‘True’ Fan

No, this has nothing to do with True Detective, though I’ve heard good things, nor True Blood, specifically. This has to do with appropriating what it means to be a ‘true’ fan.

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I have seen these discussions occur all over the place in the Glee fandom, and I’m sure it’s not exclusive to Glee. Fans attack each other with the line, “you’re not a true fan.” (Horror!) A lot of times it’s used to discredit another fan’s opinion that is somehow disagreeable or when lashing out in anger. The implication here is that only ‘true’ fans are worthy enough to drink from the fandom watering hole. What this ‘true’ fan thing means is where we run into trouble.

Some argue the only ‘true’ fans are the ones who have religiously seen every episode of Glee, for example, offensive meta lesbians comments, damaging racial stereotyping and a well-noted decline in overall show quality by both fans and professional critics be damned. Others contend that they are still fans though they only watch for certain characters or parts of a show, or even missed a few episodes here and there. These latter varieties of fan are the ones usually targeted by the ‘true’ fan groupies.

So what is a true fan? Actually, it doesn’t matter. There’s no need to ‘define’ it.  What any one individual thinks it means to be a fan is irrelevant. The point is, a personal definition of fan (or any variety of that word–‘Gleek,’ ‘Gladiator,’ etc.) is not so superior to anyone else’s that it’s necessary to exclude anyone who doesn’t fan the same way. It’s a personal practice. A fan who decides this means watching every episode, that’s how they personally practice fandom. For fans who enjoy individual characters, couples or limited episodes, that is their own version of fan. There’s no need to decide for another person how they label their enjoyment of a TV show.

There’s this term ‘gold star lesbian‘ reserved for those women who have never had a sexual encounter with men. And for some, the term has taken on a prestige as ‘true’ lesbians. So does this mean those whose path to determining their sexual orientation involved a man along the way are somehow less lesbian? The answer is no. Sexual orientation or gender expression are personal labels you choose for yourself. It should not be defined on somebody else’s terms.

The comparison between allowing people to define for themselves ‘fan’ to sexual orientation and gender expressions may seem like a pretentious overreach since ‘fan’ isn’t quite so serious. But there’s a connection. If we feel comfortable enough deciding who is worthy of being crowned something as simple as a ‘true’ fan, then we’re all in trouble when that same entitlement is applied to bigger issues with stronger emotions attached. The kind of issues that involve the right to make life-altering decisions on your own terms.

Whether you still think the comparison is overreaching, both of these examples on their own scale strip the right of an individual to define their own life. This leads to marginalization and in some cases the denial of rights. All because another group of people feels their own terms are worth imposing on everyone else. That hardly seems logical or fair. And quite honestly, aren’t there better things to do instead of policing everybody else’s actions and feelings?

We live in a diverse, complicated world and there’s no reason to try and make it simpler by shoving people into boxes they don’t agree with. There’s really nothing to be gained from that, and there’s plenty of room for everyone and their own claim to fandom.

Define ‘true’ on your own terms. You’re not more or less of a fan in my book.

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About VersusTheFans

Amplifying and celebrating the value of popular art, especially TV, in giving a voice to women and the LGBT community, in addition to serving as a media watcher on LGBT reporting.

Posted on March 1, 2014, in Fandom, TV Shows, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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