Friday, August 16, 2019


If you weren't on social media last week, and why would you since it's the waning days of summer, you may have missed the latest pop culture dust up. One that really has come to represent what pop culture fandom has become these days. It all started with this tweet:

Mikey/Samwise/Rudy/Bob and an otter? This might be my closing argument.
Almost immediately Pop Culture Twitter went into crisis mode. Asses were in the air and lots of salt was thrown in the air. People were furious. And initially, I was one of them.

This isn't Sean Astin from Stranger Things you sweet summer child, this is Mikey From Goonies. How dare you? You are ruining my childhood...wait, what?

I despise the weaponization of that phrase by fandom. And it's only a small part of the growing problem of fandom in general. Fandom has become a toxic entity. What used to be a warm, comfortable place where you could hang out and interact with people that love the same things you do has become a place where you have to defend what you love, why you love it and if you deserve to love it at all. There's a dangerous degree of curation in every fandom that is slowly but surely turning back the clock to the days when you couldn't say out loud that you loved Star Wars without derision and scorn. (There seems to be a small, but very loud contingency of people that deplorably want the clock turned back on everything, but this isn't a political blog, so I'll just leave it at that.)

Too many people in fandom seem to want their respective fandoms to be insular and consolidated. There should be tests and requirements to "join" a fandom, like we're all joining the Water Buffalo Lodge with Fred and Barney. You have to be a "real" fan, something I've never understood and is annoying. (Ask cosplayers, especially female cosplayers, about that.) Don't you want a wide, all encompassing group? Don't you want lots of people to interact with and talk about the thing you love? I do. It doesn't seem people want to do that. (There's also a long planned post on ownership coming from me soon that's been rekindled by the dust up from the Wheel of Time TV show cast announcements.) Fans want to curate. Fans want to gatekeep. Fans want to keep people out and it makes no sense to me.

I understand that to a lot of fans, being a fan of something frequently meant that you were an outcast and that fandom gave you a comfy place. Those fans around my age led a relatively isolated life within our fandom. If someone said they liked something that was "geeky," you were on guard. Were they mocking you? Were they going to turn this around and make fun of you? This was my entire teenaged years and even now to some extent. If you told me that I'd be at a bar with friends talking about a dragon queen and a night king, I'd stare at you as if I had no idea what you were talking about out of fear of being made fun of. Few things on social media have floored me than the head cheerleader from my high school liking several of my Star Wars posts on Facebook. Did that mean she liked it all along or is she a recent convert? Frankly, I don't care. Welcome. And that's the way it should be.

Fandom shouldn't be insular. It shouldn't be curated. If you love something, love it. And we, as fans, should be welcoming. There are no "fake" fans, we're all real fans. I've been guilty of this. I've side eyed the kids with New York Met hats and Matt Harvey jerseys in 2015-16. I've rolled eyes at young folk that talk about the Prequels with a degree of reverence. But at some point, I stopped. I want more fans to join my fandom. Come on over. Ask me questions. I'll do my best. I became the Game of Thrones expert at work, posting on Facebook that I'd be holding office hours the Monday after episodes to talk. (The Red Wedding was a big day for me as a counselor.) To the head cheerleader, if you have questions about some of the minutiae of Star Wars fandom, let me know. Or maybe you can tell me something I didn't know.

As for Sean Astin, fans, can't we just recognize him as a possibly under-the-radar pop culture icon for almost forty years? He's played FOUR iconic film characters....FOUR. How many actors can say that? We're talking characters that their fans LOVE, that are all phenomenal performances that impacted countless creatives like myself. True, Sean Astin will always be Mikey from Goonies (LFGM, by the way), an iconic character that most of us wanted to be when we were kids (though I was more a "Chunk" than Mikey). But to a lot of others, he's Rudy, a tough as nails, hardworking kid that followed his dreams. To a large majority, he's most remembered as the resilient, brave and loyal Samwise Gamgee, who really was the hero of the saga of the One Ring. And now, to a new generation he's known as Bob Newby, a kind, decent and generous man that was the original "nerd" in his hometown that became a hero in his own right for the woman that he loved. That's a pretty good resume for an icon. If you aren't tearing up at half of those videos, I contend that you may be one of the lizard people. I didn't mention his long career as a voice actor or his performances in notable films like Toy Soldiers, Encino Man or 50 First Dates. From everything I've read, Sean Astin is a decent family man, hard working actor and enthusiastic labor rights activist. He and I share the same birthday, two years apart.  There are worse things to be than a part of his fandom, no matter what the entry point.

So, look, fans, be more open to "new" fans. Stop curating. Welcome people into the fold, because as Samwise Gamgee said, "...there's still some good in the world and it's worth fighting for."