Archive - Jun 23, 2005

Destroy All Fanboys

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Memo to nerds: BE BETTER NERDS.

Funny how this keeps working out to a Thursday. Thursday is Nerdsday, I guess. Anyway, as always, if you haven't read the Be-A-Better-Nerd Manifesto, go and do that, and if that doesn't answer your questions, THEN you can bitch to me.

If there were one thing I could purge from the nerd universe, once and for all, with a wave of my hand, it would be the scourge, the curse, of fanboyism. The rest of it could stay - the filk, the whining, the Internet arguing, the "cosplay community", the dressing up like a squirrel to have sex... OK, maybe not that last one. But still, maybe squirrel-fucking would be a small price indeed to pay to wipe the fanboy instinct from the souls of nerds everywhere.

The defining core of fanboyism (and I'm using the term in a gender-neutral sense - all God's children can be fanboys) is the substitution of devotion for identity. You can enjoy something. Even enjoy it a lot. Even enjoy it so much that you make a costume and dress up as a character, or spend hundreds of hard-earned dollars to buy all the DVD's, or even, dare I say it, write fanfic* - and still not be a fanboy.

Fanboyism occurs when the line between you and whatever product you enjoy, blurs and becomes indistinct. Where the relationship between producer and consumer of entertainment becomes less "The Wealth Of Nations" and more "Fatal Attraction". You will know when you have taken your first step over that line, and it's when you, as a fan, first identify yourself as a member of a distinctly-named fan group.

Trekkie. Lurker. MSTie. Whovian. Jedi. Whatever the fuck Stargate fans call themselves**. Any and all estrogen brigades. Firefly fans call themselves "Browncoats", for fuck's sake. That's only three fewer letters than there were EPISODES. If you identify so strongly with a piece of entertainment that you'll take a name from it, you're a fucking fanboy and you should cut it out.

Because once you've done that, things start to get ugly. Pretty soon you'll start taking an online handle based on the show. And then it'll turn into a persona. At which point your signature will grow to three times its previous length, and you will become insufferable and annoying. Turn back before it's too late.

See, that level of identity blurring leads, inevitably, to the inappropriate level of emotional investment that is the fanboy hallmark. That feeling of connection, which becomes a feeling of ownership, which becomes a feeling of betrayal when things don't go the way you wanted. And then you end up typing stupid shit on message boards like "They owe it to the fans.".

But you don't get a say, because you're an audience. Your role is to sit there and watch, or sit there and not watch, and that is the sum total and breadth of both your ability and your responsibility to any TV show, book series, movie franchise, or comic book. It's not the creators' fault you can't separate that from your fundamental sense of self, and take every recasting, every schedule change, every unwanted plot twist like a dagger to the heart. STOP STALKING YOUR HOBBY.

When you have that much personally invested in something, you never want it to change. This not only means you will be eternally disappointed when things DO change, but on those rare occasions when it's the fanboys getting pandered to instead of the broader audience, it's the rest of us that have to suffer from safe, banal bullshit that won't upset the delicate sensitivies of the people with seventy three fucking buttons pinned to their denim vest. And all you have to do is let go.

By which I do not mean "get a life" - remember the Manifesto - it just means what it says. Let go. Spread your custom around. I love Space Ghost: Coast to Coast too, but every single time Cartoon Network produces a fifteen-minute animated comedy that ISN'T Space Ghost, that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. Media and franchises have a natural lifespan to them. Demanding creators keep making more just because you can't let go is like keeping a brain-dead person on life support. The patient ain't getting any better, the doctors have useful things they could be doing instead, and the loved ones need to move on.

So stop being a fanboy, and get back to simply enjoying stuff. You'll be happier. And more importantly, I'll be less annoyed.

*This does not necessarily make you a fanboy. Odds are it's very sad, and should also be avoided, but that's not what we're talking about today.

**A bit of research reveals "Gaters", which is precisely proportional in lameness to the show itself.