SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

Fans & Fantasy: Fans Behaving Badly

I've been gone for a few weeks, and during one of those weekends I spent my time hob-nobbing with TV folk at the Salute to Supernatural New Jersey convention 2013. If you're up on fandom you know that this convention was not without its controversy, and to be fair, no convention is. But it's worth examining what happened and the aftermath to talk about what it means when fans behave badly, why certain behaviors are not tolerable, and where the lines ought to be drawn.

The incident: As has been widely reported, a girl came to the microphone with the intent to ask Jensen Ackles a question about the possibility that Dean's character development included his possible bisexuality. She was shut down by the stars' bodyguard, and the whole audience booed, and the stars themselves quickly moved on. Regardless, throughout the convention the derisive talk about the question continued all around me, to the point that it became overkill; and as a shipper, I felt shamed for daring, even silently, to agree that I would be curious as to how the actors would answer it. So which was the bad behavior: daring to ask the question or booing a girl for wanting to ask it? Or is the bad behavior on the part of the stars, bodyguard and convention staff for barring questions of a certain type that inadvertently reinforce stereotypes and shame that can devastate people's lives?

I wrote a post on my personal Tumblr account about the incident, and I suggested that for right now, asking such questions at cons, regardless of whether it's morally right, is inadvisable. Rather, I'd like to see us spend more time discussing the issues in forums such as these - here on SpoilerTV, on a very relevant article on hypable.com, and other places where shippers can be seen to be the thoughtful, intelligent people that the great majority of them are -- people with something to say besides "OMG SO HOT," people who have interesting and relevant interpretations of texts and who like to engage in serious conversations about the implications of some of the taboos that are out there. And, being the incredibly modest soul I am, I of course suggested that more people come to this column to check out what I had to say on the topic.

In return, I received the following message from an anonymous user:

Thanks for the pro-tip hon, I'm going to rally the brother fans and Wincest shippers to spoiler tv and overrun your little Destiel haven. Eat it sucker.

This puzzles me. First of all, I'm a huge Wincest shipper and brothers fan. (8x22 made me "awwww" really hard. Dean, showing faith in Sammy! My poor heart!) I ship Dean/Castiel too, and I prefer it slightly, but I love and read and write Wincest. So why would someone want to destroy a safe space I've attempted to create for them, just to quell the discussion of a ship they don't personally like? I've created this column for shippers, all shippers, and for non-shippers who are interested in what makes shippers tick. It's a haven for all pairings, not just Destiel. Still, we'll see in the comments below whether or not some people are willing to burn the village to save it. Which is the bad behavior - mine for mentioning this place, or theirs for threatening to overrun it?

The aftermath: After the con, a rumor sprung up, based on one person's interpretation of another person's account, that Creation Entertainment (who runs the conventions) had banned all shipping questions henceforth and had announced that to the VIPs (a group of ten people who bid in an auction for a package of special privileges, sit-downs with every guest, backstage passes, etc.). I was one of the VIPs (and it was awesome!) and immediately spoke to it, saying it may have been said to other VIPs but it was not an announcement made to the group of us. I also posted the draft of a letter to Creation stating my concerns about the way such an announcement might be worded and such a policy might be implemented.

For this I got inordinate amounts of anonymous hate, being told "Creation has every right to ban shipping questions!" Often, multiple exclamation points and exhortations to get a life were involved, among less savory elements.

Which is funny, considering my first post also contained a long explanation about why I felt like questions at cons, at least for now, weren't going to get us anywhere and should probably be avoided, for purely tactical reasons; and my letter contained no objection to the policy and in fact stated outright that it was well within their rights to do so.

So which is the bad fan behavior? Me, for stating my concerns and drafting a letter which I then requested constructive criticism on, or the fans who screamed at me for daring to do something I hadn't done?

The resolution: I was then approached by one of my fellow VIPs, who had originally stated what then got interpreted as "news" of a ban. I won't reveal the details of the conversation, but I will say I was very pleased with everything she wrote and encouraged that two people who feel completely differently about shipping were able to come together to quell the misinformation. She took the incredibly brave step of speaking out, saying that there was in fact no announcement. I reblogged, hoping that between her followers and mine, we could get the word out and de-escalate the situation.

Her post on Tumblr currently has 70 notes. The post that claims the shipping ban currently has over 2,000.

It's very hard to get sanity out there in this whipped-into-a-frenzy world, and I don't know how to change that or more effectively combat the misinformation. But in this story of fans behaving badly, I want to at least take this forum to compliment a fan for behaving extremely well. Thank you for doing the right thing.

The lesson: Whether you believe shipping is a taboo subject or not, whether you ship or not, whether you think conventions are the right place to show it or not, I hope you will agree with me here:

Booing fans, ship-shaming and anonymous hate are bullying. They are bad fan behaviors and they need to stop.

The quicker we can come to agreement on this, as a consortium of fandoms and fans, the quicker we can eradicate it. That thing that's one letter from "ship" happens. But so do ships and so do questions about ships, and so do those questions being blocked by con personnel, and so do people agreeing and disagreeing with those positions. None of them deserve booing, shaming, and hate, just for differing from how you would have handled it.

How do we start changing the landscape of fandom so this sort of thing doesn't happen? How do we create a climate where differences are respected and discussed, much like they have been here in this column?

Next week I will, as promised, begin my Shippable Shows series. Thanks for reading!

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