stop bullying people for caring about stories just as much as you do

So hey, I just went to my first Buffy singalong, which seemed like it was going to be a great way to cap off the Whedonistas launch. But then this thing happened, and I want to talk about it.

Every time Dawn opened her mouth, people in the audience started yelling, “Shut up!” You can defend this by saying it’s the same thing as what we do at Rocky Horror, except that it wasn’t. It wasn’t clever, and it wasn’t directed at all the characters or the property as a whole. It was directed at Dawn.

When a young fan (certainly not older than college-age, probably still a teen, quite possibly under-age) yelled out asking people to stop, people yelled at her. When she tried to explain that this type of action has made the actress who plays Dawn cry and that Joss Whedon had asked people not to do it, people yelled out that both she and the actress needed to toughen up.

In a moment the Buffy singalong had gone from some fans engaging in questionable courtesy to a bunch of fans bullying a young fan because she cares. A lot.

What. The. Fuck?

Being a fan is about love. Sure we argue and debate and rant about People Who Are Wrong on the Internet. But coming to a Doctor Who convention (as Craig Ferguson says, “Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism”) and bullying a young fan to toughen up because she had a problem with the way the event was going because a Buffy singalong generally does not involve cheering and encouraging the silencing of a young female character whose arc in the episode is such that she is kidnapped, silenced, sexualized and forced into a marriage in Hell?

That was the most uncool thing I’ve seen in fandom in a long time.

Fans need to stop bullying other fans on- and off-line. It’s vile and disgusting and weak. And it makes us so terribly below the heroes we adore.

The Whoniverse is about the people who were never supposed to be heroes choosing to be heroes: shop girls and queer boys from council estates; women who’ve been left behind and men who’ve been forgotten. Secretaries and PAs and temps. People who, that when you hear their stories, you can’t help but hope that at the end of the world the universe might pause for a second and give you just one perfect beautiful moment in which to fix everything.

So in light of that, who the fuck do you think you are to bully some girl for caring about stories just as much as you do?

ETA 2/21/2010: I’ve posted a follow-up to this, addressing some of the comments both here and at Whedonesque and offering a more detailed description of what happened.

ETA 2/23/2010: A few final thoughts about the discussion this has engendered.

57 thoughts on “stop bullying people for caring about stories just as much as you do”

  1. Dear gods yes. That sort of behavior by other fans is simultaneously unforgivable and (to me at least) baffling, It also looks to me like it speaks of either a fair amount of self-loathing for being a fan or perhaps simply a complete lack of concern about the feelings of others.

  2. I’ve never understood the Dawn-hate in Buffydom, and I hadn’t realized that it “went there” with OMWF. I’m glad that young fan spoke up, and I hope she retains the strength of conviction she showed by doing so, despite the response she got.

  3. I mean, I’m all about Whedonverse love and respect, I’m a huge fan of BtVS… but I never liked Dawn. And although it’s not easily understood, the Dawn hate can be interpreted as a compliment to Michelle! She played a role well, a role that was WRITTEN as “annoying younger sister”. Dawn comes out of nowhere in Season 5, and makes everything about her. Yes, she’s scared, confused, insecure, and after learning her true identity, completely unstable and lost. But she’s also a giant pain in Buffy’s ass. People hate Dawn because, let’s face it, she’s pretty obnoxious. That being said, I don’t condone yelling anything negative when everyone is watching something, that’s just childish.

  4. The real vampires in our world are those who feed off of negative energy & where they can find none, they create it. They live by the credo that their opinion is fact and an opinion that doesn’t mirror theirs is insane, inane & unnecessary. They are not evolved enough to realize that the definition of “different” is not “wrong,” it is “not the same.” Being a bully does not make you right or charming or witty, it make you pitiful, for how can you not pity someone who makes the conscious choice to be an asshole? How sad their lives must be to choose to make others feel pain in order for them to feel “right.” It’s ugly. It’s sad. And it diminishes us all.

