Fandoms have recently become a major part of how people interact with a book, movie, or TV show. In many ways a fandom is just a place to talk about a work you like with other fans. However, fandoms do have some serious negative aspects that we don’t often realize.
Recently in an interview Young Adult authors Cassandra Clare and Maggie Stiefvater explained the negative aspects of their fandoms. Each said that they had been insulted by fans or felt dehumanized by them. Their fans sometimes seemed to care more about the characters in their novels than about them as people. They have received threats from fans of their work who care deeply about their books but don’t seem to respect them. Both authors feel that they are particularly targeted like this as women authors.
It all comes down to respecting people online. In a fandom, it’s easy for someone to say things that they wouldn’t say to someone face to face. Although fans love the work that their authors create they sometimes don’t seem to respect that author as a fellow human being. In the interview, Stiefvater said, “I’m seen as either a demon or a queen, and the reality is somewhere in between.” People in fandoms often don’t realize that their overzealous emotional responses to books and movies can seriously hurt people’s feelings. Fans should support authors and creators, not tear them down. Fandoms unfortunately produce strong emotions and an anonymous online environment where people feel they can say whatever they want without repercussions.
I know that this revelation about the darker side of fandoms has impacted my view of them. It’s important to always stay polite and respectful of other people, both authors and other fans, when we are participating in a fandom. While authors love when people engage with their work in interesting ways and enjoy their books and movies, they certainly do not appreciate the hate that often comes with it. All of us need to make sure that we are interacting with others online in a way that is courteous and kind. Even if someone wants to critique an author or disagree with them, there are ways of doing that without hurting that author’s feelings or making them feel unsafe. I’m not saying to stop interacting with fandoms. Fandoms can be a really great way of connecting with other people and appreciating a work of fiction, a movie, or a TV series. However, I do believe that we can make fandoms an even more positive environment by respecting and appreciating each other online.