On joy.

Fandom has a problem.

On one level it is not a new problem. Some years ago @jimthefish, of this parish, coined the term ARSE – A Raging Sense of Entitlement. This is the excessively possessive sense of ownership that some fans have towards the show, that goes beyond mere fannish affection and becomes a bit Mommie Dearest. There is not the tiniest shred of grasp that talents from Verity Lambert, Robert Holmes, Russell T Davies to Steven Moffat and now Chris Chibnall have poured their life force into creating a magnificent ride for us to enjoy and that we don’t own it..

Although Moffat and Davies would pay lip service to the idea the it is owned by the fans, just try making money out of their – or the BBC’s – intellectual property and see how fast M’Learned Friends show up. The ARSE-laden do not get that. So if the show does something that doesn’t fit their headcanon (in the old Usenet days called, more usefully, fanwank) they feel morally slighted and that their childhood/ family/ way of life has in some way been betrayed. It is epically childish and it is rather sad to seen people of *cough* my age acting like this. But it is also easy to mock and perhaps the lodestar of this mockery is Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.

The thing is, it is also tiring – and a surge of this sort of nonsense turned the fun and engaging comment section under The Guardian’s episode recaps into a chore, and in turn led to the creation of this place to escape such drivel.

And that was fine. A look back at the archive shows many a hammer-and-tongs argument, with no quarter given and none asked, but not a hint of ARSE. And when the ARSE-y did pop up all they found was smart fans pointing and laughing, and invariably they would slope off.

But then, but then…

A few things happened. Trump. Brexit. Three social media companies that seemed actively determined to promote confrontational and invective-laden content, turning Twitter from a great open conversation into a cesspit and YouTube from a video sharing site for geeks into a platform for Nazis. Facebook contented itself with being complicit in the corruption of democracy, but that’s a bit outside my scope today.

The twin toilet bowls of Twitter and YouTube gave voice to vile spewings that made old-fashioned ARSE look like mild disappointment that the show didn’t have quite the right colour palette this week.

It is a rancid mixed of racism, sexism and loathing for anything “other”, anything fresh, anything that deviates from the imagined and warped and perverted idea of a fantasy halcyon day. It is like they have never heard of Jo Grant, or Sarah Jane Smith or Romana or Donna Noble. The girl is not allowed to talk back, you see. For a few years this bile was largely focussed on Clara, and a few channels that really should have known better bought into the hatred because they mistook the racket for the audience. So the witless got their first small victory, which is bizarre given the extent to which Jenna Coleman and Clara rocked.

But then it got much, much worse. Black and gay Bill Potts got the hate-fuelled hackles up a bit – but the fans lover her so much that they never found much traction. And she was still just a companion.

And then Jodie Whittaker was announced as the Thirteenth Doctor.

This sent those with the economic and social insight of a toddler and the sense of entitlement of a teenager who hasn’t been allowed to use dad’s Platinum Card into a vicious, rabidly sexist, racist and anti-Enlightment frenzy.

And it is everywhere thanks to the cancerous fucking algorithms.

And once emboldened they hunt. Within minutes of The Woman Who Fell To Earth airing a crude sexist slur appeared in a post of this site as did more than one post suggesting that Segun Akinola got the music gig because he is black.

And it’s all the time.

And it sucks the joy out of the simple pleasure of kicking back and watching an episode of Doctor Who.

It’s not just Who. The bile heaped on JJ Abrams for having Rey and Finn – a girl and a black – leading Star Wars: The Force Awakens was quite mild compared to that heaped on Rian Johnson for having the brass-bound nerve to try something a bit different with The Last Jedi. And I have seen people suggest that Star Trek: Discovery isn’t “real” Star Trek because….reasons. Piss off. Of course it is. It just didn’t fondle the wailing fanboy’s warp core.

And then there was this, on Twitter, today.

I’m not talking about caustic remarks – gawd knows I’d have no standing to complain about that – but a pustulant, unrelenting, bilious hatred that makes the Dementors look like Butlins Redcoats. And it cannot be allowed to win.

So how do we fight back?

