Toxic fandoms have been all over the news this summer. And with good reason. Fandom can be a place full of creativity, imagination, and insightful discussion. But it can also be a mess. With racist and misogynistic fans chasing Kelly Marie Tran off social media, the emergence of Comicsgate, and the ongoing harassment of fans who call out racism, fandom’s negative side has been on full display recently.
Fortunately, there is some good news.
First, no matter how loud the toxic elements get, there are still fans out there that do fandom right. Fans who do the hard work of calling out racism, sexism, and homophobia. Fans who make gorgeous art and write enthralling stories. And fans who are just there to share their excitement and joy. Sometimes the best way to enjoy fandom is to find those people and shut everyone else out.
And second, there are a few fandoms out there that are leading by example. For example, one recent article called Wynonna Earp the “world’s nicest TV fandom” because its fans are so supportive. While no fandom is perfect, there are ones that seem to have figured out how to avoid some of the worst fan behaviours.
Here are 5 fandoms that are showing us how it should be done:
1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine VS. Harassment
Brooklyn Nine-Nine lived a bit of a Cinderella story this summer, thanks mostly to its small but deeply passionate fandom. When Fox canceled the show in May, fans – including celebrities like Lin Manuel Miranda, Sean Astin, and Mark Hamill – sprang into action. Fans launched petitions and tweeted incessantly about their love for the show. And it worked. Thirty-one hours later NBC announced that they’d picked up Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the Internet celebrated.
The celebration continued when NBC decided to send the show to San Diego Comic-Con for the first time ever. The cast and the fans were all delighted and the panel turned into a love-fest on both sides. Fans used the question period to shower the cast and crew with love and joy.
One particularly poignant moment involved a fan who brought Melissa Fumero (Amy Santiago) and Stephanie Beatriz (Rosa Diaz) to tears thanking them for their portrayal of amazing Latina women. The cast responded in kind, praising the love, support, and passion they’ve received from fans.
However, the love wasn’t limited to Comic-Con. The Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast and their fans have one of the most positive social media relationships going. Along with celebrating the show’s successes alongside the cast, fans have also been quick to throw their love and support behind the actors.
For example, bisexual fans showered Stephanie Beatriz with appreciation after she released an article proudly stating that marrying a man doesn’t make her any less queer. There are so many examples of fans harassing actors and even bullying them off social media entirely (I see you Star Wars fandom). Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast and fandom are out here showing us how it’s done.
2. Buzzfeed Unsolved VS. Fandom Wank
If you’re into true crime or the supernatural – or better yet, both – you’ve probably run across YouTube’s Buzzfeed Unsolved webseries. Hosts Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej tackle unsolved mysteries ranging from more commonplace true crime to eerie, supernatural tales of haunted buildings and demon infestations. Filled with scares, debates, and a lot of witty banter as well as a weekly Q&A with the fans, Buzzfeed Unsolved has garnered an eager, engaged fan base.
A main element of the show is the ongoing rivalry between Ryan, who avidly believes in ghosts, and Shane, who is very much a skeptic. This Mulder & Scully-esque dynamic has transferred over to the fandom. Fans have divided themselves into two camps – the Boogaras if they agree with Ryan, and the Shaniacs who side with Shane.
Now, in most other fandoms such clearly divided camps would provide fertile ground for constant fighting. But, with Buzzfeed Unsolved, the Boogara vs. Shaniac debate has stayed not only fun, but a huge part of why people are invested in the fandom. The Instagram page, Facebook page, and YouTube comment section are all full of fans having a great time debating whether each noise Ryan calls evidence – and Shane usually identifies as wind – is actually proof of a ghost.
It certainly helps that the two hosts take a lighthearted, good-natured approach to teasing each other over their differing points of view. It also helps that disagreeing over whether or not ghosts exist is lot less high-stakes than fighting racism or homophobia, but most of us have seen fandoms implode over less. Which makes the Buzzfeed Unsolved fandom such a refreshing change.
Besides, isn’t it more fun to spend a night debating with friends about whether than one ghost really asked for spaghetti?
