The Fickle Fragility of Fanatical Fandom

If there is an upside to being sick the past few days – acute bronchitis, by the way – it’s that this downtime has allowed me to catch up on my shows, check out what’s new in my fandom groups, and sleep. Although, if you’re familiar at all with any fandom whatsoever, it might’ve been better had I just slept 24/7… which, trust me, it was already close. I think I’ve slept more in the past four days than I have in the last year.

My weekend perusal of the typical fandom groups left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And it’s not those pickles that might’ve been a bad idea to snack on. Maybe it’s the meds or maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t been able to breathe since Wednesday that has me curmudgeonly, but when on earth did we become a society where being a fan of something now comes with a list of rules and regulations seemingly longer and, apparently, far more strict than the U.S. Constitution?

Back in the not too distant past, it was acceptable to enjoy something just for enjoyment sake and discuss said enjoyment mid nibble of an appetizer at a dinner party and the person you were talking to would either nod in agreement or back away in shock… you know, depending.  If you were lucky, you could while away a happy – or heated – half hour of camaraderie discussing your favorite show or book or comic before people started to stare and you both just sort of wandered off to mingle with other, less geeky, party-goers.

These days, not so much. I mean, you’d think it would be easier to connect to like-minded fans, what with the internet and all, but sadly, no. The aforementioned rules and regulations, of which there are many and most are vague, if widely known at all, come into play and work to kill the fandom rather than build it up.

An actual conversation from a Doctor Who fan-discussion group:

Random Doctor Who Fan: Oh, I love Doctor Who, I’m such a fan!

Twatty McTwatterson: Oh, you’re a fan, are you?

Random Doctor Who Fan: Erm, yes.

Twatty McT: Riiigght, well, have you seen every single episode ever made… twice?

Random Doctor Who Fan: Well, no, I really only like the newer ones.

Twatter Von FuckFace: Alright then, that’s not really a true fan then, is it? Jumping on the bandwagon only when it gets cool. Cooler, of course, I mean cooler.  It’s always been cool. But YOU, you’re not a real fan, are you?

Random Doctor Who Fan: I think as long as you really enjoy something and watch it weekly you can be a fan.

Asshat McPedantic: Yeah, well I bet you can’t even tell me…

and proceeds to fire off a bunch of very specific, if not obscure, questions about the show and if the new person to the group can’t answer them in what the self-appointed inquisitor deems to be an acceptable amount of time, then clearly they’re googling the answer and therefore not a fan.

I mean, yikes, right?  But as I’ve sadly discovered, this sort of possessive fandom does not begin and end with Doctor Who.  People experience it constantly with whatever they are a fan of. It does seem to be most toxic in what we might term “geek” culture though *cough cough* it does happen in sports as well. I know, I know, perish the thought.

Speaking of geek culture, both Marvel and DC are filled with fans so driven by their passion for the genre that they are adept at channelling that energy into very positive ways through fanfiction, cosplay, Comic-Con conventions and the like. But equally, there’s a serious division in this world between the, for lack of a better term, regular fans and those who class themselves as the super fans (ha!). They almost seem to have formed a cult-like existence believing that they are the purest form of fan, and they alone have the right to the characters of these comic universes. Only like the movies? Not. A. Fan. There is just no room for posers, people.

Just take a look at what happened with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. We’ll call it Jedi Gate – The Star Wars enthusiasts bat shit crazies lost their minds over the Asian heritage character of Rose. The racial abuse and toxic harassment got so bad the actress Kelly Marie Tran was bullied off social media by these hateful creatures. And what’s even worse is the studio apparently listened to them because, after building her character up to be something important to the franchise, she hardly featured in The Rise of Skywalker. The worst thing a major movie studio can do is give in to these snivelling keyboard cowards over-the-top fans. It sets us back decades each time they do, and it encourages this harmful sort of bullying in the name of fanatical fandom.

My first love – books – aren’t even immune.  Technically, this is a play, but still. Harry Potter fans are where you might think there’s some quaint British-inspired relief from this sort of behavior. But, oh no. When the West End/Broadway production came out, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Potter fans speculated for months on just what the story would be about. They all posted about what they wanted from the play, you know, as one does… and when they didn’t get it, the outrage was, shall we say, palpable. From the casting (gasp!) to the storyline, people were pissed. In a franchise where tolerance, empathy, and inclusion are the mainstays of the literary universe, it was shocking to watch the fandom, or at least portions of it, crash and burn by their own hand. Those members of the fandom who were apparently personally offended at the play, deemed it “not canon.” True fans, indeed. Pfftt.

