I don’t think it’s too presumptuous to say that it would be difficult for any venture of media to profit without fan support. After all, fans have long been the bridge for creators to share their works with, so it’s not surprising that many have taken to catering to their devotees’ interests and needs. Especially with the internet, it closes in on that gap between buyer and designer, even more through the years. Unlike the generations before us, fans are just one tweet, email or blog comment away from their favorite content creators and it has changed the way our society consumes media altogether.
But as opportunity opens wider for the public, so does the problems that come with it.
In early June this year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s Kelly Marie Tran, the first to play a lead female character of color, Rosie Tico in the globally renowned series deleted all posts off her Instagram account and left social media due to months of harassment by fans. “Aficionados” harassed and defamed her due to her ethnicity and even went as far as to publicly proclaim celebration when news spread about the star’s decision. Her lead co-star, Daisy Ridley did the same due to harassment she received over a post she made about gun control.
Horrible as these are, they are not a recent fad, nor are they isolated cases of comic book fans “taking it too far”.
Kohei Horikoshi, manga artist and author of “Boku no Hero Academia” (My Hero Academia) also received similar backlash from western fans over this sketch of his female characters in summer swim wear in celebration of the animation series’ third season debut, where he was accused of over-sexualising his minor aged characters, despite the fact that the swimwear were all appropriate for their age group.
These are only a handful of examples of fandom toxicity cases and this isn’t even scratching the surface with mention of common cases that happens with K-pop fans and their idols, rude gamers that send hate to Game Studios’ social media over their character’s sexual preference or even the harassment that Hollywood actors receive on a daily basis. It seems that this problematic behavior pattern isn’t tied to a particular genre of entertainment fans in particular, but rather, it is a toxic culture that has become the norm for a collective part of any legion of buffs. It has somehow become a global dilemma that plagues our community today as a whole, regardless of background, race or genre of interest.
However, I’m sure there are many who would say that this is pretty normal by now. Based on numerous discussions I’ve had with some (both creators and fans alike), many agree that harassments towards creators are what “comes with the business”, and that they should “get used to it” one way or another.
I can’t refute that it is a fact that as human beings, we can’t control the actions of others. With the touch of globalisation that the internet brings, exposure to everything comes with that price but I can’t help but question: Just because it is common, does that make it okay?
Anime critic and Youtuber Joey, or better known as The Anime Man addressed this issue out of frustration when the Horikoshi twitter harassment happened the same week that fans of the anime series, “Darling in the Frankxx” did a similar backlash to the series’ creators. Passionate enthusiasts took to social media after Episode 14 aired, to send death threats and hateful speech such as demands of their resignation to the producers, voice acting and animator staff and their families over an unfavorable relationship outcome that occurred between the main male lead and a fan-favorite female character.
Joey addressed that it is okay to feel “fucking salty” over the development between their favorite characters. This just proves that the series has very passionate and emotionally engaged fans. He, in fact, encourages discussion and critique as that is what promotes growth in the industry. The problem, however, is the “scale to which this was overblown”, addressing that he did not see the correlation between the sentiment that they felt for these fictitious characters as justification for the action that was done onto real people. He strongly made his point that just because you feel strongly against their creations, it does not give you the right to infringe on their rights as a human being.
You can watch his whole video linked below to see the rest of what he has to say about this issue.
After watching Joey’s video, I realise what bothered me about this issue; aside from the fact that there are people that are willing to cause bodily harm to others over entertainment:
I did not understand why these individuals felt self-entitled enough to hurt another person over fictional works and characters that do not belong to them in any shape or form. And often times, it would even transcend to public figures themselves, which is even more baffling to me.
Other than it being ethically appalling, from a business standpoint, it doesn’t even profit the enterprise in question at all. These baneful occurrences has already begun to stigmatise fans and by extension, the creation they are enthused about, which hurts the original producer’s prospects and business altogether. For example, when the new season of the Netflix animation series, Voltron came out recently, my twitter timeline was flooded with tweets about how former fans expressing their disdain to no longer being able to enjoy the series as they did before due to the recent amount of outpour negative conduct and constant harassment cases the Voltron fandom is infamous for. There were also concerned voices of new fans about their interest in the series but did not want to be associated with the current community of enthusiasts. The fans that fell in love with the series has become the very reason it is beaten into the ground.
My point is this: perhaps it is time that we, as a community collectively address that this is an issue that we should do something about. I believe that there is a way for creators and fans to balance respecting the source material and expressing passion for the content. Perhaps it’s time that we perpetuate growth for a healthier culture of respect and balance. To have creators be able to not be driven solely by profit gain, but also retain their artistic credibility when dealing with their investing consumers. And on the other hand, to also have enthusiasts understand that these creators have poured their resources like time, expertise and money into their works so they can share it with the world and whether fans would like to admit it or not, the intellectual property of their works does belong to the creators alone. As much as they are welcome to enjoy it, the fact still remains that it is not their possession to bend and shape to their needs.
And I believe, it is only natural that we respect what is not ours.