Confession #97: I Love Being Fannish


With the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens this past weekend, there's been a frenzy of Star Wars fannishness around the Internet, with calls to avoid revealing spoilers interspersed with endless memes, think pieces, and quizzes. I consider myself a Star Wars fan (among many other fandoms), so all this felt normal to me.

Then I saw someone say something about how overwhelming it all was. Is this, the person wondered, how everyone else feels when we get all in a tizzy about the latest Doctor Who news du jour? The very idea turned them off so much they felt chagrined about participating in the hoopla in the past and talked of turning off all their social media accounts to avoid subjecting the rest of the world to such nonsense in the future.

I think this startled Who fan has taken the wrong lesson from the experience. There are two major classes of reactions one can have when presented with this sort of behavioral mirror: recoil or embrace. The former is the route my unfortunate acquaintance took, and springs from an exterior perspective. When seen from the outside, fannish behavior can appear irrational, overzealous, and occasionally even militant—in short: fanatical.

When one is confronted with another fandom's behavior for the first time, the intensity can be really frightening. That's true whether said fandom is based on a particular flavor of SFF like Who or Star Wars, on a video game franchise, on a sports team, or on any other Thing-someone-else-loves-but-about-which-you-don't-give-a-rat's-ass. This is why die-hard sports fans and SFF-convention-goers tend to give each other such serious side-eye. Each group is thinking, "it's normal for me to dress up and get rowdy about my team/my show, but those weirdos are incomprehensible!"


Confession #96: I'm Not Listening


With a brand new series nearly upon us, teaser trailers, images, and episode titles for Series Nine are everywhere. If one spends any time at all online, they're easy to find, and difficult-to-impossible to avoid. I'm not a complete spoiler-phobe (which is good, because I wouldn't be able to use the Internet if I were), but I do like to maintain a certain level of surprise going into a new season. It makes me feel like a stick in the mud, but with all the publicity on social media (which is where most of my Internet experience happens), I've gotten to the stage where I pretty much stick my fingers in my ears and shout, "LA LA LA!" to keep from learning things ahead of time.

I do watch trailers put out by the production team—that's part of the show, in my opinion—and there is some news that I could only miss if I were oblivious to other fans online (e.g., return or casting of certain characters/actors). For the most part, though, I ignore the hype: I don't go look at the behind-the-scenes, on-set photos that the BBC spams out; I've only watched two trailers once each (I don't even know if that's all of them or if there are more); and I have not read the titles of any of the episodes beyond the first two (which were plastered all over the prologue video), though I mistakenly glanced at a couple that I didn't scroll past fast enough in my Twitter feed. (By the way, I'd like to offer hearty thanks to the others in the FB groups of which I am a member for only linking to the list, rather than posting it outright.)

Although I recognize that there are those out there who like to skip to the last page first to find out whodunnit when they're reading a mystery, or who need to read the ending of their book after the first chapter or two to learn whether or not their favorite character survived the slaughter, I do not actually understand such people—not at a gut level. I'll to do the whole "live and let live" schtick with someone who wants to know everything possible ahead of time, but the idea that it's fun to learn every twist before even knowing the story just baffles me.


Confession #95: I Like Odd Correlations


A couple of years ago, when the fiftieth anniversary rolled around, we were marveling at the fact that Remembrance of the Daleks was as far behind us as An Unearthly Child was behind Remembrance. Now Survival, which marked the end of the original run of the series, is as separated from the present as it was from the show's beginnings (give or take a couple months). Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey indeed.

This kind of temporal comparison fascinates me (something I realized when a different pop cultural correlation occurred to me the other day: Star Wars (the third top-grossing film of all time) came out thirty-eight years ago; Gone With the Wind (all-time top-grossing film) came out thirty-eight years before Star Wars). One can come up with all sorts of interesting pairings—whatever time frame you can think of can yield a new perspective.

For example, nearly fifty-two years down the line from An Unearthly Child, the effects and staging of the episode look positively archaic. At the time, though, it was stretching the medium in new ways. And, after all, it was technological leaps and bounds beyond the cinema of fifty-two years before. In that year (1911), feature films were still a brand new phenomenon. The Italian silent film L'Inferno (The Inferno, from Dante), released in 1911, was perhaps the third or fourth feature film worldwide, and became (Wikipedia tells me) what some consider the first blockbuster.


Confession #94: I Won't Evangelize


I'm going a bit off the beaten path from my usual approach with my confession this week. What I have to say probably counts as an Unpopular Opinion, and it may shock some of you, so ready your burning brands and pitchforks. Despite what I've implied plenty of times before, Doctor Who isn't for everyone.

You heard me. Some people simply shouldn't be brought into the fold—shouldn't even try. "What?" I hear you say. "That's ridiculous! Our Show has something for everyone!" Well, yes; there's an awful lot of variety in the ~250 televised stories, never mind the vast additional oeuvre of books, audios, comics, and so on. But I argue that there are still some people for whom even this extensive selection is not enough in which to find a truly enjoyable story.

Heresy, I know.

Yet Doctor Who works best for those of us willing to overlook—or better yet, embrace—the silly or way-out-there-unbelievable to find something deeper inside. It may be a personal lesson we embrace, teaching us about tolerance or personal responsibility or the value of vulnerability. Perhaps it's a vision of how life on Earth could be, good or bad (usually, but not always, based on how some alien culture works). Or maybe it's just a thrilling adventure that lights a spark of joy and wonder.

But not everyone is built to "get" speculative fiction. There are folks whose entire pleasure reading list consists of non-fiction works. Some of these people may go so far as to classify any fiction, let alone spec fic, as frivolous, pointless drivel. (Okay, perhaps "drivel" is taking it a step too far...) In other words, some people simply aren't wired to enjoy the kind of wildly imaginative, quasi-scientific storytelling that is Doctor Who's stock and trade.


Confession #93: I Don't Believe in "Good Old Days"


In a recent online discussion about whether "Moffat detractors" are numerous or just loud, I saw someone posit that those fans "usually want RTD and Tennant back." After countering that assertion—and another that fans familiar with pre-Hiatus Who are more likely to like Moffat (what?)—with both my own experiences and the opinions of several of my friends (none of whom have ever suggested anything so absurd as to bring back a previous Doctor for regular episodes), I got to thinking about the human tendency to wax nostalgic about "the good old days."

Are the Good Old Days ever really as good as we remember?

I think fandom is much like parenthood (or any number of other experiences), in that once an era is well and truly in the rear-view mirror of our lives, it is far easier to remember the good parts than the bad (barring any truly traumatic moments). We look back on the episodes that made us fans and think, "nothing will ever be quite as good as it was when X was the Doctor," or "when Y was in charge," and pine for a time when everything was "as it should be."

Since it's only been about seven years since I came into the fold (as opposed to many of the folks my age, especially Brits, who have now been fans for nigh on forty years), I don't have the breadth of experience to speak to what it was like to be a fan during the pre-Hiatus/"Classic" era, but I can extrapolate from what I've read or been told by others.



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