Will the “Real” Whatever Please Shut Up? (Please, Shut Up)

by Scott Huggins

Okay, it’s been a long time since I posted on this blog, despite a resolve to do at least one a week. What can I say, a big idea turned out to be more work that I had in me, and then life happened. But this blog topic is less nuanced, and I think I can fire it out there really fast:

I was recently shooting the breeze in my own thread online about a topic I would have to work to care less about when a rather Upset Young Guy™ I know barreled into the conversation with the subtlety of a chainsaw and informed me that because I was not acting in the manner of Real Fans Everywhere, my opinions on the topic had no merit, and that by merely airing my opinion… on my page, which I guess is his business because… he can see it? I dunno, where was I? Ah, yes: By merely airing my opinion, I had caused the UYG™, personally, great mental, nay, physical, anguish and distress. UYG™ proceeded to berate me for pretending to be a Real Fan and not spending the time or money to back it up. (In deference to the fact that he’s young and generally not a bad guy, I’m not being more specific than this. In deference to the fact that actions have consequences, I’m not being vaguer.)

The funny part is that he’s right: I’m not a Real Fan. I never said I was a Real Fan. I was just commenting on a few trends I’d recognized (trends that I was actually picking up by reading analysts who are likely far more Real Fans than either of us, as they get paid for this crap.) But apparently, no one who is not a Real Fan gets to talk about the topic at all, lest they get called out as ignorant or unenthusiastic by Real Fans, I guess.

The even funnier part is that he actually seems to think that I care about whether the self-appointed Real Fans respect my opinion on the topic of entertainment and how I should be enjoying it. But, then, he’s not alone: in the past few months I have seen professionals in a number of fields of study and craft, some of them quite close to my heart, rip each other to pieces in the name of what Real Fans, and Real Artists, and Real Activists, and Real People do and do not do.

And that’s not funny. That’s actually just sad.

Before I go further, a disclaimer: there is such a thing as real expertise in the world. And before you go intruding in a conversation set up by, about, and for experts with your own opinion, you’d better make sure you know what the hell you’re talking about, or damn well expect to get your head handed to you. For example, if it had been me who had barreled into a conversation UYG™ had been having with other Real Fans in a space for Real Fans, he could have said almost the same things he did say and have been totally in the right to do so.

But the Real Experts remember that they too were once novices, and they don’t look down on novices for not being experts, or question their motives for entering the field, or badmouth those taking a passing interest in the topic for expressing a feeling about it, or for passing on the opinions of those more knowledgeable than themselves, or even (gasp) for being WRONG once in awhile. Real Experts don’t take it upon themselves to be the Topic Police and run off the unworthy and uninitiated from discussing it among themselves. Because that’s not being an expert. That’s being the gatekeeper for a clique. That’s cutting your own field, or fan-base, or whatever off at the roots, because no one is going to want to be around people who act like that.

Don’t care? Figure people will always want to be Real Fans like you because you’re just That Cool? Okay. But there’s a lot of good people who won’t put up with your crap, whether its a fandom or a cause. And eventually, they’re going to welcome more people than you. Because they’re welcoming and not gatekeeping.

From Somewhere in Orbit

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