There’s been a growing concern over the last few years for fan entitlement.
The word entitlement is tossed around in many conversations these days, from the entitlement of millenials, a topic that is a cesspool of negativity and finger pointing, to fan entitlement which is, well…a cesspool of negativity and finger pointing.
What is fan entitlement?
Fan Entitlement refers to words or actions by a fan that imply (or sometimes even outright state) that the creators of a canon or other fans owe that fan something.
Source: Fan entitlement, fanlore.org
With social media, it’s easier than ever to reach out to creators and let your voices be heard. While the creators always have the option of partaking or deciding not to partake, many do take part in interacting with their fans, with many enjoying the experiences. Many creators frequently appear at fan conventions to engage and interact with a hardcore fanbase face to face, as opposed to interacting with them behind a keyboard.
Watch out for the mighty keyboard warrior!
These creators tend to prefer face to face, as hiding behind a keyboard tends to bring out the worst in fan entitlement.
George R.R. Martin, author of the popular A Song of Ice and Fire series, feels that it’s not fandom that should be blamed as a whole, but the internet.
“More and more, I grow convinced that the internet is toxic. Every controversy brings out the trolls and toads, of every political, religious, and literary persuasion, most of them anonymous, all of them venomous,”
George R.R. Martin
George loves to make appearances at fan conventions, although he has been cutting back so he can focus on getting the next book out. While making appearances, George tends to read preview chapters from the upcoming books, which the fanbase is appreciative about. Of course, there is the mighty keyboard warrior who likes to sit on forums and bash creators like George in the safety of their own home. I wonder, if they met the man face to face, looking straight into his eyes, would they be able to tell him the same things they type on these forums? I highly doubt it.
Seriously, if you met him, would you yell “OMG GEROGE FFS JUST RELEASE THE NEXT BOOK ALREADY! YOU BETTER BE WRITING 10 HOURS A DAY!!!!”
Joss Whedon is another creator who has been on the forefront of dealing with fan entitlement.
From Buffy, to Firefly, to The Avengers, Joss has created art that has created an extremely loyal and dedicated fanbase that many creators would be envious to have. While most shows that were cancelled after one season are forgotten over time, Firefly is still discussed today, nearly 14 years later, and has a diehard fanbase that has kept the memory of the series alive since. Joss, however, has had to deal with fan entitlement, and as a result, quit Twitter to avoid dealing with the bullshit that he had to face.
“It could be something lovely,” he said of interacting with fans via social media. “It could be something funny. It could be ‘Hang yourself, here’s a noose. When can I kill you?’ That’s less fun. That’s less interesting. Eventually, it becomes kind of a white noise. You can’t remember what the dialogue was, so you stop having it.”
Whedon clarified that he didn’t leave Twitter because people were mean to him — although, for the record, people were awfully mean to him. Rather, he found himself at the forefront of a new era of fan entitlement that for some creators has raised tricky questions of ownership. Just who deserves a say in the development of pop media — those working to dream it up, or those paying to keep a project afloat?
“I would like always to have a dialogue with the audience, but at the same time you can’t create by committee,” Whedon said.
Source: Creators, fans and death threats: Talking to Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman and more on the Age of Entitlement
Joss, playing the tricky act of appeasing the fans while still keeping true to his vision.
Joss perfectly demonstrates the conflict in interacting with your audience, but also not causing a compromise of the creator’s work. What’s unfortunate is that most of these toxic voices are the vocal minority.
- Are these individuals simply just trolling to get a rise out of creators and other fans, and don’t even like or spend money on the creator’s work?
- Are these individuals simply just pushing their political agenda and don’t even care about the creator’s work?
- Are these individuals diehard fans who buy the collector editions, have written blogs on their creator’s and their work, and feel like everything is simply never enough?
So, as a creator, what do you do about fan entitlement?
In some cases, it seems like the best idea is to simply ignore it. George R.R. Martin has created a series that has a loyal fanbase as far back as the first book that was released nearly twenty years ago, and a new legion of fans that have joined since the show came out five years ago and has become a ratings juggernaut and a pop culture phenomenon. Whether the next books comes out by the end of the year or we have to wait until 2017, the book will be the biggest book launch since the last Harry Potter book came out in 2007.
On a side note, I’m curious to how fan entitlement would be today if JK Rowling had released the books in a time where social media and fan entitlement was more mainstream. While there were dedicated fans on forums debating the books, social media was barely a blip on the radar at the time of the books. Would JK Rowling have the same issues that creators like George RR Martin or Joss Whedon had? No doubt she would, and I’m sure there would be many more pushing a political agenda on her.
Despite a vocal minority that says George has lost the point and has lost interest in the series, they know deep down they’ll be the first ones in line or will be refreshing on Amazon for the Kindle version. George knows this too.
Joss will release another film or series that his devoted audience will snatch up in a heartbeat. The vocal minority will likely sit on the internet and complain, without even seen the work, or having paid for it.
