I’ve sent in confessions before voicing frustration about what comics fandom is like today.
Some of them have had to do with the books and fans being so over-the-top political. If you say current comics are “too preachy” people take that to mean zero social commentary allowed instead of maybe things could be done better. If you’re upset about how aggressive people get, they double down and call you all kinds of names. People accuse you of lying about the things that scare you while validating every concern through hideous behavior. There is zero room for civil discussion and no compassion for fans who just love stories or characters, who feel like that is being taken away by those who’d rather scream about the election and how evil/bigoted America is today in every medium 24/7.
I have a ton of positive confessions I could make about characters, arcs, or creators I love. Some involve areas of comics that are more obscure, and many involve members of underrepresented groups that are beyond brilliant but not acknowledged or examined by fandom. There are LGBT characters, there are racial minority characters, there are mentally ill characters, there are women, there are religious characters, and there are creators of all stripes that have easily become my favorites. I never had to lower the bar or do a pity-purchase, I’ll spend MONTHS digging through back issues to find a specific origin info I’m looking for because it’s so exciting.
I’m not comfortable right now sharing the stories that matter most to me with today’s toxic fans, even anonymously. If I know something good that isn’t as close to the chest sure, but the works that have deeply moved me? Why would I give that to hateful people who will treat it like nothing? Why would I give something powerful and precious in its humanity, in its individual specificity, to people who will only look and see “mentally ill gay male” or “non-white lesbian female” where names should be? Why would I give that to people who will only talk about whether or not the character is inhumanly perfect or stereotypical enough to be a role model in their quest for representation? The stories that have been tragic enough to make me cry, the stories that made me laugh my ass off, the ships I could talk about for hours… why on earth would I expose myself that way?
If I got on my knees and begged people in fandom to be kind, to listen, to make any effort to treat me and fans like me with compassion instead of accusations, to have discussions involving shades of gray instead of black and white, to look beyond categories and see individual human beings, I feel like I’d be laughed at and kicked while I was down. I feel like I’d just be called more names, or have the things I worry about dismissed while people continue justifying my fears in the first place.
No one wants to admit they could be hurting innocent people, and if you are an innocent person you’re not allowed to believe in your own innocence. Defending yourself at all makes you guilty. Being upset about how you’re treated on tumblr means you must be alt-right nazi scum, even if you’re an ethnic minority who has been discriminated against online and off by both ends of the political spectrum. And I don’t mean microaggressions either, I have literally been called slurs to my face and had points where I feared for my physical safety.
I’m saying this partly to the people who read this blog, but also to the SHC mods who I have a lot of gratitude, respect, and sympathy for. This is why I personally don’t make more positive confessions about comics. This is why I would rather put on armor and point out the bad things going on, to try and convince people these issues are real and painful and not justified. Because maybe then people will do it less, and I can feel safe again enjoying this medium and genre I love so much. Maybe a few people at least will admit they are capable of being mean or wrong just as much as anybody else (me included) and do their best not to be.