  5. The reprensible bullying of the young fan aside, looking at your Rocky Horror example… Over the course of 4 seasons, Dawn needs to shut up way more than Janet is a slut and Brad is an asshole… And that’s the way a solid number in Buffy fandom feel about it. It’s not about her specific circumstances in that episode, it’s about the 80 episodes where she could hardly be stood at all.

  6. Being a fan should be something that unites people, that brings together people who would otherwise have never met and gives them something in common. When you go to a gathering like a sing-a-long this bond should be even stronger than just talking about the show at the water cooler because everyone there cares about the source material SO much more.

    When I read about things like this, it makes me wonder how someone could be such a fan of the show that they would go to a OMWF singalong and yet manage not to learn anything from the show at all about how to treat other people.

  7. Jeez. I know people can get pretty worked up over not liking Dawn (I, myself, am a fan of her, but I know a ton of people who aren’t), and that’s fine when you’re online in a forum and you’re calmly discussing why you don’t like her, but when people start ruining other people’s evenings because of it, that’s just obnoxious.

  8. Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith wrote a short story about this titled, “The Wrath of Dawn” – it’s published in the short story collection Geektastic: Tales from the Nerd Herd. It’s interesting how closely the story parallels your real-life experiences (and your reactions).

  9. I agree totally. I did Slay-a-Thon in Chicago and I really enjoyed most of it, but the Dawn-hate was both tedious and annoying. I get it. You don’t like the character. Other people do! It was especially annoying at this screening because not only the people in the audience but the moderator WITH THE MICROPHONE would break in and yell “Shut up, Dawn!” at specific moments. It was sad. I didn’t like it.

  10. This. Totally this.

    I get that there are characters not everyone is going to agree on, but to continue to do something that many people have said upsets them is childish.

  11. For much the same reason, Vincent Kartheiser won’t even talk about his time on Angel. Funny (not) how Whedon fandom seems to react to the two supernatural beings who sprang up as confused, sometimes obnoxious, teens. The lack of empathy for the characters is sad, but the treatment of the young lady at the sing along is just awful.

  12. I understand not liking one or another character on BUFFY or ANGEL. I actually like Dawn (except when she screeches), but I detest Riley and Connor as much as these other people do Dawn. I personally think her appearance at the beginning of Season Five is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen on TV.

    That said, there is no justification for incivility in anything, anywhere. Sadly, it seems to be a characteristic of our age. You see it all the time in Right Wing talk shows. Ann Coulter is not unique – hundreds of thousands if not millions talk of those who don’t hold their beliefs as somehow less than human, and definitely less than American. And on various chat boards on the Internet you see insane attacks on people who don’t agree with you. Some people apparently log onto chat boards exclusively to attack TV shows or movies and those who like them. Example: while most people seem delighted that Adrianne Palicki was announced as the new Wonder Woman this week, a few are attacking her as if she perpetually killed babies and made garments out of their skin.

    So, I agree with the original post, but I see it as part of a larger tendency in our society to dehumanize others. Once you dehumanize someone, any expression of hatred is permissible.

  13. I was confused, granted, when Dawn showed up. It didn’t rub me the right way – it was hard to cope with Buffy suddenly having a younger sister to deal with. And then, when she went through her whole clepto phase, I was very annoyed. BUT, I think that Dawn is a very well-performed exploration of growing up a troubled teen – don’t forget, Buffy started out that way! The origins of Buffy are heavily about someone that age learning to grow up a little. There’s gotta be something interesting about seeing someone who isn’t the chosen one go through being a teen. So she’s the key, artificial, not really real and someone who just appeared so we didn’t have time to fall for her – isn’t there some sort of brilliance in the way fans are introduced to the character in relation to how Buffy, Willow, Giles, Joyce, etc just come into the acceptance of this person? Anyway, I’m very sorry to hear that fans can’t come together. It’s about a common geeky love for something, not insulting other people in defense of your own opinions.

  14. It takes a whole cast of characters to delight a fandom, and some people just aren’t going to like or hate the people we think they should. There is no reason to shut down their fun. I suppose it could be thought of as a school play or a talent show. It is bad for parents to encourage their children and badmouth others, then leave when their precious kid has finished their part.

