Toxic Fandom: When Criticism and Entitlement Go Too Far

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Image: Dreamworks / Netflix, used with permission

Many parents and their kids are becoming more and more immersed in the fandoms surrounding their favorite shows, movies, and books. The below article by guest contributor Sean Z. is an in-depth look at the recent history of fandom and some of the pitfalls we should all be aware of and be discussing with our kids.

How a group of internet fans known as antis transformed shipping in fandom from ‘Don’t Like, Don’t Read’ to discourse and death threats

By Sean Z, with additional reporting by Aria C.

In March of this year, a voice actor on the popular animated show Voltron: Legendary Defender reported they and their family had received death threats in response to an interview question over shipping. Another voice actor on Voltron commented on Twitter they were considering canceling appearances at conventions, due to death threats from angry shippers. When one of the show’s executive producers announced their appearance at San Diego Comic Con, angry shippers threatened to break her hands at the event so she couldn’t write anymore. What the hell is going on here?

“Shipping,” or the practice of romantically pairing off fictional characters in a work of media, has historically been harmless.

Like most people in fandom, I ship quite happily and I have yet to send a single death threat, because… well, sending threats of physical harm over a fictional relationship involving cartoon characters seems nonsensical to me (plus, it’s a crime in most jurisdictions).

And yet, it’s happening. People are taking these ships seriously, especially on Voltron, where fans of the ship “Klance” (pairing Keith and Lance) reposted leaked storyboards online and attempted to blackmail the studio by refusing to take them down unless the studio agreed to make the ship happen in the show.

But the problem isn’t limited to the Voltron fandom. Other shows like Steven Universe, Yuri!!! on Ice, and Sherlock all have large sections of militant shippers, but the most aggressive of the bunch is a new subset of shippers collectively known as “antis” (from the practice of tagging things “anti-[ship name]” on social media).

It’s a term these toxic members of fandom wear proudly, despite its association with combative behavior. Antis appear to be a response to, among other factors, changes in how fans interact online. As fans moved from sites like LiveJournal, where content was opt-in, to Tumblr, where content is opt-out, the method in which fans consumed content changed. Thanks to antis, the old adage of early fandom, “don’t like, don’t read” (or the idea that consumers are responsible for avoiding content they don’t like) has been replaced with “discourse,” death threats, and violence.

Hardcore fans of any media will likely have deep, passionate opinions about who gets shipped with whom – it’s part of what makes them fans. Star Trek shippers have been finding new ways to pair off Kirk and Spock for decades. Shipping can refer to either supporting a pairing in the original work (the canon media), or fan works (fanon media). The term came into use in the early ’90s, when fans of the X-Files who wanted to see characters Mulder and Scully paired up were called “relationshippers,” or “shippers.”

Shipping was seen as a fun activity for fans – the idea of threatening the creator of a book, or movie, or show by saying “pair these two characters off, or else” was (and still is) ludicrous.

But, let me be clear, while antis as a group are a recent development, shipping toxicity is not. Harry Potter was one of the first major online fandoms, and it saw significant ship wars. Fans of Harry Potter debated at length whether Hermione should be paired with Ron or Harry. These two ships coexisted peacefully until 2005, when JK Rowling said in an interview she dropped “anvil-sized” hints that Ron and Hermione were going to be together, and the interviewer commented that Harry/Hermione shippers were “delusional.” Fans did not react well. As Clare McBride wrote for SciFi, “because they’d invested so heavily in this one ship, to the detriment of making wider connections in fandom and developing a diverse interest in the series, Rowling’s revelation threatened to invalidate not only their ship, but their fandom.”

Though there were some fans who threatened JK Rowling over her decision, it was on a much smaller scale compared to the constant, detailed threats of physical harm that production staff and talent get on modern shows. But how did we get here? How did we get to the point where some fans feel so strongly about fictional pairings that they’ve decided death threats are acceptable online conduct?

In the early 2000s, LiveJournal rose to prominence as the home for most online fan activity. LiveJournal offered anyone the ability to easily create a free blog in a time when hosting was expensive and technical knowledge was often required to have a web presence. Beyond that, it offered communities, or the ability to create shared blogs where multiple users could share content. This replaced mailing lists and usenet groups as one of the primary ways to distribute fanfiction and other fan works.

LiveJournal “communities” operated on an opt-in model. There were no tags, and searching was limited (full text search was nonexistent). So, if you wanted to see fanfic for a specific show, you’d join several communities for that show. If you liked a specific ship, you’d join communities for that ship. This meant content discovery was more challenging than it is on modern sites like Tumblr, because there could be hundreds of communities for the same interest group, but it offered something critical – moderation.

