Commentary: On the Emotional Investment of Fandoms

I’m not into (Insert Popular Media Here).

The above statement is something that I dread saying, not because I don’t mean it, but because it can be a dangerous thing to say. Essentially, it means that I don’t play into a like/dislike duality, and most people would agree that for most things, just because you don’t like something, doesn’t mean that you dislike it, or rather, that you hate it. It just means you’re not into it, and if offered it, you’d politely turn it down and ask for other options.

Unless, of course, you’re dealing with a fandom.

Fandoms tend to subscribe to the “with us or against us” absolute in regards to whatever media they champion. Often they have a quirky name for themselves, a codex of in-jokes, formal terms, and vulgar argot, and usually a plethora of official merch and fan-made items. Also, you’ll usually be able to pick them out on your social media feeds because they won’t shut the hell up about it. 🙂

Fandoms are interesting because of emotional investment, they seem to push themselves past a general acceptance of opinions on a subject into a black and white mentality in regards to the object of their adoration. Or, better put, in regards to the object of their affection, you can only love or hate. Love it and you’ll be welcomed into the fold, though you’ll likely be categorized and relegated by your knowledge of the subject and overall devotion to it. Hate it, and you’ll be dismissed as a hater, or seen as the enemy. Haters get to have their cake as well, as the loving side of the fandom is often a never-ending generator of material for memes and mocking. Even haters often have a working knowledge of the subject to better deliver targeted barbs against the fandom.

But the indifferent, ah, the indifferent, seem to infuriate the fandom more than anyone, and I believe that it comes down to emotional investment. To analogize, video game consoles are expensive, and if you want next-gen, you’re going to have to shell out $300-500 just for the base system. For most people, you can only get one system unless you’re doing well and can get the other ones. As a result, there’s always going to be part of you that wonders if you picked the wrong console, so a console “fanboy” will defend his choice to the point of zealotry for fear that he might have to admit he wasted his time and money. Anyone who wants to see the effects of emotional overinvestment need only look at the Xbox One unveiling and the subsequent fallout on the internet.

When someone hates your chosen object of fandom, you can simply dismiss them as a hater, yes, but the important thing is that you recognize that they have emotional investment in the same thing you love. The indifferent, on the other hand, have zero or negligible emotional investment, and that reflects on the fan’s overinvestment, it serves as a reminder that there are a vast number of people who honestly don’t care about their beloved media or object, and frankly sometimes find them annoying. So, more often than not, the indifferent are awkwardly shoved into the “hater” box, even though they don’t give enough of a damn to hate it. In fact, while the indifferent don’t hate the object of fandom, they often end up hating the fans themselves.

When I was in high school, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “I don’t have a problem with Jesus, he sounds like an okay guy. His fan club, on the other hand…” It’s one of the things I try to cling to: don’t judge something by the people who like it.

An example. I’m not into Doctor Who, nor am I into Torchwood (sorry, you need more than a gay actor to draw me in), but I’m terrified of mentioning that on my Facebook feed, because Whovians are scary in that regard. Tell a Doctor Who fan that you’re honestly not into the show, and they’ll look at you like you just grew a second head. Clearly, you haven’t seen the right episode, the right Doctor, the right Companion, the right Christmas Special, or maybe you need to be reminded for the fiftieth time that John Barrowman is gay (he’s okay in Arrow, I guess, but if I’m going to squee over a gay actor, I’ll go with Matt Bomer, thanks). A Whovian can’t understand how someone can “not be into” the show. Haters, they get, and dismiss, but the indifferent are treated like lost lambs that must be guided back to the herd. I *have* tried to watch Doctor Who, I’ve seen Tom Baker, Chris Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, I’ve been shown Sarah Jane and Rose and a bunch of other people, I’ve been shown Daleks and Cybermen and Weeping Angels and I’ve been fully aware that I’ve been watched while I was watching, and every time, I’m just “ehh.” One friend, I guarantee, will read this entry, roll his eyes, and say “There he goes, hating on the Doctor again”, even though I don’t hate Doctor Who. Honestly, I just don’t care about the show. The Doctor, I guess, seems like an okay guy. His fan club, on the other hand…

1 Comment

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One response to “Commentary: On the Emotional Investment of Fandoms

  1. i totally get it. the thing fandoms do to me is turn me off a show i loved. my main example is Firefly fans. people, it’s been 12 years…that show ain’t comin’ back, give it a rest.

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