I’m extremely curious to find out the monetary value of the vocal minority. Do they really matter? Are these simply trolls who don’t even purchase the art the creators make, but instead just talk shit about them online? The monetary value of the vocal minority would be fascinating to study in many areas. Despite having the loudest voice, a vast majority of the fanbase are happy to support the creators and enjoy their work, and move on with their life. Some might discuss with their family, their friends, maybe they might venture onto Reddit or forums, but most will not go beyond that point. I’d love to see the numbers behind these one day, and perhaps that’s something that’ll turn into a blog post one day.
Anyways, I feel like I’m moving away from the topic at hand.
Fan entitlement is a fickle thing.
Back in 2009, Neil Gaiman wrote a fantastic post on fan entitlement that, seven years later, stills rings true.
The end of the post is particularly profound.
Wait. Read the original book again. Read something else. Get on with your life. Hope that the author is writing the book you want to read, and not dying, or something equally as dramatic. And if he paints the house, that’s fine.
And Gareth, in the future, when you see other people complaining that George R.R. Martin has been spotted doing something other than writing the book they are waiting for, explain to them, more politely than I did the first time, the simple and unanswerable truth: George R. R. Martin is not working for you.
If you’ve never checked out the work of Neil Gaiman, you’re missing out.
Neil has it right. Let the creator do their work. If you have to wait longer than you had hoped, so be it. Going on the internet to complain about it to complain is not going to help. Try reading something else in the meantime. Go create your own work.
How would you be in their shoes?
Imagine now that you’ve created a series that started with a loyal fanbase that has dissected your work, created numerous fan theories, some very plausible, some way out there.
Imagine now that you sold the rights to make a show on your series, and now it’s become a household name. You’ve become a household name. Your fanbase has exploded exponentially. You now have many more obligations beyond what you were doing before. As an unfortunate result, you’ve fallen behind in your writing schedule and now you’re dealing with the fact that the TV series will end before you’re able to get the final book out.
As well, you now have the ears of many people. You want to make a new original creation? You have a team and a network that’s ready to back you and willing to give you whatever you want. Full creative control. A large budget. Millions of dollars for you.
As well, here comes the toxic keyboard warriors. They were there before, but now they’re in greater numbers. They’re telling you that you should take better care of your health. They tell you to get the books out soon, because you might pass away before you can get that final book out. They tell you that you’ve lost the mark, and that you’re not that interested in your creation anymore.
This is what George RR Martin has to deal with on a daily basis. Could you imagine yourself dealing with that kind of pressure?
Of course, there’s the side of the fanbase that is patient.
While frustrated with the long wait in between books, they know that the book will come out when it’s done. They have other things that they can focus on in the meantime. They’re not feeling entitled and that the book should have been done ages ago. They can wait a bit longer. They’re rooting for you and will stay with you until the very end. They’re not pushing a political agenda on you, and they understand that you’re not writing ten hours a day, and that you have your own personal life to live.
Of course, these voices get shut out by the vocal minority who like to spew vile words and exemplify the worst in fan entitlement.
At the end of the day, they’re just fridge buzz. It’s easy to say “just ignore them”, but it’s tough when they’re so loud. You can do like Joss does and get yourself off Twitter. You can get off social media and the internet in general, and you can make your appearances elsewhere.
While it’s an assumption, I think it’s safe to say that these vocal minority won’t be coming out to meet you face to face. They’re likely sitting in the comfort in their own homes behind their keyboards. Do you really think that if they came face to face with these creators, that they’d be able to look at them in the eyes and say all the vile things that they say online?
I appreciate that you’re able to be anonymous on the internet, but there are many issues it causes.
You’re able to share an opinion that you’d be afraid to share otherwise if people knew where it came from. There’s something far more raw, for lack of a better term, when you’re able to speak your mind without people tying that opinion to you. Of course, as a result, the amount of vile and toxicity that can emerge as a result is staggering. It’s easy to say how wrong a creator is when you’re behind a screen name and not your own.
It’s awesome how easy it is to be able to reach out to these creators and many of these creators are eager to interact with their fanbase. However, when it’s easy to hide behind a keyboard and spout negativity that adds nothing of value, it sours this relationship, and that’s terrible. While it’s incredible that I can reach a creator of great art from anywhere in the world, something gets lost when I’m not able to talk with them face to face. When you’re able to hide behind a computer screen, you can get away with things that you wouldn’t dare try if you were talking to them face to face.
Remember that these creators are human at the end of the day. Support their work, but let them do their thing. They’ve done well in the past, so let them focus on their work and don’t push your toxicity or your political agenda on them. You’re that little bubble of negativity that leaves a bad image on those who are happy to support the creator. It drives these creators away from interacting with their fans and leaves a bad image of them.
Remember, try walking a mile in their shoes and see how far you can go.
Originally published at www.paul-lopushinsky.com on July 27, 2016.