I may be idealizing LiveJournal fandom more than I should. Nostalgia is powerful, and the site did have harassment problems. In fact, there were entire communities built around harassing fellow fans. That said, while the moderators weren’t always perfect, and could be prone to their own petty power trips and stirring drama, good moderators could keep a community healthy and largely harassment-free by deleting attack posts and banning toxic users.

And because the only way to see content of a community on your feed was to join it, users only saw content they opted in to. There were no “recommended for you” posts to break you out of your self-curated content bubble, and this kept users largely isolated in their own spaces. LiveJournal wasn’t perfect, but I never felt unsafe there. There was no threat that the wrong person would see one of my posts, reblog it, and trigger a hate mob if I said the ‘”wrong thing” or I liked the “wrong pairing.” That’s more than I can say for Tumblr fandom.

In the late 2000s, internet fandom began migrating away from LiveJournal in favor of a new home, Tumblr. Tumblr offered users significantly better search and content discovery, as well as the ability to host images directly on your blog (something LiveJournal lacked). Additionally, changes in LiveJournal management and a mass purge of accounts with nsfw-fanfiction in 2007 (referred to as Strikethrough) pushed many users off the platform.

Unlike LiveJournal’s communities, Tumblr’s fandoms rely on tagging. Instead of joining a group for your interest, you simply search for #show or #movie. This is where problems begin. A user on tumblr can tag a post with whatever tag they wish. Let’s say I was a shipper who wanted to pair off Alice and Bob on the show Great Adventures. I might tag a post “#AliceBob #GreatAdventures #ThisShowIsAmazing.” Unfortunately, until December of 2017, Tumblr did not have any built-in filtering mechanism, so every user who wanted to see posts using the #GreatAdventures tag would see my posts about Alice/Bob, as well as other pairings, like Bob/Eve, Alice/Eve, etc.

Though there are browser extensions for the site that can filter tags (XKit and Tumblr Savior are the most popular ones), users see all content by default, including content they may find objectionable.

Early Tumblr fandom attempted to work around this problem with the simple etiquette “don’t tag your hate.” If you were passionate that Bob and Alice should never be together and you wanted to write an essay on why it was a horrible pairing, it would be inappropriate to use the #AliceBob tag, since that’s used by all the people who want to find content for the pairing. Instead, the early solution was to use #anti-AliceBob when arguing against something. The idea was to replicate the communities of LiveJournal by separating users who objected to a pairing to those who favored it. The term anti, or anti-shipper, comes from this tagging practice, and entered common use in 2015.

Unfortunately, this plan to help fandom police itself backfired. By creating the #anti-AliceBob tag, the fandom created a community joined together by their hatred for something. And, over time, these anti communities radicalized other members.

Discussions shifted from “I don’t like this” to “no one should like this.” An account from a user on the anonymous fandom meta site fail_fandomanon described the process: “Antis became a social group, a hatedom. And once impressing their fellow clique of antis became more important than being accepted by the fandom at large, it metastasized into harassing shippers to impress their little bully clique. It became about the social aspect of being accepted by the ‘cool kids,’ i.e., the other antis–and like fandom drama groups in the past, often motivated early on by the fear that they might come after you if you weren’t on their side.”

Simply saying “other fans shouldn’t create fan content for the thing I don’t like” isn’t a compelling argument, so antis began adopting the language of the social justice movement that is active on Tumblr. Antis generally argue that the fictional pairing they dislike is morally “problematic,” that it promotes some broadly objectionable thing like pedophilia, abuse, or incest, and that content for that pairing should not be allowed on the internet.

To be clear, critiquing media for its larger social impact is fine and healthy. However, in these cases, antis would disingenuously put forth these claims to provide a basis for their hatred. For example, in the video game Overwatch, antis claim pairing Gabriel Reyes with McCree (known as McReyes) promotes pedophilia. (It doesn’t. McCree, the younger character, is 37.) They also claim pairing Rey and Kylo Ren from Star Wars supports incest, because there’s a chance they could be related (they’re not). Pairing Hank and his android partner Connor together from the video game Detroit: Become Human also supports incest by their logic (Connor is an android assigned to Hank, a human, to be his partner on the police force).

This kind of performative outrage enables anti-shippers to harass others by providing a moral shield for their attacks. Antis justify sending death threats to fellow fans and creators because they claim people who support “bad” ships promote those broadly objectionable things. Therefore, antis claim they are simply trying to protect their community from creating, engaging, and spreading inappropriate content (regardless if the content is actually inappropriate).

To see how this kind of hatred develops over time, and leads to problems in fan spaces, let’s take a closer look at the Voltron fandom. The fandom, unfortunately, has a large anti presence, and therefore a constant stream of harassment cases.

The two most popular pairings in the Voltron fandom are Keith and Lance, commonly known as Klance, and Keith and Shiro, or Sheith. Because both pairings involve Keith, there’s contention for the character, triggering a “ship war” in the fandom. Fans of both pairings often write Tumblr posts about why their pairing is better.

