The Agent On ‘Toxic Fandoms’ and How to Keep a Community Positive

I can no longer stand idly by while everything I love is being destroyed!
Source: Amino

So, over the last month, I had to come to terms with a very sad truth – many of the things I love have terrible people that love them too.

It’s one of those facts that you know in your sub-conscious mind; the law of averages just ensures that at least a few undesirables make their way into the flock. But you really don’t think about it until a clutch of them jump out of the woodwork to make you and everyone else look bad.

Over the last month though, I’ve seen a rise in discussions on so-called ‘Toxic Fandoms’ and I won’t lie – it’s actually a little frustrating. So, I just want to give a quick step-by-step guide to how to deal with unsavory elements in the world of entertainment media fans in hopes of quelling the outrage and (admittedly) leveling some criticism on fandoms I consider myself a part of.

Step one: Make sure YOU aren’t part of the problem

I feel a lot of issues could be resolved if more people took a critical eye to themselves. It seems most people aren’t even aware that they might be helping to perpetuate a lot of the negative stereotypes around a fanbase.

Take my beloved Steven Universe for example. You’d think I show that is LITERALLY about love, acceptance and friendship would spawn and attract large scores of similar people – people who believe in respecting the diverse nature of the world and recognizing the value in differing visions and opinions. And for the most part, you would be right…

… Until you get to the kind of  s***lords that go on witch hunts for people they feel aren’t being PC enough and bullied a fan artist until she nearly attempted suicide.

Now, you may not be THAT terrible; in fact, I’m willing to bet most of you probably aren’t. But, are you the sort of person with a knee-jerk reaction perceived bigotry without questioning the context first? Well then, you may be perpetuating the stereotype without even knowing it.

Take some time to reflect on the ‘toxic’ aspects of your fandom, see where you and they are similar and take steps to put distance between the two of you. Not only will this help you identify the problem, but you will better yourself in the process.

Step two: Recognize them as the minority

Let’s state the obvious here because it seems surprisingly easy to forget; these a-holes that are making it hard to enjoy nice things are the exception, not the standard.

If these fandoms – massive as they are – really were full-to-bursting with these kinds of anti-social numbnuts, there would be absolute chaos. In fact, these fanbases likely wouldn’t get as big as they are if people thought there was a legitimate threat.

It’s important to remember that the majority of fans aren’t insufferable douchebags, but normal folks like you and me. Painting the whole fandom with a wide brush like that throws a lot of decent people under the bus that could help you regain the peace.

So remember, they are the minority – a vocal minority just large enough to screw things up for the rest of us, but a minority none the less.

Step three: Ask yourself, “How bad are they, really?”

The old saying goes that, “You need to choose your battles.” So ask yourself honestly, how many ‘toxic fandoms’ are ACTUALLY a problem and not just super annoying?

Are just creepy and weird folks that can be easily ignored like the Cuphead fan artists that draw Rule 34 incest slash art? Or are they legitimately socially disruptive like the Rick and Morty fans that made life miserable for underpaid McDonald’s employees?

If you’re going to start policing fandoms, you need to understand that there’s a line and not all ‘toxic fans’ cross it. Focus your energy on actual problems instead of minor grievances.

Step four: Deny the problem people entry

When you get down to it, fandom is a club. It’s a place where like-minded people can gather to converse with one another and network in a civil manner.

And like any club, occasionally, the bouncer needs to tell a few slimy-looking creeps that they aren’t on the list.

The biggest insult you can lay on a ‘toxic fan’ is the shame of knowing that the rest of the fandom has rejected you – that you so obviously missed the point of your fandom, that they refuse to let you associate them. That’s why I’ve been using the sarcastic air quotes whenever I use the term ‘toxic fandom’ or toxic fan.’ There are no ‘toxic fans.’ There are just people that miss the point of the story or art and make a mockery of real fans through their inexcusable behavior.

If you bully people for not acquiescing to your worldview, you aren’t a ‘toxic Steven Universe fan’ – you’re a narrow-minded jackass so concerned with the cosmetic aspects of bigotry that you fail to see it within yourself.

If you think it’s cool to get belligerent with a clerk because they don’t have what you want, you aren’t a ‘toxic Rick and Morty fan’ – you’re a self-important, entitled brat that thinks the world owes you something just for existing.

So if you see someone claiming to be a fan of something – even if it’s something you don’t particularly care for – acting out in a disgusting manner, don’t be afraid to call them out on their poor behavior. Don’t bully them into submission, but make it clear that they aren’t welcome here and don’t deserve to associate with you until they shape up and start acting like an adult. Remember, there are no ‘toxic fandoms’ – only terrible, ill-tempered, and reprehensible human beings that the world can do without.

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Pessimistic or Realistic: Where’s the Line Drawn?

Now, isn’t this a better metaphor than the glass of water?
Source: Omnilexica

Once again, I find myself over burdened. This time, it’s the pressure of finding work that’s doing me in. On the plus side, I have a second interview with a local newspaper.

So, in order to take some stress off of me, I’m going to philosophize on a subject that I once discussed back when I was writing for my campus newspaper.

I have a long standing history among friends and family as being a pessimist. However, I often feel they are mistaking my view for Pessimism when I’m actually trying to be realistic. So let’s look at the two and see how a so-called pessimistic view can be a boon when tempered properly.

What is Pessimism?

Not quite my definition, but the closest that I could find on short notice.
Source: The Pessimist

I have found that many people transpose the words ‘pessimist’ and ‘cynic’.

