Haasch: Fan content should support, not harm, idols

The products of fandom can have negative impacts on those who inspired them.

Palmer Haasch

Fandom has been a crucial part of my life ever since I was 12 years old. I discovered fan fiction in middle school, and was quickly exposed to a community of fans, writers and artists that was incredibly supportive, and above all, incredibly into fictional material. As I’ve grown up, the fandom that I’m active in has shifted from books like Maximum Ride and Artemis Fowl in middle school; cartoons and anime like Fullmetal Alchemist, Haikyuu!! and Steven Universe during my high school and early college years and recently, K-pop groups like BTS and BLACKPINK.

Although fandom itself is a universal concept, fandoms for certain shows, artists and books manifest in a variety of different ways, but their existence is generally facilitated through social media. The way that most fandoms function and engage with content is extremely similar. Websites like Archive of Our Own allow writers to publish and categorize fan fiction that they write, and many fan artists post their work to Tumblr and Twitter to share it with the rest of their fandom. Furthermore, fandoms are saturated with “ships,” or popular pairings of two or more characters. No matter what material a fandom is centered around — fictional or real — many fandoms are structured in the same way. 

However, as fandoms grow larger, they can grow more and more out of control, becoming excessively obsessive or problematic. I want to clarify that I’m not implying an entire fandom and all of its members are necessarily bad. Rather, the larger a fandom grows, the more potential there is for problems to arise. This becomes particularly complicated when fandoms are centered around real people. When using fictional content as a starting point, writing fan fiction or drawing art of characters is generally all right, or at the very least, has a smaller chance at perpetuating negative effects in real life. However, fans must consider the way the content they create and the way they engage with their idols affects the lives of those about which their content is centered.

Many fans of boy bands like One Direction or BTS create content in which band members are paired with each other. The “Larry” ship within the One Direction fandom was revealed to have had negative effects on band members Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles, to the extent they shied away from expressing friendly affection toward each other for fear of adding credibility to fan accusations that they were dating. Ultimately, their relationship as friends and band members was negatively affected by fan behavior and content. Other fandoms display behavior like this too — one example I’ve personally seen is fans tagging BTS’ official Twitter account in tweets containing explicit fan art. 

In general, fans need to consider their behavior toward their idols. I’m not saying that we need to stop producing fan content, but I am saying that we need to be respectful and considerate about the way we create and disseminate it. Supporting our idols should be the goal that drives our content, and if it ends up hurting our idols, we as fans have a responsibility to change the way our fandom operates.