cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

"Let me show you my fannish entitlement" by cupidsbow

This phrase, "fannish entitlement," what does it mean?

I ask because I've seen it pop up a lot lately, in several different contexts. Fans speaking of other fans; creators speaking about fans; non-fannish commentators speaking about fans. It's used in such a range of ways, too; quite a few of which are contradictory. Here's a distillation of the ones I've seen in the last twelve months...

It's entitled to want warnings for commonly acknowledged PTSD triggers, such as rape. It's entitled to want warnings for anything that squicks you. It's entitled to want to play in the fannish community without engaging with the etiquette. It's entitled to expect canon to satisfy you. It's entitled to critique canon. It's only entitled to critique canon if you go "too far" or send it directly to the writers or confuse the writer with the text. It's entitled to start a campaign to change/bring back canon. It's only entitled to start a campaign if it's based on stupid reasons. It's entitled to create fanworks at all, because fans don't own canon in any way. It's only entitled to create fanworks if they're schmoopy; srs bzns is okay. It's entitled to inflict "out of character" writing or Mary Sues or poor grammar and spelling on fandom. It's entitled to expect your fannish tastes to be met by fanworks. It's entitled to get a lot of comments and/or recs. It's entitled to want more comments and/or recs. It's entitled to use your BNF status for anything. It's entitled not to use your BNF status for good. It's entitled for BNFs to hang out with other BNFs. It's entitled to point out misogyny or racism in canon or fanworks. It's entitled to be upset if creators speak back to fandom in disapproving ways (and no, I will never get over my entitled fannish eye-roll about the "nine hysterical women" comment). It's entitled to want outsiders to approach fandom with respect if they want something from us.

I'm sure we each have pretty strong opinions about these different usages, and think some are genuine cases of fannish entitlement, and others are not. I'm also sure that our lists of which are genuine would not neatly match-up.

So, I ask again, what is "fannish entitlement"?

There's currently no entry on "fannish entitlement" at Fanlore, but thinking back, my impression is that the phrase began long ago in the fannish mists of time, when things were more secret, as a way of reality checking fans for two main things: if they went waaaay past fannish engagement with a text, and into creepy stalker territory; and if they dared to think their opinions and fanworks might actually have some value, as though the fan in question had a right to engage with creators as equals (I don't mean delusionally, thinking they were co-creators, but that they had a right as consumers to critique the product they were consuming in both positive and negative, intellectual and emotional ways).

Assuming my memory is correct, those are certainly not the only contexts in which the term is used anymore. Have some links:

  • You keep using that term, "fannish entitlement." I do not think it means what you think it means. by nenena, who makes the point that there's a difference between "fannish" entitlement, and challenging isms and stereotypes.

  • Also on this topic, Katherine Keller's Editorial, makes the case that when fan activism is not driven by an underpinning ideology it is the epitome of pointless fannish entitlement. [It does lead me to ask: what is the harm in that kind of fannish practice? Is it because it dilutes the impact of ideologically-driven activism, or because "outsiders" conflate the two and so dismiss both? Or something else?]

  • What do women want in comics? by dafnap, who points out that some types of entitlement are not unreasonable, like, for instance, expecting gender equality both within a text and within fandom.

  • Show creators, tired of the crazy wing of your fanbase? Here's how to get rid of them. by Tempest, who argues that fans are demonstrating foolish entitlement at being upset by a depiction of fan practices in canon. [This is noteworthy too, because there's no acknowledgement that there might be a difference in fans critiquing a show, and a show critiquing its fans.]

  • And, of course, most recently, seperis wrote i miss ship wars like so much, in which ze self-identifies the post as fannish entitlement, because ze resents the way that fannishness has, to an ever-increasing degree, become a kind of performance we're all being asked to constantly review, rather than participate in.

Interesting, yes? These are just a few choice morsels, because there's a hell of a lot more out there, full of so many different usages, so many slices and dices of what is and isn't fannish entitlement.

Looking at all of this, you know what I'm starting to think? That whatever "fannish entitlement" originally meant, it has become a phrase like "think of the children".

Yes, we can use it self-deprecatingly, as seperis does, but when it's used in a debate, it seems to me it's usually used as a smack-down, a show-stopper, a policing action. To combat it, fans often end up saying (perfectly reasonable) things like: "No, I'm not just pissed off that Ianto Jones died; I'm pissed off that he was Fridged." Or, "This isn't about my personal taste; it's about writing grown men as though they are stereotypical women, which is misogynist as well as contextually unbelievable."

What I'm wondering is: why do those opinions need to be justified with srs bzns??? I'm not arguing that there's anything wrong with serious debate, but why can't fans hold strong, emotional opinions without an accusation of entitlement (or hysteria, or whatever othering word is in vogue today) being made?

While I'm not condoning harassment of show creators, I do wonder why it's entitled to express shock and dismay over a text, or behaviour, or trends within these shows, particularly if they were designed to shock and/or dismay. Are we meant to feel it, but not speak of it? I also wonder why our performance of fandom, in all its inconsistency, lapses of judgement, sudden passions, genuine resistances, porn, critique and everything else, is a type of entitlement. Isn't this *makes a swirly hand gesture taking in all the complexity*, in fact, fandom in its very essence?

I mean, obviously I could argue that fandom itself is a form of entitlement -- we are predominantly made up of rich, white people with lots of leisure time (and just read quotation marks around all those listed items, okay? Because we're so much more than that). But what good does that do? Even if it is an entitled form of culture, I find value in it, partly because of the gender entitlement within this part of fandom. This is one of the places I learnt to speak up for myself, and also other people; I now have an effective vocabulary with which to do so, and that has infinitely enriched my life.

Is this fannish entitlement?

Or am I wrong about the way the phrase has become a form of policing? Is there some other, generally agreed meaning to "fannish entitlement" that I'm not getting?

If I'm right, though, why are we using this phrase as a brick-bat against each other? Why the hell are we policing ourselves for doing what we do? Again! If people are crossing the line by stalking or making threats, then we should call it that (and also call the police). If they are being misogynist or racist or ableist, we can talk about privilege without talking about fannish entitlement. If it's a matter of taste, well surely we're all entitled to our own taste? And if people are just being asshats, then hey, maybe we should call them that too, and then ignore them (or enjoy arguing with them, if that's the fannish thing we live for).

But why, why, why is it so fucking outrageous for us to have strong, stupid and/or outspoken opinions about canon and fanworks? Why does expressing those opinions make us "entitled"?

Here's my fannishly entitled statement for today: I want fandom to stop verbally beating each other up for thinking and feeling the things we think and feel, and especially for asking for the things we want. I'd also really like it if tomorrow, the only people still using the term "fannish entitlement" in a non-ironic way were non-fans.

Plus I want the obligatory pony, obviously.

What is your fannishly entitled statement for today?

This entry was originally posted at
Tags: commentary, discussion, essay, fandom

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