I have found that when most people call someone cynical, they mean it to suggest that they refuse to believe that anything will ever be of any worth. However this is closer to the definition of pessimism; the, “tendency to stress the negative or unfavorable or to take the gloomiest possible view,” according to The Free Dictionary.

Cynical, on the other hand, describes a school of thought that states that all humans are inherently self-serving and untrustworthy. In the words of Merriam-Webster, it is defined as, “believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest.”

It’s important to note the difference between the two. A cynic has a pessimistic view of people (you can’t trust anyone), but a pessimist is not necessarily a cynic.

In fact, pessimism can be highly focused to a specific area of thought; e.g. art, humanity, etc. For example, a person can hold the pessimistic belief that any movie that a specific film director makes will be garbage, but will optimistically sing the praises of another.

So, this begs the question of why one would chose to be pessimistic. I can’t answer for them, but I can tell you where I started.

The Father of Pessimism

All hail our Grand Poobah!
Source: Wikipedia

One of the people that helped form the basis of my world view was one Theodore Sturgeon. Sturgeon was a celebrated sci-fi author and critic responsible for helping to form the world of modern science fiction. In addition to writing several episodes of Star Trek, Land of the Lost, and The New Twilight Zone, he also wrote “Killdozer!”, a cult classic novella turned made-for-TV movie.

According to legend, Sturgeon was answering the attacks of critics of science fiction that bashed it for its low quality by stating that most examples of life in general can be seen as just as poor. To put it in Sturgeon’s own words, “Sure, ninety percent of science fiction is crud. That’s because ninety percent of EVERYTHING is crud.”

The notion that most things are worthless is known as “Sturgeon’s Revelation” (though it is better known by the less accurate “Sturgeon’s Law” and is often misquoted as, “Ninety percent of everything is CRAP”). And while is seems hyper-critical, doesn’t it feel true? How often have you complained about never finding anything good on television? How many business can you think of that you can say nice things about without any qualifying statements about less desirable actions they’ve taken? How many people do you bump into, work with, or hear about that you could do without?

The fact is that we have a quality control problem in this world and recognizing it is perfectly normal. In fact, it’s actually helpful.

The Advantage of (Controlled) Pessimism

I’m going to start telling myself this from now on.
Source: Youth Voices

Recognizing the flaws in the world around us is what pushes us to want to improve things. Imagine how drab and miserable the world would be if we were all complaisant and willing to accept the world as is without questioning it or trying to improve it.

Also, pessimism can be a powerful protective tool when used properly. By expecting the worse from some future plan or event, you can prepare for the worse possible outcome – a key to good crisis management. In this case, pessimism is only a problem when it convinces you to not pursue your task in the first place.

In short, the boundaries between true pessimism, blind optimism, and realistic thinking – as defined by me – are how much you let negative thoughts dictate your thinking. A realist will let those thoughts serve as a warning rather then let them defeat themselves before they start or blatantly ignore them.

Last Thoughts and Advise

In closing, yes, I’ve been known to take a negative view on most things initially. However, that just means that I’ll either know what’s wrong before hand that needs fixing or I’ll be pleasantly surprised when all goes better than expected.

 

So remember, don’t fear the doubts and negativity in the back of your mind. Don’t ignore them or let them crush your spirit. Instead, let them guide you towards the right path. And should you notice that less than ninety percent of something is crud, raise your standards and demand better from the world.

In Defense Of The Service Industry

All wait staff should be this happy and perky without faking it.
Source: Texas P.O.S.

So there I was one early evening treating myself to a well deserved pepperoni pizza after some flattering complements in my Social Media class. While conversing with the cook in the dining hall, she asked, presumably as a joke, if she could get me to write a recommendation for campus dining services to quiet down the incessant complaints she got daily.

I couldn’t think of a witty retort off the top of my head, but it did get me to thinking about how we don’t treat people in the service industry as well as we should. Writing a review of a college cafeteria would be silly, but I can show my appreciation to that nice lady and the countless others who make civilized life possible by trying to get others to give them the respect they deserve. The next time you deal with a cashier, server, or the like, remember the following…

They’re Just Following The Rules

Most of the complaints I hear people register with servers are things that can’t be helped. The store can’t accept your expired coupons, the restaurant can’t can’t make your meal special order because it’s pre-made, or some other common request that would violate company policy.

Most of these people (read: the people who haven’t been jaded by the abusive customers) legitimately want to help you. The problem is that when forced to choose between the customer and their job, most are going to take the option that ensures that they get to eat tomorrow.

They’re Just As Human As The Rest Of Us

The service industry is made of human beings. That means that they make mistakes just like the rest of us and can be just as hurt by the ignorance of others.

People make mistakes. What’s more, people make more mistakes when they’re under stress from, for example, some entitled nimrod giving them crap. Relax and work with your server instead of against them. You’ll find you’ll resolve more issues much faster.

Look At Yourself First

As stated above, people working in service make mistakes like all humans. This mean that, since you are human as well, you can be just as guilty of screwing up.

People are, unfortunately, prone to something called Conformation Bias, the unconscious act of exclusively searching for and favoring information that confirms something that they believe. If that person believes that they are in the right, they will fight to prove it to the bitter end and react negatively when proven otherwise.

Take some time to think about what you have contributed to this impasse and consider if you may be at fault. Checking to see if you may have failed at some point may help to find a solution to the problem… and may just keep you off the featured posts of Not Always Right.