In the LiveJournal days, these “my ship is better than yours” posts would be referred to as “fan wank,” where wank is slang for nonsense. This wouldn’t be a problem – fan creators would be siloed into their respective communities and would only see content for their ship. But on Tumblr, because a post can have multiple tags and anyone can tag any post with any tag, simply looking at means fans see content from #sheith and #klance shippers, as well as other pairings and “gen” or “general” posts, which don’t have pairings, in addition to all the wank.

Though the majority of Voltron fans who ship Klance aren’t antis, the majority of antis gravitate to Klance. Antis in the Voltron fandom began adopting the language of the social justice movement on Tumblr to justify their dislike for Sheith and other “shaladin” ships (Shiro/Paladin), and vehemently argue creators shouldn’t write or draw it. “Sheith is problematic, and you shouldn’t support it” replaces the simpler “this squicks me” from LiveJournal. The term “fan wank” is replaced with the more loaded term “fandom discourse.” As Tumblr user owl-song defined the term: “don’t call it wank, I am wanking about Very Serious Issues, you guys!”

In almost all cases, the reason a pairing is problematic is usually contrived – antis claim anyone who likes Sheith is supporting pedophilia (even though Shiro and Keith are both over 18), and incest (even though the characters are not related – a fact the show staff have repeatedly said).

They make these claims based on Shiro’s role as a mentor figure to younger Keith, and Keith comparing Shiro to a brother figure, respectively. Antis further argue that because the pairing is “problematic,” depicting it normalizes and endorses child abuse. Anti arguments may shift over time, but the critical thing to note is 1) competing popular pairings (pairings that share characters with the anti-favored pairing) are always problematic, and 2) the anti-preferred pairing is never problematic. If you take nothing else from this article, please take this: all this outrage isn’t about protecting children, or about morality, or about critiquing media. It’s about people wanting their favorite characters to kiss.

Even though it’s a false argument, the antis, armed with the cause of protecting the children from seeing abusive relationships, threaten any visible Sheith shipper in the fandom, such as popular fan artists and authors. Paul Booth, a professor of media studies at DePaul University, spoke to Polygon about this issue. He explained, “I’ve researched toxic fan activity, which I call ‘protective fandom.’ These groups are not merely forming around a particular text or a particular medium. They see themselves as the protector of it. They see themselves as the line between what they want it to be and what other people want it to be.”

Antis will also try to reach outside of the fandom to poison other people to the ship, which is ultimately what drove me to write this article. I saw a tweet saying “I hope the Dragon Prince fandom doesn’t become Voltron 2.0.” I expected them to discuss the rampant death threats to fans and voice actors on Voltron, and how they were concerned the new Netflix animated show might suffer the same fate. Instead, they followed up with, “Voltron fandom is really toxic, there are all these people who like this pedo content…” This is a common anti-strategy – the goal is to convince people who don’t have fandom context to think a pairing (or the people that support it) is harmful. This effectively gives the antis proxy fighters on Twitter and Tumblr – users who don’t watch the show but will write call-out posts when they see people ship the target pairing. You can see a user attempting to modify a wiki article on Sheith to make it read as incest here. Their screen name should give you a hint that they might be biased.

They also might try to force the show itself to change content by manufacturing enough outrage, as one former anti wrote about on Twitter:

Sadly, creators and staff of the original media are not exempt from this fury – in an interview with Afterbuzz TV, one voice actor said he thought fans should be able to ship what they want without being harassed. He later would disengage from fandom significantly after receiving death threats in response to his answer on shipping.

That’s where Voltron fandom stands – there are lots of amazing fan artists, talented fan writers, and a great show staff, but the fandom is scary, and I say that as someone who loves this show and this fandom. During the first season and before antis became a prominent voice, the show’s staff and voice actors used to share and reblog fan art, joke about ship names, and even responded to messages in private chats. Now, not a single main cast member still has direct/private messages enabled on Twitter. I mourn the show we could have had if we all weren’t scared.

Even though antis are usually a small fraction of the people who are part of a fandom, they have power to do significant damage. Toxicity drives people out of ships, and out of fandom, regardless of their pairing. In Voltron, some non-anti Klance shippers adopted the term “Laith shipper” (swapping the names in the ship), in an attempt to separate themselves from the Klance anti-shippers (“klanti”). Despite that, in several cases, artists and authors who created content for Klance either switched to other ships or chose to exit the fandom entirely to avoid the toxicity associated with the pairing.

