Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

“It’s going to end with someone killing themselves.” -- Brian Wood

I have never seen the shows Steven Universe and Homestuck.  So there are certain aspects of this story that I can't comment on.  But this ultimately isn't about Steven Universe or Homestuck.  It's about the socially acceptable cruelty of fandoms.  And I can talk plenty about that.

Her online handle is Zamii.  She is a fan of Steven Universe.  It's apparently quite well done and, like many shows, has inspired a fandom.  People come up with art, fanfics, all kinds of stuff, expressing their love of this thing that so excites their imaginations.  She is also a fan of Homestuck.  Zamii decided to get involved, started doing fan art and interacting with other fans.

And she became a target.

Other fans started accusing Zamii of basically having bad thoughts.  She was accused of, among other things, "racism/stereotyping, transmisogyny/transphobia, apologism, incest, pedophilia, fatphonbia, and ableism."  This is all from a single sentence by one detractor, please note.  Zamii's art went under a microscope, and any detail that could be pounced on was.  Over 40 critical Tumblrs were created just to attack her and her work, along with scores more on other social media accounts.  And they all had one objective -- attack.

There is a character on the show called Rose Quartz.  Zamii drew a piece of fan art, and was attacked for making Rose look too skinny.  Tumblrettes started tagging her art with "# fatphobic" and other derogatory words.  They would attack how she would digitally manipulate art to finish a piece.  Zamii began by trying to engage in a dialog, and when that wasn't working, she started surrendering, taking down pieces and apologizing profusely.

And then, about a week ago.  Zamii wrote a final post in her Tumblr and then was gone.

Three days later, Zamii posted a video.  She said it was being taken from a hospital where she was being treated.

Zamii had attempted suicide.

Because of the online crowd.

And now, the fandom is freaking out.  I've mentioned before that I don't participate in fandoms.  It's because of a change I noticed.  I was part of a couple of fandoms way back when, like Star Trek around the time Next Gen (or "New Trek" as it was being referred to) was starting.  And it seemed like a fun group.  But it was in anime that I noticed a change, and it seemed to be around the time the Gen Y'ers started coming around and joining in.  Before, fandoms were largely a collection of fellow heads.  Yeah, there was some competition to be the Alpha Geek, but it was pretty harmless and was mostly done in good spirits.

Then, I was at an anime convention.  Toonami was starting to run anime like Sailor Moon and DragonBall Z.  These were shows that bombed out completely in the syndicated market, but somehow caught on on the Toonami block.  Cartoon Network also started running anime late at night as part of Adult Swim.  And suddenly, the fandom had a bunch of people whose identities were not tied up in their enjoyment of a show, but in how extreme their devotion could be, what sacrifices they were willing to make.  When I was first part of the anime fandom, people like me who didn't mind (and at times, even preferred) dubbed anime were looked down on by those who only watched it subtitled so they could appreciate the subtleties of the Japanese language.  Now?  There were people who would learn Japanese for no other reason that to watch anime WITHOUT subtitles, just so they could claim they were the most devoted fans.

The influence of Gen Y became apparent with the increased popularity of harem anime and DVD companies like AD Vision releasing DVD's that featured a "jiggle counter" for every time a part of the female anatomy bounced around.  Bed sheets and body pillow covers with anime characters weren't just something odd that you thought twice before you bought, they were things you collected and showed off.  Anime figurines in blatantly sexual poses were suddenly everywhere, even if the depictions were completely out of character.  Bulleta from Darkstalkers 3, for example, is a little girl who looks like Red Riding Hood who is a mercenary and a highly destructive streak.  A figurine was created of her dressed as a loli and with anatomy that doesn't match her age.  The most notorious, however, were the girls from Neon Genesis Evangelion, a series about hopelessness and depression and dysfunction.  Suddenly, Rei and Asuka (who are only 14, I want to point out) are dressed like $5,000 a night hookers or in suggestive poses or all kinds of things that would make regular models say, "That is too exploitive."  But they are cartoon characters.  Like the song Barbie Girl, they can be made into whatever was wanted and there would be no complaints.

And this is where things went wrong.  Fandoms are united by things that, to the rest of the world, make them outcasts.  Within the fandom, there is no need to ostracize, as everybody likes the same stuff.  But the dark human impulses, for power and control and status, are still there.  And since they couldn't make fun of and abuse people for being fans of the same things they were, they needed something else to target.  Outside the fandom?  These people are victims.  Inside?  They could be the bullies.  They could be feared.

As a result, fandoms make me automatically avoid them.  Longtime readers know I am a My Little Pony -- Friendship Is Magic fan, but I have gone through great lengths to establish that I am not a Brony or a participant in the fandom in any way, shape, or form.  The Brony fandom is full of darkness and ugliness.  I have seen grown-up men shoving little girls out of the way in the toy aisle just so they can be the first to buy new merchandise.  There was the Max Veers saga, a Brony who raped an underage girl at a convention, then got his buddies to blame her and shame her off the Internet.  Competing Brony cons would covertly sabotage each other's shows.  Draw any pony as a human who is anything other than white, and people will attack you for forcing a multicultural agenda (in fact, if you really want to weep for the future, there was a long manifesto written by a guy who claimed FiM was actually a metaphor for White Pride).  Some fan artists who said pairing Applejack with Big Mac was sick had no problem pairing Twilight Sparkle with Shining Armor.  The fandom actually exists independently of the show other than a source of material.  Kind of like Five Nights At Freddy's, an entire culture has sprung up around fan impulses, even when those impulses directly contradict or have no place in the resulting creations.  And nobody in the fandom sees a problem with it.

Now, this isn't to say all fandoms are bad.  In fact, there are some very nice fandoms that I don't participate in simply because I'm not a fan of the source material.  Mario, for example -- I've never been much of a Mario fan, but it seems like the fandom is really swell and nice and welcoming.  Same with Littlest Pet Shop, they also seem to have their heads on straight.  And I've seen enough of what the Star Wars fandom has become that I'm seriously considering rejoining it.  One person posted that the armor for the new villain in the movie didn't look feminine enough, and the person in charge of the Twitter account simply said, "It's armor.  It doesn't need to be feminine."

But these are rare.  For the most part, fandoms have become competitions to be the Biggest Fan Ever, either by going to extremes ("I wear the same hernia belt Inuyasha wears!  Made it myself!") or by going hipster (if you ask a die-hard Trekkie what is wrong with the JJ Abrams movies, make sure you have a bottle of Exedrin at ready).  Humanity doesn't matter, establishing you rule and someone else sucks is the name of the game.

And it has almost killed someone.

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