Alternate Title: Your opinions on fiction affect your reality
I don’t count myself as part of any fandom. But, there are definitely quite a few franchises where I would say I’m fond of them.
And it’s often… interesting to see the different parts of a fanbase interact. To put it lightly, some people can’t be happy unless you like and perceive the show/comic/movie/book/game the same way as they do.
And that’s what I want to dissect a bit. By looking at the nature of characters and opinions as an audience member, perhaps I can explain why disputes keep rising. Plus, why sometimes we drag people for their character preference.
[Oh. And for the record, I’m not saying everyone in a fandom is a problem. Of course not. It’s like anything else. There are always jerks and “intellectuals” that like to insist that their interpretation is the best version and should be embraced by everyone else.]
Where the issue begins
Anyone who has ever done something creative might know the overlying “issue” I need to address. You see, once you share something, it no longer exits in a vacuum. As it grows and gets discussed, it “takes on a life of its own” and turns into something other than you created.
So, allow me to address this notion. A character exists in two universes:
- Any narrative universe where it’s published by whoever owns the intellectual property (IP).
- In our own universe, via the perception of the audience
Once you share an idea, it no longer exists in just the first universe. The second state kicks in and becomes “valid” to an extent.
In this way, the characters are like real people. Who we are cannot be discussed or perceived separately from the other person’s perspective. Even characters exist and are regularly understood not only by their stories. But also by how the audience, especially the collective (or just the most vocal) interprets them. This, I think, is the nature of the beast.
You see because different people will obviously vibe with different characters. And not just because of how that character exists in its narrative universe. Rather often because the audience member can genuinely relate to the character’s backstory, personality, or more. And well… there’s a lot that can be said about relatability and the power it holds over us.
It’s one thing to dislike something someone else adores. It’s another to dislike something that someone views as a vital part of their own identity and personal story. When it comes to the latter, people can get extremely defensive and hostile.
Where & when the audience draws the line
We all have our own interpretation of a character and what matters most. But as with many things, stuff starts to get problematic when someone tries to force their opinion on others.
For example, people might reject the characters in Teen Titans Go! series as opposed to the original animated series or the comics. There are also many opinions and objections regarding particular live-action interpretations of the Joker from Batman. Just like how one might oppose Idris Elba to be a new version of James Bond and even denounce the franchise if it happened.
And let’s not forget all the times a fandom has warred over if:
- X character earned their forgiveness.
- Person A and B shouldn’t have gotten together,
- If XYZ part of the series is “legitimate.”
At some point, some people get insistent that their opinion should be the final say.
Obviously, this tends not to be too troublesome by default. To an extent, we accept our differences or even write something off as “headcanon” (basically: someone’s personal interpretation of a character) and go about our days. However, this isn’t so much the case when a vocal part of a community speaks up. When that happens, it draws the attention of not only others in the community but sometimes those out of it.
And as we know, character analysis, fan reactions, and feuds are a thing. So much so, that you can find explanations on YouTube and random opinions fluttering along on Twitter. And this is when things go extra haywire. Controversy is always clickbait. Whether it be rumors, canceling, or just unraveling the news or opinions around a subject. Someone is always willing to watch or even add fuel to the fire. So of course, the audience opinion started to carry more weight (as in new avenues).
Whether it’s supporting a show or a specific character, the creators are aware of some of the audience’s responses. Sometimes it doesn’t have an effect. Other times, it brings fanservice, changes in the plot, or even new original productions. And of course, someone always disagrees with the change. And it’s totally sensible to blame the fans who encouraged that change.
So by now, it’s becoming commonplace to see people judge you on your character preferences. Which of course, adds to the hostility and drama that overly opinionated and elitist fans naturally bring to the table.
To recap, people get attached to their favorite characters. And in such a way that it becomes a personal offense to not view the character exactly as they do. And it’s also no surprise that in this day and age where any opinion can become a politicalized personal statement or motto, that it would bring hostility and trouble. Even more so in times when opposing opinions are vilified.
In a way, society is on the lookout for its foes. To an extent, we’re looking for someone to blame. After all, media often teaches us that there is a clear villain in the story, with who you rarely can resolve things without more suffering or an outright dismissal of their crimes. [And when they are forgiven, they usually die by the end.]
But, it’s just peculiar (to me) that someone’s character picks can hold such weight and be viewed as a crime. I mean, I get it when it involves real-life people that have done serious crimes without changing, and who is still widely supported.
But, a character?