I’m not a fan of the term “toxic fandom.” There is nothing toxic about having opinions, and there is nothing toxic about people who disagree with those opinions.
Who’s the most toxic fandom in kpop is a question that has been asked many times. It is an interesting question, but it does not always yield the correct answer.
Even five days later, the “fallout” from my Star Trek Day blog post is still going on…on Facebook, in the comments area of that site, and even through e-mail. In fact, after hearing of my enthusiasm for the new Trek series from my closest buddy, he was vehement in his opposition to the new Star Trek approach.
You may call it Star Trek if you want, but it doesn’t make it so! Okay, it’s a little Trek, but it’s actually just terrible television, forget about bad Star Trek. Poor script, bad acting, and bad direction. To me, it’s unwatchable. Even if I had never watched Trek, I would not watch it because it falls short of my expectations for everything else.
Yeesh! So, in the hopes of persuading him to alter his mind, I gave him something I was very excited about: the just released teaser for the brand new animated series Star Trek: Prodigy…
My friend was not pleased after seeing it…
Terrible. No matter how many classic Trek actors are cast in the program, it will never be recognized as Star Trek. It’s all about little children, idiotic aliens, action, and spectacular effects. It’s not about people, and it’s devoid of intellectualism and depth. It has nothing in do with Star Trek.
To my buddy, I joked that I was a Star Trek “liberal” and he was a Star Trek “conservative.” This holds true in real-life politics as well. He’s voted for Trump and other Republican presidential candidates for decades (while he just left the Republican party and re-registered as an Independent, he’s still a conservative), and I’ve voted for Democrats since I was 18 years old. Despite this, we’re great friends…we simply have frequent political disagreements. Yes, people, it IS possible!
However, with relation to Star Trek, I was using the words “liberal” and “conservative” not in a political sense, but in a literal one…as in the dictionary definitions of each word. Liberal literally means “not limited by conventional patterns, open to new ideas.” When it comes to Star Trek, I’m just like that. Discovery has a love/hate relationship with me, and I believe Picard performed well for eight episodes before going off the rails in the last two episodes of its first season (and the villains totally sucked). But, as I’ve said in many blog entries, I remain open to and supportive of the different new shows.
Conservatives, on the other hand, are “inclined or disposed to preserve current ideas, circumstances, or institutions.” When it comes to Star Trek these days, that’s my buddy (and many others). And it was those “conservative” fans who believed Star Trek had to be about Kirk and Spock (or maybe Captain Sulu) and 23rd-century adventures, not a bald French captain with an English accent flying about on a spaceship that looked like a pregnant duck in the 24th century.
In short, my buddy Scotty is gazing at the USS Excelsior and says, “Aye, and my grandma would be a wagon if she had wheels.” And I’m Kirk, and I’m saying, “Now, now, Mr. Scott… Fresh ideas come from youthful brains. “Be patient.”
So now that I’ve walked on not just the third rail of Star Trek (whether the new CBS series is good or terrible) but also the third rail of politics, I’m going for the hat trick and stepping on the third third rail of religion to piss off just about everyone reading this!
The following editorial was written late on Saturday night (about 2 a.m.) since I couldn’t sleep and needed to catch up on blog comments. One remark, made by a man who goes by the moniker “Cap’n Calhoun,” may be read in its entirety here. But it’s his last paragraph that I’d like to share…
Your critiques of the series as well as the fan videos are refreshing. You don’t have an unrealistically optimistic or unrelentingly negative attitude about either, and you’ve come up with some intriguing observations. (Last year, I really like your analysis of how the Lower Decks characters correspond to different fan types.) You maintain the upbeat attitude that one would expect from a fan of an upbeat series, but you’re not wearing rose-colored glasses. You may offer constructive criticism without being a downer to those who disagree. Please continue to do so.
I wasn’t planning on writing anything complex, but sometimes the inspiration simply sings to you at two in the morning. So that was (most of) my response…
I think that, like politics and religion, the issue with today’s Star Trek (and sci-fi) fandom comes from two fundamental facts about people in general:
1) We have a strong sense of entitlement. 2) We hate being incorrect.
