Week of Geek: Ready Player 1 and when Fandom goes too far…

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Hiya Geeklings!  How was the long weekend?  Relaxing and delicious, I hope.

So this last Friday the film version of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One was released in theaters, to good reviews and a number one spot at the box office.  Check out the trailer…

It’s got that heavy dose of nostalgia that seems to be so in vogue nowadays, but mostly it just looks like a ton of fun.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m halfway through the book and I’m liking what I’m reading so far.

But I read something recently that kind of put the whole thing in an interesting new light.  I’m not going to link to the article here because a) spoilers and b) swears, but the gist is that the release of RP1 is a really good time to talk about what they referred to as ‘Toxic Fandom’.  The article pointed out that a lot of sites that praised the book back in 2011 are not so keen on the movie now, and that may be because we’ve now had a few years to see how extreme and unhealthy some fans can get with their chosen fandoms.

Without giving too much away, RP1 centers around Wade, who is living in a very difficult and unhappy future and who, like everyone else, escapes into the online virtual reality system that’s basically replaced the internet.  The OASIS sounds AMAZING, if you ask me.  There are whole planets dedicated to fandoms and themes (there’s a Firefly planet!  A FIREFLY PLANET!), and just about anything is possible in it.  But things ramp up for Wade when he participates in an online competition for control of the OASIS.  The system’s founder was BIG into 1980s culture, so Wade and other ‘gunters’ (egg hunters) become experts in 80s pop culture in order to give themselves a leg up to win, hence all the 80s nostalgia you’ve been seeing in the trailers and commercials (the 80s were a… special decade; I can’t blame the interest).

So why the backlash online?  Well, in the last few years after being a geek became cool (it is cook, dang it!), things like Gamergate, Fake Geek Girls and riots over condiments have shown us that some people take their hobbies and fandoms too far.  While for most of us geeks and nerds, things like video games, movies, TV shows, comics and all the trivia around them are delightful, fulfilling hobbies, for some it becomes their entire lives.  It becomes the only thing with which they identify themselves with and they become obsessed and aggressive over it.  They become gatekeepers and lash out at anyone who even looks at their favorite game or TV show the wrong way (or what the obsessed fan perceives as the wrong way), saying absolutely shocking and horrible things online.  Rather then let these things just be fun for everyone, these toxic fans declare you’re not a ‘true’ fan unless you can do something like name every single iteration of Batman’s batsuit, in chronological order (the tests vary from fandom to fandom).

Now, it’s not quite the same thing to declare Wade a toxic fan.  His situation is quite different from ours, and he does not lash out at people for not knowing Duran Duran‘s entire discography.  But the article I read merely pointed out that people who love a fandom can, like anything else, tip over into unhealthy and destructive tendencies, and we’re starting to really see that these last few years.

Now you all know I’m a geek and proud of it.  It is one of my distinguishing characteristics.  But in my most humble of opinions, fandom love should be something that enhances your life.  It should never be your WHOLE life.  And it most certainly should never be the cause of other people’s unhappiness.  Because, as much as we may love something, it really is just a game.  Or just a movie.  Or just a book series or a TV show.  It’s not as important as people and it’s not more important than all the other joys that come with living.  It should just be something that we can bond over, we can squeal over and we can enjoy.  And if you can’t name every single Avengers film in order, that’s OK.  You can still be an Avengers fan in my book and we can still hang.  Fandoms should unite people, never divide them.

So there’s my thoughts.  What do we think Geeklings?  Post away or write it up on WriteIt.  Enjoy RP1 and any other fandoms you love, and until next time, End of Line.

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