The other day I sat back and watched some drama unfold in the Outlander fandom. Despite these books being around forever, the TV show puts a whole new spin on the fandom because now there are directors, writers and actors to obsess over, and not just fictitious characters. While my official position on this is Switzerland, I thought maybe new fandoms could use a Crazy Fangirl Drama Primer. Hence, this post.
There is a wide range of fandom dramz because like every human endeavor, people are different. You may have come together for a common cause, but you may not approach your fangirling the same way. There are those who take it all Very Seriously, and those who prefer Semi-Anonymous Irony. Sometimes good-natured ribbing between those two types can leave someone feeling pretty bruised. And other times brutal shipper wars devolve into nasty messes affecting people’s real lives.
I’ve been in a few fandoms myself, been the mod on forums, been a lurker in a shipper war. I’ve seen it all. Basically, there are two things you want to avoid in fandom drama: keep from becoming a Fan Crazy yourself, and avoid entanglements with Online Mean Girls. And I have a few cautionary tales for those of you who might be a little green here.
1. Be Chill with Your Merchandising
Fan t-shirts are great. I have a drawer full of them. But if you find yourself buying more than 3 items from Hot Topic at any given time, you’ve gone too far. Promise yourself when you fall headlong into a fandom, that you won’t wear iron-on pictures of your favorite actor in his awesomest skinny jeans when you go to your kids’ soccer game or brunch on a Saturday morning. By all means, make one of those silly inside-joke fandom shirts for your fandom friends, but make sure they are relegated to the hotel room on your get-together weekend, and that shizz stays far away from Instagram.
Be this girl in a really cool Divergent tank top.
Don’t be Pattinson Pants.
2. If you must get a fandom tattoo, never ever EVER make it someone’s face
This one should be pretty self-explanatory, but you would be surprised how many people are out there trotting around, buying groceries, ordering Starbucks, selling insurance policies, raising children etc all while sporting giant Draco Malfoy faces on their thighs. Pick a great, obscure, thematic quote or a memorable image but don’t ever be this lady.
Just in that cropped photo I count THREE Robert Pattinson heads. Lady, you are kind of a legend but …
3. Back away from the RPF
A hefty congratulations to you if you don’t even know what RPF stands for. Unfortunately for you, I’m about to decimate your innocence. RPF, or Real Person Fanfiction, are stories written by fans not about characters in a book or on a TV show, but about the actors that portray them (or sometimes musicians or athletes who don’t portray anyone).
RPF is not an alternate universe story starring Sherlock and Watson and how they get their sexy times on in 221B; it’s a creepy ass fantasy about Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman getting it on in their trailers.
Even if your self-insert fantasy about a middle-aged woman who meets and scores Ryan Gosling gets published and makes you a decent amount of money, you are forever tainted by your own lack of scruples. Back away.
4. Shipper Fights can get real, real fast but they are NOT REAL LIFE
Shipping (defined for you here) is serious business. And look, I know what it’s like to have emotions about a celebrity couple in your fandom and not understand why you have them. I’ve been on both sides of this: really LOVING the idea of an on-screen couple being in love in real life, and REALLY REALLY HATING a pairing so much that I hated the actors as well. It can be intense, but um … IT IS NOT YOUR LIFE.
Sometimes you might feel the need to get out your Red Microsoft Paint Pens and draw Circles of Authenticity around the proof of your OTP’s epicness. Don’t. Go read a story of true love instead. Maybe one night you come across a group of people who are hating on your ship with a passion, and the urge to call them yeasty bitches bubbles up.
Go for a run. Let your enemies froth at the mouth with their theories. Text your like-minded buddies all your angst over it. Because one day, someone is going to get so mad that they will look up where you work, call your boss, call you a psycho, and ruin your day. (This has happened – albeit not to me).
Best case scenario for shipping: don’t. Don’t ship real people. Ship characters all day long. Let real people live their real lives without your emoshuns.
5. Speaking of real lives: stalking is a gigantic, illegal thing.
If you run into Jon Snow at a bar in your hometown, don’t tweet about it until he’s gone. Don’t look up an actor’s family members’ places of employment or home addresses. Don’t friend people you don’t know on Facebook. For most fandoms, there will be fan-appointed events where you can get books signed, grab a photo with your favorite actor, maybe even score a hug. Count on those moments. Don’t count on “bumping into” your celebrity crush based on his shooting schedule itinerary and your ability to use long focus lenses from your minivan. Not ok, man.
Addendum: Glossary of Appropriate Responses to Common Fandom Nightmares
The Dismissal: Someone writes a 10-page dissertation on how your fancasting, or your spoiler theory or your random opinion is the most anti-canonical, bourgeois, ignorant smelling trash ever posted in a comment section. You want to defend yourself, your reasons, your opinion, or just your status as a human being. Instead, do this.
The Check Yourself: YOU want to write a 10-page dissertation on how wrong someone else is.
The Overreaction: Someone has the gall to say that Sam Heughan isn’t a perfect Jamie Fraser.
The Denial: Someone from your real life mentions your fandom, or asks you directly about your obsession.
The Popcorn.Gif: Fandom drama explodes on your favorite forum or on twitter. You are not directly involved. Step away from the keyboard. Grab some popcorn. Wait til morning. Tweet something snarky once it’s blown over. Trust me.
Above all else, TAKE YOUR CRAZY OFFLINE. If you absolutely HAVE to indulge in RPF, email that to your other RPF-loving friends. If you are GPSing Theo James’ mom’s house, don’t tell the Divergent Forum, just text your other looney tunes future cellmate. If someone makes you angry, tell your spouse, not the entire internet.
Have fun, but if your day is completely ruined by something fandom-related, take a step back and get involved in your real life for a while. This is supposed to be FUN after all.
So what’s your biggest fandom drama story? You could share it below and save a life.