The definition of community includes ideas of common goals, common ideas and common values. I don’t think this fandom has a lot of that, to be honest. I can’t see anyone calling it a community with any sort of coherence.
One could argue that this is indeed a community, because of common goals, particularly the fanfic section, as we all want to see (at least on Fanfic.net) Sookie and Eric get together. I think though, that this is a lie. A portion of writers want to see themselves with Eric – they just call themselves Sookie to avoid any confusion and get readers. A portion of readers want the same, and often offer themselves to fictional Eric in reviews, even though the odds that he’d want a copy of a fangbanger from his world are zilch.
So if that common goal is scuppered, what do we have that recommends this as a community at all?
Fanfic.net in particular is such a weird little world, and reminds me of why I don’t tend to go after too many female friends. That’s not to say that I haven’t found some awesome women over time, and that I haven’t found awesome women in the fanfic section of this fandom – I have. I’ve tended to make friends with the people I review (just because my reviews often create a dialogue) and since I’ve been using Twitter, with people who don’t write, but read.
I was popular all the way through school – for some inexplicable reason, people really liked me. I’ve never thought I was particularly pretty, and I definitely wasn’t a nice person. Being popular means all too often that you are at heart a nasty person. Part of being popular is eschewing the uncool and the untrendy, the ones who don’t tow the popular line. Popular means absolutely not standing up for what you believe in – but being political enough to understand that you don’t have a right to voice a different opinion. But most importantly, being popular in school spoiled me completely for being popular for the rest of my life. It is so much nothing to me now.
Here in the online world, like in the world of high school, the ‘popular’ groups tend to use a lot of bullying. I often enjoy the irony when they campaign against internet bullying when it’s their friends being picked on. They don’t carry the cause at random, certainly. They’ll happily bitch about a person who doesn’t review them the “right” way – publicly. They won’t stand up for the small time writer, but they’ll go out of their way for their mates. They don’t stand up for the reader and reviewer – they’ll have a go at them for not doing it right. Their input – unless it’s tongue firmly in arse – has absolutely no use to them. I have zero respect for the supposed need for niceness in the fandom – it’s used to bully people so that they will tow the popular line.
Here’s a personal example – the “Don’t like it, don’t read it” policy. What a load of crap that thing is. It’s not applied equally, by any means. I was told, when I suggested that people should feel free to report a fic if they wanted to, that everything was relative; that the policy was as such. But that’s not really the policy. Upset the popular group enough, and they will leave you bad reviews. They will harangue you by PM, and failing that, pal up to you in reviews and elsewhere so that in future, you do as you’re told. Their hope is that you crave their approval so much that you tow the popular line and stop upsetting them.
What’s worse? I’ve heard the gossip about myself – the recent gossip (in that this isn’t the first time it’s happened to me, yay?) from multiple sources – and I know that the popular group contains people lower than pond scum. Assassinating my character isn’t enough – my children and their disabilities are not off-limits to these amoral scumbuckets. I get that there are people who don’t like me, but they’re so low, they just can’t fucking keep it above the belt. I learnt a very valuable lesson from this – that there are no depths that some people won’t sink to when they’re butthurt over fanfic, and in my future net endeavours, I won’t be putting my children up for ridicule and cruelty. The ‘niceness’ policy doesn’t exist to do right by people like me, and treat me with common human decency, so I have no respect for it.
So what’s that policy there for? Why is this such an important thing? The reason – it’s to support the prevailing populist viewpoint, controlled by a few people. It’s not there to help writers, or help readers. It’s merely to get you to shut up, until you’re told to, to control your view until they need you to unleash it against someone not in the group. It’s not cool to complain and badger someone that goes around chatting to the popular group, but it’s totally fine to get on the plagiariser, or the person who hurt the popular groups’ feelings. That’s when they unleash the private communiqués and there is a whole heap of dogpiling to get writers or readers to just conform and do as they’re told.
Having seen the victims before – and been a victim myself – those who won’t bend are the targets. Their character is assassinated, and all talk of “say it to my face” and thoughts of keeping things positive is so much bullshit. Unfortunately, I know stuff isn’t said to my face – by those who scream “say it to my face” at the top of their lungs. How else do they hope to get me to conform later if they go around spewing their bile to my face? More importantly, how else can they maintain the illusion that they’re someone worthy of respect if they do it out in the open where everyone can see what a true shitheel they are?
Those who bend will get the approval of the popular group, and start being included in stuff – almost always against someone else. That’s the way it works – if you want to be popular, wait for a time of crisis and hop on the bandwagon. It doesn’t require you to say much more than “Hells yeah” and you’re in. Right now, in some circles, I am your ticket in baby – if popularity matters to you, now is the time to go lower than a snake’s belly. Your readership will increase, you’ll get more empty reviews, and all will be well. Or you know, as well as it can be when you’re sacrificing your pride, self respect, beliefs and getting empty reviews. If you play along, you can write the biggest load of shit, and your friends will review it. But I would hazard if you’re willing to use this stuff as your ticket in, you’ve sacrificed all that stuff already.
Now, before you think I’m down on all the people in this fandom, let me say that this is not the case. I have found some people I respect immensely, who do as they think, and do their level best to actually participate and create a community. I’m sure that there are one or two people out there who didn’t think targeting my kids was the right thing to do – and stood up for their own moral character rather than for me. It’s just a shame that I don’t think it was many, and that the more likely thing is to spread that the absolute bullshit going around a little bit more. Mainly because it’s been multiple sources who’ve brought it to me – not one.
All of this merely serves to create an insular culture, not a community. I say that there is no community in this community – not overall. There are merely pockets, where people are fair to all, and participate. “Community” is only ever pulled out when it is in favour of one particular person – it does not work for the small time writer who wants some thoughtful feedback, it does not work for the reader, and it does not work for those who just won’t fall in line. It serves only to prop up those who have a large group of friends, who control the dominant ideas, and who use community as a bludgeon to bash you into line.
Every single time I see the ‘popular’ group in action – and I do watch, sociologist that I am – I see the same patterns, and it makes me so thankful that I have learned the real value of not being popular and being myself, even if that self doesn’t get ‘liked’. The value that I don’t use my friends to abuse those with none, that I’m happy to chat to every single person who chats to me, that I don’t tow the popular line, that I can write here whatever it is I feel like because I don’t have a gag order. What they say about me only makes them a nasty and mean person who will stoop so low as to target my kids. I feel sorry for those so constrained by the popular groupthink that they can’t ever be authentic real people and they certainly can’t be good people no matter what bullshit lies they tell themselves.
My warning to those who post comments here – this post or any other – is this: if you don’t want to be tarred with the same brush the pond scum is using on me – and have absolute lies told about you, go anonymous. If you want to be able to use the cloak of community as a shield, then I suggest you don’t sign your comments. “peppermintyrose” is as anonymous as “anon”. I won’t mind one single bit – it’s certainly better than succumbing to the vagaries of whatever the pond scum feel like saying under the guise of protecting and informing the “community”.