Once again, this is not just a Voltron-specific problem. At a fan event last year, an artist drawing fan art for the game Undertale was gifted cookies by someone at the event, only to discover they were filled with needles when they pierced the artist’s tongue, all because an anti didn’t approve of the artist’s ship. Antis in the Sherlock fandom drove a rape survivor to tears at a Sherlock fan convention panel after she said she believed it was acceptable for authors to write works with non-consensual sex (antis called her “rape apologist filth” and posted video of the exchange online).

Members of that panel were specifically targeted not based on their preferred pairing, but on their preference of who tops between Sherlock and John Watson (yes, people will harass over who tops in a fictional pairing). Antis in the Steven Universe fandom forced an artist working on the show to quit Twitter after harassing her for drawing ship art they didn’t like and posting it to her personal account.

Despite all of this negativity, I believe fandom is an incredibly positive thing. I’m gay, and the first time I ever saw a gay character in a story was in fanfiction. Fanfiction gave me stories about people like me when I couldn’t find them anywhere else. That is the power of transformative media like fanfic and fanart: in a world where so many people don’t get to see themselves on TV, fandom can offer them a place where they can be the hero of a story they know and love. Fandom enables anyone to create with an established world – it enables writers to create stories that go beyond the canon media, and gives artists the power to explore new scenes and what-ifs. There are thousands of people right now creating this content for free, simply because they enjoy it.

That world is open to anyone, but due to antis, fans need to work a bit harder to enjoy it. Thankfully, there are tools available on most platforms to help keep antis in check. Tumblr added tag blocking in late 2017, which means you can avoid fandoms or pairings that are toxic for you without installing browser extensions. Both Twitter and Tumblr have user blocking functions which can be used to avoid specific users, and, if a specific user is inciting their followers to attack you, tools like Block Chain on Twitter can block them, and all the people that follow them. Many fandoms also have Discord servers with moderators, which are becoming modern replacements for the old moderated communities of LiveJournal.

Ultimately, fandom is what we make of it, and we all can make it better. If you’re a parent, speak to your children about proper online conduct, and talk to them about the repercussions of harassment online. If you’re a convention organizer, take caution when someone proposes a panel on ethical shipping, and investigate if the people proposing this are speaking in good faith, or are they trying to gain a platform for inciting harassment. If you’re a member of popular show or movie’s staff, take a moment and remind your fans and followers that you don’t support harassment, especially over ships. And finally, if you’re a fan, be decent to people. Scroll past stuff that isn’t for you. Make the content that you’re passionate about. If we all work together, we can bring back the golden days of “don’t like, don’t read.”

The authors would like to thank the many Voltron fans, Tumblr users, and LiveJournal users who spoke with us while writing this piece. This is a sensitive topic, and we appreciate you sharing your experiences with us.

Sean Z. stumbled upon internet fandom in the early 2000s, and has been reading fanfic and liking fanart ever since. When he’s not researching fandom, he enjoys listening to video game music, playing boardgames, and writing code. If you’d like to discuss fandom history, you can find the author on Twitter at @Sean_Z_Writes

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42 thoughts on “Toxic Fandom: When Criticism and Entitlement Go Too Far

  1. Thank you for writing this. I really appreciate how well researched this was, and that you didn’t take easy shots at ships or shippers. This article was well focused on how antis actually developed and why they use the language they use. Thank you again.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. Truly. You have no idea how important it is that people realize what is going on isn’t normal, it is toxic and dangerous behavior.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this, antis have bullied some of my Friends in Both the Voltron and BNHA Fandom, they ruin something so fun and silly as shipping and ruin people’s lives, we need to discourage anti behavior.

  4. great article, read my thoughts on this topic. hopefully more people address this issue and this behavior is recognized for the ridiculous toxic drivel it is.

  5. How the hell did voltron event attract these asshats? I’ve been a fan for 20 years and in all my time as a voltron fanboy, never did I have to deal with such bullshit as I have since 2016 when the reboot happened. Like seriously, it’s a mecha show focused in war ,how in the hell did it attract freakin tumblroids?

    1. Said show was a reboot, with newer fans, and these fans think that there HAS to be more LGBT content, so they automatically ship two male (or female) characters in the show together that are heterosexual, simply ‘because’ (the same thing’s been happening with the new Star Wars movies, where Poe Dameron and Finn are shipped, the MCU movies, where Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are shipped by said fans in fan art and fan fiction, plus a ton of other shows and movies that have the same.)

      Even worse was an incident with the TV series The 100 and the official ship between two women characters, Commander Lexa and Clarke which the LGBT community and the same Tumblroids loved; when one of the actresses had to leave the show because of another commitment, the show’s staff could not have her just go back to the space station (the show’s about survivors of a nuclear war living in orbiting space habitats which are now failing, with said survivors sending 100 young offenders back to Earth to colonize it; however, in the ensuing years, the planet’s wildlife has become mutated and dangerous, which can mean that any of the said 100 can die) so she was killed off. Of course, LGBT activists can’t stand that happening to LGBT characters in a TV show anymore, so the show’s staff got treated in the same way mentioned, and the Clexa movement started centered around the Clexa convention to make sure that this didn’t happen again (even though there’s shows like Carmilla and the cable TV show The L Word can be watched by said shippy Tumblroids, or said people can get up off of their asses, go back to school, study film and TV scriptwriting, write scripts about LGBT characters, and then get them sold.)