    I personally find Dawn annoying, and when I am at home I skip through many of her scenes. I also skip through parts with Buffy, who often irritates me, and with Angel, Spike, Anya, and a lot of other people. But not Giles. Because Giles is a librarian, and totally awesome. Despite that, if I am ever in public with fans of the show and some of them happen to be fans of characters who I find irritating, I promise to sit quietly through it with them.

  15. As the aforementioned moderator at Slayathon, I have to defend the Dawn-hate. Yes, people can take it too far (as with anything) but on the whole I find it really fun. Obviously the girl at the above screening shouldn’t have been bullied, but she also should not have confronted an entire group of people and demanded they start doing things her way. During our screening of OMWF I provided outlets at important times to give the Dawn-haters direction – because otherwise it CAN and does run out of control. If someone doesn’t give them an example of how to “correctly” make fun of Dawn, some fans will inevitably start swearing and pushing the envelope (I’ve heard a laugh from “I hope you get raped, Dawn!”).

    You can’t take this so seriously. People will make fun of actors, characters and episodes they don’t like – this isn’t going away. Dawn was legitimately a huge pain in the ass for almost an entire year and that won’t just go away because someone who likes Dawn now gets their feelings hurt.

    In the future, I’ll definitely discuss this with the Slayathon organizers before this year’s show. If this really is causing people distress, then I’ll cut it back. Buf if, like me, you think this is a PC feelings-parade gone too far then I’d be curious to hear what you have to say.

    1. It’s not about Dawn (I’m not sure why so many people are expressing how much they like or dislike her as a character) it’s about how to treat other people and how to act in a setting like that.

      You may feel this is “PC-feelings-parade gone too far” but there’s no reason that anyone who goes to watch a show should have to deal with a bunch of inconsiderate jerks yelling out things about some character that they personally dislike.

      You can love and hate whoever you like and discuss it at length in heated debate and none of that has anything to do with shouting at the screen or with bullying some girl who has the guts to stand up and tell those guys to stop.

    2. I understand that we all have our moments of making fun of a character we don’t like. I do that a lot. But shouldn’t the line be drawn when a REAL FAN is made fun of for liking a FICTIONAL character? I think organizers set the mood.

      Also, I disagree it’s about being overly PC. Being un-PC can be fun if everyone participating understands that. Still, even then, there’s a line you don’t cross. For someone who doesn’t want to be told how to react, your argument sounds like you would’ve told the young fan to suck it up (and therefore react your way).

      Some people will take things differently than others. You can’t make everyone happy, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort to listen; converse, don’t just assume. Just because some African Americans are okay with the N word doesn’t mean I don’t know African Americans who despise it.

      Be considerate. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. If that means you have to suffer from being a little more PC, I think you have two choices: (1) suck it up, and suffer for someone else’s happiness, or (2) exclude people out. The latter probably means that you should avoid putting on an inclusive show, for instance by making the show “for mature audiences”; fans might be sad, but hey, if you’re not going to try to include people, why even pretend?

    3. *Obviously the girl at the above screening shouldn’t have been bullied, but she also should not have confronted an entire group of people and demanded they start doing things her way. *

      Let’s rephrase that and see how that goes:

      “Obviously the girl at the [place] shouldn’t have been raped, but she also should not have [done or worn something provocative or sexy/gone into that dangerous place/told him no].”

      Nice victim-blaming there.

  16. Dawn rocks, okay? She wasn’t supposed to be a bad ass slayer, powerful witch, demon/ex-demon, or anything else the show already had. She was a little sister, and a damn good one. Was she part plot device to keep Buffy emotionally invested in this world? Yes. Was she part Scrappy Doo type to keep the show “relatable” to tweens and address complaints that the show lost its way when it left a school setting? Also yes. But she had heart, and Michelle T played the role well, and even outside of all of that, there is no reason for this kind of hate, so please instead show that you at least learned *something* from watching the show.

  17. This is a shame because I’ve never been to a Buffy singalong, but I thought they would be fun. Shouting insults instead of singing? Not so much fun for me. I understand I’m in the minority here, though, because I think the only reason to see Rocky Horror in the theater is to dance the Time Warp together.

