OPINION: To Be, Or Not to Be a Fan

Posted in Opinions

(The format of this editorial has been altered from it’s original format.  This editorial was originally a term paper for a Media & Culture class as part of the Communications department at CSUSB.)

In William Shakespeare’s 1599 classic Hamlet, the character Prince Hamlet asks, “to be, or not to be, that is the question.” In 2017 on social media, the question many people ask themselves is whether to be a fan of somebody or not. This question is asked often with fans of professional wrestling.

The internet wrestling community, aka IWC, is interesting, as there are many extremists within. Many have the “you’re either with me or against me” mentality attached to their fandom for the industry. Friendships have been ended over the extreme behavior and attitudes from within members of the community.

Arguments occur when fans claim other fans are fake, and claim they are not fans. Other arguments occur when a fan hears somebody say, “I am not a fan of” and they become angry. When somebody says they are not a fan of a person or group, it does not mean they are against the person or group.

Not being a fan of somebody or something simply means that the person does not get excited over what fans get excited for. Equating the phrase “not a fan of” to a person being against or hating on somebody or something is simply wrong. In this essay I will define what fandom is, expand on the extreme behaviors of the IWC, and offer my thoughts on the subject.

First, the definition of fandom needs to be defined. Fandom is simply the state of being a fan of somebody or something (“Fandom”). As a count noun, fandom can be defined as a community of fans, or even a subculture. What exactly is a fan? Fan is short for the word fanatic. Fanatic is a person filled with zeal, which is a great energy or enthusiasm for a person or something (“Fanatic”).

However, the word fanatic has had a negative connotation to it. Interesting enough, the short-form of the word, fan, does not carry the same negative connotation as fanatic. This could be due to the favored use of the word fanatic to describe somebody wrapped up in religion with extreme views, whereas the word fan is typically applied to somebody having a good time supporting an individual, group, or community.

Next, I will expand on the extreme attitudes of members of the Internet Wrestling Community, aka IWC. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, most of communication within the IWC was done via message boards. With message boards, members took their time to read posts by other members, and carefully construct their responses.

It was not out of the norm for mature and stable debates to take place on a message board. That is not to say that the occasional flame-war would break out, but that was few and far between across popular boards.

Web 2.0 changed all of that when social media became the norm for communicating online. Social media has been designed to be communication on the go and done quickly. I feel that this has taken away from the previous methods that message boards allowed users, to be able to carefully read and respond to differing opinions. This has allowed people to no longer respond with reason and logic, but now people respond with raw emotion.

By doing this causes a divide among people. There is no more middle ground, and people start to take sides. The way television has become also affects the division of people. David Morley and Kevin Robbins, in their essay titled Under Western Eyes, claim that television can skew how people perceive other cultures (Ouellette). Morley and Robbins use logic and ethics to support their claim that flawed images of the outside world, created by the media, affect the way people interact with each other.

An example of this can be World Wrestling Entertainment’s constant use of foreign characters being portrayed negatively and in the role of the heel. In professional wrestling, the term heel refers to the bad guy. In 2017, Yuvraj Sighn Dhesi, professionally known as Jinder Mahal, became the WWE Champion. Dhesi is Indian-Canadian, and was used on television highlighting his roots to India. His performances used many Indian stereotypes.

Stereotypes included an overexaggerated accent, hatred for the Western world, and the use of words like Punjabi and “my people.” Many Indian pro wrestling fans expressed a dislike for the use of stereotypes. Other forms of divide among wrestling fans include when a fan states they are not a fan of a certain wrestler. Fans of that wrestler often will see that as a declaration of war against that wrestler and their fans.

Finally, I will give my thoughts on wrestling fandom. I have dealt with the “I am not a fan of” backlash. I once stated that I am not a fan of pro wrestler Joey Ryan. My statement caused many of Joey Ryan’s fans to attack me with ad hominem attacks. This does not mean that I am saying I hate Joey Ryan, and it does not say that I hate his fans. I am indifferent to what Joey Ryan does. By saying I am not a fan of his, it means that I do not get excited or have enthusiasm when I see him. I don’t recall ever having to deal with this issue during the days dominated by message boards.

This doesn’t mean that the way the internet has been shaped is all bad. Along with the bad does come with some good. Matthew Guschwan, Ph.D. in Communications and Culture from Indiana University, states, “online media is a boon to fandom. It provides mountains of information for the devout follower, while it also provides the opportunity to create and share content” (Guschwan). Mobile technology has given way to obtain information at any given moment, at any given location.

There needs to be a balance in the improvements on the web. People on social media need to start taking time to respond with logic and reason, while using the same improvements to educate themselves and expand their vocabulary.

Work Cited

  • “Fanatic.” Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/fanatic.
  • “Fandom.” Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/fandom.
  • Guschwan, Matthew. “New Media: Online Fandom.” Soccer & Society, vol. 17, no. 3, May 2016, pp. 351-371. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/14660970.2015.1082761.
  • Ouellette, Laurie. The Media Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.