Fandom, We Need To Talk

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Well, it’s happened again. Steven Universe writer/storyboarder Lauren Zuke has been hounded off of social media by supposed fans upset that their preferred ship isn’t the one being teased at the moment. This isn’t the first time a creative force has been forced to flee Twitter after being hit with absurd and uncalled-for harassment – just last month it was Leslie Jones. It’s not even the first time the Steven Universe¬†fandom has done this sort of thing (discussions of suicide within, and then discussed again below), which is absurd given that Steven Universe is about as friendly and inclusive a show as it possible to make without going full saccharine.

I’m not interested in getting into the substance of the complaints made against these people, or any number of others who have endured the same sort of treatment, both because it’s not particularly relevant to their critics’ shitty behavior, and because it serves as a distraction from the main topic: whether it stems from right-wing reactionism or left-wing kookery, too many people within fandom think that they’re within their rights to act like complete shitbirds to other people, and it seems to be getting worse.

A lot of ink has been spilled over this problem, generally identifying the problem as some new attitude of entitlement and usually involving a lot of veiled fist-shaking about those danged millennials being on the lawn. I don’t think that’s correct, because there is absolutely nothing new about the kinds of behaviors which lead to these incidents. What is new, however, is the platform it’s carried on. Tumblr and Twitter alike are terrible platforms for fandom activity, and as a result of fandom largely moving onto them, these kind of behaviors are amplified until they become the dominant form of fandom activity. Hashtag fandom is great for throwing bombs and starting witch hunts; it’s not so great for actually having a conversation.

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