Approximately 18 months ago I discovered a love for a show called Glee (yes, I was a little late out of the gate). Approximately 17 months ago I realised I wasn’t the only one.
Like anyone involved in online fandoms, I got sucked into this slightly bizarre world by the joy of connecting to people with such similar interests and inspirations as my own. Websites like Hypable are such a success because they are all about fans sharing a mutual love and affection for the TV shows, films and books we each adore.
It’s because of this foundation of common interests and goals that I am always so frustrated to see the negativity, hate, and even occasional bullying that intermittently spreads through the online Glee fandom. It’s seen both in the way some fans choose to interact with each other, as well as in how they communicate to and about the show’s cast and crew. For a television show that has always been about acceptance and joy, this seems sadly backwards.
There can be an expectation on people in the entertainment industry that because they choose to live their professional lives in the public eye, they have an obligation to share their private lives with the world as well. They don’t. The fact that so many of the Glee cast and crew choose to connect with fans over social media such as Twitter should be seen as a privilege. To (mis)quote a favourite book – “When someone shares a piece of their life, they’re giving you a gift, not granting you your due.” The least we as fans can do is remain respectful when given the opportunity to interact with them so directly.
When sitting in your lounge chair at home, computer on your lap, “Teenage Dream” blaring on your stereo, it can be easy to forget that the words on your screen are actually another person, someone with feelings that can be hurt just as easily as your own. Just because they choose to put themselves, their opinions, or their work out in the public domain does not automatically give them impenetrable thick skin or you a license to abuse and attack them. Don’t allow the anonymity the Internet offers to dissociate you from the accountability or consequences of what you write. In other words, if you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it over the Internet.
I’m not saying don’t have opinions or don’t be critical. There will always be a place for analysis and constructive criticism when it comes to shows like Glee, which continue to push the envelope on socio-political issues and their portrayal on mainstream television. But there is a difference between giving a well thought-out opinion on an important issue in the show, and simply attacking the show’s writers because you don’t like the choices they are making for characters they themselves created, or repeatedly abusing an actor because of the actions of the character they portray. I understand this all comes from a place of passion and affection for the show – but there is passion and there is just plain nastiness.
I know that for most of the Glee fandom, this doesn’t apply. Most of us are simply here to appreciate and share our thoughts on a show that offers a little escapism while continuing to inspire us and make us laugh. I just hope the rest of the fans can jump on the bandwagon. Promote the things you love, don’t bash the things you hate. It’s a hell of a lot more fun, and after all, “by its very definition, Glee is about opening yourself up to joy.”