I’ll admit that I teared up a little while reading “'The Force' is with you, Katie” on CNN.com this morning. This ruins my tough-guy image, I am sure.
This seems to be a pretty common response to the situation, the way CNN told it. In the era of rampant bullying and suicide (or, at least, rampant coverage of things that are not at all new), there’s an outpouring of support from other people who got teased, whether for their fan practices or anything else
Reading about a 7-year-old shamed, by teasing, out of using her beloved Star Wars water bottle does that to us these days, which it didn’t used to. And indeed, my first response was “Hm, maybe fandom’s being mainstreamed after all,” since CNN is framing harassment of people for their fan practices as a problem.
But then I thought about it some more.
This was a cute little white child engaging in fan practices. Not an adult who we might (still) expect to “know better,” and a member of that white-female category we’re all culturally programmed to protect.
What we have here is a cute little white girl child who was being forced into a narrow box of femininity because her classmates said Star Wars was just for boys. And yes, clearly that is total bullshit, and it’s a good thing that people were able to recognize that such that when her mom blogged about it, the story went viral.
Yes, it is pretty cool people in the industry got involved to support her, but it’s a problem that by “support” we mean “they sent her stuff.” I don’t want to support a model of fandom wherein being a fan is all about consumption rather than affect, and if that’s what “acceptance” or “mainstreaming” of fandom is, I don’t want it.
Then there’s the fact that the boy child Scooby-Doo fan who dressed up as Daphne for Halloween didn’t get an outpouring of merchandise and support from Hanna-Barbera. (Or, I guess, Warner Brothers now. Thanks, capitalist conglomeration!)
In fact, his mom even blogged it that way: “If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one.” The girl child bravely loving Star Wars is a hero. The boy dressing as a female character from Scooby-Doo is an incipient homosexual cross-dressing serial killer. (I kid you not, read the comments).
So, then, who is it that gets to be the poster child for fandom? Which fans are suitable subjects of human-interest stories? Which practices? These are things we need to consider.