Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"I AM NOT A FAN." THERE, I SAID IT, AND I'M NOT SORRY ABOUT IT. Why I don't respect fans or the fandom culture that's overtaking the Hollywood and entertainment world. A Personal Declaration.

noun-an enthusiastic devotee, follower or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.:
origin: 1885-90, Americanism; short for fanatic.
synonyms: supporter, enthusiast, partisan, booster, addict.

noun-a person with an extreme or uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.
noun-a person who's enthusiasm or zeal for something is extreme beyond normal limits.
noun (informal)-a person devoted to a particular hobby or pastime; fan.
origin-Latin, fanaticus; pertaining to a temple, inspired by orgiastic rites, frantic, equivalent to fan.
synonyms-enthusiast, zealot, bigot, hothead, militant. Fanatic, zealot, militant, devotee refer to persons showing more than ordinary support for, adherence to, or interest in a cause, point of view or activity. Fanatic and zealot both suggest excessive or overweening devotion to a cause or belief.

That's all from dictionary.com if you want to look it up yourself. I don't normally like to start with a dictionary quote but, I can't deal with this anymore, this twisted devotion to being a fan, particularly the fanboy movement, the ComicCon world that has simply overtaken Hollywood and all discussions thereof. Let me make this absolutely clear so nobody misunderstands.

I am not a fan.

I am NOT a FAN.


Not a fan of movies, not a fan, not a fan of anything really. And frankly, I don't see anything good about being a fan.

Okay, if you want to get technical, that's not true what I just screamed, of course it isn't, of course I am a fan of certain things, but I don't think that's good, and frankly, the more I see fandom being looked on as the will of the audience, the more I want to throw up at how truly despicable it is. There's a reason why some of these synonyms aren't positive. Addiction, partisan, zealot, bigot, devotee, and they're not wrong.

let me tell about my experiences with being a fan:

It was a disease that I got over eventually, some time in high school I guess, when I grew up and that's all you really need to know.

Alright, maybe not a disease, but a symptom or a behavior that eventually, at least what wasn't permanently ingrained in my psyche, I eventually grew out of. This is the first thing I want to talk about, why are we fans? Well, it's ingrained in our psyche, most of the time that comes, from being children.  I know, I went after nostalgia in a recent blogpost already, but that's a predicate of fandom today, the fact is though, we don't necessarily become fans of things at our own doing. We become fans of what we see and observe that we realize that for some reason we like. Mostly, the reason we like these things though, is because they're around. And we don't know any better. Literally, as kids, we don't know any better, these are often the very first things we see, the first things that we become associated with. I was a fan of "Popples". I doubt half of you remember "Popples" and you shouldn't, but I had a VHS with about eight episodes of "Popples" on it, so I played it to death. I was three, it was what was around me, and you don't know any better. Of course, I had seen a little more than that, but still, very limited worldview. I think this is a lot of the reason why "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" still keeps surviving even though if you really look at it, it doesn't really hold up. It was just something different and new that we hadn't seen before and frankly, we hadn't seen much. In hindsight, I probably saw them before I saw Superman or Batman or any other superheroes. I had the Nintendo game. I don't remember buying it, but I had it, and I got to level three, where you were driving around with no place to go, and that's when I quit it, but I had it. I did buy my "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune Jr." games. Yeah, one of the things I related to mostly was game shows, even as a young kid because, "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" we're always on. And then I found other game shows, there was a ton at the time, and I always had a fascination with playing games. Game theory. I had dozens of box games, more than I can count, I still do. Hell, I live in Vegas, and there was always a deck of cards around, 'cause my grandfather played solitaire while having his coffee and newspaper. So, I have a fascination with a deck of cards. Casino games as well, the restaurants we always went out to eat at were in casinos. And all this by the way was long before I ever had a video game console and frankly most video games don't have an impact on me because of it. Again, most of these weren't choices per se, they're just apart of the environment that I adapted to at the time that, that was mostly my main objective, adapt as well to the environment of others around you. You know how little kids often mimic their parents behaviors by standing next to them and miming all they do, like when they're shaving and brushing their teeth or something? That's sorta how fandom comes about, we're still in that learning stage and as far as we're concerned, (INSERT FAVORITE THING HERE) was our life. Most of us become fans because we don't know any better. Believe me, I'm a Philadelphia Sports fan. It's one of the few things I am still a passionate fan of, and believe me, if you know anything about Philadelphia fans, that's not a choice. I would've picked some city's teams that actually wins once in a while, but that's where my family's from and we're insane Philadelphia fans. Hell, our baseball's team mascot, is called, the Philly Phanatic, for a reason. And yes, fanatic in the worst definitions up there, I am a fan of Philadelphia sports teams, pro and college. And I mostly curb the majority of those fan-based thoughts and emotions now, mostly because I've been asked to by several cops and city officials. Yeah, it can get that out of hand.