    1. Yeah, since reading this, I don’t think I’d ever go to a OMWF sing-along *or* Rocky Horror. I hadn’t realized yelling insults at characters was part of the “theater experience” of the latter, and while I’m not remotely attached to any of those characters, I think that’d bother me in that context as well.

  18. This is sad, sad herd behavior. Was there anyone there who amended their behavior? Did anyone listen? Or resist the attitude? Is it too much to hope for that some civility ultimately obtained?

    1. Some people tried to get folks to stop when the whole “toughen up” thing started. I eventually shouted, “stop bullying other fans” and people did (honestly, to my surprise). At the end of the event, I went up to the girl to see how she was and to offer some support and she was surrounding by people explaining to her why they were right and she was wrong. I’ll be posting a followup regarding some of the gender dynamics involved in this, which I found INTENSELY disturbing.

  19. wow. did these people watch the same series i did? because while Dawn was sometimes annoying, (i defy you to show me a person her character’s age who isn’t!) wasn’t Xander? Willow? Buffy herself? they were all awkward and self-involved at times. also known as being a person. this wasn’t a show about larger than life heroes interacting with people, it was people, with regular lives, becoming heroes. so kudos to the young fan who defended Dawn and Michelle Trachtenberg. (apologies if i misspelled) she knows what BTVS is about. doing the right thing, even if it’s the unpopular or difficult thing. and BOOO to the bullies. Buffy would totally have kicked your asses. 😛

  20. Whoa!
    What you had is well written and is an excellent point to be made (and as I recall the originators of the singalong did stop doing it after being asked as well.)

    As for fandom bullying, I had it happen on a small, personal scale when watching the last Buffy episode live. The part where the slayers got their powers esp with the one girl reaching up against her abuser–I fell apart and just sat there crying softly. Afterward, the TV got turned off and every single person discussed how awful and stupid the ending was. I couldn’t even speak and I knew they could see me crying.(1) I couldn’t leave yet and I sat there and felt like I was continually being punched in the stomach. Overidentify? Sure I do, that’s why it resonates, but that was awful.

    There’s no need to shout down another fan. It’s horrid behavior whatever the fandom.

    (1) Certainly not a perfect ending, can certainly see the argument that it is war problematic-but the new slayers, oh $deity, for me that just shone and I didn’t care about “poor narrative structure” or “not being true to The Characters” or “what an awful end that was”.

  21. Good Gods, really? I personally didn’t like the whole Dawn storyline, but that would never make me mistreat someone

  22. I first encountered the mobbish Dawn hate at a Portland stop of the touring Buffy sing-along (now discontinued). It’s tough to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it without sounding like you’re overstating it or engaging in hyperbole.

    At it’s worst and most heated, it’s most definitely not gentle ribbing or communal fun. It’s thuggish, brutal, and ugly, powered by an almost frighteningly earnest bile. I’ve had to walk out. Given that experience I’m sadly unsurprised that it finally regressed from shouting hate at a fictional character, itself a form of bullying the others in attendance, into actual direct bullying of a fellow fan.

  23. I agree. I am a teenager and I never quite understood the way people treated Dawn, she lost so many parental figures, she found out she wasn’t real. I think a lot of her pain was justified.
    Plus these people have no right to crush a young fans beliefs. It’s cruel, non-Buffy and in poor poor taste.

  24. All business aside about hating a character, I find it annoying and disheartening when fans bully each other. Seriously, don’t we get enough bullying bullshit from our peers already? I am reminded of your post not long ago about how we’re encouraged to bully each other to establish some social dominance hierarchies. (And really if you hate a character, do that in your own space and not on other people.)

  25. While I applaud your stance about bullying and the extreme nastiness that can occur in fandom of any kind I need to clarify the “Shut up Dawn” that I personally witnessed at the original Sing-a -longs in NYC. I saw it on two occasions and the “Shut up Dawn” was part of the show with both audiences. Every time Dawn spoke the audience answered. And then came her final lines in the show and as she finished and the rising voices of shut up Dawn were silenced with the simple exchange from the players that this time Dawn was right. Which was the message that everyone who thought an annoying kid had nothing of value to say was wrong. That everyone has something important to offer and we should listen. So my experience with Shut up dawn was actually about learning a lesson and not about bullying a kid or letting hatred for a character rule the day.

