The State Of Fandom In 2018

Illustration: Sam Woolley, GMG

In 2018, the meaning of fandom is in flux. The relationship between fans and creators is in some ways more tense than ever before, even while fandom itself has reached a point where a simple piece of fanart can become an international sensation overnight.

Fans Gain New Powers, For Better And For Worse

The relationship between creative people and their fans has always been contentious. As more and more creators join the same social media platforms as their fans, it’s only gotten more tense. Those types of problems aren’t new; people have been getting into flame wars on the internet forever. Now that fandoms are more visible, with collective fan actions being being reported on places like Buzzfeed, The Daily Beast and even this website, creators are increasingly forced to reckon with angry fans who think they know everything.

Something that was once confined to niche communities is now a problem that gets news coverage. Actors in television shows and movies have always gotten weird messages from fans. It’s very rare that these actors write New York Times op-eds about them, as Kelly Marie Tran did this year when sexist and racist harassment from Star Wars fans drove her from Instagram. Tran wasn’t alone.

In August, Ruby Rose left social media after she was cast as Batwoman on a CW show, citing harassment as the reason. Daisy Ridley, who stars in the new trilogy of Star Wars movies left instagram last year due to comments left by fans. Fans harassing actors has been a problem for a whilebut it happens more often now, and is more visible.

Photo: Rich Fury/Stringer, Getty Images

The flame wars may be old hat, but the dynamic itself feels new. In the past, participating in fandom and participating in derivative works could get you sued, and members of fandom went to great lengths to avoid press entirely.

Since then, the Twilight fanfiction “Master of the Universe” was published as a series of novels called The Fifty Shades Series, which all became bestsellers. A fanfiction about the boy band One Direction has also turned into a movie.

Obsessive nerdiness and derivative works aren’t just ok now: they’re mainstream. People are newly involved in the media they consume, and the sudden ubiquity of that attitude has given rise to a whole host of new, currently unsolved problems.

Bowsette Breaks the Internet

The original Bowsette comic. (Illustration: ayyk92)

This year fandom has also been responsible for some delightful and expected flights of fancy. If you like video games and are on the internet, you probably couldn’t escape Bowsette. It began as a single piece of fanart depicting Bowser wearing a crown that turned him into a BDSM princess, and it completely saturated Twitter in a matter of hours.

Soon it was being modded into Super Mario 64, New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Breath of the Wild, the whole “sexy female princess version” was expanded to other characters like Boo.

There was even a Bowsette fan event in Japan.

It was the best of fandom: a bout of creativity powered by pure, unfiltered horniness. Nintendo has made some unusually horny characters of late, but this fan-made version appealed so acutely to a wide swath of fan communities—furries, gender swap fans, people who want to be stepped on—that it could only have come from fandom.

A lot of people want to see Bowsette turn up in a Nintendo game in some kind of official capacity, but for me, Bowsette is a testament to the value of derivative works. Someone made a funny comic on Twitter and it gave rise to a character that people across the world could relate to. Or at least, want to fuck.

RIP, Tumblr

Tumblr had a hard 2018. The blogging network’s fandom community had already been on its last legs, citing problems with harassment and a staff that doesn’t seem to care. The recently announced ban on adult content, which goes into effect December 17th, appears to be the final nail in the coffin. The only question that remains is: where will fandom go?

Illustration: Sam Woolley, GMG

Fan communities experienced a similar exodus in 2007, when LiveJournal began purging adult content, including some explicit Harry Potter communities. They ended up on Tumblr, which was a convenient one stop shop for both writing and art. New contenders like Pillowfort and Are.na both seem like interesting options, but are smaller, younger sites.

Pillowfort combines the social feed of Tumblr with the extensive privacy and community options of LiveJournal, but is still in beta, and currently down for maintenance. Are.na looks and feels a lot like Tumblr, and also makes it much easier to sort the things you post there into different boards, organised by theme or interest, but doesn’t have much of a social aspect. Both these platforms also allow adult content, which is a bonus.