Anyway, is all nostalgia an effect of our childhood and nothing more, being fans? Hmm, I think it's a good deal of it actually. I'm sure some of you are familiar with Plato's "Allegory of the Cave," where prisoners' entire life experience is the shadows they see on the wall before them, until one of them is freed and sees the fire that's creating the shadows and eventually the outside world entirely. That should be our experiences of growing up. We see the world around us, and only when are our eyes opened to the surrounding world that we then experience do we become more knowledgeable. Until then, only the shadows are in turn the reality of the world. Yet, being a "Fan" for the most part, is being the prisoners who don't escape and when confronted with fire and sunlight and civilization, remain staring at the shadows, the comfortable reality that they're familiar with and know.

When somebody becomes a fan of something later in life than the age of unknowing, it's mainly because they've suddenly discovered something that's new and often unique to their own experiences. I had a friend once, who reallll-ly like Chinese food at one point in here life. Like, green M&M-liked Chinese food. It was basically an aphrodisiac for her. When I asked her about this infatuation, it was because, she had only just started liking/eating Chinese food, within the last year. Sure she still likes Chinese food in general but now, it doesn't create that effect. I was a late-comer to Chinese food too, not as late as her, but I get it, when you're able to like something other than what you traditionally have like over the years, there's an overcompensation at first to the new stimuli. This is how we compartmentalize new experiences. The first time you do it, you over-react to the new thing, but eventually you get used to it and it simply becomes another aspect of your world, a new piece of information, knowledge, at least that's how it should be.

Fans, don't seem to have that barometer, sometimes. Or they do, but it still comes off and out as obsession. They place these certain fascinations in a higher level of importance than other parts of their experiences and that's when you get fandom or fanaticism. And if that, was as far as it went, I probably wouldn't have so much against fans. Unfortunately it doesn't.

There's a concept in anthropology, where observing behaviors of creatures it becomes apparent that it's natural for people to group themselves together based on similar features and experience. I'll refer to this as "People Like Us". Basically what it means is that, we tend to associate ourselves with people who are similar to us. Backgrounds, ethnicities, common interests, appearances even, etc. This is where conventions come in. This is also where those other aspects of fandom come in. Notice the word "Like" in "People Like Us". This means, that people often do gravitate towards a similar crowd of people who like the same things that they do. I know, you're thinking, "Well, isn't this great, we've been wandering around in the darkness of a cave forever and now we have other people like us around?" No, not at all. That's not what's happening here. What you are actually doing by using such biases as your preferences, likes and fanatic tendencies to connect with others is that you're separating yourselves from everybody else even more, and that never works out for anybody. In fact, that's just repugnant.

I know, there's history behind this. The traditional fanboys are often people who are outsiders who were vilified unfairly by society, there's strength in numbers, a history of being made fun of and being bullied, I have that history too, that doesn't mean, this is good and it doesn't mean that it's any different than any other group, including those groups of people who picked on the nerds. It's still nothing more than a way of separating people like you from people who aren't like you, and this is where I feel absolutely justified in telling all of you to go fuck yourselves!

