Being a part of a subculture can be a very rewarding experience. It feels good to be a member of a community who shares the same passion and interest. I get to engage in endless conversations with people about my favorite subject. It can be about anything, a music genre, a TV show, a game, and more. As long as there’s a group out there sharing the same passion about one thing, that’s a fandom. There’s a sense of belonging—a feeling that I’m in my element and to most of us, a fandom is like a second home.
However, there’s one problem I’d like to share. And this seems to be a perpetual one in subcultures. This is the problem with the toxic elitist fan.
The Toxic Elitist
Everything feels good until a point when someone rains on your parade by telling you how much knowledge you lack about your interest, and how much better they are because apparently, they’ve been a fan ever since. Sounds familiar? I think most of us know at least one person like this.
This case isn’t just isolated in a single fandom like some would like to think. I’ve seen toxic fans from every spectrum, ranging from sports fans, music fans and more. It’s not a question of which fandom. It’s a question of who.
Now there’s a difference between being a die–hard fan and being a toxic one. Not all die–hard fans are toxic, but most toxic ones I know are ones who are too engrossed in their interest. It’s not that easy to distinguish between the two; it’s not a mutually exclusive label as well.
For instance, both these types of fan tend to include their interest in their bio and post a lot about it on social media. Both may fill their posts about how much of a Marvel fan they are, how much they love K-pop, or how much they know about the characters of a certain show.
Yet the elitists will go as far as to say that their choice—whether it’s music, brand, show—is the best and everything else is trash. Talk about ultimate close-mindedness.
They will constantly rub it in the face of new fans how much specific knowledge they have simply because they are among the early fans.
They like to invalidate people’s subscription to a subculture by accusing them of being part of a bandwagon.
Sometimes, it takes a while for their elitism to show. But one place you will surely find them is in the comment section of social media sites. These are prime battlegrounds for them to show dominance.
The damage they do to Fandoms
It’s easy to think that this is only a minor annoyance or to think that just ignoring that one fan is enough. However, that’s gravely underestimating the damage this type of people can actually do.
First of all, it creates a bad image against a particular fandom. New fans and people outside of that subculture will have the propensity to assume that a particular person represents the entire fan base. Seeing just enough display of toxicity from a minority of fan can result in people associating that fan base with toxicity—even if reality is far from that.
I myself have developed a prejudice against some fans of K-pop due to some irrational posts I see, declaring the group they support as far superior to any other. I’ve had this prejudice for a while, and if not for other K-pop fans—who aren’t elitists—I would still believe that the K-pop fanbase is immature.
The worst effect is the discouragement of newer fans— the ones who freshly developed an interest. If these newbies become the subject of hostility from elitists, they will no longer dig further into the fandom or be willing to join their community. The most common example I can think of is Marvel comic book geeks displaying superiority over those who have only discovered Marvel through the cinematic universe. This kind of behavior is uncalled for. Why not just suggest to newer fans to also check out comics instead of screaming “You’re not a true fan”?
Where is this elitism coming from?
Unfortunately, I once had a phase like this — where I had deeply associated myself with an interest to the point of claiming it like my territory. Although I didn’t actively harass new fans but I felt, I had insulted–even irritated–them when PokémonGo came out when it was all the rage.
Although my knowledge of Pokémon wasn’t up to par with most of the diehard fans, I know just enough to realize how much different the smartphone game is from the original games. Anyone who grew up with the old Pokémon games knows how much of an abomination this new game was.
I had a problem with all the new fans that were getting into Pokémon without actually knowing the entirety of what makes it wonderful. It’s not just the names and the evolution, it’s also about the moves, the battle, the adventure, etc. So many things were different in PokémonGo that I felt people were liking the game for all the wrong reasons. I could I hear people on the streets talking about the new game, but with little clue about the old.
But this isn’t a rant about that game. Point is, my elitism stemmed from a deep attachment to the origins of that interest. So when something came out that doesn’t pay respect to that origin, I felt personally attacked, even if I didn’t have to.
I had felt so close to that interest; when the public was exposed to it, it felt like an entire population entered my own private room. Thus, ruining it. That deep connection felt broken.
Now I realized how selfish and irrational that mindset was. I can’t speak for everyone who is—or was—an elitist. These were my own personal feelings before. However, I feel like at the core of an elitist is a person who treasured something too much that it gave them tunnel vision; treated a franchise as something more than just a product to enjoy. They treated it as something that represents them personally.
Having a deep connection with an interest isn’t wrong. It’s only when you ruin the fun of other people and ridicule them in the name of that passion that it gets toxic. So how can you be a die-hard fan without being rude?
Try these instead
There’s a way to display your knowledge of a subject without putting others down. It’s called sharing and educating. Welcome new fans and tell them about your wonderful fandom.
Point them to sources, further reading, references, tell them the origins. Assist them by showing them the path that allows them to immerse themselves more. If your problem is them not knowing a lot, then offer to teach them. How hard is that?
Your favorite band, group, or game will eventually change. Remaining stagnant in a fast–paced world is a sure way to be left behind. So as a fan, you should expect that your interest will undergo some drastic transformation. This is inevitable.
When you’re a fan of a brand or product, don’t overlook the fact that the people who manufacture that product run a business. This means, they will have to cater to the interest of the public and whatever the current market climate is, resulting in product changing for the sake of relevance and profit.
Lastly, and probably the most important thing to remember, is to allow people to enjoy stuff. Don’t rain on someone’s parade just because you think you know better. Don’t spread your bitterness.
People are allowed to enjoy whatever they want. People have different tastes and preferences. Everybody knows this. Yet, it seems that elitists are so engrossed in their interest to the point they forget this fact.
By all means, display your knowledge of a subject but it shouldn’t come at a cost of other people’s right to enjoy. At the end of the day, an interest is better enjoyed with the company of others. A little friendliness goes a long way.