Fan Wikis in Crisis

If you play video games but don’t care about fanart or fanfiction, you may still interact with a different outlet for fandom: the fan wiki. Many fan created wiki sites hosted on Wikia, a content company that is also (confusingly, for the purposes of this article) known as Fandom. These wiki communities have been having issues with Wikia since last year, when it introduced intrusive featured videos above the fold on popular pages on the wikis.

This year, the Runescape wiki, one of the largest wikis on Wikia, jumped ship to their own website. Other communities on Wikia, like the ones for Warframe and Fallout, have been thinking about making similar moves.

Screenshot: Runescape, Jagex

One potential option for those communities was Gamepedia, a rival wiki site owned by Curse. Although Curse used some shady tactics to generate ad revenue, their ads are much less intrusive than the ones on Wikia sites, and annoying featured videos weren’t a problem. Unfortunately, Wikia has now bought Curse, and Gamepedia along with it.

With their lively message boards and constantly expanding databases, fan-created wikis aren’t just a useful resource for people playing games, they’re communities in and of themselves. The most popular of those communities may soon find themselves without a home.

The Future of Fandom

If 2018 was the first time you ever encountered the concept of fandom, it was probably for something bad. Fandom’s worst aspects are highlighted more than its best ones, often for understandable reasons. As major platforms change, close down, and die off, it presents a chance for everyone to reassess how they interact with the media they love, and the people that make it.

But it’s easy to be more pessimistic: The fates of major communities are still unresolved, and sometimes it seems like fandom as we know it could just vanish at any moment.

Above all else, 2018 has proven that fandom is about more than reacting to culture and art. Fans make culture; fans make art. Derivative works like Bowsette can dominate the internet just as thoroughly as any new game or movie.

Taking that into account, it seems impossible for fandom to truly disappear. Fans have always been somewhat nomadic, and will hopefully strive to make whatever new homes they find as nice as possible.


Comments

    I think its a bit disingenuous to clearly out line the reason Kelly and Daisy left, why not doing the same for Ruby. And why you did link to it, you also did the same for the other two. Also, the failed to mention the reaction that Johansson got over her planed role of a trans person in a movie that was scratched after the shitty backlash she got is also disappointing. If you are going to cover those sorts of things, then cover them all. Be a better media outlet, not a bias one.

      Ruby cited harassment as a reason for leaving, which we linked to. It was the same length description as provided for Daisy, and there's also a link to the story on that. The information is provided so people can read up further if they want more detail; this isn't a blow by blow account of everything that happened. That's impractical to do for an end-of-year roundup, some brevity is required. Also, Johansson wasn't mentioned at all, so I'm not sure what you're referring to.

      It's a bit weird to ask why writers link to other stories; we'd be accused of not doing our jobs properly if things weren't sourced.

      I know that you can't please everyone all of the time, but it'd help if there was some fairness applied. It honestly reads like you're searching for criticism, rather than genuine discussion.

      The Ruby Rose one was truly bizarre, with the queer lobby deciding that she wasn't gay enough for them to play Batwoman and harassing her over it. Ruby Rose not gay enough. That just makes my head hurt. There are truly stupid people using social media.

        There are truly stupid people using social media.

        pretty much sums up 2018

      I wonder if the ScarJo film ended up getting made. A big part of getting a film funded is attaching a bankable star. Without it, it's very hard to get investment.

      Good example of people complaining so hard that none of us get the thing. At all.

      I liked this line.....

      .....and even this website, creators are increasingly forced to reckon with angry fans who think they know everything.

        Yup it's only the website owners and celebrities that know everything.

        i found this line surreal

        Fandom’s worst aspects are highlighted more than its best ones

        Kotaku show some self awareness this article aside you are the people who highlight all the bad shit at least this article had a bit of both sides.

