I’ve been a fan of a lot of different things over the years, a lot of them geeky, some of them not. However, I have never been fanatical over any of them. I have a healthy interest in the things that I like, but never an extreme interest in anything, especially not to the point where that interest can cause financial, emotional or physical harm to myself, my family or anyone around me.
To be honest, I just don’t understand people for whom fandom becomes an obsession, like online gamers who will lose their jobs and their families playing games 24 hours a day, and will eventually drop dead because playing is more important than eating or sleeping. No matter how much I enjoy a thing, it remains just a thing, an event or an interest that I gain some pleasure from, but which I can, if I need to, walk away from.
Of course, those with major problems only represent a tiny minority of overall fans, but there are other problematic folks that I run into regularly. As anyone who knows me knows, I’m very much into debate and discussion of anything I happen to have an interest in. The purpose of debates, as far as I’m concerned, is to weigh in with my best evidence and best arguments and match those ideas against the best others have to offer in hopes of coming to a single conclusion that can be defended in objective reality. If there is a single end-result, I want to find it, or at the very least, find a way to winnow away lesser-qualified answers and narrow the field of possible solutions. In any case, I’m a very, very, very rational guy and, whether I should or not, I expect the same from others.
There was a discussion going on over on the Comic Book Resources forums regarding DC overtaking Marvel’s commanding lead in the movie market and one guy kept arguing that DC movies were already better and more successful than Marvel movies. When it was pointed out that Marvel movies are not only better received by critics and audiences, but make a ton more money as well, he said he didn’t care about any of that, he liked DC and therefore, anything DC did was better than anyone else. Nothing anyone said could dissuade this guy that his feelings and opinions were not applicable to the question at hand. He was a DC fanatic in every sense of the word, he simply could not get it through his head that anyone could beat out DC in anything or that DC could ever make a mistake. He rejected any concept of DC being behind Marvel out of hand because he could not bear the thought of it. Eventually, everyone just stopped talking to him because he couldn’t locate reason on a map.
Yet I find those kinds of people in various fandoms all the time. I suppose that it’s not restricted to fandom, they are present in every walk of life and they are equally annoying in all of them. I keep asking myself how someone can have that extreme of an emotional attachment to a position, regardless of the position, and be so utterly unwilling to even question their addiction to that position at the cost of all else, especially when their position is so easily and demonstrably wrong.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with a healthy interest in things that appeal to you, just looking around my house, I’ve got mementos of a lot of things that I really enjoy littered over bookshelves, tables and on the walls, but a non-fan wouldn’t walk in the front door and then slowly back out again. I live a normal life and fandom is an addition to it, it doesn’t take the whole thing over and it doesn’t make me shift my way of thinking to accommodate a fanatical devotion. I’ve known people like that and frankly, I find them more than a little scary. Delusion is not something that anyone should be proud of.
I’ve written stories of fanatics and the absurdly-dedicated in virtually every fandom I’ve run across. You have stamp collecting crazies, pet crazies, comic crazies, action figure collecting crazies, you name it. People who cross the line from enjoying a thing to utterly obsessing over a thing and they get really pissed when anyone points out that what they’re doing isn’t healthy or, in some cases, even sane. But what can we, as well-adjusted fans do about those who are not so well-adjusted? How do we get people help who are supremely convinced they don’t need any? I think that’s a question we all need to ask ourselves. Where are those lines? When does an interest become a passion, when does a passion become unbalanced?
What can we really do?