Meme-ing For A Reason #17: No Critical Engagement, Just Compliments

The “No Take, Only Throw” meme where the dog (representing fandom) first asks people to “Please engage meaningfully”. When A hand reaches out to take the ball/engage meaningfully, the fandom-dog says “No critical engagement! Only compliment!!”

There’s a tweet blowing up right now that asks people to “talk about arbitrary things in fics that make you not want to read them”:

While most of the quotes are fine (mine was about my whole thing about insta-pregnancy symptoms or poorly written kids in kid-fic, but I’m also anti ____-nette for hair colors), there’s one that caught my eye because of how entitled it was. I won’t link to it because it’s already being clowned on, but it basically was like “i hope y’all know your favorite authors are reading these threads, seeing something they do/did once, and thinking they shouldn’t ever write again”.

First of all, the tweet and the comments that followed were just about minor petty things. We are allowed to be petty about things and we’re allowed to say “I don’t like this” about stuff in fandom. As long as we’re not bringing it to the author, things should be fine?

Here’s a list of things that I do not like/will stop reading a fic over:

  • People wearing their outdoor shoes indoors especially if they’re in an East Asian country
  • Someone having pink nipples when I know they don’t have pink nipples (this is RPF specific, sorry)
  • When people say “____-nette” instead of “blue-haired” or whatever
  • Someone drinks one beer and is drunk drunk
  • When a writer does a story that’s just a block of text with no line breaks
  • Hybrid AUs where hybrid characters are pet-like
  • Zombies (I don’t even start those stories, actually)
  • Stories set in Florida or the Virgin Islands that are inaccurate to my experiences. 

None of these are directed at any of these authors and so, no authors should be offended by me expressing myself on a meme.

Except, this is a constant in fandom, because those memes asking for folks’ opinions, are very popular. Someone posts a meme asking for folks’ opinions on fic, and once it’s provided… “have you thought about how an author who writes [thing] could see this and then feel bad”. But it’s coming from people who explicitly say that they and other writers don’t need to and shouldn’t be expected to tailor their fic content to protect people who they don’t know and whose triggers are none of their concerns (which I do agree with to an extent). 

If you’re not expected to write for strangers in your fic (fine!! Great!! Don’t do that!!), why do strangers have to cater their tweets in order to appeal to writers they don’t know? I shouldn’t have to keep from saying “yeah I’m not a fan of omegaverse with fuck or die scenarios” because it’ll hurt some random writer’s feelings. I am not a fan of that specific thing, it’s not a YOU issue. 

I’ve had people come for my fiction before. When I wrote fan fiction, people used to bug me for not writing what they wanted. They didn’t like my ships or how I wrote them. They thought I was “gross” or writing characters “out of character” — I was not, I am so anal about the characterization I use, which is why I don’t really write fic now. Even now, I’ll get someone quote tweeting my original omegaverse content to let me know that they think I’m a terrible, awful, mess of a person who shouldn’t be trusted to talk about racism.

It’s not fun, but it also… doesn’t matter to me in the long run. 

And that’s with people directly coming for me/what I write. 

When someone says, on their own, that they don’t like omegaverse or they think hybrid AUs are weird, I can’t be bothered to be offended? I don’t know these people. I don’t know why they dislike those tropes and I frankly do not care. When people talk about the tropes they like or dislike, it’s something extremely personal to them. When I say I don’t like “fuck or die” omegaverse concepts, it has nothing to do with the people who write it. It has everything to do with my thresholds and what I’m willing to put myself through.

Fandom hinges on several “rules” (more on that in an upcoming post) and one of the big ones is “don’t like, don’t read”. However, it’s clear that if you do that thing, you can’t talk. You can’t say “so I’m not a fan of kid fic personally because I don’t like how kids are often written” without someone yelling that they’ve actually harmed a stranger who writes children poorly. If I say I’m not a fan of purity culture in omegaverse – an actual issue in the field – there are people who act like I a) don’t write my own and b) I’m hurting a stranger by saying that. 

It is very concerning and frustrating that the people who insist that fanfic writers have no responsibility to anyone else… also insist that random people on the internet have to tailor their tweets to meet the needs of people they do not know.

You can’t have it all ways at once.

If you’re not writing for fic readers – which, I guess you don’t have to – then you can’t expect fic readers to write for you. At the same time you’re saying that you don’t have to tailor your content for randoms, you’re out here saying that randoms have to tailor their content for you? Wild. 

A little while ago, in my column for Teen Vogue, I wrote about the concept of “Let People Like Things” culture and how bad it is for fandom and the internet. In that article, I said that:

Your average person in fandom doesn’t just want their favorite thing to be free from criticisms by other fans in their mentions bugging them out of nowhere. They also don’t want experts talking about the issue, and they’re not afraid to use “Let People Like Things” alongside their weaponized identity (as women, queer people, even people of color at times) to shut down conversations about genuine issues, or even idle criticism. If “Let People Like Things” culture was really for everyone, people would be allowed to participate in criticism of fandom and media, much less like and share it. But that’s not what fandom is like in truth.

To be clear: “Let People Like Things” culture is bad for the internet, cultural criticism, media, and fandom as a whole because of how this approach to popular culture turns all criticism into a conflict or an attack. It’s a form of anti-intellectualism to frame all criticism as “bad faith” b*tching from the haters, even when it comes to issues of racism or other forms of bigotry.

We are told that it is harmful to mention when fandom is bigoted or full of bullies. We’re hurting people by saying “i don’t like ____” in any capacity… but it’s not harmful for fandom to be full of people who say with their entire chests that racism is integral to queer fandom? Okay. We’re told that antis are a hive-mind forcing people to think and act the same way or else they’re punished, but then fandom overall punishes people for not sucking up to the status quo… If you’re not allowed to say “I don’t like ___” without people yelling at you, well…

What even is fandom but a place contingent on a horrific hive mind?

I’m tired of people pulling this crap on us. If fandom is supposed to be a space where we take fan fiction and creativity seriously, it should also be a space where we can just say “hey, i don’t like ____ because ___” as long as we’re not directing that critique at the author to hurt them.

If we’re not allowed to complain and are in fact punished for it… fandom isn’t exactly a safe space… or one that cares all that much for actual free speech. 

Just saying. 

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