I was talking with a friend about how some fandoms are super fun to be a part of. And some...not so much. I regret to say, as much as I love Korra, it's not a particularly fun fandom for me. Neither was Avatar. (They're FAR from the only fandoms that suffer from the problems I'm going to be "talking" (word-vomiting) about, but they're the ones I've had the most experience with.)
Fandom has become a dirty word. I have literally been accused of participating in fandom. Wait, accused of what? For me, the whole idea of "fandom" can be summed up in one word: excitement. Man, I love getting excited about shit. And I LOVE talking to other people who are excited about shit! And then our excitement spirals around each other's and then we make awesome creations with that extreme excitement. EXCITEMENT-BENDING! This is what happens EVERY time I post a fanart, and I can feel your guys's excitement coming through the...internet-waves. Those are real. And it makes me want to create more. That's how my excitement manifests -- in creation.
So it's shocking and upsetting to me how many people spend their excitement energy propagating negativity. Shipping wars, (WTF?!) whitewashing indignation, and even petty disapproval of artists' excitement (preoccupation, obsession, whatever lol) really upset me. I understand, particularly with the whitewashing issue, that this is a piece of a greater social issue and that raising awareness is pretty important. However, I'm not convinced that the kind of negativity that's frequently celebrated in fandom is really the best solution. Are there any blogs that are dedicated to fan images of Korra that have the "right" skin-tone? Even if there are, they are outshined utterly by negative ones.
These comics. <edit> I've been having links issues. Hold on a sec while I figure this out...! </edit> Here
One represents the artist's standpoint, and one represents the critic's standpoint, and both are sadly fairly accurate of the kind of behavior that goes on constantly in fandom. And yet no one has created a comic in which both parties explain their points of view and grow to understand where each other is coming from in a cool-headed mature fashion? I don't really want to participate in the wider debate that features those comics so I'm not going to make my own, but if I did, it would go like this:
So you've done some fanart of Korra but her skin seems too light. WHAT DO YOU DO?
This is "behaving like human adults."
"Hey, artist. It seems like you've drawn Korra's skin lighter than it is in the show. Whitewashing is a pretty important issue for me, so I wanted to let you know that I noticed this and it lessened my enjoyment of the picture."
"Hey, critic. You're right, it is lighter than it is in the show. I guess that issue wasn't on my mind when I was drawing this picture. Thanks for bringing it to my attention."
...That's it. Comic's over. We don't need an asshole example.
Instead, both of these comics come from parties who KNOW that THEY ARE RIGHT, and the other one is WRONG. And this is far from exclusively a race issue. The entitlement and indignation of a "wronged" fan is frequently expressed for things like wrong costuming, unconvincing likeness, anatomical flaws, the characters being the wrong age, *cough*inappropriatebodyhair*cough*, or any number of complaints.
One example of this persistent negativity in fandom is the widely accepted misuse of the word "though."
If I had a nickel for every time someone ended a comment with "still a nice pic though." I would ...okay well to be fair probably it would only cover last month's unpaid utilities. Maybe a semi-nice dinner. But you see my point. "Though" implies that there's a substantial flaw with the piece which prevents it from being, all told, "good." But the thing is, the comments that usually end like this don't usually really have a critique. They're usually like "he looks a lot older than in the show" or "I thought this was the other brother at first!"
So then, why the "though?" These are...not bad things. You're right. I draw them all looking a lot older than they look in the show. I'm not trying to hide that. And, yeah, you're right. I draw Bolin looking SUPER different than he does in the show. In fact, if I didn't state that it was him, you probably wouldn't know it. And you're right. I have drawn Korra's skin lighter than it is in the show. I am not trying to hide ANY of these things for you. I mean, there it is, right in front of you. 100% airtight proof that he looks about 10 years older than he does in the show. I drew it like that. So why would I stand next to my piece and get pissed off when you point out the choices I've made?
9 times out of 10, when I respond to comments that contain some form of criticism, the commenter is surprised that I acknowledge the perceived flaw and don't get pissy and defensive about it. And on the (not-infrequent) occasions when I've confronted the commenter about their less-than-helpful wording which was overly aggressive or insulting, they usually reveal that they were anticipating me to either pretend the comment wasn't made, or get, you guessed it, pissy and defensive, and that they were compensating for my expected reaction by being overly forceful.
And on multiple occasions, I've had some really lovely interactions with people which have started out accusatory and combative, and then when they realized I wasn't going to engage them that way, we both got over it and simply talked about the issue, whether it was whitewashing, anatomical inaccuracy, or premature shipping. On all of these occasions I know for a fact we've both come away feeling not only neutral about the exchange, but POSITIVE and feeling sappy gooey warmth towards mankind that we could have such a civil and helpful conversation.
I cherish these interactions. It shows me that the fandom is NOT made up of ignorant butt-hurt children, rather, people who have accepted a certain code of conduct based on the assumption that the other party is going to get pissy and defensive. People who are completely capable of having a sincere conversation about an issue when presented with the chance, it's just that we're so USED to handling it with negativity.
"Though" is one such example of propagating a standard of negativity without thinking about what it means. To the "though"-ers: I'm not trying to call you out. I know that you're not trying to be negative or insulting, and that the "though" doesn't come from malice. All I'm trying to say is that "though" is, by definition, stating that you have pointed out a flaw in the work. It is putting a negative spin on something that needs not be negative.
And to the artists: a lot of the "ending the perpetuation of negativity" responsibility lies with us. Sure, sometimes commenters are prematurely combative, but if you the artist have a history of getting defensive then there's no wonder. You created the piece, so accept their associations, even if it's a critique, and even if it's just "that looks like my cousin Gary! I hate him!" One critique doesn't mean you have to change it, or shy away from drawing it again. However, if 20 different individuals say that it looks like their hated cousin Gary, then you can "feel out" if it bothers you that this association limits the enjoyment of the piece for so many people. It doesn't have to. But if it does, then maybe it's time to tweak the piece, or adjust your process for the next one.
Well. This journal has visited the farthest corners of the map of what could possibly be considered a "point." All I mean is, this negativity, it's everywhere and we are desensitized to it. Even the small things that we don't bat an eye at, like saying "though" at the end of a comment, are a symptom of the overall unquestioned code of negativity in fandom. If you have read any of my other preachy journals you will notice that I am merely applying my standard soapboxes of "positivity is more helpful than negativity" and "think about what you say" to the concept of fandom, but I still think it's worth saying.