2:51 pm EDT, August 9, 2016

A few words on fandom shaming, and why it’s a waste of everyone’s time

Newsflash: No one likes a hater. Instead of wasting your time judging others for liking something you don’t, focus on finding a fandom to enrich your own life. After all, fandom’s big enough for all of us.

The NY Post published an article about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child today, which I am loath to give too much attention, because it just feels like another one of those ‘let’s get those silly nerds fired up’ posts.

The article uses baiting words like “infantile” and “junk” to provoke readers into sharing the post in shock and outrage (hey, every click counts right?). It’s carefully designed to offend, feigning ignorance about how literature works — like the fact that a book can appeal to more than one age group at a time, and that older readers can and often do find new appreciation for books they read as children. We might also comment on the author’s own clear lack of knowledge about the Harry Potter series (it’s V-o-l-d-e-m-o-r-t, by the way), but there is absolutely no reason to, because the article is nonsense.

Instead, what I want to focus on is this inane, pointless tendency we have to fandom-shame each other for no good reason other than to spark a little drama, and/or in an attempt to make ourselves and our passions seem more highbrow in comparison. Spoiler alert: It’s not gonna work. It didn’t work when the jocks tore down the comic book nerds in high school — those nerds now run Hollywood, and their revenge is a never-ending stream of superhero and fantasy movies — and it’s not going to work for the Harry Potter fandom, because we’re smarter than that. That’s what tends to happen when you read a lot of books.

I love fandom. I love the multi-faceted, all-encompassing way the word itself wraps around all kinds of wonderful, made-up realities — whether it be royally knighted Sirs and Dames playing make-believe on a dark stage in London, skinny-legged men in shorts confined to a field of fake grass with the sole mission of kicking a ball into a net as many times as possible before someone blows a whistle and sets them free, or simply the magic power of words printed on a bunch of pages that have been glued together, and which have the ability to transport readers to the most extraordinary of alternate realities.

For all the entitlement debates, fandom in-fighting and archaic prejudice associated with the word, ‘fandom’ is ultimately just an umbrella term for all of those arbitrary and strange practices humans have invented over the years to distract themselves from the dreary reality of life — work — death. And the wonderful thing about fandom is that there’s room for everyone. It doesn’t matter what you love — it could be a TV show, a book series, a movie, a sports team or a brand of car — all that matters is that you love it. You’re a fan of something because, in some big or small way, it brings you joy. That can never be a bad thing.

And yes, some fans are shitty people who try to ruin it for the rest of us, but that’s humanity for you. There’s no escaping that (unless you’re escaping into fandom, that is).

While we’re all fans of something, however, none of us are fans of everything. Personally, I’m drawn to fantasy fiction with fierce females (and alliteration, apparently). I like (some) TV shows. I like (some) movies. I like (a great deal of) books. Reality shows are not my thing. I like watching soccer, but never in my life have I had an inclination to figure out the stats of players or pick a favorite team. But you know what? Who gives a frak? The absolute best thing about fandom is that it doesn’t — or shouldn’t — matter what draws your interest and what doesn’t. The important thing is that you have something to care about, some thing that isn’t a life-or-death topic like your job, your health, your kids, your mortgage or your love life. Something to escape into.

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Related: On Criticism vs. Enjoyment: Can we stop being cruel to others when we disagree?

Unfortunately, as long as there has been fandom, there has been a sad tendency to fandom-shame the groups we are not a part of, perhaps in an effort to elevate our own passions and make them seem more ‘legitimate’ somehow.

In an age where superhero movies and fantasy novels rule the charts, there might, for example, be those who long for the good old days of “Soviets with guns and sleeping with beautiful women.” And you know what? That’s okay. I am certainly not going to call myself better, more mature or less consumed by violent/sexist narratives simply because I happen to prefer a 3,500-page book series that taught an entire generation to read for pleasure over some random other arbitrary thing.

At the end of the day, it’s all just things we do to fill time. And they can’t all teach us valuable and universal moral lessons, or advance the reading skills of an entire generation. Whatever puts a smile on your face and makes your life a little better is a-ok with me, as long as no one else gets hurt in the process. Why waste my time judging? How could I judge? I have my own reasons for liking some things more than others, and those reasons are neither more or less valid than yours.

It’s also important to note, like Hypable has done before, that it’s totally okay when you don’t love something as much as everyone else does, too. And yes, whenever that happens you’re bound to get a little bit of that bitter ‘I wasn’t invited to the party’-feeling. That’s okay, too.

With Harry Potter and the Cursed Child now published in script form, I have publicly expressed my frustration with what I, personally, deemed a disappointing narrative. Admittedly, my frustration has very little to do with the fact that I didn’t think the plot was good, and a lot more to do with the fact that I really wish I loved it as much as I love the rest of the Harry Potter series.

Because those books have been an important staple in my life for the past 15 years. They’ve shaped the person I’ve become, and I will always value them. The Harry Potter series taught me a lot of significant lessons about friendship, compassion, and how easily the power of hate can corrupt even the most innocent soul. I wanted to love Cursed Child, and it broke my heart a little bit that I didn’t.

But whatever my personal opinion on this story happens to be, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see others find enjoyment in it.

And what is perhaps even more important than its critical reception is the fact that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sent readers flocking back to independent bookstores. How often do people even go to bookstores anymore? That, on its own, makes Cursed Child immensely valuable.

This new Harry Potter book, like each Harry Potter book before it, has sent hoards of people of all ages out into the streets — not to riot, not to incite violence, and not to take brain-numbing drugs. But to buy a book. A book that brings their lives pleasure and value and which has, at one point or another over the course of their lives, reminded them how wonderful it is to read.

And there is no rational, mature argument to be made for why that would not be a wonderful thing. So don’t be that guy who tries to stir up shit for the thrill of a #RIPmymentions moment. Just love what you love, and let others do the same.

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