Toxic Fandom is a topic in our current quarterly report, which you can download here.

The feeling of connecting with a movement, an entertainment franchise, or a trend can be a powerful experience when you become emotionally invested. The passion and unprecedented access that exists for IPs in 2018 has the potential to capture attention at all hours of the day, thanks to social media and mobile technologies.

The obsession here stems from fans’ perceived complete knowledge of their beloved franchises—it’s as though knowing every detail empowers them to feel as if they own a piece of their respective favorite franchises. However, that feeling of ownership does not always lead to positive communication.

A term describes about 45% of what I see on Twitter is “toxic fandom.” This is what one could call the invested fans of a series (or “stans”) who give often hateful, degrading opinions on what they think should be occurring in their favorite show/franchise. This could be anything from little corrections to large, thought-out paragraphs that have been posted for followers and everyone else to see. This act of negative energy is ultimately aimed at discrediting the creator by insinuating that a fan is more capable of continuing the success of their own creation.

An example of prevalent toxic fandom is when director James Mangold recently had to defend fellow director Rian Johnson from a portion of the Star Wars fanbase—a group that continues to try and denigrate Johnson over his choices in The Last Jedi. Mangold echoed a sentiment that has become a rallying cry for people in the entertainment industry: If you continue to be a toxic fandom, you will drive anyone with an ounce of creativity and talent away from your beloved properties.

His point is that Star Wars, a beloved series that has been around longer than I’ve been alive, is under fire for progressive decisions made in the newest movie of the saga. This is a perfect example of classic fans unable to accept change as it occurs with passing time.

The creative brain behind a given series or franchise is quite likely the reason the consumer loved it in the first place—so, why make a public effort to burn their hard work if it’s not exactly what one expected? Their ideas were what hooked you, and their intention is to keep you loving their work, not to push you away. That, then, is the question we must ask ourselves when thinking about toxic fandom.

In my opinion, the beauty of following a series or franchise is the unexpected aspects of it. If it were mainstream and predictable, the creativity—the reason you loved it in the first place—is no longer present. It is easy to forget that writers and filmmakers are human, too, and that the purpose of their life’s work is to thrill and inspire. Discrediting someone you once supported wholeheartedly over a surprising turn of events may poison other loyal followers that might otherwise be unwavering in their support for what they love, even through ups and downs. Just ask any Justin Bieber fan.

The more recent controversy over toxic fandom is establishing a new status quo—one in which loyal fans are hesitant to speak up because of all their negative counterparts. So think before you post, because your harsh comments may do more damage than you intended. Pessimistic energy equals pessimistic reviews. Too many of these critical comments could result in the cancellation of the franchise that you loved so dearly.
Before spreading the toxic, cynical side of a fandom, picture this source of entertainment and inspiration in your life gone for good. Praising others’ work where it is needed is necessary to fuel the creative world we live in. Second chances are a good thing for those under a spotlight.

Maybe before being so critical or jumping to conclusions, try to see the project through the eyes of the author/writer/director—that person who evoked so much devotion in you in the first place, and proceed with grace when it comes to your reviews.

Otherwise, you might be left with nothing to criticize at all.

Toxic Fandom is a topic in our current quarterly report, which you can download here.

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