Yeah, you read that right, GO FUCK YOURSELVES! Cause you are separating yourself into a group and therefore, not allowing for others with differing thoughts and ideas into your world. And, no, it's not even out of a necessity anymore either; I get it when it's a necessary evil and many times in society a grouping together of people with common interest is, but not this, not in today's world. It's just a way to say, "It's okay that you love X as much as us, now let's talk about it some more, and then let's do it again tomorrow and the day after and..." You'll notice that unlike most entertainment blogs and websites, you never see me talking about casting choices for superhero characters or whatever and there's a couple reasons for that, A. Everyone else does it, so I don't need to, but B., more importantly I don't care. Nor do I have an opinion, and neither do you yet? What do I think about a casting choice, the movie isn't made yet? How do I think about a trailer; it's a commercial, or course it makes the movie look good, why are you even watching it!" It's this obsessing and fascinating over every little minute aspect that is cringe-worthy, 'cause it's nothing, literally most of the time, it's just feeding the fandom. "I like this, so I'm going to talk about anything regarding this!" This is not good for the culture in Hollywood, or society, but because there's a very powerful group of these fans, who have grown into powerful numbers and are willing to pay for everything involving those things they like, Hollywood is bending over backwards trying to please them. Yes, them; not everybody, them. They don't need to get everybody, just the dominant group. And be damned anybody else.

I'm sure some of you think this is me overreacting, but you know what, those kids that picked on all of us, well, they weren't just the jocks or whoever cliched stereotypes you want to believe are still out there. Yeah, that's what this is, gang mentality. It's not new either. I've told the story about me having to give into peer pressure because apparently in 4th Grade, saying that I watched "Barney & Friends" was the worst thing I could ever do, forcing me to inevitably watch "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" simply because everybody else was, and that being the only time I ever did give into peer pressure, but it's a group mentality. I'm not like everybody else so let's laugh and make fun of him until he is. Never mind the fact, that I didn't think either show was any good but those were the two best choices at that time of day, so, I picked the educational show by default. I didn't watch "Barney..." being a fan. I watched "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" because I was a fan. (I was a geography buff, and I loved game shows, I told you that part. Holy hell, I was in heaven with that, but not too many other people I know were) Anyway, it doesn't matter whether it's organized under the guise of fandom or not, it's a groupthink mentality and even if the objective is to hold your own ground against more volatile groups, using this basis to form and mold yourselves will lead to this form of elitist behavior, in some ways. Most of them won't be so vicious, but some of them will. Recently, there's been some very disturbing bullying behavior on some of the film FB groups I post in, not even towards me, just in general, people who are peers of mine who are simply powerhungry and want to demean others, and that's just not right. And sometimes I get persecuted for daring to bring up anything other than geekdom. I had my blogpost on Bill Cosby awhile back pulled off numerous FB groups for fear that it would actually cause a controversial discussion, which it often did, but this rejection of anything that's different, that's what really disturbs me about this. Yeah, once upon a time, you were an outcast of society to be somebody who was obsessed with "Star Wars" or whatever, but you know what, that doesn't mean that a group is above being corrupted. Not everybody who inherently likes the same things as you, should necessarily be brought into your circle.

And there's another thing, I talked essentially about how, like, works, the half-knowing scientific manner in which is works, but why do we use that as a barometer? I never did. Seriously, I never did; I usually looked for people who were interesting regardless of what they liked, just interesting people. Not that it would've helped, as you might've guessed by now, the things that I was and am a fan of  (Carmen San Diego, Aaron Sorkin, "Heidi", Booing Santa Clause at Veteran's Stadium, etc. etc. Paula Poundstone routines) are often so unusual that, while not impossible it's often unlikely to find others with distinct similar interest to form a group, but you know what else I found out? That finding other people with your own interests, they're not interesting. I mean, they have the fascinations I do, so they know everything I know, so, what is there to really talk about? Yeah, you never thought about that, but all you superhero, comic book aficionados, you're all boring. How can you all have a hundred friggin' opinions on every little detail about a movie that hasn't finished being made yet? This is mind-numbing and boring, it really is. Like watching two people play Magic the Gathering without even knowing the rules of the game, it's that boring.

