"Toxic" Fandom and Gaslighting
Lately "fandom" has been turning into a dirty word. We're seeing more public incidents of harassment and threats of violence from supposed "fans" towards game developers, actors, actresses, movie studios, etc. Most recently, and well publicized, Kelly Marie Tran ('Star Wars: Episode VIII') deleted her Instagram account after being targeted by racist "fans." Every major news and non-news site has been overdosing the internet with opinions about the toxic fandom of Star Wars. There's even a pic making the rounds about Star Wars fans driving away actors and George Lucas - that's how bad the fandom is! Or so the stories would have you believe.
What isn't being highlighted are the 100's of millions of people who have no beef with Kelly Tran. They may or may not have liked the latest Star Wars film, but they have enough common sense to not harass the actors and the production team about it.
That news story isn't interesting.
What is interesting is following the antics of the .0000001% of people who harassed the actress, and making the fandom seem much worse than it really is. This ordeal is overlooking the good work of groups like the 501st, the Rebel Legion, and the Mandalorians: people who give up most of their free time to charity, to help raise funds for children's hospitals, creating "Make a Wish" experiences for those with terminal illnesses - and this is only pecking at the surface. There are loads of amazing, charitable work that Star Wars fans have done to help those in need.
Toxic culture exists everywhere. In gaming. In theater. In book clubs. In your local knitting group. You either know or have met someone in your hobby/fandom whom doesn't represent the majority. They are the outlier that likes to cause chaos. It's in their nature and learned behavior to seek destruction and/or cause it. While most people are good, the few bad apples are the ones that typically get the most attention because they want it - and are willing to go to extremes to get it.
What happened to Kelly Tran is abhorrent. No one should ever be harassed for any reason. Ever. Unfortunately her situation is similar to what many game developers face on a daily basis. The backlash from "fans" over Mass Effect: Andromeda was appalling. Or EA. Every day. Check out their social media for proof. I may have strong opinions against EA, but I've never once threatened, harassed, or insulted employees of that company.
What hurts us as the good fans is that we're moving into this gaslighting response, and lumping all people within a fandom into the "toxic" territory.
"Star Wars fans are harassing Kelly Tran with racist comments."
That's not accurate. "SOME" Star Wars fans. Not all. And these unfortunate headlines are misleading some people to assume that the entire fandom is toxic. I've seen a number of my friends comment on these posts sharing their disgust for the fandom. "I'm not like this, but I really hate where the fandom is going." Ironically, when you scroll down through the comments, virtually every single one of them thinks this situation with Tran is bad. They don't support the actions of the harassers. Yet, somehow, we are all "toxic" in this fandom?
The reason that the Star Wars/Kelly Tran situation blew up, compared to toxic people in gaming or comic books, is that Star Wars is known everywhere. When I said 100's of millions of people earlier, I meant it. It's one of the few topics people around the world know about. You can pick a country, any country, and hold a conversation with a resident about Star Wars. It's the largest fandom in the world. Which means there are a lot more good fans. But there are more hateful "fans" due to the vast number of people involved in the community. The good still outweigh the bad.
This post isn't meant to detract from the negative impact toxic people have on our community. If you've been on my blog long enough, you know how often I write about harassment in gaming. But we are all treading on dangerous territory by lumping everyone into the "toxic fandom" mindset. Not all Star Wars fans are bad. Not all gamers are bad. Let's focus on the good things fans do and stop giving a platform to the .0000001% of those who like to cause trouble.