  26. I think the reason everyone hates Dawn so much is that she is everthing that Buffy offered us an alternative to. In popular media, teens are portrayed as weak, egomaniacally selfish, and slightly stupid. We loved Buffy because we could relate to her. Dawn is a stereotypical, cardboard cutout – the space monster slug thing has more depth. One of the funniest parts of OMWF is when Dawn opens her mouth to sing and complain about how hard it is to be her and she gets cut off and kidnapped instead. Is is possible that gave us that piece of wicked pleasure intentionally? Anyways, it’s not nice to be mean and good for the kid for having the cajones to tell people to shut up.


  27. Wow. Just, wow. I’ve got multiple responses to this:

    1. Way too many people think that they have the right to attack others and that doing so is defensible and even proper because it reflects how they feel. There’s enough pain and misery in the world as it is, adding to it doesn’t help. Just look at US politics to see where this leads when applied to public life. If you dislike a character in Buffy, there are appropriate and reasonable ways to express that. As an example, my wife hates Xander and considers him a jerk. She’s not wrong, but I cut Xander some slack because I identify with his human weaknesses and his not infrequent pettiness. My wife lets me be sympathetic to him and I let her hate him.

    2. Michelle Trachtenberg loved “Buffy” long before she was on the show. She was a fan and treasured her time on the show and it showed in her commitment to the character whenever she was on screen. Michelle very clearly knew exactly how irritating Dawn was, as she made known in various forums, and lobbied for the character to grow up a little. She acted her you-know-what off and the proof of that is how people respond to the character. And, while whiny at times, Dawn was also the most broad-minded of all of the characters towards Tara and Willow and was one of the least ego-centric when the chips were down. There is a lot to admire about Dawn.

    3. Michelle had to play the part as written- maybe the fans ought to be yelling at Joss- who created the character- and Marti Noxon, Jane Espenson, Doug Petrie, David Fury, David Greenwalt, etc. They wrote her, whines and all.

    4. Dawn gave the Whedonverse the greatest “WTF?!?” moment ever: “Buffy, if you’re going out why don’t you take your sister with?” “Moooommmm!” LOL! My eyebrows went so far up I got muscle cramps in my scalp.

    5. There is great value in civility. It is, after all, the root of civilization. It’s too bad that some of the fans are boorish and that the moderator saw fit to excuse and even encourage this.

    I guess I’ll stay home from these events and watch Buffy with my wife in the privacy of our living room with our friends (when we can rope them into it). I’d rather enjoy the wonderful show that Joss and his actors and production team created than deal with the puerile behavior of a few idiots who can’t contain themselves.

  28. I’m a regular at Whedonesque and this blog was linked there. Just want to say this is appalling and wish there was a way we could let this young woman know, we stand with her. I’m glad you took a stand RM. It is distressing to hear about this faction of the fandom, again, reading its ugly head. As discussed over at the Black, Joss Whedon has even said he wishes people would stop doing this. After all, he wrote her. It does seem, RM, that this does have overtones of anti-female to it. I look forward to reading more of your follow up.

    “As for fandom bullying, I had it happen on a small, personal scale when watching the last Buffy episode live. The part where the slayers got their powers esp with the one girl reaching up against her abuser–I fell apart and just sat there crying softly. Afterward, the TV got turned off and every single person discussed how awful and stupid the ending was. I couldn’t even speak and I knew they could see me crying.(1) I couldn’t leave yet and I sat there and felt like I was continually being punched in the stomach. ”

    Firebirdgrrl, I know I’m probably way older than you chrono-wise, but I wept at the end of the series as well. I thought it was a beautiful, inclusive way for Buffy to share her power. As a survivor of parental abuse, the particular girl you mention, also did me in. We all identify with art, sometimes because it is just so awesomely beautiful, or because of a mixture of the beauty, power and the personal baggage that comes up as a result. I hope you don’t hang out with those losers that hurt you, anymore.

