When I woke up to a tweet from J.K. Rowling calling out Hypable for being “#Wormtaily,” I panicked.
I was in London and it was the morning after seeing Cursed Child, Part One. Seeing Queen Jo directly call out Hypable and only Hypable was scary. She has over seven million followers and many of them could’ve turned against my site. My baby. Little ol’ Hypable, just run by people who love fandom.
A bunch of bad ways the day could play out entered my typically paranoid mind. JKR could ban me from seeing Part Two (but the optics of that wouldn’t look good, I told myself, and it was probably not possible anyway). People who were fans of Hypable could suddenly turn away from us, and tell us that we can go f*** ourselves for upsetting their idol (but there are always new people who can become fans of Hypable! I told myself). I knew the writers on the site would probably come to me in a panic. I knew that people I never hear from would send me messages reading “OMGGGGG.” I knew I’d load up Twitter and see tons of hate, and tons of people pissed that we went out and “spoiled” things.
I said my blessings that I recently went on an anti-anxiety medication and then started the day. I loaded up Twitter with just an eye open as I continued sulking in bed, and what I saw in my and JKR’s mentions surprised me. Many people were actually on our side instead of the author’s, because spectators thought what we did wasn’t spoiling. We were giving people the option to read minor things that occur in the story that don’t affect the plot. We didn’t even spoil anything major — BUT BOY COULD WE (and we’ll talk about those once the script book is released at the end of this month).
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 8, 2016
— Ashley (@RikuStark) June 8, 2016
— Alyce Murphy (@murphyalyce) June 8, 2016
— lucas (@gabirobs) June 8, 2016
— aneemays (@aneemays) June 8, 2016
— Shana (@shanaleeft) June 8, 2016
— Lori ItalianStarKid (@ItalianStarKid) June 8, 2016
Contrary to JKR’s implication, the worst that could happen to a visitor of Hypable who didn’t want spoilers is that they found out that Albus, Scorpius, and Rose attend Hogwarts, or that something “delightful” happens to Hermione. These were the only things “spoiled” in the headlines on the homepage, on Twitter, on Facebook, etc. You had to click the article to read the actual spoilers (and again, they’re mild at best).
I was relieved. There were lots of people on Hypable’s side, and it was a great help in reaffirming how we handled the spoilers. Instead of the day being shit, all I could do the rest of the day was laugh at what a weird situation this was, buy Wormtaily.com, and make jokes about how we should change the “spoiler” article headlines to “Here are the spoilers J.K. Rowling doesn’t want you to read.”
Harry Potter fans stood up for us. Those fans took our side over J.K. Rowling’s because they knew that even someone as wonderful and brilliant as Jo isn’t always right.
But this whole situation hasn’t completely blown over, and it’s brought up something important that people in fandom need to keep in mind when complaining about complainers in fandom: You don’t need to worship everything your idol does. Too many people forget this.
Since #Wormtaily, we’ve published a few articles here on Hypable that aren’t totally positive about Harry Potter. Things like “Why J.K. Rowling’s opinion on Cursed Child spoilers shouldn’t matter,” “Why I’m not excited about the Ilvermorny sorting test,” and this spoiler-free review of Cursed Child. And with the release of each of these, select readers have said we’ve become biased or bitter since Jo called us out. “Today on Hypable’s quest to blow off everything @JK_Rowling does since they turned out to be #Wormtaily,” said one person on Twitter. “Funny how EVERYONE is raving about #CursedChild except for the Hypable staff. Be a little less obvious,” said another, implying that our reviews of Cursed Child were negatively influenced by #Wormtaily.
First, it needs to be noted that we’ve been critical of many fandoms over the site’s five year history. That includes Harry Potter (“Why the Fantastic Beasts cast didn’t need to be all white,” “Why you need to take Pottermore’s Sorting Hat quiz again“), Marvel (“Marvel’s cinematic diversity problem,” “Where were all the women in Avengers: Age of Ultron?“), The Hunger Games (“Why The Hunger Games theme park is a terrible idea“), Divergent (“Why I’ve lost interest in Divergent, and YA’s dystopian genre“), etc. Criticism is nothing new at Hypable, and it should be a part of any site like ours.