    Outrage Culture seriously needs to die with 2018.

      Yeah, agree. I too hope that we finally can enable societal change at a widespread enough level that all this outrage is no longer necessary. Sadly, until that happens, outrage is the unfortunately superior alternative to the long-standing "shush" culture which allowed horrible beliefs and attitudes to keep festering in modern societies almost unchallenged for the best part of the last few centuries.

        That's not the outrage culture. The outrage culture is people complaining that woolworths sell a celebration cake. They're outraged it's not called a Christmas cake and it's PC gone mad. They're going to boycott the store they tell us. Pity it's called a celebration cake not christmas because they sell it all year round, but who needs facts when your angry inside.

          Heh, that's fair. I guess that the definition of "outrage culture" varies depending on who you ask. In your example, the people complaining about celebration cakes will say that the cake was called that in order to appease the "outraged" PC people, etc.

            a fine example of the anti PC crowd making a complete ass of themselves, but the people at the opposite the practically militant PC warriors are defiantly worse. i feel real sorry for the poor cakes feelings and i would shed a tear if i wasn't more concerned with all the people who have lost their income during 2018 many of them with children to support because of RABID outrage mobs roving around the internet digging for anything edgy in someones history and i mean history in some cases going back as far as 2002.

            these people practically salivating over the chance to destroy someones lively hood..... never mind #cakelivesmatter give me a break their is absolutely no contest or similarity in scope or damage between the outrage of PC authoritarians and the outrage of the Anti PC crowd.

              I argue that it still depends who you ask. Similar outcomes can have wildly different motivations. Going by your example of people experiencing professional setbacks ("losing their livelihoods" is a bit extreme, as far as I can tell most of the people affected had ways to stay afloat), take the cases of James Gunn and Roseanne. Both lost important and well-remunerated contracts due to things they posted on the internet.

              However, that's where the similarities end. James Gunn's offensive tweets were written several years ago and he has since apologised, and demonstrably turned over a page. However, his old tweets were dug out and exposed--not by a person who gives a damn about "PC" but rather by a malicious agent with a history of attempting to destroy people with liberal political leanings. On the other hand, Roseanne's racist tweets were recent and although there was some digging up of her old comments, it was done merely to prove that the latest one was not a drug-addled mistake like she claimed, but merely yet another display of discriminatory beliefs she has held for long.

                if u honestly believe Roseannes a racist i don't think there is any hope for you, comments made by a comedian like Roseanne are definitely going to have some racist connotations its called jokes people and in her defense that women looked like the ape form the movie end of story u cant argue that.

                I dont know anything about james gunn im talking about regular people getting mobbed by a loudmouth minority mostly on social media, the perpetually offended assholes LARPing about changing the world and ending hate by making lots of people hate them. A young man in Adelaide lost his job at a hotel for calling a disgusting feminist whose name i cant recall right now a slut. if you think that is ok you are the "useful idiot" in the situation.

                  Ooh yeah, to claim that "it was a joke": the magic spell that not only can turn absolutely /anything/, even the most stomach-churning vile stuff into something innocent but ALSO make the other people into the bad guy for being such stupid snowflakes that are easily offended.

                  And what about that dude in Adelaide? He didn't like some person for whatever reason so you feel that he is entitled to insult her without repercussions?

                  So let's recap:

                  -Horrible discriminatory racial slurs: OK, if a joke.

                  -Insulting a stranger: OK as long as they are a feminist or from whatever other groups YOU have decided is ok to hate.

                  -Whatever else: OK as long as you feel it's justified.

                  -Calling out rude, insensitive, and/or bigoted people: NOT OK!!!! PC police snowflakes going rogue, coming for muh freedom of speech!!

                  But! Before you get offended or angry by this comment, let me clarify: It was a joke! :D We're good, right?

                  the dude in Adelaide called Clementine Ford a slut this women is responsible for tweets like "it's time we killed all men" and she has attended many "slut walks" so u tell me did he cross a line that deserves him losing his job. answer is no btw the things this women says are disgusting.

