The Pitfalls of Fandom

There exists a unique subgroup within the fan base of the show My Little Pony.  They call themselves “bronies” (a combination of bro and pony), and they are typically made up of young male adults who watch the show.  Originally a show written for pre-teen girls, it was retooled somewhat once the creators realized they had attracted this unique group of fans.

So why, you ask, am I talking about this?  I am talking about this because the very existence of this brony fan group has created some of the most caustic and hateful dialogue I have ever seen on the internet.  The amount of hatred spewed forth is legendary, and never ceases to amaze me.  Now you’re probably wondering whose side I’m going to pick.  Am I a brony backer or a brony basher?  In truth, I am neither.  Both parties are guilty in this war of hatred.

On the one hand, you have the anti-fans, who spew forth hatred toward the legion of bronies.  They call them all manner of hateful things, sometimes implying that bronies have lewd thoughts about ponies.  On the other hand, you have the fans who immediately assume that anyone who doesn’t like the show is a xenophobic racist who isn’t secure in their masculinity.  Each side continually perpetuates this group of stereotypes about the other, creating an incredibly volatile relationship.  It’s become so bad in some ways that you can’t look at almost any Youtube video’s comments section without running into hate for bronies and from bronies.

But this is just one example.  Plenty of cases exist where the mutual dislike between two fan bases evolves into outright hate.  Star Wars vs. Star Trek.  Microsoft vs. Sony.  PC gaming vs. console gaming.  It is the problem of self-identifying as part of a particular fan group.  Even if you don’t want to be sucked into it, you inevitably are.

A War of Stereotypes

The fighting between fan groups usually takes the form of something similar to the brony versus non-brony concept I outlined above.  Usually it involves perpetuating some set of stereotypes about the other side.  In the case of PC vs. console, it goes something like this.  PC gamers are always elitist jerks who think they are better than everyone else, and console gamers are always immature little twelve-year-old kids who like to shout racial slurs into the microphone.  Sure, they are true in some way, but they breed this line of thought which leads to each side immediately assuming the other is simply full of that kind of stereotype, which is simply not the case.

I have dabbled in both PC and console gaming.  I don’t consider myself to be an elitist jerk, nor do I consider myself to be an immature twelve-year-old (I think the fact that I am now a college graduate immediately disqualifies me from that).  It amazes me how much crap people will sling back and forth, and all over something so inconsequential as which gaming system you play on or what TV shows you watch or don’t watch.  Nerds/geeks (I’ve given up trying to differentiate the two) can be some of the most intelligent but belligerent people you’ll ever meet.

And I wish that it didn’t have to be like that, in much the same way that I wish the online gaming community wasn’t so hateful and xenophobic (as I talked about in a previous blog post).  It breeds a kind of thinking that is inherently dangerous.  I understand that we can’t just stifle people’s thoughts on the basis that they might cause problems.  We can’t stop the bad ideas without stopping some of the good ones as well.  But keeping an open mind can go a long way.

Setting a Standard

The problem with encouraging this type of diatribe between fan bases is that it sets a certain kind of standard.  If left unchecked, it becomes the norm for behaving around each other.  Such a thing seems to have happened between bronies and non-bronies, where the relationship between them is so caustic now that people who didn’t even do anything are being drawn up into the crossfire.  It’s unfair on both sides.  The people who watch the show shouldn’t be judged for doing so, and neither should people who don’t watch the show.  Everyone has their own way of doing things.

It seems silly to focus so much attention on a problem that occurs with a small portion of the general population, but the fact is that it happens with so many other people out there in the world on a bigger scale.  The dislike and spreading of stereotypes is a process that occurs on a racial level and gender level in our society.  What happens with fan bases is essentially a miniature version of that.

What we have to do is set a standard that says it is not okay to simply judge others based on what they watch or don’t watch, play or don’t play, own or don’t own.  Just because one person has this electronic device, and the other has the competing device, doesn’t mean that they can’t get along.  I am completely confused as to why people get so worked up over things this small.  It’s really not that big of a deal.

So the next time you make an assumption about someone based on what they watch, play, or otherwise own, just remember that someone else you passed in the hallway at school or work or wherever could be doing the same thing to you.

And that’s all I got for this week, a shorter post than usual I know.  Next week’s post will be beyond your level of comprehension, and hidden within the fifth dimension.  Until then, have a great week everyone.







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