Still, besides that, why do we focus so much on what we like, especially regarding art, which, frankly, I get shit for this all the time, I don't base my thoughts and analysis on a piece of art, on whether I like it. I really don't, because, why would I? Like, above everything else, is a bias. That's why the word bigot, is a synonym of fan, it's a preference a bias towards something or sometimes a bias against something. I know my biases, but I want to keep those out as much as I humanly can. I don't care whether you like something, that doesn't tell me anything, tell me why it's good. I know, all our favorite movie critics tell us to think otherwise, admit you're a fan first, and, (Sigh) I understand, that, but here's the thing, that's not how art analyses holds up over time. I know we want to pretend it's all carpe diem, and seize the day, whatever we choose to feel is important to us is therefore more important than all else out there, but that's bullshit. (Yeah, that scene in "Dead Poets Society" where Robin Williams makes everyone rip out the mathematical instructions on how to analyze the poets, alright that mathematical approach isn't right either, but ignore the quality of the work, completely? Um, no. And if that was the case, than perhaps they would've done something other than quote the same dead poets that shows up in most textbooks) If it wasn't bullshit, then why the hell does "Citizen Kane" still remain one or two on every damn greatest movie poll? Why is the Mona Lisa still the main, centered attraction at the most prestigious museum in the world? Why is Shakespeare, still Shakespeare, has no one replaced him? That's not to say sometimes it takes time and discovery for us to truly understand the greatness of an art, but still, there were plenty of playwrights, painters, films and filmmakers, poets, around that frankly have no relevance what-so-ever in the artistic world then or any part of the modern world now. It's not simply a fact that popular opinion among experts hasn't changed, it hasn't changed because much of how we analyze art, no matter what ways you do it, you end up realizing that the truly great and highest quality films are still the greatest and highest of quality films and only then can you actually start bringing in a bias or preference, when literally, nothing else analytical can be analyzed. Cause at a certain point, it does become reductive and there's only so many ways you can say, "This is great and this is also great" or "This is shit and this is also shit." Is "Vertigo" or "Citizen Kane" the better film? They're both great films. (Alright, I think "Vertigo" is overrated but ignoring that) they're both great films, then you go to a preference, basically it's a tiebreaker at best and only when needed, like when the VP votes in the Senate.

Yet, in order to truly be a fan nowadays, of anything, this has to be reversed. What you like matters more than what is good. The thing that's 1% of my analysis, is 99% of everyone else's? That is the basis of a fan, and yes that is the only thing that distinguishes a fan. And why exactly is this looked upon so highly; when I tell people about this process of not using my own biases to determine the quality I get harassed and looked at like I'm crazy, but why? That's how we were taught all our lives, at least I was. We weren't instructed to look for something and just embrace it; I was taught to distinguish the good from what you like, and everybody else I know was too. We were taught to think critically about everything, not just the great stuff, but why you like it, and/or why it's good. Was I the only one who was taught this? I remember having to explain why something was good or not, and having to justify and explained why I shouldn't watch something, did this just go away, or did everybody just, carpe diem this and think it was bullshit, "I'll like what I want?" Whatever it is, it's offensive. Yeah, offensive, to simply put something on a pedestal just because you like it more or would rather see it. I try really hard not to do this, if I say something is amazing or that something is trash, I want to make sure that statement has some weight to it and isn't just a gut-check opinion of mine. If I just referenced stuff I liked there'd probably be a lot more "Smokey and the Bandit" references on this blog. That's the whole point of learning about all the great pieces of literature anyway, 'cause it's history and knowledge that seeped it's way into our everyday nomenclature. "Romeo & Juliet" was such a powerful and important play, that's it's simply shorthand in our lexicon. Granted so is "Superman" and "Batman", and many of these other characters, so is Oliver Twist, so is Lucy & Ricky, so is Fonzi, so is George Costanza, so is Dr. Faust, so is Scooby-Doo, for some reason. So is Captain Ahab, so is Captain Kirk. Not that I like or hate any of these characters or anything, but when you take fandom as your primary personal trait about you, make it, not just a part of you, but a part of you to such a degree that, well, to all these extremes degree that people do, it basically means that, you're limiting yourself. Voluntarily, limiting your knowledge, limiting your frame of references, limiting your whole perspective of anything that's outside of your bubble. You're purposefully ignoring and disregarding anything else, much less, even contemplating the possibilities that there are distinctions and differences between things we like and things that are good.