    1. “Firebirdgrrl, I know I’m probably way older than you chrono-wise, but I wept at the end of the series as well. I thought it was a beautiful, inclusive way for Buffy to share her power. As a survivor of parental abuse, the particular girl you mention, also did me in. We all identify with art, sometimes because it is just so awesomely beautiful, or because of a mixture of the beauty, power and the personal baggage that comes up as a result. I hope you don’t hang out with those losers that hurt you, anymore.”

      Wow, thank you. Thank you.

      Yes, I now have much more awesome folks to watch Buffy with–and if you’re ever in the DC area, I’d be delighted if you’d come on over with us!

  29. I had the same reaction to the Dawn hate at the sing along I attended in San Diego a few years ago. I hated that it happened and more than that I have never understood the Dawn hate.

    No matter what you say about Dawn – she stayed with Tara’s body and for that I would forgive her anything.

  30. I watched the last 4 episodes of season 7 for the first time just before they aired on TV here (Australia) at a Buffy symposium. It was the only time I had ever watched Buffy with a group of people so large. In spite of the fact that it was a first viewing for almost everyone (internet downloads weren’t so common then) it was interrupted by yelling abuse whenever Kennedy appeared on screen. Until that point I was completely clueless that such near universal hatred of Kennedy existed. i’m not saying i even like Kennedy but in this context the interruptive yelling was understandably very annoying. it made it hard for me to be in my own viewing space for what is an almost sacred event for a fan -watching the last episodes ever for the first time! If I had known it would be like that I would probably have reconsidered viewing them in this environment and watched them alone or with friends like usual.

    I have to echo the sentiment of some here and say that some characters are written to serve a function; such as a disruptive function. Sometimes they outlast that function and are written to become more whole or more likeable. Dawn and Kennedy are supposed to disrupt and supposed to annoy, at least for a time. So intelligent viewers need to give writers the respect that if a character is annoying them they are probably just doing there job. Not to say that there aren’t other good and perhaps writer-unintended reasons to dislike these characters…

    In any case those yelling against dawn (and perhaps those yelling at Kennedy in my story) I’m sure felt that they were very much in the spirit of show. I agree with a previous poster that the scene where dawn’s lament song begins and is interrupted by her kidnapping is definitely written as a joke -that the last thing the viewer wanted at that point was to hear dawns feeling about going unnoticed, when in fact lots of people’s lives are centered around her care; the song being cut-off seemed like a fourth-wall-breaking nudge and wink to the viewers that the writers understand how they feel about the character at that point, heck they crafted how we feel about the character. I totally got a kick out of that moment, even though as a whole I think Dawn becomes interesting in her own right and in relation to others.

    That said, there has to be a line. When the abuse from the crowd goes beyond having a bit of fun in the spirit of the show and ends up going quite against the spirit of the show the line has been crossed but i don’t think there’s much to be done about it. People are often jerks, even people who are fans of the same things you are fans of; and its never safe to assume that a fan event will be full of people who feel the same way about every aspect of a show as you do. It is not a civil right that others should be respectful about characters you like. This isn’t race or religion or sexual identity we’re talking about, its ardent appreciation of a work of fiction.

    Heck, I have a number friends with whom I watch Buffy with who really aren’t keen on BUFFY (the character) but love the show regardless, easily as much as I do. My little sister-in-law was sympathetic with the dawn from the get go but hates Anya and Cordelia. I hated Riley for so long that now when I re-watch i just feel sorry for the guy. I used to be all about Buffy and Angel but as I grow older i can appreciate the importance and complexity in Buffy and Spike’s relationship. Perceptions change. For older viewers dawn was a spanner in the works and a whiny teen at a time when they were no longer whiny teens themselves. For those who are younger or started watching later they may not feel significant emotional difference between relating to Buffy and co as teens and relating to Dawn as a teen and thus never found her to be annoying at all.