I think there are two things.

The first is to grasp that we have no obligation to allow – and, indeed, should actively resist – letting the hate-mongers dictate the terms of engagement. They have no moral standing, and we should not suck up to them the way the BBC sucks up to every far right kook it can find. There is no need to leave their posts up, but if they stay it should be as a grim warning, like a skeleton at the city gates. Mock and question their masculinity and wonder how much better they will feel when they finally meet somebody of the opposite sex. Be as obnoxious and belittling to them as you want – and then just walk away, not even looking back to inspect the damage (I may be channelling Georgie Lass from Dead Like Me a bit here).

Or just ignore it, if that’s your preferred route. That’s fine too.

The second thing is much more important anyway.

Enjoy the damned show.

Rediscover the simple, easy delight in wondering where Old Sexy is going to take you this week. Let the niggles wash over you – the slightly ‘Blue Peter segment’ feel of some of the exposition, the slightly sketchy editing in some of the early episodes, the not-quite-as-scarey-as-they-should-have-been spiders – let them disappear like tears in rain. YES I WENT THERE. WHAT YOU GUNNA DO ABOUT IT?

Enjoy the show. Revel in Thirteen. Will Ryan to confront his illness and overcome, yearn for Yaz to find her mission in life and Graham to find some peace to go with his world-weary wisdom. And notice how the editing has improved since the early episodes, and that the new Tardis interior is actually pretty damned fresh, new and unlike anything before and that that is what makes this show so fucking great that it came back from the dead.

And be loud and proud about it.


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  1. @pedant

    Great blog and I almost whole-heartedly concur. I’ve pretty much written myself out on this subject back on the other thread so I won’t say much more here, except that I think you’re right that the current timbre of fan discussion is a knock-on from Trump, Brexit and the general rise of social media.

    Another factor is also that fan cultures suddenly found themselves going mainstream. Back in the 70s or 80s, no one really much cared what the dweebs were into. It was just too marginal. Now with Marvel, DC, Game of Thrones, and Who etc, we are the mainstream and as such we start to attract the sort of loons who used to be more exercised by rock stars corrupting the morals of the nation’s youth etc.

    There’s also an element of defensiveness, I think, as fandoms have started having to confront just how damn white and male their obsessions are. Who, Trek and Star Wars have traditionally had serious issues with race and have, I suspect, been seen by some fans as havens where they don’t have to confront troubling issues of representation and race. That creators are now making them do so, just stirs up discomfort and guilt I think. (I’m reminded of when John Peel berated his listeners for the sheer whiteness of the Festive 50 one year and how he faced a backlash from them for having the temerity to call them out on it.)

    (Oh, and anyone who doesn’t consider Discovery the best new Star Trek for, like, years is a fool, in my book.)

  2. Really enjoyed reading that, I had to look up the insult that was thrown here (on the first episode discussion) and was bloody irritated when reading the explanation.

    I think the anonymity of user names also allows Those Who Anger The Social-minded to engage in full ARSE as they are no consequences.

    Thanks for taking the time to think, write and post your blog

  3. Just read this for the first time — I’d missed it, somehow.  That’s a nice clear summary of what we’ve seen happen, here and elsewhere.

  4. Thanks @Pedant, on point as usual.

    I’ve particularly noticed the sudden proliferation of toxic YouTube videos that keep popping up in the “suggestions” bit. I wish I knew how to stop them. YT used to be a fun rabbit hole to disappear into, but the new algorithms make it more of a slimy nightmare dungeon. They always start with the classic “I’m not a racist/sexist/homophobe/etc, but…” I clicked on a couple and then had to go and have a shower, and wash my brain! The particularly annoying thing is that these are monetised accounts, which are earning dosh for spewing out toxic clickbait.

    Anyway – well said, and we keep fighting the good fight in here, and prove that it doesn’t have to be like that.

    Your comment, “made old-fashioned ARSE look like mild disappointment” made me laugh. (Although just a point, it was me who came up with the acronym, from @JimtheFish‘s phrase. Ahem! (We all have our touchy points!) 🙂

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