      This is why this incident happened with Voltron: Legendary Defender, except people want characters who are straight to be LGBT, simply to satisfy their head canon of said characters being together that they can’t keep to fan fiction stories or to fan art on deviantArt.

  6. Thank you for talking about this and highlighting how dangerous and toxic it actually is. It’s easy to dismiss these sorts of online arguments as silly, but as you illustrate in the article, it can lead to real harm.

  7. I feel very thankful that you wrote this, I hope to see change in fandom that will block out needless harassment over shipping. I also hope to see more articles like these in the future

  8. Thank you so, so much for writing all of this. I was in the Voltron fandom since season 1, and I was there to see the tragic decay of the fandom. There was maybe a week of general peace, before the shipping war broke out. It was and still is ugly, and I’m disappointed over the fact that now we’ll never know how truly great this fandom could’ve been had it not been for the overbearing influence of klantis/ antis.

    Still, I really appreciate seeing what a lot of the fandom has been saying put into one giant article, and hopefully it’ll reach outside of the fandom and maybe people will be less inclined to believe what antis say.

    Thank you once again for this fantastic article.

  9. Thank you for writing this. I believe this is an important fandom issue and a lot of people have been ignoring how dangerous this phenomenon is, not only to the people being targeted by antis but to the antis themselves. Many of these kids (and they usually are kids) are being manipulated by predatory adults. People often forget that not all people who prey on children are pedophiles, some of these people are just abusive people that get off on terrorizing and bullying others and are using these kids as weapons to do it.

    Antis have also been pushing this idea that everyone over the age of 30 is a nasty predator and shouldn’t be in fandom anymore. Putting aside the ridiculous idea that fandom is a kids only activity (Who do they think runs the conventions? High schoolers?) this has led to some….dangerous ideas, such as 20 something year olds are not “real” adults.

    I was in a discord server for a particular BNHA ship that unfortunately became overrun by antis leading to a new rule for the server. Nobody over the age of 30 was no longer allowed. When someone wanted to know why there was an age cap (especially when the two characters being shipped were 30+) the answer was “Some of the minors felt uncomfortable sharing the server with adults so we’re getting rid of the adults to keep them safe.” When another person pointed out if you wanted to keep minors safe from adults the age cap should be 17 because anyone who is 18 years or older is an adult. There’s no difference between a 25 year old and and 30 year old, they’re both adults. The answer was and I quote “25 year olds are not like ‘real’ adults so they’re fine”

    And if you think about, that is the logical conclusion using anti arguments. If characters like Keith, a 20 something year old man, is a “literal child” and not considered an adult then following that logic real 20 year olds aren’t adults either. I’m sure I don’t have to spell out why that is a problem.

    It’s kinda ironic that in their campaign of “protecting children from predators” they are actually making it easier for the predators.

    1. You’re not making it better by providing said predators with content to read, my dear.

  10. This is a solid article that captures everything about how terrible fandoms can be these days.

    I’ve followed Voltron since season 1 and the moment I saw Shiro, Lance, and Keith I thought, ‘well there’s going to be ship wars over this’, but I did not know they would escalate to complete and total madness the way they did.

    I used to be in the k-pop fandom where people can be pretty…. aggressive about protecting their favorite idols, but the VLD fandom was on a whole ‘nother plane when it came to klantis attacking anyone who dared shipped sheith (or in more extreme cases, any lance or keith ship that wasn’t klance was bad because reasons).

    The tipping point for me was right after s7, the sheer outrage from klantis was at it’s peak and the first time I had to block/mute multiple accounts because they just kept spewing toxicity from the tops of their keyboards. It’s definitely unhealthy to some point at how invested these people get in fictional characters and how they use all this hammy irrational logic to harass other shippers.

    Thanks for writing this, it definitly feels like it came from someone who knows the fandom space well!

    1. Klance shippers harassed a real-estate agent, as well as some of the voice actors, over their ships.

      You are one to talk about antis. You only use it as a shield to cover for your own toxicity.

  11. I was wondering if you would be willing to do a follow up with this in regards to a former DW employee named Carli Squitieri, aka Barlee. She recently attacked Sheith fans and said that the harassment was our own fault, disclosed information to fans that she wasn’t supposed to, and continuously starts negative press due to her behavior.