The majority of individuals aren’t unselfish. In reality, we have a tendency to be extremely self-centered and think that we are entitled to better. Some of us are motivated to work more, while others are motivated to complain (or both!). However, we believe that our wants should be met whether it comes to government, religion, or Star Trek. Because we worship Him/Her/It/Them, we pray to God, Zeus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and that should count for something, right? Because we pay such large taxes, the government should repair this or that. Star Trek should be fantastic because we deserve it after all the time, money, and devotion we devote to it.
We have a sense of entitlement.
The need to be correct is a completely human trait. Religions have clashed over the need to be correct. This nation is presently ripping itself apart politically because Democrats and Republicans can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that both sides may be somewhat accurate and partially incorrect.
The issue with having to be right is that when someone else disagrees with you, your “certainty” is called into question. Consider religion. If you and others think that the only way to paradise is to take Jesus Christ into your heart as your lord and savior, then a Jew like myself presents a dilemma. Simply because I think differently, I’m prepared to risk my eternal soul and burn in the flames of hell for all eternity. Why would anybody make such a decision? Why would I risk everlasting damnation just because I don’t want to love Jesus? Is it really so difficult? Why would Jonathan chose to take such a risky step? After all, he’s a shrewd individual (or seems to be). Why take unnecessary risks when it’s so simple to convert from Judaism to Christianity? It’s not just me, either. If the majority of Christians (a fraction of the world’s population) are correct, billions of non-Christians, including Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and many more, will be shut out of paradise as well.
That is why many religions work so hard to convert others to their way of thinking: the more individuals who do not share that view, the more doubt (even in the deepest recesses of one’s mind) that “Hmmmm, am I really right about all of this?” arises. Doubt is, and always has been, the natural adversary of faith.
If attempting to convert the non-believer doesn’t work, the “go to” option is to 1) hold even tighter to your own beliefs (as many of you who are currently typing impassioned replies to my remark about Jesus and Christianity are doing right now), and/or 2) condemn and throw away the non-believer. After all, someone who does not share your beliefs must not be a decent person, because you are clearly one. So you point out all of their faults, use the “gotcha” card whenever possible, insult them, and perhaps resort to confrontation and/or physical assault. (I’m not talking about YOU, but rather the idea of “you.”) In politics, the same thing occurs… Especially in the past ten years or so.
With atrocities like the Nazi holocaust and terrorist Islamic fanaticism, tribalism has been pushed to extremes spiritually… Politically, there was the Civil War, bigotry and intolerance in America, and even the current January 6 uprising.
Fans’ reactions to the new Star Trek series have been a bit more moderate. While no one is erecting a gallows and screaming, “Hang Alex Kurtzman!” the language and hatred on the internet has definitely been cranked up to 11. And why is that? We want to be correct; we have to be correct! As a result, we seek out people who share our viewpoints—in fandom, religion, and politics. We read the “correct” blogs, listen to the “correct” podcasts, join the “correct” Facebook groups, and watch the “correct” news networks. And we bemoan and denigrate the “other.”
That is why, for many fans who rage against CBS, the reasons are impassioned and unequivocal, leaving little space for the idea that the new Star Trek is anything other than utter trash and an affront to all previous greatness. In other words, they adhere to their views even more tenaciously, often hurling obscenities not just against CBS, but also at anybody who disagrees and really shows some sympathy for the other viewpoint.
Granted, it doesn’t affect everyone…thank god! Even though I awoke a swarm of hornets on Facebook last week, the overwhelming majority of them had better things to do. And not everyone is a political junkie or a devout follower of the Bible. In terms of religion, I’m a “Whateverist” who doesn’t give a damn what other people think. And I’m not going to criticize or call someone a name just because they don’t like the new Star Trek. However, for some people, the need to be right and to compel others to agree with you, or risk being despised and humiliated, is very powerful. Poisonous fandom, toxic religion, and toxic politics are the consequence. It isn’t beautiful, but it is…unfortunately…very human.
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