How have people become so obsessed with these franchises that they seem to have an unhealthy possessive sense of ownership over them? The only people that own these ideas are the people who came up with them in the first place, and the studios that own the rights. That’s it. After that, you get what you’re given and if you don’t like it, fine, you have a right not to, but you can express that without threatening an actress for playing a part, for God’s sake. If you do like it, great! But you also don’t get to appoint yourself the bouncer of fandom, deciding who gets to make it past the velvet rope.

Essentially, I feel the world is interesting because we are all different. We enjoy the same things differently, and our unique personalities mean we can be fans to different levels. Love the Doctor Who classic episodes or just the Tenth Doctor? Still a fan. We can be faithful to the original Star Wars movies only or embrace them all. Guess what? Yep. Still a fan. Just started watching your newest favorite series on Season 4? Still. A. Fan.

And if you want to call yourself a super fan, go for it; have fun. That’s the whole point. Just don’t humiliate or bully others for not living up to your version of a “fan.” There are way too many exclusive spaces in our world as it is, fandom (of anything) should not be one of them.  Repeat after me: I am not the fandom bouncer.

On Time But Off Kilter

I recently stumbled upon an article written about a man teaching his family to be punctual…written by the man in question. I suppose it was meant to be an uplifting anecdote, but it was just plain stupid. The story goes that this man once completed basic training and his drill sergeant was the toughest, hardest, meanest guy around, as drill sergeants are wont to be. If the 40-man platoon needed to be anywhere, the drill sergeant would demand that they arrive waaaaay ahead of time. If they were five minutes early that was considered LATE. Anyone who arrived only four minutes early was confronted with retribution and those merely on time with “agony.” I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I’m guessing 1,000 push-ups and a good serving of ridicule delivered with a fine spray of spit all over one’s face. Typical basic training stuff, really, and to be expected in the military when time can truly be crucial to life or death.

So, after leaving the army, this guy started a family and kept up his punctual habit. He even went so far as to instill in his kids, “If you’re five minutes early, you’re late,” and “When you’re late, dammit, you’re WRONG.” Okay, fair enough. To each their own. The fact that this was a mantra they volleyed back and forth daily like some sort of inside joke is a little unsettling. Again, to each their own. However, that this dad encouraged his kids to say this loudly (‘bellowed’ was his word) – so others could hear – as people were arriving to social events and the like, is a little obnoxious, if you ask me.  But, hey, what would the world be without a few assholes. Yeah, don’t answer that. It’s rhetorical as well as sarcastic.

Then, the fateful day arrived! The stars aligned and this guy saw his chance to shine, in all his timely glory, and show his children just what it meant to be a man.  After a school function, at which another family had arrived a few minutes late, the father of the offending family made a comment about how he was sorry they were late – that they were overwhelmed with, presumably, a schedule full of commitments. To which the ever-punctual man, after deliberately checking to see if his kids were listening, replied smugly, “I guess we never have that problem because we’re never busy.”

Personally, I think this was an inane come-back… but, in his own words, ever-punctual man meant it as an insult, to humiliate the “late dad” in front of everyone. And ever-punctual man wanted his kids to know that’s what he was doing, to see it, to hear it.

In response to his little dig, his sons looked at him with these massive Cheshire grins on their faces as if he was some kind of God of Time. “Oh whoa … what? Did you just say that?” They must have thought. “Wow. Our Dad is the coolest cause he knows how to insult other adults. Wow, totally cowabunga, man!”

This whole article is about how great this guy is, albeit self-aggrandizing, since he’s the one who wrote it, and I’m thinking… you know what, I’m just gonna say it, this guy is a total jerk. I’ve met people like this. They are usually assholes.

Let’s break this down.

Sure, punctuality is important. I’m not saying it isn’t. There are a gazillion situations where timeliness is imperative. But turning up half an hour early can, in certain situations, be considered rude. Let’s say someone is hosting a party, they ask you to turn up at 7:00pm, they expect you to turn up at 7:00pm, but actually hope everyone might be a little late, maybe even turning up at 7:15pm because they don’t get home from work until 6:00pm and all they want is to be able to change clothes and get the party things together before people start showing up. Turn up at 6:30pm and this person might be forced to entertain you at a time when really, they were counting on a few precious minutes to have a shower and get ready for company.

Let me just digress for a moment to say that this guy admitted his family is well known for their ultra-punctual habit and regularly get chided for being too early to everything, from school functions to kids’ birthday parties. If you’re routinely showing up early enough to get chided for it, to me that reeks of ill manners, and not exactly something to be proud of.