It’s okay to criticize fandoms you love. Whether you think Hypable is #Wormtaily or not, the truth of the matter is that I and the other writers who critique the play still love J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter, and the greater Wizarding World. Always have, always will — no matter how many missteps are taken.
Am I any less a Harry Potter fan because I don’t like The Cursed Child? No, I still have all my Harry Potter Funkos on display, I am still loving hosting MuggleCast, and I’m still excited as hell for The Cursed Child midnight release parties (Hell, I’m flying across the country for one!).
And thanks to the quick support of our readers, friends, and co-workers, I could not be less mad about JKR’s #Wormtaily tweet. But at the same time, I still question some decisions, like WB’s Fantastic Beasts promotional campaign which puts YouTubers in the Wizarding World (“Tyler Oakley and other YouTubers awkwardly join Fantastic Beasts (promotional campaign)“).
So what’s changed over the years as I and the other writers on this site have grown to view fandoms with a more critical eye? The only way I can describe it is that we’ve matured. All of us look at the world differently as we grow up. When I was 16 and writing for MuggleNet.com, it’s fair to say that I always considered everything omg-super-perfect-and-amazing (and some would argue that everything JKR and WB did with Harry Potter back in “the day” was truly perfect). But over the past decade, as ourselves and fandoms like Harry Potter continue to grow, the cracks in the perceived perfection begin to show.
And you’re welcome to think everything is still perfect! But I don’t have to, nor does any other fan. Even if you think everything in your fandom is still perfect and amazing, it doesn’t mean that everyone else does — or should. Everyone is allowed to critique the things that they care about because they care about it. Critics want to see their fandom thrive as much as the less-critical people do. They want to see the fandom grow thanks to great decisions. They want to see everyone happy.
I’ll give you another example: I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. You know this if you’ve followed me over the years. And yes, there’s a Bruce Springsteen fandom — Vulture included Bruce Springsteen on their list of the “25 Most Devoted Fan Bases” in 2012. Harry Potter, Lady Gaga, Oprah, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones are also on the list.
Anyway, I’m a big Bruce Springsteen fan. I’ve been to 24 concerts (26 by the time 2016 is over), I listen to his music at least 80% of the time I’m listening to music, and I spend an extreme amount of time reading and thinking about Bruce Springsteen. BRUUUUUUCE.
But I will also criticize him harshly. When he covered Lorde’s “Royals” freakin’ twice in 2014, I told myself it was one of the worst decisions he’s ever made (I’ve since come around to the performances — especially since learning that Lorde is a major Springsteen fan. In fact, her Twitter profile bio has been a Bruce lyric for a couple of years, and “Royals” ties in perfectly with Bruce’s overall messaging). When he announced that his upcoming autobiography is titled Born to Run, I scoffed at what a basic, predictable title it is. And I’m still angry at him for breaking up the E Street Band — consisting of the musicians who fueled his career — in the early ’90s. In fact, I’ve convinced myself that Bruce Springsteen simply did not exist between 1990 and 1998. He’s dead to me during that part of his life. He came back into existence when he realized his mistake and brought the band back together.
But I still love, love, love him to death. He makes me happy in ways no one else can.
When you join a fandom, you’re telling a community of people that you’re passionate about the material. That you’ve joined the team because you feel as committed to it as the creator and fellow fans. That you’ll stand by the community in hard times, and no matter what happens, you’ll always appreciate the fandom for everything that it gave you.
When J.K. Rowling or Bruce Springsteen go through rough patches creatively, I’ll still love them to death. I’ll still go to the concerts and I’ll still attend the midnight releases. When they make mistakes, I’ll critique them because I care and only want to see them do their best. When they make great decisions, I’ll get giddy and talk about it with my fellow Bruce Springsteen-loving friends, write about it on Hypable, or talk about it on MuggleCast.
No fandom is perfect. In fact, as anyone in a relationship will tell you, “perfection” by its definition is impossible achieve. You can get close to perfect but you’ll never hit 100% perfect, and where those gaps lie are issues that should be analyzed so you can get a few steps closer to closing them. Similarly, the problems you subjectively see in your fandom deserve to be addressed so you can step just a little bit closer to The Promised Land.
Go ahead! Criticize when things deserve criticizing. Rejoice when things deserve rejoicing. Just don’t criticize others in your fandom when they grow concerned. Let us all reach for a perfect fandom.