3. Discworld VS. Gatekeeping
Discworld, written by the great Terry Pratchett who sadly passed away in 2015, is a series of interconnected fantasy novels. Set in a flat fantasy world balanced on the back of four elephants who are riding a giant turtle, the Discworld series consists of 41 novels and numerous short stories. But because the novels don’t just follow one character or story from book to book,it can be pretty confusing to know where to jump in as a new reader.
Fortunately, Discworld fans love to share. Google ‘Discworld reading order’ and you’ll be tripping over blog posts, images, and articles advising you of all the different ways you can jump into the novels. Talk to a Discworld fan in real life and they’ll happily talk to you for hours about your favourite characters and books. They don’t care if you’ve read every book – or even which books you’ve read – they just want to talk about Discworld.
This kind of welcome and willingness to help fandom newbies is lovely enough on its own but is particularly special in light of the gatekeeping that goes on in so many other fandoms. We’ve all heard the stories where, for example, a woman out wearing a Doctor Who t-shirt is stopped and interrogated about her knowledge of the Doctor in order to “prove” that she’s a real fan. Discworld fandom doesn’t bother with that. Do you like any of the books? Great! You’re a fan.
Coupled with the high quality of fanfiction, this enthusiasm in welcoming new members makes Discworld fandom definitely worth checking out.
4. The Good Place VS. Ignoring The Message
It’s no surprise that many of the fandoms on this list are smaller. The really big fandoms – think Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Star Wars – have so many people that it’s easy for toxic fans to find each other and take up space. Smaller fandoms don’t have that problem. Especially when they’re based around a show with the kind of message The Good Place has.
Set in the ‘good place’ where we go after we die; The Good Place improbably combines absurdist humour and deep philosophical questions of what it means to be good to each other and our world.
With the world filled to the brim with hatred and injustice, a show that asks us to think about how we treat each other is sorely needed. And The Good Place fandom has run with it. When the cast and crew set up a fundraiser to raise money for legal services for immigrant children, the fandom raised over $25,000 in less than two days. And that’s a feat deserving of a spot in the good place.
You can see the same philosophy of celebrating kindness, diversity, and inclusion in the show’s fanfiction. Unlike many fandoms where the most popular fic pairings involve only the white characters, The Good Place fanfiction is uncommonly diverse. And best of all, like Wynonna Earp the most popular pairing is femslash!
So get reading and don’t forget to ask yourself – what do we owe each other?
5. Leverage VS. The Ship War
Anyone who’s been in fandom for a while has run across one of the most insidious forms of fandom drama: the ship war. For those who have been lucky enough to avoid them, ship wars are long, often bitter, arguments between groups who ship different characters. The Harry Potter fandom is infamous for them – many fans still shudder to think about the Harry/Hermione vs. Harry/Ron ship wars. But one fandom seems to have found a way around this.
Leverage was an underrated show about a group of thieves, grifters, and con artists coming together to exact revenge and get justice from corporations and governments who harm ordinary citizens. Think Ocean’s 11 meets Robin Hood.
When the show started, fans latched on to a couple of ships early on. Eliot (the hitter) and Nate (the mastermind). Nate and Sophie (the grifter). Parker (the thief) and Hardison (the hacker). Yet, the intimacy that quickly developed between all of the characters created more and more possible ship combinations. Meaning Leverage fandom could have very easily followed the same path as Harry Potter and exploded in ship wars.
But that didn’t happen.
Instead, helped along by support from the writers and creators, Leverage fandom jumped on one of the simplest solutions to a ship war. The OT3.
OT3 – an offshoot of OTP which stands for ‘One True Pairing’ – means ‘One True Threesome.’ Instead of fighting about whether Parker should be with Eliot or Hardison, fans asked, “why not all three?” Now, the Eliot/Parker/Hardison pairing is by far the most popular one on Archive of Our Own. And the creators of the show have even said that the series finale made the OT3 canon.
When the creator himself confirms the OT3, how can you argue?
What Do You Think?
While none of these fandoms are perfect (and, really, is perfection even a possibility?), they all offer great examples of how to avoid toxicity and do fandom better. And that’s something we all need more of. What other fandoms avoid toxic behaviour? Drop a comment below and let us know!