But here’s the kicker… the reasoning behind the “asshole” label for this guy… if you’re going to deliberately insult other people in a social situation for not living up to your idea of punctual perfection, it means that while you’re patting yourself on the back for counting the minutes, you have forgotten to account for compassion and  empathy.

To teach your children that it’s okay – commendable, even, to belittle and ridicule others to reinforce just how amazing YOU are, is an asshole thing to do, plain and simple. I would go so far as to argue that it’s in fact, a form of weakness. Weakness of character, weakness of intellect, weakness of the soul.

Really, does it matter if someone is only five minutes early to something? Four minutes early to something? Perhaps we need to start teaching our children that what really matters isn’t what’s on the clock or that data graph but what’s in the heart.

Smile at people. Try to be on time, but most importantly, endeavor to connect with others. Strive to be a caring person of good character. Show empathy and treat others with compassion and kindness.

Be here. Now. Because time is an illusion. It moves as you move, it dances as you dance.

And as the great Persian adage goes, “This too shall pass.”

Timely Advice

Pets are for life, not just for Christmas. All too often these “Christmas presents” end up on Craigslist after the holidays… or worse. Animals are not disposable; they are living, sentient beings who deserve better.

Bringing a pet into a home and a family is a decision that should be made with great care. If you’re not prepared for a lifetime commitment – with all that entails – get a toy instead.

Want to help the animals in your community? There are some great ideas HERE.

Holiday Spirit – 20% Off

The holidays are upon us again. You know what that means. Holiday shopping. The time for all good folks to go into debt in a desperate attempt to show others that they care. For me, it’s time for 2-day free shipping and packages galore. Hey, I’m not going out there!  Physically going holiday shopping any time after Thanksgiving is insane. Speaking of which, what happens to people after Thanksgiving?

Back in the day, the craziness didn’t start until Black Friday – at an ordinary time. Now, in recent years, many retailers are opening before daybreak on Black Friday, and more and more stores are opening early Thanksgiving evening and staying open through Black Friday at midnight.  Like I said, insane.  I mean, here people are, spending Thanksgiving Day with their families, expressing gratitude (one hopes) for what they have and then suddenly at 8:00 p.m., they’re overcome with the need to fight a 95 year old woman for the last Minion toy in the clearance bin at their local big-brand department store.

It’s not a lonely occupation either… these early holiday shoppers seek each other out. They run in packs. You’ll overhear them commiserating: “What time are you headed out tonight?”  And they start mapping out their line of attack at the Walmart like they’re planning a special-ops raid. “We’ll hit up the electronics section first – they’re always the first deals to go, then we’ll head over to cash in on the home décor specials before heading to the clothing section to take advantage of this 50% off no holds barred coupon I’ve got burning a hole in my pocket. Remember, stay hydrated and if we get separated, meet me over in customer service!”

Personally, I can’t figure out why anyone would voluntarily go out at raccoon hours into stores infested with people just to save a few bucks. For me, the stress alone would negate any financial gains I might possibly experience.  And really, I question whether they’re even saving a few bucks. Oh sure, that 500-inch t.v. might only cost $100 for the day, and I admit, that’s a great deal and all, but seeing as they only have the one in stock (and oh yeah, the power cord costs $3,500)… but hey, since you’re in the store anyway, how about you buy this 5-inch t.v. for $1,999.99 so you can go home and pat yourself on the back for being such a smart consumer.

Luckily, I haven’t seen or heard of any instances of mobs running over innocent retail workers or fellow shoppers yet this year. Don’t scoff. It happens. Has happened. No doubt will again happen. And while you might think you’d be hard-pressed to come up with something worse than being trampled to death in a holiday shoppers’ feeding frenzy, trust me, “worse” is out there. It’s as if common decency and consideration – not to mention simple kindness, cease to exist. Sadly, it’s rage and selfishness that seem to win the day.

Society is fucked up in so many ways (**gestures vaguely at everything**) but it can really be viewed in all of its glory on Black Friday at a congested mall, overflowing with desperate, tired people, running on espresso and aggression, just waiting to blow up at anyone who dares to cut them off in the checkout line as fights over Minion toys are occurring two aisles over and gunshots can be heard in the parking lot… the tragic final word on who should get that last parking spot.

Holiday spirit indeed.

