At the end of the 2012 presidential election, riots broke out at a Mississippi university where racial slurs were shouted by the mob, and over the ensuing months the White House was inundated with petitions asking for individual states to secede from the Union. All these and a few other interesting little acts of rebellion and political anger were the result of President Barack Obama nabbing a second term and, in the eyes of these people, sitting comfortably in a position to create a dictatorship.
I thought these people were being overdramatic and possibly a little unpatriotic. I mean, why not wait till the next election, like the Democrats were forced to do from 2000 to 2008? Why threaten leaving the Union? And until this past weekend, I thought nothing could match this overreaction.
I was wrong.
This past weekend, I read several articles, online and off, about how Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse books, was receiving negative reviews, angry letters, and even a few death threats. Why, you ask? Because a small but extremely passionate legion of her fans are upset that the latest book, Dead Ever After, also happens to be the last Sookie Stackhouse book. Some were angry that Ms. Harris was ending the series. A few were threatening to do horrible things to themselves or to Ms. Harris if the ending doesn’t put their favorite couples together (and when a leaked copy of the novel appeared in Germany, some fans did what they threatened).
This isn’t the first time an author has received this sort of treatment from fans. Stephanie Meyer received some very angry letters when she said she didn’t want to write any more vampire stories, and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got his share of haters attacking him when he threw Sherlock Holmes over a cliff, seemingly killing him. For the latter, this led to Holmes’s resurrection, which can show how powerful fans can be, and in the age of the Internet, a few people can create a tidal wave of faceless anger and indignation.
But can I remind everyone of something? THESE ARE FICTIONAL STORIES! There’s no actual Sookie Stackhouse or Bella Swann, Sherlock Holmes doesn’t actually mysteries in London, there are no vampires or Hogwarts, Klingons are the creation of talented make-up artists working with patient actors in seats, and the fact that adults get so worked up by a show about talking animated ponies seems a little creepy! None of it is real, but the fact that so many people treat these things like life or death just seems to disturb me.
So why do people go all Annie Wilkes when their favorite author decides to do something that a few fans disagree with? Or to go a little broader, why do some fans threaten to boycott or do horrible things to a celebrity when that celebrity does one little thing that doesn’t fit with the image these fans create of certain idols? And yes, fans create the images of their idols, because it is only in their minds that Tom Cruise is truly a dashing, charismatic, very eccentric man, or that the super model is the cool, serious seductress of your dreams. Magazines and TV and movies may help perpetuate these images, but the fans are the ones who create these images in the first place.
But to return to my original point, I don’t know why certain fans act so crazy when an idol does something that doesn’t fit their image, be it a pure actress that cannot be anything other than the sweet girl from the country, or the author that wants to end a book series after so many years, or the bad-boy musician who keeps his marriage and family secret because “that does not fit his image”. I always look at what these people do as gifts: they give us a wonderful story or a performance or a song and we appreciate it because of all the work that went into creating such a beautiful present.
Even more so, plenty of artists treat their work like their babies, children they create and give birth to inside themselves. What happens when someone else tells them how they should raise their own children, what those children should learn and who they should love? It’s a little freaky, to say the least.
But it seems that some fans don’t see things the same way. They love their idols while the idols do what the fans want, but as soon as the idol does the opposite, the fans become hostile, believing they are owed something. The truth is, the rabid fans are the ones who owe something to the artist, and that’s an apology. You don’t own the work, you didn’t create it, and you sure as heck can’t tell the creators of such work what they should do with it. And if you are willing to go to such lengths such as try to ruin an artist’s career like hurting yourself or go on a hate campaign, then I seriously worry about your mental state.
So people, the next time you want to do horrible things to an artist for doing something not remotely criminal but you still find yourself feeling really upset about it, take a step back and ask: Is this really worth going to war over?
I highly doubt it.