                  No "it was a joke" is not a magic spell but context and intent matter if your intention is to make a joke and everyone goes nuts u might have made a mistake, this is where the magic appears its called an apology.

                  but you still need examples: black women from america says "i will never vote for a white person or a man" professor tells her this is racist and sexist, the chick tells the university and demands they not allow him back next year as adjunct professor. So far he seems to be ok

                  this is just a handful of examples its everywhere same with some of the #metoo movement "we posed for a photo and he grabbed me waist" its been 2 years and i'm still not over it..... r u fkn kidding me. There are legitimate predators there are also legitimate racists and sexists, Roseanne is not a racist and some guy who grabs ur waist for a photo is not a rapist.

                  Pylgrim there is a side to this outrage culture you just are not seeing, maybe your in an ideological bubble maybe you just don't pay much attention but for every legitimate sex pest it seems there also some cow making up bullshit for some attention. now you want some really disturbing news in the last 12 years the innocence project has freed more wrongfully convicted rapists than the US has jailed. that is not right.

                  nowadays you really need to do a double take and really think is this thing someones moaning about really that bad or are they being a fkn wimp for attention, especially if its revolving around a confrontation because the easiest way to win a confrontation for many people these days is just keep it going till the other person breaks some taboo and you can silence them.
                  "your not listening you stupid bitch" you go in the sexist gulag
                  "you have the IQ of a monkey" racist even tho the persons twitter is a picture of a cartoon wolf your somehow so racist you can feel the melanin through the internet
                  you get the idea yeh, people have been making jokes for thousands of years it's only been a problem since we let women out of the kitchen =)

                i had to reply to myself see above for giant essay friend =D

                Last edited 26/12/18 1:38 pm

                  Hi, thanks for taking the time to type all that. I think that the best way I can address it all is by admitting to you that there are cases where people have gone too wrong. Hell, I myself had the displeasure of once arguing with a woman who claimed that things would never improve unless "all men were castrated". This, unfortunately, is a facet of human nature and especially of endeavours taken by /groups/ of them: Unity of purpose, even if it's a great one, doesn't guarantee unity of intentions or motivations.

                  Think of any group with any great cause in history: Abolitionists, WWII Allies, French revolutionists, etc, and you'll find lots of stories of individuals or subgroups who in spite of having collaborated towards the realisation of that cause had their legacy marred by the discovery of horrible beliefs or actions in their personal lives.

                  So yeah, you can find any number of cases of people doing wrong or even terrible things whilst using the #metoo tag, or similar movements. Women that lie about being raped, black people who are racists, kids pretending to be oppressed LGTB for attention and sympathy, etc. I'm ok with people like those being called out, individually. What I am not ok with is using those cases to discredit the whole cause.

                  Regarding Roseanne, I'm not sure you have looked into all her instances of racist slurs and insults? Many of them were NOT said in the context of a joke but as part of a serious rant, or a single statement. Then, when you see her actual jokes that are racist, you understand that she's not just "joking" but rather, spreading her hatred in ways that give her plausible deniability and that will contribute to the normalisation of racism. Similarly, her apologies are belied by her repeated behaviour.

        None of the outrage in outrage culture is necessary, by definition.

          ...A definition that has become obsolete and irrelevant as people use it to dismiss any outrage that they personally don't feel has merit.

            not really that is just your bias interpretation based on your politics there are literally thousands of people out there objectively outraged over nothing. I would recommend some people for you to listen to but i'm honestly sick of trying to help those who have fallen for the propaganda.
            i hope you wake up soon.

    Was expecting some mention of gaming companies saying ‘we’re listening to what fans want’ while obviously ignoring what fans want and force feeding them trash. EA, Bethesda, Blizzard all tried it on this year and got served only to blame it on ‘outrage culture’.

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