On the Topic of Value

Scrolling through Facebook recently, I saw a post where a young girl’s value was compared to that of an iPad. Oh yes. You read that correctly. It wasn’t an original message and wasn’t even written by the guy who posted it (though it did appear as if he was trying to pass it off as his)… whatever the case, he must have been in complete agreement, hence his posting it. The gist of the post was a father ostensibly helping a young girl see her value and worth and I know that in this day and age some people treat their electronics as children, some even spending more time with their phones than their children, but comparing a young girl to an iPad? Give me a break. Using my best Chandler Bing voice: Can this guy be any more shallow?

What makes all of this worse, is this guy apparently stole someone else’s photo to include in his post… a shot of two young women dressed as though they’re going out, standing in (presumably) their own backyard. So, while spewing his archaic and misogynistic views, he’s also exploiting and harassing two very real young women who were doing nothing more than existing. I blurred out the image because I refuse to perpetuate the harassment.

It wasn’t surprising to see that this * cough cough * gentleman and I were at odds in other respects as well… he’s an avid trophy hunter who thinks that there isn’t enough science behind Greta Thunberg’s climate change argument.

Needless to say, I saw red. You all know me. My reaction shouldn’t come as a shock. The fact that this guy is comparing his daughter to a literal object is incredibly inappropriate to say the least and I find it hard to address that particular issue without digging deep into my repertoire of colorful adjectives. The idea that there are people like this out there, raising families, and perpetuating this behavior by passing it down to the next generations is infuriating. He and others of his ilk are teaching their daughters (and sons) that women are “less than” and on par with a fucking iPad.

Let’s just be clear here… value isn’t determined by what a person decides to wear. Oh sure, you probably don’t want to show up to a Fortune 500 board meeting wearing your pajamas, but should one decide to do so, it’s NOT a sign of their intrinsic value, or lack thereof.

I love the quote, “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” – Unknown

Or how about this one, “Don’t bury the treasure of your life under the opinions and expectations of strangers.” – Lisa Bevere

I’ll go you one better… don’t bury the treasure of your life under the opinions and expectations of ANYONE.

There is no question that women and girls seem to bear the brunt of the equation appearance equals value or worth. School dress codes are gender-biased and inherently put more importance on a boy’s education than a girl’s. Passers-by wouldn’t even bat an eye at something as simple as a man wearing dirty sweats and a ratty old t-shirt to the grocery store (cause you know, he’s getting shit done!) yet I wonder how many of those same strangers would automatically, albeit internally, criticize the woman’s choices while inventing a not-so-complimentary backstory should they see a woman wearing the same thing (oh my god, can you imagine what her home and kids look like!? what was she thinking? her life is just one big mess!).

One could argue that to dress conservatively protects a woman from rape or harassment or cat calls, that young women shouldn’t be so sexualized. And trust me, those agreeing with this guy’s post were saying exactly that. To this I say, HA! Yeah, right. This is so far from the truth, it’s scary. To me, this is one of those expressions of anti-feminism disguised as a pro-woman statement. How women are dressed will not stop rape or misogyny and it does not in any way illustrate her value as a person. Cause you know, women ARE in fact people.  Whether they wear a little black dress or opt for a niqab, women of all ages have worth. Say it with me, folks. Women. Have. Worth. And it’s NOT contingent on their wardrobe.

Imagine if we started to teach what real worth is? Society as a whole would improve because when people aren’t made to feel ashamed and worthless, and they see their true value, then they feel free to pursue and accomplish their goals and dreams.

But you know what would happen then? The patriarchy would crumble. And we can’t have that, can we?

The Ad Who Knew Too Much

Do you remember when I mentioned being targeted with Facebook ads?  I know I’m not the only one that this happens too. It’s an ongoing initiative by “big brother” to monetize their surveillance efforts.  But now, Facebook algorithms are aware of just how intrusive their shadowy observations have become. And it’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s worrisome to say the least.

An ad popped up on my Facebook feed – I don’t remember what it was for now, admittedly, my brain is a sieve… but as my fellow Facebook users will know, you can click on an ad and “hide” it so that you won’t be bothered with that vendor again in the future.  Well. When I clicked to do just that, the below message appeared, a new variant on the choices I’m always given when I do decide to hide an ad.

Note the “too personal” option. That was never there before. At least not since the last time I tried to hide an ad. Too personal.  Hmmm… you mean, too personal as in you secretly recorded my offline conversations and decided to use that information in the form of an insidious marketing ploy? Or too personal as in, you thought I might like a ball gag and handcuffs but suddenly realized that perhaps that was too personal of an offer to make?

