Perhaps I’m wrong (no surprise there), but I seem to remember a time when liking things and having hobbies wasn’t something that needed rules. You could casually talk about a TV show at work with your colleagues, you could go to see a band play live without knowing their entire catalog of songs inside and out, or you could watch football without some jerk telling you you’re not a real fan because you don’t know the personal history of every player from the last three decades.
I’ve talked about this before in more depth, but I’m bringing it up again because it sure seems like gatekeeping other people’s fun is gaining more and more steam in society today. Worse than grammar police, gatekeepers take it upon themselves to protect and guard every single hobby, fandom, or interest that anyone anywhere might enjoy by making it clear that you are not a real fan and even if you were, you’ll never know as much about it as they do. Essentially, they’re the gatekeepers of fun. They might as well walk around with a loudspeaker and shout “Stand clear! Casual enjoyment is NOT tolerated here.” It would certainly help people know who they’re dealing with and I, for one, would be thrilled if those red flags flew high. You know, for visibility.
Some people have an uncontrollable need to make absolutely everything into some sort of competition. Everything you can do, they can do better. Gatekeeping joy is no different. I’ve thought about why some folks do this, and it really seems like it’s a matter of giving their ego a nice, long, painstaking massage. They want to prove that they’re more of a fan than you. A better fan. A bigger fan, if you will. Most important, they’re desperate to prove you’re not a fan at all. Now, why? Just why? Perhaps, they are a little bit insecure about something themselves, so they just want to appear more knowledgeable, even if that knowledge bank is just Witcher lore or thesis-level data on the original Marvel comics vs the MCU. Or maybe, just maybe, they do it for no other reason than they’re a pain in the ass. There’s a lot of that going around.
What would happen, I wonder, if two of these people met each other? What if two gatekeepers engaged in verbal warfare? Would they both stubbornly pretend they knew more than the other? Would one concede defeat and just pretend they didn’t really care? Is that scenario even possible? Or would they create a standoff for the ages, where an unstoppable force meets an immovable object and both of their superiority complexes combine to create an unbearable, condescending atmosphere? Perhaps the world would explode. In an Earth shattering kaboom, as Marvin would say.
One of the worst places for this isn’t in real life, though; it’s online, specifically on social media apps like Facebook and Twitter. If you tweet a one-off, harmless opinion about how you think Tom Holland is the best Spiderman, your replies will be full of fandom police telling you that you obviously haven’t seen the original movies with Toby Maguire. Don’t even get me started on Andrew Garfield. If you’re bopping along to Fleetwood Mac and tweet, without thinking, that you thought Rumours was a great follow-up album to their debut, well, I’m sorry, but you’re about to meet an unfortunate demise.
“You fool! The original lineup had way more albums before that! And they were better! Blues is better than pop! Look at this idiot trying to talk about something they know nothing about – so cringe!”
Your common interest with these people about something you both enjoy is lost to the wayside in favor of fandom measuring. I guess you should have known better than to express enjoyment, right? On another note, do we still say “cringe?”
When did liking things become so stressful? There aren’t supposed to be any rules to liking something. Celebrate the commonality instead of trying to make someone feel lesser than. Share the joy instead of stealing it. Stealing someone’s joy doesn’t make you the golden protector of your chosen fandom. It just makes you an asshole.
truer words were never spoken