I understand the irony of writing about this here, but then again it’s also maybe the most appropriate place to write it: Fandoms aren’t particularly healthy even when they aren’t toxic, and most of them get that way and stay that way no matter what. People like to pretend fandom was unified once, and can be unified again, but fandom isn’t for unification. Fandom is literally for dividing and conquering, for attaching a value to your love of fiction and measuring it against others to say “this way is better.” Fandom is taking something mostly unimportant and largely frivolous - movies, toys, cartoons, games, etc - and building a political structure around it. It’s politics for people uncomfortable with the idea of entering politics. To be an active part of a fandom is to purposefully shrink and warp perspective until you feel comfortable - and powerful - in how your fandom makes you a more capable being.
And I don’t believe in the sort of “true fan” stuff people throw around, that says older fans are better than younger ones, or fans who know more trivia are more valued than the ones who string together 60 different memes and catchphrases in their inaugural live-tweets of the movies. But I do think there’s a difference between being a fan, and being part of a fandom. Being a fan can still be healthy, and fun. Being part of a fandom is when you start substituting large pieces of who you are and what you could be for having status within a “community” built on something fundamentally unsuited for mental health. Being part of a fandom is trying to take what is at its core an unhealthy obsession and transform it by repetition and constant practice into something beneficial to yourself and others.
While there are notable exceptions to that, truth is it almost never works, and most people who have voluntarily entered any fandom would be hard-pressed to show an example of how devoting time and energy to their fandom has actually improved their love of Star Wars. Most frequently, all it adds is stress, and disillusionment, and disappointment, and that negativity is almost always due not to the movies themselves, but to everything else surrounding it. Once you shift your focus from watching a movie to enjoy it, to watching it so you can transform it into content for yourself to take to a forum, or to social media, to convert your enjoyment into likes and replies and reactions and retweets and virality, it’s only a matter of time. Once fandom, which was already a shoddy replacement for community civics, became an economy unto itself, a thing you can monetize for personal benefit or even a job in media, it was all over.
Videos like the one above are helpful because they point out the grifting being done in the name of “fandom” at its ugliest, they point out that people can amass huge audiences in a fandom, and profit off those audiences, without ever having proved they even like the thing they’re dedicating all their time to. They can be seen as a very useful wake-up call for people wondering why they devote so much of who they are to these pursuits, when it doesn’t seem to make them like a thing more than the millions upon millions of other people who have never once even thought to join a forum or tweet about Star Wars, much less build a whole persona around it. In fact it seems to make them angrier and more frustrated way more often.
But for all the useful information in that video, it neglects the basic fact that “fandom” itself is a grift, selling people the lie that obsessing over fictional things whose creation is completely out of your control is a positive, healthy way to live. Fandom is grass-roots marketing at its purest, the belief that opting to be walking commercials for someone else’s art can be spiritually rewarding. That you can build meaningful, healthy relationships out of that shared obsession, and that the world can be made a better, more manageable, more interesting place by simply mixing consumerism with love and letting the two impulses inform one another.
Being a fan of things makes sense, is understandable, and mostly harmless. But there’s a problem with toxic fandom because the societal construct that is modern fandom is, itself, toxic.
Anyway, I like Star Wars, I like talking about it with people, and I like talking about it with people in small, quiet places, because talking about it with people in larger ones is an exercise in harvesting anger and frustration pretty much 100% of the time.