If you’re a frequent denizen of the internet like me, you’ll no doubt have come across various sites, blogs, pages and other cyber locales dedicated to one circle of interest or another.
Whether it’s the British-born franchises of Doctor Who and Sherlock, any television series that found its way out of Japan or Korea, or the mind-boggling community that rallies around My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
For the most part, many members of these communities are of sound mind and capable of intelligent discussion, even when they may not agree with the viewpoints of the person with whom they are discussing.
However, in just a short amount of time, you stumble across a very vocal sect of the fandom.
Self-proclaimed judges, defenders, enforcers and voices of the community at large who waste no time in establishing their deluded sense of superiority over those who are only mildly curious about the subject of that community’s fascination.
It goes by many names and monikers, some derogatory and some mundane, but TV Tropes has given a very appropriate term for this cybernetic malady that plagues all but the very limited surfers and lurkers of the internet, “Fan Dumb.”
Fandom and fans
As the potentially enraging headline for this article would suggest, I’m going to address the issue of fandoms and fans that turn the things they love into an unhealthy obsession and then attempt to drag others down to their level of madness.
While all of the issues I’m about to address can apply to any fandom, to successfully illustrate my points, I’m going to narrow the focus to the one fandom that’s gotten the most media attention in recent history, “Bronies.”
If you were to ask a number of people who call themselves “Bronies,” you’d find quite of few of them to be reasonable people who like My Little Pony for different reasons.
Whether they like the characters, the animation, the music, the toys, etc., many of those people would also concede the fact that they aren’t part of the target demographic for the series, which is young girls between 3 and 10 years old, and that the show isn’t designed for an older audience.
You would then encounter members of the community who become defensive when the subject of demographics is brought up. They begin saying phrases along the lines of “It’s different” or “It was meant for little girls at first, but now it’s a lot more than that.”
“Defending the fandom”
Go even deeper, and you find the people who will argue (in the sense that they won’t stop trying to hammer their point into your head until you become a full convert to the fandom to the same degree they are) for days on end about how the show is on a much higher tier than its contemporaries.
It gets even worse when people begin to throw around the phrase “True Fan” as a form of justification or castigation.
They then claim that their perceived opponent isn’t a “True Fan” if they don’t agree with their opinion or lacks knowledge of certain facts either about the events of the show or the people involved in its production.
The whole thing gets taken up to 11 when these discussions take place on the internet, where people tend to speak freely while hiding behind the anonymity of the keyboard.
As such, the defensive person in question is more prone to resort to personal attacks and off-color language when “defending the fandom.”
So how does this affect the show or franchise directly?
Simply put, this kind of attitude towards newcomers and people who ask minor questions about the franchise that is wrongly purported to be common knowledge has the tendency to scare people off.
It’s like trying to buy ice cream from an ice cream truck only to have the vendor point a shotgun at your face when you say you dislike a certain flavor. You’re not going to want to go back to that ice cream truck after that.
With members of a potential audience being scared off, that takes away the opportunity to sell the product to more customers.
In the case of My Little Pony, it means not as many people are willing to watch the show and are less likely to buy the merchandise which produce the primary source of revenue for the series.
This gives the fandom too much credit, as “Bronies” themselves are not the ones who buy the most merchandise from the franchise. That honor goes to the parents of the little girls the show is intended for.
It’s the same case with people who collect postage stamps; they’re not the ones who buy the most stamps and single-handedly keep the Postal Service afloat. If that was the case, they wouldn’t be discontinuing Saturday deliveries.
This is but the tip of a much larger iceberg, too big to tackle in just one article. Visit The Globe’s website next week for a web-exclusive follow up article analyzing the madness that is fan art and fan fiction.