2015 will go down as the year politics invaded fandoms.
From GamerGate to “The Cover” to Puppy Wars and the Hugo Awards, it has been a year that will live on in infamy.
To some degree politicization has always occupied a place within fandoms, humans are, after all, political animals and our fandoms are expressions of the need we all have for human communities. We all want to feel accepted.
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So what’s changed this year?
In some ways, everything.
One of the greatest gifts fandoms have traditionally bestowed on their members was the right to enjoy one’s passions free from the noise of the outside world. Geeks, nerds, fanboys and fangirls all know the joy of being surrounded by those who share their passions and the simplicity of losing yourself for a few hours in their company.
It was a sort of wonderful herd immunity, but its beginning to fade fast.
And A Shadow Crept Forth…
To most of us, the politicization of fandoms started as an ugly whisper; something dark and disturbing and not quite understood that was likely happening in someone else’s community.
By January of 2015, the substance of the GamerGate scandal had given way to the endless spin and lobbying efforts that began to seep into the lives of many fans that had little or no experience in gaming, but who had become fascinated by the arguments that were disabling an entire community; one so very similar to their own.
A few months later, in March, an artist who was just beginning to reap the rewards of a hard-built career, went public with the debate that had arisen around his art for DC’s Batgirl #41 – what would later become known as “The Cover”.
Almost immediately people within the DC fandom, and then the whole of the comics community, began taking sides. References to GamerGate and politicization became commonplace and, almost overnight, it was as if the firewall that had contained these issues to other fandoms was gone. The ills that had first flared up in the gaming community had gone viral.
Not to be outdone, the smaller but scrappy fandoms that surround science fiction and fantasy writing were the next domino to fall.
The 2015 Hugo Awards have been shocked by a raucous debate over politically charged voting tactics and threats of sabotage.
No less a figure than Game of Thrones author George R. R. Matin took to the web with his Not A Blog to decry the polarization of a fan community that had long been able to deliberate over its annual awards in civility and relative peace. This year, the risk that “No Award” may win out in multiple categories has stunned those who love the Hugos with a passion.
The Hugos can withstand a few NO AWARDs, in categories where all the nominees are crap. They can NOT withstand an entire evening without a single rocket being presented, where one envelope after another is ripped open and NO AWARD is announced, again and again and again. – G.R.R.M.
Big or small 2015 saw politics affect us all.
So what’s to be done?
Part of the problem is that there is not a commonly accepted social shame associated with hating people of the opposing political stripe.
Taboos against discrimination based on religion, race, sexual orientation and gender have all managed to achieve some degree of universal acceptance. Hating the person on the opposite side of the argument is still somehow seen as ok.
Only a fool would blissfully hope that the genie could be put back in the bottle.
The course discourse that has arisen on the internet and the microscope, with which fans now examine everything through an increasingly political lens, have made that impossible.
But the temperature out there can be lowered; lowered to the point where people can attend fan cons of all kinds without their political radar humming. Lowered to the point where the more sensitive among us can view or hear something we deem mildly offensive and let it pass.
Fandoms, as we known them, cannot exist under a permanent siege mentality, with self-appointed sentries on a constant lookout for any conceivable threat. Fandoms exist to take us away from such feelings or to let us experience them vicariously through the characters we love.
Fandoms work best when they are welcoming people in, not looking for excuses to keep people out.
Back in the real world, we have no castle walls to hide behind. Every arrow out here causes wounds that take much longer to heal than those in fantasy.
We need our herd immunity back!
We need that feeling of serenity that allows us to forget about the politics in life, not to be hunting for examples of it incessantly.
So let the healing begin.
But who makes the first move?
The first step is that we must all cure ourselves of the need to call out sights and sounds that we find grating, but that we know, deep down, are fairly reasonable and nowhere near extreme.
The First Step Is The Hardest
We’ll take the first step here and extend a hand as we all take this plunge together.
Remember that Batgirl 41 cover that set comics fandoms aflame for months on end?
Here’s a question that is meant to be asked honestly and with compassion.
Did “The Cover” really cause significantly more grief that this image from Batgirl #14
We could have posted many more such examples here, but you get the idea. Some of us may find these images extremely grating; even upsetting or disrespectful. No one objects to the powerful feelings these images illicit. Eliciting a strong response was surely the original hope behind the creators of these covers.
Voicing disapproval to those around you would be one possible course of action. Taking to the crowded and chaotic world of online fan forums would be another. But launching campaigns to purge images that clearly fall in-line with what’s been published in the industry’s recent past was always going to lead to counter-charges of censorship and raise temperatures to a boiling point.
You Are The Hero We Need
Because our humble ComiConverse editorial page tends to lean a little left-of-centre, we felt a little more confident using “The Cover” as our example of politicization run amok. We could easily have put together a list of examples from the political right; but there is a call that needs to heeded here by everyone who claims any affinity to any fandom whatsoever.
Tone. It. Down.
Its starts with each of us making a conscious decision to look to our right and left and see only people; people who love our fandoms as much as we do.
Only then we can recapture those magical feelings where we can bask in the love of our shared passions and leave the stresses of everyday life where they belong…
As far away from our fandoms as possible.
ComiConverse Editorials will appear from time to time in furtherance of this page’s editorial voice.
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