When you're a kid and you don't know better and what you come across and what you are able to see and experience is limited by what others show or allow them to show you, it's forgivable, you don't know better. Like I said, you're in cave in the beginning and some new stimuli will be brighter and more apparent and grow into your world more than others. For instance, I never liked rap music and was for the most part, never really drawn to it personally growing up. I'm not now, and frankly it is something that currently, I don't have the proper affection or knowledge of. I'm bias against it and that's not good. And I grew up during the Tupac & Biggie East Coast/West Coast Wars, I remember all this shit, but nobody I knew really listened to it and on my own, I never got around to doing much more than eventually appreciating it as an art form, but not liking it and certainly not being knowledgeable enough about to discuss it with too much certainly. At the same, when it is discussed I'm usually trying to listen and understand where people are coming from who have this knowledge. I still don't always agree, but still, you gotta seek out things you aren't familiar with as often as you can. This is antithesis to the cult of fandom. I'm sure, and I know that most fans don't simply just obsess over their obsessions and whatever-, I am generalizing here, but that's still the overall perception, and it's what the entertainment industry has chosen to respond to the most in recent years.

I mean, it's because groups like fans, limit their stimuli to the things they like and obsess over it to the nth degree that Hollywood ergo, limits their reign of products to simply satisfy their need for more of what they like, and that leaves, everybody else, having to be forced,- alright, maybe not forced, that's the critic in me that's forced, but how about pressured, into having to accept, like and/or appreciate your fan culture. And, it's not like the product is bad, many times it isn't, but oh the messenger that's sending this message of superheroes, comic books, ultimate geekdom, ultimate fandom.... Look, a fetish is a fetish only to the person who likes that fetish. That's what this is, us, having to, enjoy your fetish, the things your group(s) get off on. And I don't think I need Dan Savage to tell you, but when somebody doesn't enjoy the fetish, no matter how GGG he/she may be, we can only take so much and last so long. That doesn't mean I ask you to enjoy mine, but I do wonder why you make the fetish the predominant aspect of your personality and/or life.

I know that was harsh, but I look at this culture of fandom and geekdom that's taken over and I see the absolute worst of society, certainly entertainment-wise at the moment. I don't see the benefits outweighing the negatives, in fact, the closer I look, the less and less benefits of it I see. I see, childish behavior from adults, who are still infatuated by the things they were infatuated with as a child, just becoming more and more infatuated with these things and less and less care about much else. And society, just accepts this; it's encouraged, it's the norm! Well, it's a sucky norm! I shouldn't have to easily be placed in a group in order to be accepted, I shouldn't have to be limited, I shouldn't have to be pigeon-holed; I rejected all this crap in high school because it was fucking stupid and it was the same groupthink then and now I'm living it all over again and in the field of entertainment, which I chose specifically as my career so this kind of takeover of the entertainment world, wouldn't happen! I'm sick of this narrow-mindedness, this embracing of like as individuality, even though, it's following the large crowd of everybody else now. It's separatist, it's elitist, it's pretentious, yes superhero and comic books are a bit pretentious and it makes me want to pull my hair out 'cause how much I am sick and tired of having to put up with all this. Who insisted that everybody look backwards, who insisted on like, being a main indicator of personality instead of the seeking out of variety and knowledge that's often far beyond one's immediate reaches and grasps. Who decided that comic books were still relevant, the whole industry almost went bankrupt when I was growing up, the fact that this has come back around is just weird. Who decided that fan-fiction was worthy of analysis and judgement and fascination with; I stopped writing fan-fiction when I was nine! And frankly, every episode I wrote of "Cheers II" in hindsight, was utter shit. (Yeah, I wrote a spin-off sequel series to "Cheers" when I was nine, after the series finale. It wasn't good, and I'm not bringing it back up to show other people.) Like, I said, I grew out of this, the further outside the cave of darkness I got. And with the internet now, there's no excuse for this kind of fandemonium. You can seek out and search for so much. Anything, everything, you're only limited by your own desires and capabilities and now when everything is literally at your fingertips, the choice most everyone seems to make is, stick with the same shadows we've been staring at for years.

NO! Not me. I am not a fan. What I like does not define who I am, or who I will become, nor will it be a crux of my personality and/or existence. Personal preferences and affections, likes of mine, will not be the things that becomes the major distinguishing factors of my own individual self. No matter what is popular or en vogue or even counterculture, today or tomorrow, no group think based around a collective preference, nostalgia-based or otherwise will influence or determine how I identify myself or how others will identify me. I will let what I like influence and inspire but not let it overtake me and define me as a person to myself or others. At least publicly.

I am not a fan, and neither should anybody else be either.

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