    After S7 she spurred the anti fandom into make a “Greenlight for lGBT rep” protest, because she claimed that they weren’t allowed to do things with the LGBT rep in the show. She has also constantly caused drama for the showrunners by (drunk?) and unprofessional posts.

    Honestly, this is exactly the behavior that shouldn’t be acceptable by creators and memebers of staff, due to the amount of hurt it causes others. It would be interesting to see your opinion on staff who say that anti behavior is acceptable. (She told us that we don’t need our hand held and that we’re equal to antis.)

    1. I would appreciate some kind of follow up about this too.

      Barlee has been a tremendously hateful and damaging presence in the Voltron fandom. She claims to be against Sheith because she doesn’t support child grooming, yet had no problem drawing and selling a romantic Sheith print. And by siding with antis and making them feel validated, by treating them like poor innocent victims, she’s done just that–support child grooming. Many antis are angry, misguided teenagers that are pushed to this extreme behavior due to adult antis in their social spheres.

      It’s absolutely sick that someone who worked on Voltron in any capacity sympathizes with antis and had the nerve to claim that the crew stopped interacting with the fandom for any reason other than antis’ harassment. The multiple times antis attacked Josh Keaton for being the only person willing to directly defend the rest of the fandom says everything to the contrary.

      Barlee should be ashamed. Anyone who works in the industry and looks at antis and thinks anything about their behavior is acceptable is part of the problem, and guarantees that the sheer insanity that went down in Voltron fandom will happen again to some other show and other fandom that doesn’t deserve to be ruined.

  12. This is an excellent article. One thing I’d like to point out, aggressive shippers didn’t originate with the internet. People were sending L.M. Alcott angry letters over shipping in Little Women. She famously didn’t make a ship endgame because she’s had enough of the the fans (“I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anybody”).

    In Voltron, some non-anti Klance shippers adopted the term “Laith shipper” (swapping the names in the ship), in an attempt to separate themselves from the Klance anti-shippers (“klanti”)

    Something similar happened in the HP fandom back in the day – Harmonians were the wanky shippers who thought HHr would become canon and harassed everyone who disagreed; Harry/Hermione shippers were the sane ones who just liked the ship.

  13. Truly amazing, insightful and well written article. Thank you so much for touching this overly sensitive yet important topic no one really talks about. Very good job, keep it up!!!

  14. Nail on the head, I am a fandom old, I’ve been involved in online fandom since I was fifteen and I’ve watched it evolve from mailing lists to Yahoo groups to Live Journal and, now, to Tumblr and the transition from a group of people who all enjoy a thing to people who only want others to enjoy the thing they enjoy has been insane to watch. I stopped being really actively involved in fandom sometime around Harry Potter because of the Harmonians and their declarations that they were oppressed like slaves and then and quit altogether because Glee fans were literally insane. I couldn’t deal with the racism and the homophobia the bizarre lines they kept drawing in the sand. They sucked all the fun out of something I’d loved for years and years. I couldn’t even enjoy this show, when I’d loved the 80s version of the show, because the ship wars were so horrible. It makes me so mad.

    Thanks for this article. Maybe some people who need to see it will see it and think about what went wrong in their lives that their ship not being canon is worth possibly going to jail over.

  15. This article is brilliant. It’s a must read for anyone who is proudly an “anti.” Especially the anti-Reylo people who have harassed some of my pro-Reylo friends off of social media.

  16. Thank you for this article. It’s really sad how toxic fandom has become… I joined tumblr in the early days, and while it wasn’t necissarly good fandom, it was a hell of a lot better than it is now. At least more people understood respect when it comes to shipping.

  17. I’ve been involved in fandom since people were cowering in BBC communities to share theories away from threats like Anne Rice and her lawyers, and so help me, I applaud you for writing this and shining a light on the actions of fandom antis where people outside of the hellsite can see it. This is such a fantastically well-written, well-researched look into how toxic militarized shipping can be, where a small group of people can influence less-radicalized groups into dogpiling hate-mobs. Articles like this shine a flashlight into the inky pit of anger and bigotry that antis call, paradoxically, a space meant to be safe. They’re a panacea to the poison that they’ve spewed out into the greater fandom culture at large, and a salve for the bitter wounds they’ve left in their ultimately misguided crusade (and truly, that is what it has become) to “purify” their fandom of the “heretics” that “soil” it.

    It might even help some of them see themselves for what they really are. I hope so.

    In their crusade to drive out “problematique(tm)” content, antis have become the truly toxic force in their communities, and often they are blind to the reality they have created. While they seek to protect fictional characters from perceived negativity, they do so at the expense of real human lives- in some cases, quite literally. They are the real monsters that people need protecting from.

    So Geek Dad, I want to thank you once again for doing the best that any dad could, and trying to drive out the real monsters hiding under the great big fandom four-poster bed.

