Back in 2014, webcomic creator and artist Adam Ellis posted an installment of a then-ongoing webcomic titled “Shhh” showing a guy fed up with his friend mocking his interest in sports. He pinches his friend’s mouth shut and says, “Shhh. Let people enjoy things.” Those two panels went on to become widely used as “reaction images” across the internet, shaping the way that we talk to people about what we like, especially when it comes to fandom. While the sentiment might make sense in a specific situation, the net effect isn’t great.
The context of Ellis’ comic gets lost when it’s divorced from the first panel. Instead of being about a guy tired of his friend putting down the thing he likes, it’s now about shutting down everyone who has a critical opinion. Because if you dislike something, no matter how or where you do it, that’s positioned as the same thing as pushing into someone else’s space to shut them down or make them feel bad about what they like. It’s positioned as an attack, which means that things like horrific backlash for speaking about things like… criticism of fandom being good for fandom? That’s not harassment. To them, it’s self defense.
There’s this great meme featuring a panel from The Simpsons where there’s a pamphlet that says “So you’ve decided to internalize any general critique of art you enjoy as a personal slight”. (You can see the meme below and please check out Sasha Devlin’s thread because it sure is relevant thread on what Romancelandia is going through on Twitter.)
I cannot stand “Let People Like Things” culture because of the way the people screeching that don’t offer respect to other people who like different things or who offer measured critique. They don’t let other people like things or critique them because everything is about their thing and them as people and so if they’re taking things personally, they’re gonna make sure you do too. Because they’re gonna go after you personally.
I got my friend Odawel to talk about one of the big things they learned from the Fire Emblem fandom and how it speaks to the way that white people in fandom can miss big bad issues in plots on their way to stanning certain characters!
When I say I’m a diehard Fire Emblem fan, I mean it. I’ve played almost every single one, most of them upwards of twenty full playthroughs, and I could probably recite the entirety of Path of Radiance to someone line by line if I was pushed.
That’s why when I heard about the combat changes for Fire Emblem Three Houses, I held off. I wasn’t sure I wanted to play something that altered the core game mechanics, but then one of my white friends told me, “Hey, I played it, and it’s definitely different, but it’s still a Fire Emblem game. And let me tell you. You’re going to love Dimitri.”
Head on over to Teen Vogue to read my latest Fan Service installment “On Fanfiction, Fandom, and Why Criticism Is Healthy” where I look at the ways that fandom’s instinctive pushback against criticism affects fans in fandom – not just external critics who maybe don’t “get” nuances of fandom cultures.
It’s not censorship or bullying to point out that there are issues in different fandom spaces that require some updated approaches. For example: “Don’t Like, Don’t Read” and “Your Kink Is Not My Kink” are phrases used in fandom to let people know that they should take care of themselves by not reading content they find objectionable based on a matter of different taste. But neither of those phrases are good responses when fans come up against bigotry in fanworks. Telling someone to “just ignore” transmisogyny, ableism, or open antiblackness in fanfiction isn’t just unhelpful; it’s unkind.
I love critique as a mode of expression and meta fandom works are among my favorite outside of well… literally anything to do with Omegaverse. February’s first column was born out of a deep desire to get people thinking critically about why fandom isn’t down with criticism even from people inside of it. Not every critique of fandom is in bad faith or an attempt at censorship/controlling the average fan and assuming they all are – especially when marginalized people are talking about things in fandom that harm us on purpose or accidentally – isn’t a good way to go about things.
Anyway, please go check out the latest installment of Fan Service and feel free to share the piece with interested friends and fans!
The original thread is here but I have blocked tons of people to maintain my boundaries so I have copied the tweets over here for ease of access for people who still want to see the tweets but can’t because I’ve blocked them for whatever reason.
Like I absolutely get the sentiment behind “all fanfiction is okay” but I also have seen many antiblack stories across my lifetime in fandom where black characters are abused/objectified/enslaved/torn down usually by/for white characters-
And those stories AREN’T okay, friends. Like the sentiment “all fanfiction is okay” (like it’s fine, don’t worry about it, women are making it so let them have their fun) is one of those Lil Fandom Things that makes me wonder…
Do people realize that they’re leaving out a lot of people in those sentiments?Read More »