all the little cracks become visible. You look around and it really is like you suddenly got x-ray specs. The emperor is naked. Ultimately you realize that you're a stranger and that you don't want to defend these people or discuss things with them, just observe them from afar. What a change, a weird and fascinating change this was for me. And yet I still notice things, I still check certain communities in order to laugh or roll my eyes, and I still have a mind full of completely useless knowledge and observations.
For instance, it's interesting to me that some fan activity doesn't fit into the metafandom/OTW wall of noise. Men don't write fanfic? So what's all this then? Nifty even describes it as "Fantasies about Celebrities, Fan Fiction, Slash Fiction." It's pretty safe to assume that most of these stories are written by men. Gay men, even, when slash is often characterized as something that is almost exclusively produced and consumed by women women. Most of them suck, but most of the fanfic posted on livejournal and fanfiction.net also sucks. Would OTW include this work? Why do I even care? I mean, I don't really care about OTW one way or the other. But I'm thinking about how we often use the term "fandom" to include all fanwork (theoretically) while, at the same time, smaller fandoms contribute less to the whole. This is not because there is less effort being made, but because attention isn't paid to fandom that isn't ubiquitous or on lj. The Pendergast messageboard was an enclave that was virtually ignored by the fans and communities I'm used to, and there were also some significant differences I noticed in the dynamic of that group (older, more males, more conservatives, etc.). As incest recently became more of a topic of discussion in fan circles, I sort of expected someone to point to my Marty/George essay; after all, I had gone through most of these ideas ages ago. That was pretty stupid of me. I mean, of course no one cared. It wasn't "Wincest" or whatever.
I know it sounds like I care overly about getting recognition, and it's true that I used to. At this point, it's no longer important to me. I've found other things to occupy myself, and have gotten more intrigued by the possibility of generating original content on the web that is unrelated (or only tangentially related) to fandom. I think of this as a big step toward being my own person, being useful, progressing intellectually and artistically, and getting the opportunity for a more relevant audience. I'm tired of being a fan, although I certainly still qualify as one. I think this was really made clear to me when I began to encounter media that I did not want to see fanfiction for. For me, the existence of something like Sweeney Todd needs no fan input. My concept of the play will not be enhanced by fan works, and I have absolutely no impulse to seek them out, even to make fun of. That's just one example, of course. Lately, I keep being rather pleased that my interests have turned to things with small or nonexistent fandoms; it tends to reduce the amount of static that might influence my own conceptions, for one, while also allowing a kind of creative hiding place that has actually encouraged original ideas, including one for a novel.
Fandom is still useful for many, but sometimes I do get sad seeing how much some people have invested in it and in making it meaningful. When I think about the experiences I've had in my life, the ones that make the best stories all occurred far outside of fandom. The most weird and wonderful things I've seen and done have been connected to work, to school, to family and loved ones, and to travel. They all inform my writing and art in ways that fandom does not, cannot. They have given me stories to tell. Whenever I start running out of stories and interesting things to talk about, I know that I need to get out and challenge myself a little, to learn something new. I've noticed that a lot of fandom conversations are cyclical and repetitive, as are many of the stories. It's too easy to get caught in that cycle, to argue about the same things and discuss the same media over and over.
But I think ultimately I've tired most of the homophobia, the misogyny, the misandry, and the gender-stereotypes. I'm tired of feeling like I need to prove myself. Fuck no, I don't have to prove myself. I don't have to elaborate on my sexual or gender identities, nor do I have to feel as if they define me and my interactions within a community. And if I want to type like I've never seen a shift key before and punctuate with lol and use capslock and include commentary about my dinner, then SO HELP ME GOD I will do this in my personal journal and still be reasonably intelligent. Ha!
Thank you flist for putting up with my lapse into seriousness and also for putting up with me in general. HUUUUUUUUUUGS! Also, kleenexwoman has posted some thoughts on the first season of Mission: Impossible. It's a good overview, and also it makes me feel all special when I get mentioned. <3 Awwwww.