  18. When I read ‘kirk/spock’ now it’s hard to not think about fandom discourse and the ‘antis’ who lost their mind when the reboot made spock/uhura canon.

    You couldn’t ship that pair or find content for it without coming across fandom wank such as people claiming that spock/uhura is homophobia, or shipping it is homophobic, or that it is problematic because she apparently takes ‘advantage’ of him and she’s a date rapist (never mind they obvioustly are in a relationship, as confirmed by writers). Lastly, the more pervasive and passive aggressive concern trolling: the relationship ‘reduced’ her to just a love interest; never mind the new thing has more development for Uhura – both personally and professionally – than the whole series and all previous movies ever had ( as the original actress herself lamented).
    Women of color, particularly black women, tried to no avail to counterargue that so called ‘white feminism’ cannot get applied to female characters of color or other minorities that rarely get to be love interests in the mainstream (e.g., truth is Uhura didn’t have a boyfriend in tos not because ‘single is strong, independent and feminist’, but because racism would prevent her to be the love interest of a non black guy)
    One of the writers posted over a trek site to interact with fans at times and he certaintly had to read a lot of attacks from antis. Interestingly, for the first time the slash fans found an ally in the very same fans who had always mocked their fanfictions and their own shipping fantasies: the fanboys – who saw Uhura as a threat to the triumvirate (or are adamant to desexualize Spock, or even saw him as a threat to Kirk’s position as a protagonist who should be the one to get the girl) joined in their attempts to push for a break up, or bully s/u fans out of discussions about the movies with straw man arguments and claims that a real trek fan wouldn’t support that ship or only teen girls like romance.
    That was a great example of shippers/fans entitlement and using the sjw language as a gatekeeping weapon to disquise a fan agenda.

    In the case of star trek, the reboot seemed to reveal the dark side and toxicity of a fandom that has always been painted as one of the most positive and progressive so yeah, no fandom is immune.

  19. I have never understood the idea of fandom, and it seems more harmful than good to me, but I did enjoy the article. You are right that unfortunately some people will ruin things for everyone else. The lengths people go to to do so are astounding to me though, and as someone who writes it makes me wary of putting my work out into the world and dealing with people who think they own your characters, and will harass you for not doing what they want. I think creative work can’t flourish if you’re trying to please people, but that’s my two cents. I miss the days where people just enjoyed shows, wrote casual fanfic, and went on with their lives…

  20. I would just like to say that while I enjoyed the article and thought the message was on point and well written, you’ve cited some factually incorrect information from Fandomfailanon. I’m the Sherlock fandom panelist who was bullied at 221bCon, and I am not and never claimed to be a rape survivor and I am not a Toplock shipper. I did say at the panel that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and that I read and write noncon fanworks as a way of coping with trauma. Also, the panel moderator and her partner were both prominent toplock shippers. But I’m not. But I think that Fandomfailanon got their account mostly right: a group of antis came to that con, and specifically to that panel, to try to bait the panel moderator into saying something “problematic” so they could surreptitiously film it and put it up on Youtube. I ended up being the one who fell into their trap. It was a horrific experience, and I’m in some ways still recovering from it. I’m a fanfiction and meta writer, and very involved in a bunch of fandom communities and challenges, but I’m always going to be known as “that woman who cried at that panel.” I do think it’s important that people know that story, however, so I thank you for relating it here.

  21. There was no evidence that the needle cookies were in any way related to the artists’ ships, that was simply a rumor cooked up by western fandom after word of the incident crossed language barriers. Please don’t spread misinformation that supports your own biases.

    1. It doesn’t matter what ship it was what matter is that some crazy nutjob thought it was ok to give needles-stuffed cookies to a innocent person without any guilt whatsoever and even believe that they deserve you’re what wrong with fandom

  22. My first fandom–back in the 90’s, was found on geocities and email lists.

    I thought it was very novel– the fandom for this show had NAMES for different groups of fans. We called them “factions”… fans of certain characters had unique names (Nick Knight’s fans were Knighties.. Natalie’s fans were the NatPack..) there were names for fans of characters acting a certain way (Fans of vampire-nick were Dark Knighties), there were fans of ships (the Nick and Nat Pack), of friendships, even of ‘crackships’.. There were factions for common hobbies–cross stitchers or pagans or christians, factions for specific actors, for favorite headcanons… There was even a faction for fans of the main character’s car. 🙂

    it was pretty great because you could be part of as many things as you like. People wore their factions in their email signatures like badges.

    The thing I loved most, though. Once a year-ish, we’d start a war. The war was, at it’s base, a huge round robin story. There was a plot, a reason for everyone to, fictionally, write themselves (usually) traveling to the TV show’s location, and there… well, mostly, there was a lot of pranking, bundled up with the idea of trying to achieve a goal, as set by the plot. It was a flurry of flash fiction and silliness.

