So I got involved in a discussion on a Stargate fandom page online. The topic was the much debated Stargate Universe series. Some people stated that they liked it, others (including myself) stated that we didn’t like it. The conversation was going pretty well until someone posted the following “You are not a true fan of Stargate unless you’ve watched all of Stargate Universe.” Now this was a statement that I really had to respond to as I’ve heard this “True Fan” comment before and it bugs me a lot. Rant Mode On: I think this meme said it best.
As most of you know (or have probably guessed), I’m a fan of a large number of science fiction and fantasy franchises. And there are some shows that I have not found entertaining. I could never get into the Buffy and Angel series no matter how hard I tried. It seemed like every time I sat down to give The X-Files a chance while it was first airing, it turned out to be the episode of the season with the most blood. There are other series, movies, comics and books that I just couldn’t get into. Some I will talk about in future blog posts.
Even in my favorite franchises, there are stinkers. I’ve only seen the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise once. And I only plan to watch it once again (to mine it for quotes and trivia questions) before I avoid it at all costs afterwards. If someone would have had the misfortune of having that episode be their first introduction to the Star Trek universe, I could understand why they may not like Enterprise or even Star Trek itself. They get to decide what they are fans of, not me nor anyone else.
Using the term “True Fan” is a form of Gatekeeping. Gatekeeping, in the fandom/hobby sense, is allowing only those the “true fans” deem worthy to join them in the fandom. They may use this to keep fans of a certain series in a franchise out of their club/social media group/etc. (i.e. “You can’t be a true Star Trek fan if you like Star Trek: Discovery), or they may use this to keep certain players out of their games (i.e. “You can’t play in our Battletech game with papers figures, you have to only play with painted figs). A note on this last one. A sanctioned tournament for a miniature or card game requiring certain items to use in the tournament is a method of marketing and sales, not gatekeeping. And one I see in cosplay groups is, your cosplay isn’t worthy of inclusion. Really? With how much time, energy and effort goes into cosplay you are going to get upset because it’s not “screen accurate”? Someone who puts their heart into their fandom doesn’t deserve to get it crushed.
Gatekeeping by “true fans” makes the base of participants smaller and could kill our fandoms. You never know what was someone’s introduction to the fandom or hobby. While I was manning the USS Ticonderoga recruiting booth during the opening weekend of Star Trek: Into Darkness, a new fan came up to me and stated that the previous Star Trek film had inspired him so much that he went and watched all of the original Star Trek television series. He was now a fan of the franchise itself and was checking out the other shows. Had he been talking to a “true fan”, he could have been discouraged by the belittlement and not checked out the rest of the universe that awaited him.
It’s not just geeky movies and hobbies that his plagued by this. I’ve seen this same “true fan” mentality in sports fandom. “You can’t be a true fan of the (insert team name here) unless you can name a player from their 2009 championship run.” As our Dwight meme says above: “False!”
Now when someone asks a question like “Is the new Superman & Lois television series any good?” I usually respond somewhere along the line of “I’ve enjoyed it.” If I found that I haven’t been a fan of a series, I state that it is something I haven’t enjoyed. If someone says they enjoyed a series that I have not, then I’m glad. Not everyone has to enjoy what I enjoy. I request the same respect in return. The “I’ve enjoyed it” answer is also how I avoid the bait posts where someone is trying to start an opportunity to troll fans of a series.
So to recap, if you were to say to me “I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of the anime Cowboy Bebop and enjoyed it, am I a fan?” my answer would be yes. If you asked if you wanted to cosplay as a gender-bended Robin Hood and his band of thieves in the Sherwood Forest, would I consider you a fan? My answer would still be yes. “I really like Real Salt Lake because they are a local team.” I’d say welcome to the fandom. Would I shun you if you only wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition? No, I would not and I even might ask if there is an opening in your game. You get to decide if you are a fan of something, not these “true fans.” Enjoy what you want to enjoy and don’t let anyone tear you down for it.
Now to get back to the Stargate Universe discussion. I really enjoyed the original Stargate movie ever since I first saw it on opening weekend. It took me a while to get a chance to sit down and watch Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, but I enjoyed them both to the point where I call myself a fan. Because I had enjoyed both of these series so much, I took the opportunity to get season one, disk one DVD of Stargate Universe from Netflix (this should tell you how long ago this was) and my wife and I watched the first five episodes. There was one good episode in that first set (it was about time travel). I liked the nerdy kid who’s name I can’t remember. I really wanted to follow Samantha Carter in command of the USS Hamond and see her adventures. And I thought the concept of being trapped on a living spaceship not under your control sounded interesting. But I found the writing in SGU horrendous. The acting really wasn’t up to snuff despite some good names on the acting list. The use of the tech to switch bodies to go back to Earth and spy on your ex-wife was dumb. It was dark, dreary and depressing and was practically a soap opera. Talking into the floating camera things was too much like how reality TV show contestants would react to a camera between dramatic takes (a major turn off). And the scene where some woman is talking to her floating camera making a message for her husband, and then forgets to turn it off while she cheats on him with another member of the crew really made me roll my eyes. I think I realized this show wasn’t for me when the lead scientist and the lead military guy was fighting in the fifth episode and I turned to my wife and said “I don’t even care who wins this fight.”
Now if you are a fan of Stargate Universe. Good for you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Some of the SGU fans in the discussion stated that it got better in season two and encouraged me to sit down and give the series another try. I could see myself doing this once I’ve gotten all of my other catch-up and new watching completed. I’m really enjoying Superman & Lois and I watch it every week. WandaVision was another series I had to keep up on. I need to finish my first watch through of Farscape (yea I missed it when it first aired) and someday I’ll watch all of the episodes of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. There are a ton of shows in my streaming lists and interests that I want to watch. And that doesn’t even count the number of books and comics I want to read or games I want to play. Bottom line is that SGU is really down on the priority list. So yes I’d give it another try if my list has been completed, but that will not be for a very very long time.
I think I’ve said enough to end this rant. If you are still reading, thank you. Just remember, you decide what you are a fan of, not other people and not those who gatekeep with the term “true fans”.