What really has me concerned though, is the very new-to-me “knows too much” option. Do you see that? Are you as worried as I am?  Knows too much. What the hell does that mean?  Is that a sly admission to the whole “hey, we’re listening in to your offline interactions but don’t really want you to know that, and it’s just your imagination anyway — ha ha” scheme they’ve got going on? I think it is. I mean, what else could it be?  It’s not like it was an ad for a full set of encyclopedias, in which case, sure, yeah, maybe the “knows too much” would factor in.

No. This has to be Facebook messing with their users. Which begs the question, what kind of game are you playing over there Facebook? Knows too much, indeed.

 

Judgement at the Grocery Store

Okay, I know I’ve been quiet for a few days. But hey, I’m back!  Poor lucky you!

So, it turns out that one of my wrists is broken after all. The doctor simply missed it. Unfortunately, a specialist is now in order. On top of that, I just moved. Now, I’m no stranger to moving. I’ve moved many times in my lifetime and I have to say, the one that took place this past weekend was, in a word, hell. Needless to say, I’m going to forego the moments of joy for now (I’m still making notes in my journal, though!) and write about an annoying thing so as to have an outlet for my generalized aggravation.  Today’s topic is thoughtlessness.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes – especially on a particularly chaotic day, doing just the bare minimum can be difficult. A busy life tends to wear you down over time, even if you’re the poster child for completed to-do lists. At the same time, some tasks commonly considered to be the “bare minimum” are actually acts of common courtesy that in fact take little time to complete. Returning your cart to the cart return at the local supermarket is one of these, and yet, so many seem unable to follow through. Carts, carts everywhere. It drives me insane.

Me when I see a cart left sitting propped up on a curb or in a parking spot when the cart return is like right there!

I mean, it’s a matter of basic courtesy. You grab a cart, you use said cart to collect your groceries or other sundries, and then you return the cart so that others can use it. It’s stupid easy. Still… it’s the “return” process where people seem to have a problem (to be clear, I’m not talking about those who might have a physical issue that impacts their day-to-day life… rather, I’m calling out the deliberately thoughtless among us).

Catching someone returning a cart is the exception rather than the rule these days. When it occurs, it’s a glorious thing, like you’re witnessing a rare phenomenon of mythological proportions. You know, the kind of awe-inspiring legend people only whisper about, but never see for themselves.  It’s far more common to find abandoned shopping carts littered throughout the parking lot – taking up valuable parking spaces and sitting haphazardly on medians… though of course you never see the cart until you’re actually pulling into the parking spot it now inhabits.

Why is the bare minimum too much to ask?  Well, while I was stewing over the laziness of my fellow shoppers, I came across an article entitled, Why Don’t People Return Their Shopping Carts. When I noticed this article was posted on a site called Scientific American, I knew I was in for a treat. Let’s be honest: sometimes the stupidity of others can only be explained through science.

Scientific American’s article broke cart users up into five different categories (parenthetical notes are mine):

  • Returners – those who return their carts to the cart receptacle each and every time (my favorite kind of people, quite frankly).
  • Never Returners those who never return their cart to the receptacle (I guess it just isn’t their job; they’re much too good for that).
  • Convenience Returners – those who return their cart only if the receptacle is nearby (come on, people!).
  • Pressure Returners – those who only return their cart under pressure of a nearby cart attendant or nearby car owner (you could save yourself a lot of worrying if you just did it every time… just sayin’).
  • Child Driven Returners – shoppers with children that see returning the cart to a receptacle as a “game” (I call this good parenting).

You gotta love science.

The article goes on to explain that although supermarkets attempt to coax us to do the right thing (return the cart to the cart receptacle), they’re fighting against our own “self-serving goals.” These goals include staying dry in the case of a day with bad weather or getting home as quickly as possible, or plain laziness. In a sick twist, a supermarket’s attempts to make it easier to return carts to their receptacles can justify our reasoning for not doing so. After all, do we really have to take the time to return our carts ourselves when there’s a cart attendant employed to gather the carts?

Of course, people don’t think that perhaps this person has other duties as well. Not to mention, they shouldn’t have to chase your errant cart across the parking lot to add it to the queue of carts they have ready to return to the store. Sure, it’s their job, but if you can make someone’s life – or job – easier, why don’t you? If it’s 100 degrees of hell out for you and you only have one cart to return to the freakin’ cart return, can you imagine what it’s like to return 200+ carts in 100 degrees of hell?  I mean, come on, people… get your shit together.

Okay, Wendy, breathe.

My point to this rambling is simple. Be a decent human being. Return. Your. Fucking. Cart.