Tag Archives: fandom

Polarization: The Insidious Plague of ‘Us Against Them’

Brace yourselves. War is coming.

Not just any war—a flame war. Many are already being waged.

All joking aside, I’ve noticed that since the last presidential campaign season, during which people dug their heels into the ground for whatever candidate they supported, the tendency toward polarization has spilled over into other areas. In particular, seems to have become more prominent in the fandom/nerd/geek community. No longer is it a friendly rivalry where people can agree to disagree. No, now those who disagree must be smeared and the supposed “right opinion” presented with pretense.

Image courtesy of www.patheos.com.

While these “factions” have existed for years (Marvel or DC? Star Trek or Star Wars? Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat?), I’ve never seen such vitriol in the past. Divisions have even formed within fandoms, and thanks to the anonymity of the internet, a “civil war,” of sorts, has waged.

The situation that brought this to my mind is Capcom’s newest fighting game, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Because the game wasn’t living up to everyone’s expectations leading up to its release, interest waned for the game. Then another company, Arc System Works, announced a similar game called DragonBall FighterZ. It was then the camps formed. Hardcore MvC fans held out for the former game while defectors, “casuals,” and DBZ fans formed around the other game. They created copious memes, both photos and videos, denouncing Capcom or MvCI and proclaimed Arc Systems and DragonBall FighterZ the greatest things ever. Personally, what passing interest I may have had in the DragonBall game was killed by their pretentiousness.

I follow several YouTubers, like Maximilian Dood, who make videos on fighting games, and they soon found themselves enveloped in the firestorm. Max in particular has said he’s been accused of being both a shill and a hater. In other words, both sides dislike him. He’s actually taken what I think is an honest and realistic approach to things. When MvCI was released, he criticized some aspects but praised it for others. I’m sure that drove some people on both sides crazy.

What gets to me is how quickly people rally around what’s honestly unimportant things. These are games. They’re entertainment. It’s not life or death. And yet the human desire to fit in and belong to a group compels them to form factions and fight for their cause, no matter how trivial.

This needs to stop.

Not just in fandom circles. Everywhere. For everything.

I heard many stories about families dividing over politics last year. Groups and movements have sprung up over the years that claim they want to bring equality, but all they do is create hate for “the other side.” What they don’t realize is movements based on hate can’t last. All they do is create a self-perpetuating crazy cycle. But all it takes is one person to break it.

Be that person, True Believers.

Have you witnessed polarization over things besides politics? Where? Why? What have you done to break the crazy cycle?

The Contempt for ‘Star Wars’

(Insert mandatory apology for not blogging in six weeks).

Moving on…

Most people like Star Wars, right? Even if they’re not hardcore nerds/fans, they’ve still probably seen the movies and enjoyed them. They’re considered classics (especially the original trilogy).

Yet, as I saw in a recent video from Red Letter Media, there is an outspoken contingent of people—fans included—who not hate these films, and they seem to be growing. This isn’t just prequel hate, either. Criticisms are being lobbed at every Star Wars film, including the originals.

I’m not saying they’re “perfect” movies by any stretch, nor do I think they’re immune to criticism. Yet much of this disdain seems to have sprang up recently, although I think it goes back nearly 20 years to the release of The Phantom Menace.

This theory isn’t original to me (I can thank Doug Walker for it). Regardless, I think the original trilogy was loved by a generation that saw it in their childhoods, and since it captured their imaginations, they elevated it in their minds, believing the films to be perfection or the closest thing to it. They glossed over whatever imperfections it had (hence why many fans objected to the “special editions” of the films). When Episode I was set to open, the hype machine went crazy. I remember that time. People were buying tickets to bad movies just to see the trailer (this was before trailers were on the internet). Phantom Menace had a great trailer, so I don’t blame anyone for buying the hype. But when they saw the movie…to say they were deflated would be an understatement. The film forced them to reevaluate the original films because, honestly, it had some of the same flaws as the original. It made them question if George Lucas was the creative genius they thought he was. Since many of these fans had built their lives around this franchise, it was as though their “religion,” if you will, had been debunked.

For a time, though, this contempt was channeled at only the prequels (unfairly, I would say). It was as though Episodes I-III were fans’ personal whipping boys. Then the hate spread to the “special editions” of the original films, what with controversial changes like Greedo shooting first. When The Force Awakens opened, it was criticized by some as too derivative of the first film (even by Lucas himself). Now things have come full circle and there are those looking at the original films and criticizing their flaws. George Lucas has gone from being incapable of wrong to doing nothing right, even with his original masterpieces.

To which I say…

Calm the heck down!

Admittedly, Mr. Lucas—like most sci-fi franchise creators, it seems—is a better visionary and worldbuilder than writer. He had much help when he made the original trilogy, but the prequels were unfiltered Lucas. That’s the only explanation I can offer for that.

Regardless, as I’ve said, I don’t think these movies deserve the ire they’re getting (even the prequels). No one’s childhoods were ruined. If you somehow think that, I feel sorry for you. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and the right to discuss the merits of the Star Wars films, but there’s no need to turn something fun into a bunch of whining. Just because it’s something high-profile and iconic like Star Wars doesn’t mean you have to lose your minds over it. Yes, I’ve been known to get irate when something happens in a story I don’t like, but when the dust settles, I go on with my life. In the end, these are just stories, some well told, some not so much. Relish the good ones and criticize the bad ones (heck, be satirical about it, if you want), but don’t turn to the Dark Side to do the latter. It’s giving the geek community a bad image. We need some good PR.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to Rogue One and discussing theories with friends about Rey’s parentage.