Pop culture, especially for us socially isolated dorks, is an easy granfalloon to call our own. You have a ready-made conversation topic, a sense of purpose, and a way to identify the out-group. As a geek of the old school persuasion, I get it. Somewhere in my piles of stuff is a beat up, yellow paper card signifying that I am an official member of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Information Club. Itâ€™ll be eighteen years, this year, since the day I got it in the mail from Minnesota. I have a similar, newer card, signifying my membership in Club DEVO, the DEVO Fan Club. Thatâ€™s about the end of my formalized pop culture affiliations, though I have no shortage of informal onesâ€”largely in music.
But these affiliations are starting to worry me. That worry is largely about the way online discourse occurs around pop culture. Especially when someone is critical of a particular piece of pop culture. You canâ€™t say anything negativeâ€”or just counter to populist opinionâ€”about something with a large, devoted fanbase in a public forum without raising the flaming ire of fans. Heaven forfend you make even a valid criticism, even of something you like, without being called out as a fake fan. And if youâ€™re female, a person of color, or both, here come the rape threats.
Problems occur when the requirements to be part of the in-group increase. The more of a piece of pop culture you consume, the more trivia you can spout, more merchandise you can display, the truer a fan you are. For a new fan of anything, the requirements to join the in-group can become positively Sisyphean. And this is usually by design. Itâ€™s far from a new phenomenon, but the movement of pop culture from an interest to an identity has only amplified the territorial tendencies of geeks.
Which goes a long way towards why Iâ€™ve chosen to dial back from my geeky pop culture obsessions. Iâ€™m doing this in large part because I donâ€™t like defining my identity based on someone elseâ€™s work, but also because I have seen the dark side of geeky obsession from both sides. Fandoms can become toxic, and it can happen on the turn of a dime. Just look at what happened recently in the Steven Universe fandom on Tumblr.
Iâ€™ve seen a short YouTube video linked when people discuss their disinterest in cultural granfaloons. Itâ€™s a mantra Iâ€™m trying to take to heart. Maybe you should too. Remember: â€œItâ€™s okay to not like things! Donâ€™t be a dick about the things you donâ€™t like.â€ And donâ€™t be a dick about the things you do like, as well.