    Examples of pranks from the fanlore wiki are… gluing someone into a cow suit, releasing glowing pink rats to a faction’s headquarters, undead lobsters…

    The whole point, basically, was getting to know each other, to participate in a silly story and play in some silly goofy mischief.

    I miss that a lot. The fan wars of the modern day are a lot more depressing.

  23. I’ve been in fandom since the X-Files (longer than some, not as long as others), and the thing that hits me about all these shippers and anti-shippers is they’re all intent on believing their ship is canon and getting it onscreen. I’ve had two ships in my entire time in fandom who I actually wanted to see onscreen (in X-Files and West Wing). All other ships were just headcanons from watching the show/movie. If they didn’t get together onscreen, that’s why we had fanfic.

    Also, I feel like this anti-shipping movement has made it harder to find good fanfic. Fanfic is easier to find with AO3 and Tumbler but not good fanfic. Instead of browsing a pairing tag on AO3 or Tumblr, my first move in a new fandom is to find rec lists, then look at bookmarks from authors I like. So much fanfic now is used in the shipper debates that a character is likely either be evil or dead to make it easier for a pairing to get together.

  24. Hey, for the billionth time, Zuke themself has said why they actually left the show, which was because of stuff going on in their personal life, with fandom drama being a small factor. The “amedot fans bullied them” rumor is just that. A rumor. Started by lapidot fans who(and this is why I now avoid the ship despite it once being my otp) are NOTORIOUS throughout the fandom for harassing fans of any other ship involving Peridot, calling abuse survivors delusional and harassing them for being triggered by some of Lapis’ actions, and driving many other fans of the ship to hide their interest due to not wanting to be associated with them. Some former lapidot fans outright hate it now, specifically because of those fans. Can we just get the facts about this right for once?

  25. I got a lot of laughs out of this article. My favorite part:

    “Members of that panel were specifically targeted not based on their preferred pairing, but on their preference of who tops between Sherlock and John Watson (yes, people will harass over who tops in a fictional pairing).”

    Those filthy Watson toppers are at it again! Let ‘em have it, boys!

  26. Fanfics are protected speech. Anybody can ship anybody they want. Attacking people for writing something is never acceptable!

  27. This article is filled with so many misconceptions and is essentially a coagulation of vaguely similar fandom drama. “In-depth look” hahahahaha, dude this reads like a preachy tumblr post. Hate ta’ break it to ya but, quotes off tumblr and twitter don’t count as actual sources that relay and/or support the idea that “fandom” related cyberbullying have any actual sociological effect.

    I’m not gonna go into it cause I already burnt enough of my time on reading this thing but, what an embarrassment, yeesh.

    1. Funny, the only thing that sounds like a whole lot of crying is you, dude.

      Can’t relate to the type whom upon shown evidence just shoves their head in the sand, ah, blissful ignorance.

  28. Even threatening on Tinder to shoot somebody is not cool whether you do it or not. It may be protected speech but it’s not justified.

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  30. Uh. One minor correction tho. The Voltron Sheith and Klance “Shippers” are actually only exclusively Shiro and Lance stans. Neither faction gave a tiny speck of care about Keith, so I really hope articles like this won’t drag Keith into this.

    1. Keith is my favourite in VLD. I’ll praise him and others can talk as much smack about him as they like, what do I care? He doesn’t actually exist. Fictional characters reputations are not the problems of a well-adjusted adult. Writers can ‘drag him in’ to discussions all they like. I’m not gonna close my eyes to all of the Keith avatars in those screenshots just because I don’t want to be lumped in with bad behaviour. They obviously like him too.

      “X shippers don’t care about X character” is a fallacious argument and personality-based smear that began with antis and crops up in shipwars across every fandom. The goal is always the same: to portray those who like a perceived rival character/ship as uncaring (i.e. morally wrong.) Well, congratulations on completely missing the point of this article. Those who feign impartiality while standing on the sidelines lobbing pebbles at others for ‘liking the thing wrong’ are a huge part of why anti culture has spiralled out to the point of reaching the creators and staff of VLD in the first place.

      Those shippers could like my worst NOTP in existence and I’d still favour their right to enjoy whatever harmless ship they want over the imagined feelings of a 2d drawing. No one should be bothered whether they ‘care’ the appropriate amount about Keith or not. This article could have been a wake up call, you ignored it and opted instead to add to the toxicity in VLD fandom by parroting anti talking points designed to alienate and other real people.

  31. Have the fanfic writers moved on from VLD yet? What did they move on to?

  32. This is the thing though, we need to be open minded and talk peacefully and make effort to understand each other’s viewpoints.

    I think what you said generalizes them (keep in mind I am critiquing your actions not you as a person)

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