Welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things which are happening! Before we start, a huge thank you to everyone who participated in our October membership drive, either by donating or signal boosting. We’re thrilled to have exceeded our goal thanks to your generous support.
Because TWIF had to take a break for the membership drive (and other important OTW announcements), we sort of missed a big story, but since the conversation it started is still ongoing, we’ll talk about it here this week. Yup, we’re referring to The Szechuan Incident.
For those of you who have managed to avoid the kerfuffle, this BBC article explains the basics: McDonald’s did a promotional limited release of Szechuan sauce in selected US locations as an unofficial tie-in to the TV show Rick and Morty, and when the restaurants wound up having few or no sauce packets available, some fans got disruptive and staged protests and harassed and/or assaulted McDonald’s staff.
There have been several articles written on The Szechuan Incident which make several points. This Vox article details the online cultural background of the disruptive Rick and Morty fans and how it contributed to The Szechuan Incident:
“Rick and Morty is a popular show with a vocal, dedicated fan base, some members of which have frequently come under criticism for their toxicity and misogyny. […] It employs the same mobilized tactics of organizing strategic harassment and bombardment that we’ve seen again and again in certain internet communities, by using social media, orchestrated reactions, and memes to spread a message and harass women, both online and off.
“In essence, McDonald’s didn’t just host a publicity stunt — it also essentially invited the same Rick and Morty fans who have become known for online trolling to congregate in a real-life space, and then gave them a reason and an opportunity to troll in real time.
Polygon pointed out that getting worked up over Szechuan sauce was antithetical to the point of the show:
“Rick and Morty superfans, the ones who are giving the rest of us a bad reputation, like to “joke” about how you have to be smart to understand the show while proving over and over again that they don’t understand the show. Rick wasn’t saying the sauce was important, he was saying that nothing is important. Why not destroy a family over a sauce? Why do or don’t do anything?”
Andthis article on comicbook.com showed up today to point out that #NotAllFans of Rick and Morty were being disruptive or rude:
“Stories that represent the fans who turned out as being represented by these responses do so in order to make a broader point that doesn’t exist. Most fans arrived, were disappointed to not receive any sauce, and went somewhere else for lunch instead. […] Frankly, these takedowns all come across with an air of elitism. They not only represent every person who turned out with a dozen of the worst examples, but also write about the silliness of seeking some sauce on a Saturday afternoon as if there’s something inherently wrong with that event.”
Overall, The Szechuan Incident has resulted in derision and condemnation, whether it’s Rick and Morty fans’ opinions of McDonald’s actions or journalists’ opinions of Rick and Morty fans’ actions. There is an interesting parallel to be made between a predominantly male fanbase being called out for demanding a sauce and last year’s callout of predominantly female fans for demanding certain types of media content. Do you think the situations are comparable? Does the whole situation just give you a headache? That’s understandable. To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand fandom.
In other news, the online archive fanfiction.net has been blocked in Malaysia. As reported by The Star, “Fanfiction.net will be blocked for as long as the website owner fails to take the necessary steps to remove the indecent or obscene content as requested by the authorities, said the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).” The objectionable content is “lewd and explicit sexual scenes,” which aren’t technically allowed on the site.
Here’s what the OTW’s Legal committee has to say about the topic and AO3’s place in the issue:
“As you know, different countries have different laws about what material is legal or illegal to view or post on the Internet, so even when a site is accessible in a particular location, it may contain material that is illegal to post and view in that location. The Archive of Our Own is designed to comply with U.S. law, and the warnings and ratings systems used by the Archive of Our Own are designed to allow users to avoid certain kinds of material (whether for legal or any other reasons). Still, some countries may take over-inclusive measures to prevent access to entire sites (such as fanfiction.net or the Archive of Our Own), which means they may block access to perfectly legal material along with locally illegal material. In such circumstances, there are often technological measures (such as Virtual Private Networks or third-party apps) that are capable of reaching sites even from blocked locations. However, it is the responsibility of the user to ensure that they are not doing anything illegal in their local jurisdictions if and when they decide to use such technologies.”
Lastly, we have a call for papers. The Fan Studies Network (FSN) is starting a North American version of their annual conference in 2018! Submissions are currently being accepted for panels and roundtables. You can view the CFP on the conference’s website, or you can reblog it on Tumblr.
“We welcome all topics and themes related to media, sports, music, and celebrity fandoms, discussions of affirmative and/or transformative fans and their contributions, as well as meta-questions such as ethics and methodology. We encourage submissions on gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and other aspects of power and identity in fan works and fan communities.”
Submissions are due February 15th, 2018 (aka International Fanworks Day).
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.