    Actual people being mean to actual people is not acceptable but actual people being mean to characters is merely annoying and something that I think should just be tolerated. A thesis that the people that hate dawn are secretly women hating idiots who don’t deserve to call themselves Buffy fans might be interesting but they will still call themselves Buffy fans and they will still hate dawn and some of them will still be jerks. If you are going to be annoyed by them, and they do sound very annoying, then its probably best to enjoy your Buffy viewing in the safe company of friends.

  31. As if I didn’t say enough already: although I think that people shouldn’t assume fan events will be havens of niceness and totally shared sentiment I do think it’s concerning that anyone would think “i hope you get raped dawn” is just people pushing the envelope and others shouldn’t get so worked up about it. ‘Humor’ that black is not appropriate for a public group event (or anywhere in my opinion but far be it for me to deny people their disturbing private lols) it would certainly instantly ruin the experience for survivors of violence. “Shut up dawn” is one annoying thing to ignore, making light of sexual violence even in relation to a fictional person is creepy creep behaviour that there’s no good reason to tolerate.

  32. Wow.

    Just… wow.
    I’ve only watched the show this year- I was like five when it originally aired, and so my experience with Buffy is just me watching the first six seasons by myself- I haven’t had the same kind of group response with these things- no one else I know watches Buffy, so I haven’t had the same kind of griping with people about different plot stuff or anything like that. So hearing about the depth of Dawn hate is a bit shocking.

    Yeah, she’s irritating. She screws with the dynamic of the show a bit and there are a few too many “Dawn’s in trouble!” episodes (must be tuesday…) but her character really isn’t all that bad.
    I have a rule for things like sing alongs and other types of group participation things- Don’t sing along unless over half of the other people are doing the same, and don’t act like a frigging tool.
    Especially if Whedon doesn’t approve.

    If you respect him at all, (and as the creator of so many good things that we all love, you SHOULD) then you should respect his wishes and stop heckling a character written to be an irritating teen.

    Goodness. I just don’t know what to say to that.

    I feel like… everyone’s a little bit hipster. They’re much more content criticizing things- it’s easier to hate Dawn than to stick up for her. It’s hard enough being a fan of a geeky thing, so they try to knock parts of it, to comfort themselves that it’s not completely awesome, it’s got that whiny little sister. I could be completely wrong, but that’s how it seems to me.

  33. RM — Thanks for your post!

    I hope you do write a follow-up post on the gender dynamics involved, because most of the responses here are very well-intentioned but seem to be missing any understanding or coming to terms with that aspect of this behavior.

    I noticed the same kind of thing happening with dollhouse: there’s a portion of Whedon fandom that gets quite disturbed when women are NOT strong and sexy (like the ideal Wonder Woman sex object). There was some strong dislike expressed out there for episodes that were among my favorites, such as when Eliza played a nursing mother who hears her baby down the hall, instead of being a gorgeous woman in her husband’s bed to be his playmate. That hit a sore spot. (And was meant to, I suspect.)

    Her bond with the baby and her hormonal arousal in order to defend it (which fascinated and stunned Topher) were fascinating themes for dollhouse to explore in Echo’s journey, but these themes and her explosive when they took her baby away — seemed to be very disturbing to some of those writing into discussion groups. It is difficult, isn’t it, to see women in an intimate bodily relationship with a baby, or totally out of control with pain and despair, or (as with Dawn) whiney and impossible to please. Women ought not to act like this and make us feel uncomfortable with their vulnerability, their disappointment (which we can blame on them for being weak or PC), their raw needs, or their devotion to something other than their lovers? Abusive situations always involve one person saying to another person that they need to “toughen up” and not be so sensitive, or so silly, or so needy, or so controlling. It is a very alarming give-away of feeling threatened and insecure because of women’s basic human needs. Shape up baby and conform, or else.

    And from episode one, dollhouse explored how young American women are already programmed and rewarded to play the role of sex objects and trophies and to be happy and pleased about being exploited — sopeople thought those episodes were “sexist” and “eeuuw.” Joss takes us places that make us squirm and when he does it can bring out some real feelings of aggression against the women/characters/episodes that evoke that resistance to seeing beneath our cultural surfaces.

