Written By Vicki Tiller
Being part of an online community is great, especially when you share the love of a particular thing and this can be anything from a television show, film, musical band, book or just about anything really.
I am part of a fandom (a community brought about by the shared love of something especially in TV, music and film) who all shared the love of a particular television programme. The rewards for being part of that fandom can be huge, such as going to conventions to meet the stars, having interactions with them through social media, meeting other fans, and building everlasting relationships with them.
It never ceases to amaze me the power that people can have and the movements that are created from it. For an example, a fan of the show recently passed away not too long before the premier episode of a new season aired. My self and a fellow fandom member decided to start a hashtag encouraging people to post a picture of a candle during the premier in remembrance.
People did it and some of the stars of the show even saw it and tweeted it to their followers as well. Although when the episode aired only a handful of people participated, it was still touching to see a community come together in support.
This is the nice side of these fandom’s, the beautiful and powerful side of people sticking together, discussing their favourite characters and relationships, their ideas on where the show, band, or film franchise is heading next, and guessing at stories, tours, and songs.
The fandom will share and celebrate other people and their creative talents, whether it is through fan fiction, art works, edits, and original and cover songs that were inspired by their fandom. It is a beautiful thing to see and be a part of. This is the positive and reflects the majority of posts that you will see whenever you find yourself a part of one.
But if you look deeper, look beyond the majority of the post and delve further into the mass of tweets, comments, photos, and edits, you will start to see a side of it that is a whole lot different to what it first appears.
One of the first things I noticed was that not everyone liked every character, which is totally fair and reasonable. There is absolutely no problem there. Not everyone likes the character of Iron Man. Not everyone likes the character of Harry Potter. We all like different things, and it’s one of the most fundamental things of being a human being. If we all liked that same thing, then life would be very boring.
It is absolutely fine to get into discussion about those characters and to get into a debate about a certain characters personality traits, past and present behaviours, and even what their wearing. It’s perfectly reasonable to discuss why a character is being portrayed the way they are, why their character acts the way they do, and even okay to talk about how an actor decided to portray that character. If you don’t agree with what the other person is saying, this is okay to say as well. As long as you take into account that each person is entitled to their own view and opinion and that not everyone is going to view things the way that you do.
What is not okay, is when these debates or even a one lined comments left on a picture, tweet, or video starts to turn personal. The amount of times I have seen fairly harmless, and quite interesting debates, turn sour because somewhere along the line the conversation has turned and people are attacking other people. People they do not even know outside of that social media platform. This is bullying, and it must stop!
This is another area of fandom’s where quite often things get personal and heated extremely fast. A ‘ship’ is a shortened word for relationship. If you wanted to see two characters get together or you support a pre-existing couple, you would say that you ‘ship’ them. Quite often these couples have their own ship name as well, which quite often is a melding if the two character names or sometimes what they represent. Here is a small list of examples.
Dana Scully and Fox Mulder (X-Files): MSR
Emily Fields and Alison Dilaurentis (Pretty Little Liars): Emison
Regina Mills and Robin Hood (Once Upon A Time): Outlaw Queen
King Francis II and Queen Mary (Reign): Frary
Olivia Moore and Ravi Chakrabarti (izombie): Ravioli
If the ‘ship’ has been written by the show writers, this couple is considered canon. This essentially means that they are an actual pairing within the show, an official couple. But there are some people who would rather see other character together in a relationship who are or could only be friends in the show. This is where ‘ship wars’ start, because a small number of each group of ‘shippers’ believe that their pairing is better than the others.
I have seen some horrendous things written about people who have shared reasons as to why they ‘ship’ a particular couple. These can range from derogatory comments to comments who tell the other person that they wish they were dead, and I have also seen how this affects the other person to the point where they will remove themselves from the social media platform. If they are the creative type, they will even stop making/designing/creating the artwork they love to make.
Unfortunately, I don’t see a way that this is ever going to change. Writers cannot please every single one of their viewers. They will have a direction in mind of where they would like to take that show, which may include all or none of the pairings or characters that the fandom love. In an ideal world, what I would love to see is for people to realize that in the bigger picture of the fandom, they all love the same thing.
If you take the example of Harry Potter, the one thing that got them all interested in the first place would have been the films or the books. Now you can all belong to different groups, you may see yourself as a Gryffindor or a Hufflepuff, you may love the relationship between Harry and Ginny or Ron and Hermione, but then again, you might not. You may even be a Dramione (Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger) shipper or may ‘ship’ all of them!
The most important thing to remember is that you are all there for the same reason. Imagine a tree, this is the fandom itself. You are all connected and being supported by one another. Each of the branches of that tree represents a part of that fandom, and each branch is responsible for keeping that fandom alive. So have your favourites, love the characters, or don’t. Just remember you are all different people entitled to your own opinion. You all loved the TV show, the book series, the band, the film franchise, etc, and this is the bigger picture.
If you find you are receiving negative comments, then use the reporting or blocking features that nearly all social media platforms have, but do not retaliate to the comments because you will just keep going round in circles. You will probably find if they had an issue to begin with, they will not be open to listening to your point of view.