Movies & TV / Columns

Which Movie Fandom is the Most Toxic?

July 25, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Toxic Movie Fandoms

Before you scroll down to leave a comment, let’s get some things clear. This is focusing on MOVIE fandom. I don’t want to posts about television shows like Game of Thrones or Louis C.K. fans, or Taylor Swift fans. This is just about movies. 

Also, this is a good time to discuss just what “toxic fandom” is. I’m looking at fans who take it too far. A base that strikes out at anyone who dares question them and supporters who are blinded by their own zealous actions to see they aren’t really fans, just delusional. Fans who even attack the very thing they love because it dares to be different than what they want it to be. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love a passionate fan. Even if it’s for something that I have no interest in. It means you care. But there are limits. Passion can lead to burnout, resentment, and, like Yoda said, suffering. 

Let’s start with the Marvel vs DC fans. Before Marvel got serious about their cinematic universe, comic book fans seemed to live in harmony when it came to movies. Christopher Reeves was revered as Superman, Michael Keaton was a cool Batman, George Clooney’s Batman & Robin was horrible, and Marvel made lousy movies all around. 

That changed with Iron Man and Marvel’s grand plan for an interconnected cinematic playground. All of a sudden things got serious. 

Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America got movies that fit together and the Avengers were formed. Fans got really excited, as they should have, and what was once thought impossible became possible. Marvel fans were declaring their movies the greatest of them all, and with box office records toppling with just about every release, it looked pretty convincing. 

Warner Bros. and DC saw what was going on and got in on things only not as planned out and with very mixed results. 2013 brought Man of Steel and soon followed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justicem Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Aquaman, Shazam!, and, umm…Birds of Prey

With every release, on both sides, fans dug their heels in, calling out every mistake and any stumble. Instead of enjoying the movies, Marvel and DC fans are looking to tear down whatever comes from the other side.  
Even among fandoms we get discontent. Look how we’re still debating Superman’s portrayal in Man of Steel. Which brings us to Snyder Fans.

Has there ever been fans so dedicated to a director that their demands for his cut of a movie were met by a studio? Did toxic fandom win? When HBO and Warner Bros. announced that the infamous version of Justice League as originally envisioned by Snyder was going to be released on HBO Max, it was taken as a sign that they caved. 
In their announcement, they acknowledged it. “Since I got here 14 months ago, the chant to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut has been a daily drumbeat in our offices and inboxes,” said Warner Bros. executive Robert Greenblat. “Well, the fans have asked, and we are thrilled to finally deliver.” “At the end of the day, it really is all about them,” he added.

How this will change how a fandom does protests in the future will be interesting. 

I took a look at the Star Trek fandom until 2009 it was pretty tame. Yes, they debated the movies but for the most part they kept their ire aimed at Star Wars fans. That changed with the Star Trek reboot from J.J. Abrams. This opened the gates up and each movie since has been a point of contention between classic fans and new fans. Even the recent Star Trek: Picard got flak from fans. Still, compared to other fandoms, the Trekkies or Trekkers, are still within reasonable bounds. 

I thought about putting Twilight fans on here but I’ll leave that to you. Since the franchise has wrapped up, they’ve seemed to move on. Still, I wanted to give them an honorable mention because in their heyday they were the epitome of toxic and woe to anyone who questioned the love story between Bella Swan and Edward Cullen.
Same goes for 50 Shades of Gray fans, who I’d consider more annoying than toxic.

I’m sure someone is going to call out the lack of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings mentioned here but I’ll say, from my point of view, that I’ve never seen toxic energy coming from those corners. I could be wrong but J.K. Rowling seems to be the lightning rod and that’s more on her personal views than the movies. And yes, I know I’ll be deluged with examples of toxicity from those two in the comments below.

Let’s wrap it up with the most obvious fandom and talk about Star Wars

Star Wars has had passionate fans from the moment it came out in 1977. Because of that passion, they’ve been vocal about a number of things they don’t agree with or perceive as something that doesn’t fit their definition of Star Wars. This level of ire has reached new levels and the toxicity online seems to be everywhere.

Examples like Kelly Marie Tran. Her casting in The Last Jedi was news because she would be the first Asian actress to be cast in a Star Wars movie. Then came the backlash online that focused on Tran’s social media with racist comments that was so overwhelming that she closed her social media accounts.

Tran published an essay in the New York Times about the incident. In it she said: “Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.”

“Their words reinforced a narrative I had heard my whole life: that I was ‘other,’ that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t good enough, simply because I wasn’t like them,” she said.

Another Star Wars actor who knows a thing about backlash is Hayden Christensen. When asked about Tran, he shared some words saying, “I don’t know if I have any advice for that, but just…you know, don’t take it too seriously, because…unfortunately, [bullies] are the ones that make the most noise. But the majority of people don’t feel that way, so, keep that in mind.”

But it’s not always that easy. Social media has opened the floodgates and while every now and then you might get some constructive criticism, it’s flooded out by the hate from a very vocal mob.

Yahoo Entertainment spoke to Star Wars actor Oscar Isaac and was asked about the negative vibe. “What I think is really special about the whole thing — particularly for people that really didn’t agree with where the story went — is that it’s often a great inspiration to do your own stuff,” he says. “Obviously, making your own Star Wars movie is a bit of a tough challenge, but at least from a narrative standpoint maybe you make your own thing and then show what you would want. Make what you would want to see.”

I get where he’s coming from but I feel that unrealistic. From my observation, the people who are most negative and most petty are the ones with the least amount of creative expression and talent. Almost as if their anger grows from their failures to be able to create.

What is it about a franchise that has themes of hope, honor, and justice that brings out such toxic behavior from its fandom? Is the solution to just ignore it? That hardly seems the way. Attack it head-on? Bringing yourself to the level of trolls might bring a brief sense of relief but doesn’t seem viable long term. 
With the Star Wars universe planned to expand and spin-off, I don’t see things improving. 

George Lucas was smart to get out when he did.

What movie fandom do you think is the most toxic?

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Steve Gustafson