What makes a fan community turn toxic? The University of Kansas in the United States reports that a ‘professor has co-authored a study examining a branded college basketball student fan organization to understand their motivations and to see if common theories on negative fan behavior apply to their actions.”
Researchers and others have long claimed fans will behave poorly because they have anonymity, that people can be unrecognized in a large athletic crowd. But, given that people usually attend sporting events with friends, family and others they know, the authors argue the idea doesn’t hold true. The notion of “cognitive crippling,” or the idea that people in a large crowd are mindless actors, also wasn’t supported by the research. Members of the fan group reported they were very aware of why they did or did not engage in their behaviors.
The study’s authors believe that administrative involvement is the best way to keep university sports fandoms from misbehaving. Does the advice apply to online fan communities as well? Are there other ways to discourage harassment and violence within a fandom? Leave your suggestions in the comments!
One unfortunately common cause of toxicity within fan communities is misogyny. Amanda Hess wrote about female Star Wars fans for The New York Times, explaining that ‘on mainstream sites like Twitter, women [Star Wars fans] are often belittled by male fans who can’t abide feminist theorizing.’
The dominant cultural image of a “Star Wars” fan may be a lightsaber-wielding fanboy, but women have always been essential creators in the fan universe. They started early fan clubs and mailed out fanzines like Skywalker and Moonbeam, packed with fiction, essays and art.
Today, women ‘seem to have a more direct line to Lucasfilm and a real chance at reshaping the official “Star Wars” universe,’ and their hopes—for better representation for women of colour or for more complex relationships between women characters—may finally become realities in upcoming films.
Are you a woman who loves Star Wars? What are your hopes for Rogue One and its treatment of women? Let us know!
Looking for a supportive fan community for your child? Check your local library! American Libraries Magazine discussed the growing trend of using fanfiction to connect with young patrons.
One of the primary things fanfic offers readers that mainstream literature often doesn’t is a broader array of characters. “Fan fiction does have a long way to go regarding diversity, but you can find a lot more there than in mainstream fiction,” Honeycutt says. “So when readers are disappointed in something for that reason, fanfic can be a great panacea.”
Are you a librarian or other educator who used fanfiction as a teaching tool? Tell us how your adolescent patrons or students have benefitted!
We want your suggestions! If you have a story you think we should include, please contact us! Suggestions are welcome in all languages. Submitting a story doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in a TWIF post, and inclusion of a story doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.