I ranted on Chuck’s Facebook thread (sorry, Chuck…) concerning yet another dust-up over Star Wars. Thing is, this brouhaha brought up a few memories worth sharing. These are memories about me being a hardcore fan of Star Wars and Star Trek, and about hardcore fans of Doctor Whoâ€¦
â€¦and how that can sometimes be a problem.
See, whatâ€™s happening within the Star Wars fandomâ€”in the wake of other â€œreal fanâ€ movementsâ€”is nothing new. Itâ€™s just more public. â€œRealâ€ fans who draw lines in the sand, piss all over a movie poster or toy collection (mint-in-box, of course), and claim to be the Keepers of the Sanctity of Insert-Your-Favorite-Science-Fiction-Sacred-Cow-Here, thanks to social media and the Internet, are making their voices heard; and are exhorting to extreme measures to protect their Precious.
To understand just how dangerous a mentality this is, you can take a look at my own experiences. Experiences where I was on both the receiving and the giving end of this kind of â€œrealâ€ fandom.
Let me take you back to the 1990â€™s. Iâ€™m thinking the summer of 1996. Yeah, that sounds about rightâ€¦
As you might read in my bio, I was an actor back then; and I could fill me some crushed velvet tights at the Maryland Renaissance Faire. It was backstage when I suffered a brush with something I had never experienced as a fan of science fiction. It was me and a bunch of the nerdier actors, all hanging out and talking scifi. As you do. The talk got around to Doctor Who, a property that I dreaded as a fan of the genre. At that time, I had tried watching Doctor Who. I had seen Baker, McCoy, and even Hartnell (an acting teacher of mine had written an episode); but try as I might I couldnâ€™t get into the Doctor.
Except for what had aired earlier that year: The Doctor Who movie on Fox that introduced Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor.
I tried to contribute to the conversation and said something along the lines of “Iâ€™ve tried watching it but just canâ€™t get into it. I did enjoy the movie on Fox though. It was really entertaining.”
WITHOUT MISSING A BEAT, one of the actors sneered at me and said “You liked the Fox movie because you aren’t a real Whovian.”
And just like that, I was shut out the conversation.
For a long time, I hated Doctor Who, just becauseÂ of that fan. I mean, if the fans of Doctor Who were like that, why bother? The Eccleston year welcomed me into the fold.
Now, fast forward to 2003. My first year as a professional author and my first visit to Phoenix, Arizona. CopperCon was the eventâ€¦
At a Firefly panel, after listening to all these GREAT things about a show that I gave several tries and just thought was a red hot mess, I asked during the Q&A session something along the lines of “I have triedâ€”really triedâ€”and I just donâ€™t get Firefly. So please, would you give me a good reason why I should try to watch this show again?”
No one came at me like that one â€œrealâ€ Whovian. Instead, a panelist politely asked “Have you seen the pilot? It opens with the battle of Serenity Valley.” I said “No.” There was a shared â€œOh okayâ€¦â€ murmur amongst the crowd and the panelist said “Watch the DVDs. Keep in mind, the second episode was the first one Fox showed. Watching the episodes in order matters.” So I got home, bought the DVDs, and watched the pilot, â€œSerenity.â€
That night, after mainlining a fistful of episodes, I became a Browncoat.
The older I get, the more â€œfactionsâ€ I’m finding in fandom. Iâ€™m not talking about the Whovians, the Trekkies, the Trekkers, the Browncoats, the Scapers, or anything like that. Iâ€™m talking about the Gaters, the Puppies, the â€œFake Geek Girlâ€ hunters, and now these turd-burglers from a galaxy far, far away. Once upon a time, â€œS.M.O.F.â€ (Secret Master/Mistress of Fandom) was a brand best avoided, but lately it appears to be worn as a badge of honor. This kind of behavior accomplishes nothing more than keeping people out of a fandom. Elitism does nothing to bring in new fans, and only makes those passionate about a property look like dinks.
I’m not going to say Iâ€™m guilt free. My reaction to the recent Star Trek: Beyond trailer went live full of sound and fury:
The Beastie Boys?
Seriously, Star Trek, I don’t fucking know you any more…
Going off on the new trailer, on stepping back and looking at the sentiment expressed, doesnâ€™t make me any better than the elitists, shaking fists in the air and howling at the moon in anger. This is the new direction of Star Trek, whether I like it or not. It could get better. It could get worse. Does this desire to preserve the purity of my beloved Starfleet justify me being a total prick and rallying others to ruin what could be a really good movie? (Hey, Idris Elba is in Star Trek: Beyond. That has my attention.)
I’m working to practice what I preach, and really shouldnâ€™t rain on what a lot of people love. Right?
Admittedly, that higher road would be easy to stick with if it werenâ€™t for one more story for you all to considerâ€¦again, from the ninetiesâ€¦
The Phantom Menace is out. Weâ€™re backstage, waiting on stage calls, and the conversation turns to Lucasâ€™ First of Three Movements. There is a divide. Some are trying to defend the movie. Maybe out of love for the franchise? Maybe out of shock wrought from what they had just seen? I donâ€™t know, but I chimed in with what I considered strong arguments, one of them being â€œThe Pod Race was very exciting, yes, but you canâ€™t rave about a movie based on one scene. That was roughly five-to-ten minutes. The movie was over two hours.â€
Moments later, Iâ€™m in the wings with a handful of other actors, all waiting for the opening of the show. Thatâ€™s when one of the showâ€™s extrasâ€”a teenager no more than sixteenâ€”came up to me and said, â€œI couldnâ€™t help to overhear, Tee, what you thought of Episode One. Do you want to know the real reason why you didnâ€™t like it?â€
No kidding. He asked me this right before our cue was coming up.
Oh this ought to be good, I thought. â€œOkay, tell me why I didnâ€™t like Episode One.â€
And with the Wisdom of the Ages (all sixteen of â€˜em) behind him, he said to me â€œThe problem is, Tee, is that youâ€™re an adult. You really donâ€™t get Star Wars. You see, I grew up with Star Wars.â€
I should have let it go.
I should have taken a higher road.
I grabbed him by the cuff of his collar and got nose-to-nose with him. In the sharpest whisper I could muster, I let loose my replyâ€¦
â€œYou grew up with Star Wars?! Let me tell you something, I was a fan of Star Wars before you were a gleam in the milkmanâ€™s eye. Before you were even a vague idea, I was collecting the original twelveâ€”yes, twelveâ€”figures, and watching Star Wars in the theatres when it was the Not-So-Special edition. I joined the Official Star Wars Fan Club. Read every issue of Bantha Tracks. Hung up my posters. No, you didnâ€™t grow up with Star Wars. I grew up with Star Wars. You just got my sloppy seconds, never knowing the joy of waiting years between films, so please donâ€™t tell me you grew up with Star Wars because you saw them on Dadâ€™s VHS because I was fucking there at the Ridge Cinemas and the Belwood Drive-In in 1977.â€
â€¦and then I released him, and we hit the stage. I gave a great performance that day.
Elitism. It made anÂ actor look like a punk in â€˜96. It make this kid look like a punk back in â€˜99. Today, based on how I reacted to the Star Trek trailer, not much has changed.
We’re better than this. We need to be, lest fandoms die and fade into obscurity. Don’t be a dick. All that does is alienates new fansâ€¦or brings down the thunder as this young teenager accomplished. Before opening your mouth, just think for a moment.
And for those â€œREALâ€ Whovians who thought Paul McGann was brilliant as the Doctor in the “Night of the Doctor” short film: I told you so.