Friday, October 7, 2016

Thaddeus Sholto isn't Mace Windu either, ya crazies.

Fan theories. Strong reaction to fan theories.

It seems funny now to think back to tales of the 1940s, when a fan theory like "Dr. Watson was really a lady" had to be written up as a paper and presented to a banquet dinner of fans, who then, as legend would have it, picked up the reader of said paper and threw him out of the building and into the snow.

A single rebuttal to said fan theory was eventually written up and published in a quarterly journal well over a year later. And that was good enough.

It made me laugh to think back to Rex Stout's somewhat dated classic essay "Watson Was A Woman" this morning after watching the viral "Snoke Isn't Mace Windu Ya Crazies" video on a popular Star Wars theory. (Which you don't need to watch, unless you're into Star Wars.) How far we've come.

The idea that one fan had to write up his theory in a little article, present that little article to a fan club . . . in person . . . and listen to the cat-calls (Google it, kids. Twenty-three skiddoo!) from a handful of people while letting his dinner digest . . . well, it seems positively horse-and-buggy now.

And yet, there was a gentle pleasantry to it. Both the presentation and the strong reaction to it were surrounded by laughter and everyone parted friends at the end. Because they were all in the same room.

Fandom has evolved a lot since then, with the internet empowering a single voice to spread into as many homes as network TV news once did. You don't have to consider your thoughts enough to formally put them on to a sheet of paper in the form your grammar teacher drilled into you, travel to a club meeting and speak those thoughts aloud, as we had to do back in the 1980s. (Yes, this wasn't just back in the days of the "W.W." wars . . . this happened in the age of music videos.) Now you can get a thought in your head, record it on the camera and microphone available on about any computer or phone, and broadcast it instantly. And have thousands of other fans react to it instantly.

Which means we not only get crazier, less-considered fan theories, we also get entire political movements growing up behind them before they can fully be thought out. The "I like it, it must by true!" initial reaction becomes hardened like concrete, and by the time reasoned analysis comes along, the head-canon bunker has been built to defend said fan theory. And disagreements happen.

Of course, unlike the day of Rex Stout and his at-the-time gender-bending scandalous theory and those that came for decades and decades after, these days, it all can all happen without the friendly laughter of fan comrades gathered in a big room. Which has been the cost of our new internet powers . . . by the time fans gather in a big room at a con, their fan stance on a theory has pretty well been locked in and battle lines drawn. And though most can still laugh off a fan theory as a fan theory, even at that point, those few diehard extremists on said theory may have already been born and strapped the explosive rhetoric to their chest before showing up.

These days, I don't think Rex Stout would have been thrown out in the snow for daring utter a Sherlockian theory that went against the mindset of the time. I suspect he would have run from the building of his own accord, after the venom that followed, including some commentary on how someone with a stupid pointy beard shouldn't be talking about things anyway.

One of the wonderful benefits of youth is that one doesn't get haunted by these historical perspectives on "these days." But there you have it. If you don't get it now, you will one day. Only you'll probably be doing a video blog then, and not all this bothersome typing on a keyboard business.

Ye gods, I am aged. Never mind.

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