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.
Tommy earned degrees in Liberal Arts, Multimedia, and Communications from MSJC & CSUSB. Experienced in management, marketing, and graphic design. Former journalist at Coyote Chronicle (2016-2017), and On-Air Talent on Coyote Radio.

Former Play by Play Commentator for Jesse Hernandez’s Empire Wrestling Federation (2010-2016). In 2016, Tommy stepped down as the lead play by play commentator for EWF. He joins the broadcast team when needed.

His other duties during his time in professional wrestling include operating various promotion’s websites, playing theme songs at events, running scoreboard technology for Wrestling Cares Association, marketing consulting, and DVD production for many Southern California promotions.

Tommy’s most active role at present time is being a communications consultant at Jesse Hernandez’s School of Hard Knocks. Duties with this role include teaching pro wrestling students the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication in the industry, and coaching with public speaking.
  • Brandon Michael

    You wrote that Social media had changed the way people communicated. It was designed for people on the go. I agree that most responses now of days lack a mature thought. Most responses today are considered trolling. A term used to make a deliberately offensive or provocative online post with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them. Fanatic is a good term to use to describe most of these individuals. Some believe the product they watch is the superior product. It’s like they are at war with all outside promotions. Even if their product is lacking without competition they still will defined their product to the bitter end. They feel like they get some sort of win when they are able to get some sort of negative outburst. WWE Fanboys can be the worse of them. Anything that happens outside the wwe Universe they take a blind eye to. Talent that was released from the company they say couldn’t cut it. Talent that never been they say couldn’t make it. Even if these talents choose not to come to this company on their own free will. To them WWE is the Big Leagues. Everything good happens there. It’s funny how the tides change on a talent when they are signed to a wwe contract. One minute they could be the worse talent in the world to them. Then they show up on wwe programming and overnight they are some huge star. Even if the IWC has been saying it for years. They will come up with some sort of way to justify it all.

    Stereotypes seem to be used to feed off people views in a certain markets. They give a talent a character. Sometimes these stereotypes work, other times they don’t. Good example would be Kazuchika Okada. He is currently one of the top talents in the world. Yet a few years ago he was in Impact wrestling doing a western stereotype playing a green hornet Valet for Samoa Joe. NJPW took offense to this stereotype character and broke off all ties with impact wrestling in the end. WWE focus has always been in the western markets. So their isn’t really a fear of upsetting other promotions over cultural stereotypes. They have multiple times over the years used gimmicks some would consider racist in some cultures. But because of their strong market presence in the western market without any true competition they have been able to continue to entertain their fans without any backlash. Indie promotions who are trying to build a presence in the western market have received backlash for using similar gimmicks from both sides of the world. WWE Fan boys take it as they are copying wwe and trying to be wwe lite. The companies they are working with from around the world feel like they are mistreating their talent. In the end its a bad idea for a indie promotion to use stereotypes without receiving some sort of backlash in the end.

    I feel like I’m starting to ramble a little bit here mixing my thoughts up. Responding to this article in full. So I’ll cut it off here and continue over conversation through post responses.

    • I agree with your take on how WWE fanatics handle wrestlers when they’re on the indies compared to when they sign with WWE. It goes both ways too, because indy fanatics will immediately go to the “they sold out” or “they aren’t the same” when one of their favorites get signed by WWE. I’ve seen people refer to name changes as “slave names” and it baffled me. I’ve even had some friends to this day still refer to Daniel Bryan as Bryan Danielson, and mentioned they’d ask for that name as an autograph from him if given the opportunity. Apply the same mentality to a guy like The Undertaker. How do you think it would go over with him if somebody asked “can you sign this as Mean Mark?” I doubt anything would get signed. I could be wrong, it is just a hunch.

      The other day I put a Tweet out that kinda summed this whole article up, and it went like this:

      “If I like a wrestler you dislike, and vice versa, it doesn’t mean we have beef with each other. Same for promotions. We can all sit at the same buffet and still enjoy different plates of food. The fact that we’re at the same buffet is the real story. #ProWrestling”

      • Brandon Michael

        I agree that some view talent when signing to the wwe as they have sold out. As for the “They aren’t the same” comment. I think some of that is they no longer have the control they use to have in the indies. Move sets are limited if another talent on the roster currently uses a certain move. Some moves aren’t used at all due to wwe finds these moves to be to risky. I enjoy the indie promotions myself because I feel like a wrestler is more invested into their character. In wwe currently wwe owns most of the rights for these characters. When they leave wwe most talents aren’t legally able to use their characters and have to rebuild a new Brand for themselves. This old mentality needs to change throughout the industry. The reason why names like Hogan, Macho Man, Flair Etc became household names was because they used these characters everywhere they went. Allowing these talents to leave a promotion to work in different markets will not only help the talent but also help the industry. They will be able to evolve their characters. They will be more invested in the path they take. Right now when I watch wwe I feel like the talent isn’t trying to reach for the brace ring. They aren’t trying to put on the match of the year. They are just trying to collect a pay check. Most of that is do to the fact the storylines and promos they do on tv is scripted by wwe creative. Years ago they use to give bulletin points to a talent and tell them to go out and cut a promo. Promos came from the heart. Who better to know what your character should be saying then the talent themselves? This is where I think people start to use the comment they aren’t themselves. Because most of these guys in the indies are having this creative control until coming to wwe. They start to feel watered down when being on wwe programming.

        I agree as a fan we should be supporting all programming. The more competition there is the more creative has to work harder to put out the best product they can. I dislike currently a lot of wrestlers most mainstream media likes. Doesn’t mean I have beef with them. But I state my view once in a comment and move on. I refuse to be trolled if a educated response isn’t given.