How to Do Fandom 101: A Guide for Show-Runners, Authors and Fans Alike

Yes, I wrote what I wrote, and yes, I really do think we need a guide, of sorts. Not a comprehensive one, because a) I don’t have time for that and b) I don’t know everything and c) there are just too many situations that might pop up and I just can’t cover the sock puppets and the harassment in one short editorial.

(If you don’t know, don’t ask, and if you do – hello HP fans!)

What makes me equipped to give you advice, you ask? Well – I’ve been a part of fandoms for what feels like all my life. Many fandoms, starting with The X-Files, passing Harry Potter and still, to this day, in Arrow and Once Upon A Time. They’re all different beasts, of course, but they are, all, without a doubt, beasts, and though I might not know everything (no one ever does) I feel like I can offer up some hard-earned wisdom, not just for the fans, but for authors, actors and show-runners alike.

So here we go, some fandom commandments, so to speak. Here’s how you should do fandom – and what you shouldn’t do, or at least what long experience has taught me are the most important things:

  1. Don’t tell people what to think. In that vein, don’t pretend you get to decide who they like, who they ship or why they do either of those things. You don’t even need to understand it. Hell, most fans are not even asking for your explicit support, either. They just want to be left alone to like what they like and to not be mocked for it. Revolutionary, I know.
  2. Don’t tell people HOW to do fandom. If they want to read fanfic, let them, if they want to art, if they want to do metas if they just want to stay quiet, it’s not your place to decide how people experience the community. It’s only your place to decide how YOU experience the community, how YOU engage, how YOU express yourself. You are not the Fandom Police. There is NO Fandom Police. There is not a right and a wrong way to be a fan. There are no true fans and bad fans. There are only fans.
  3. Don’t make fun of what people like, even if what they like is bat-shit insane in your eyes, even if you can’t comprehend it, even if you hate it. Again, I repeat: you are not the fandom police. You also don’t have the only valid interpretation. Let people enjoy what they enjoy. In the same vein, respect other people’s interpretation. Don’t belittle it just because it isn’t yours. You wouldn’t like it if they did to you, now would you?
  4. Treat everyone with respect, even if you think they’re stupid/wrong. Fandom is supposed to be happy and it’s supposed to be enjoyable, and even if you see things you feel like you need to call out, that doesn’t preclude respect. In fact, people are more likely to listen to you if you’re respectful.
  5. Call out problematic issues, but don’t be a troll. And, if you’re going to do it, take into account the first four rules. You still have something to say about a show/book/it’s fans? Okay, then express it. But don’t be rude, condescending or patronizing if you expect your words to actually make a difference. Remember, you don’t own the universal truth and no one is required to see things from your POV.

Oh, and P.S – for you showrunners and writers, there’s another rule: BE CLEAR with fans. Don’t make promises you have no intention of keeping. That’s manipulative and wrong, and yes, fans every right to hate you for it. We’re here to consume the entertainment you provide, yes, but if you lie and manipulate us, we’re more than entitled to stop.

And yes, we’re more than entitled to make a big deal about it.

So, what about it? Agree? Disagree? Feel like telling me all the ways in which I’m wrong? Share with us in the comments below!

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