    Thanks for your excellent post. I’ll look forward to the follow-up and I’m glad to be warned about the Buffy singalongs.

  34. The thing to take away from this incident is that “fandom” is ultimately silliness.

    It means nothing.

    The people great art (like “Buffy”) is intended for are not the geeks who flock to conventions and fan events, any more than the movie “Casablanca” was intended for the teenage readers of Hollywood fan magazines.

    Art is for those who are touched by it, and who think about it, and have their lives (and their worlds) altered and bettered by it.

    Not those who just use it as another excuse to get drunk and party.

    The people yelling, “Shut up!” at a screen?

    They don’t even get it.

    Those who do get it? They’re out living their lives, and maybe making the world a better place.

    Go thou, and do likewise.

  35. I think what particularly offends me here is that this happened at a con, the very place that’s supposed to be a safe haven from an outside world that for many attendees routinely and lithely dismisses their passions as just a TV show, movie, book, comic. The violation here was committed by the very people that ought to know better, in the very place that ought to be free of such things.

  36. Only one comment – Well said. Rather than taking an issue with a concept or an idea, we decide to attack the person.

  37. I am sad and shocked that people would bully a fan, and then continue to defend said bullying under the guise of ‘oh toughen up.’

    Fandom, to me, is about a place where you can pull out your private box of shinies and walk around with them knowing you’re in a safe place. It’s ok to be joyful in your interests. You might not get too much in the way of acknowledgement from others as far as how fabulous your box of shinies is because everyone else is doing the same thing, but..yes. It’s about being safe to be a geek.

    I was turned off to cons early because I went to one in Philly and I was so excited to see that there were people talking about things dear to my heart. I went into a panel discussion and…the panelists were too into criticizing the books I loved and praising others. I pretty much closed my box of shinies and went away for a few decades.

    I truly hope the young fan you describe above does not have the same reaction.

    …As a side note: I wasn’t a huge fan of Dawn initially, but she’s a tragic character, really, and I grew to love her contribution to the storyline. I think a lot of the criticism is undeserved, and..yeah. I personally loved her part in the musical.

  38. I say very true and agree with the original post completely, though I also say the political mentions in at least one reply need to be kept out. I didn’t appreciate the right wing generalization.

  39. I can’t believe this kind of behavior is still happening in that setting. Joss Whedon’s statement that both he and Michelle had been hurt by precisely those shouts happened during the now-defunct tour. When I attended the sing-along at Dragon*Con a couple years ago, the organizers made a point of discouraging it for just that reason. It’s hurtful, which is pretty much against the ethos of the series. The fact that fans ganged up on another fan for expressing her love of the show is deplorable.

    It’s sadly like the behavior exhibited among the Stargate fandom when the newest show premiered and wasn’t exactly like its two predecessors. Not only did they vocally attack the show itself, but the fans who did enjoy it, the actors, and – on one occasion – one of the actor’s moms. It got to the point that the moderators on one of the more popular fan sites had to put the kibosh on comments that were purely reiterations of “SGU sucks!” because suffering through six months of vitriol had made them want to avoid their own website.

    We’ve reached an era in which people think it’s okay to be trolls in the anonymous world of the internet because they don’t have to look at the real people they’re yelling at. That’s bad enough, but seeing it ooze out into the “real world” is just heartbreaking. Wheaton’s Law, folks — Don’t be a dick.

  40. This is very disturbing. Somehow I had hoped that the Buffyverse was above bullying; I knew that was unrealistic – spend some time online and you’ll find bullies galore, safe behind the anonymity of a username. But to find these thugs openly acting-out at a Buffy event!!??!! This is very disheartening. Where were those to cry “Shame” upon these loudmouths? What IS the answer to these types of people who seem intent on highjacking OUR conventions??

  41. Thank you for bringing this up. I went to a OMWF sing-along in Houston and they had the “Shut-up Dawn” malarkey there as well – hell, it was written into the program along with all bubble-blowing and kazoo-playing cues. It’s bad enough coming from the fans, but to have it endorsed by the organizers made my stomach turn.

    Ruined an otherwise great experience.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: