Problematic Fandoms

Just once, I wish there weren’t something problematic about my fandoms. I wish I could happily squee and gush about the latest happenings without the real world intruding. But eventually it does, and most of fandom blissfully ignores it, but not without it festering and driving some away. Even if some in fandom are able to reconcile the problematic aspects of the object of their squee, the glow is tarnished.

It’s no secret to anyone reading this blog that I’m a Doctor Who and hockey fan. I’ve been a Doctor Who fan ever since I could remember (and when WTTW broadcast it in the afternoons after school), and I fell in love with hockey a few years ago, after I went with a friend to a Seattle Thunderbirds game around around the time of the 2008 Stanley Cup games, which I devoured. I’m really not kidding when I mention that I wouldn’t leave the house, if there were a way to combine Doctor Who and hockey.

I’d be lying if I said that Doctor Who didn’t have its issues. That there are problems with the show and racism are many. Classic Who used Caucasian actors in Asian roles in “yellowface.” The Talons of Weng-Chiang is heralded by fans and critics alike as one of the best Doctor Who episodes, yet there’s quite a bit of colonialism and overt racism in the episode. Even New Who isn’t immune: people of color in episodes die more frequently than white characters, and the handling of Martha and her family, especially in the final episodes of the series, was more than just a little problematic, dredging up old stereotypes and tropes regarding people of color and how they’re portrayed in film and television.

By now, most everyone has heard of the death of Junior Seau  , and that they’re calling is death a suicide. Every hockey fan who remembers last summer, with the deaths of the three enforcers  probably felt their stomach drop at the news of Seau’s death. There seems to be a clear link between head trauma in full contact sports and depression, not to mention chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  While some flatly deny a link, others don’t question that Seau’s death could’ve been a result of his football career. Seau, himself, admitted that football needed to change, “I’m pretty sure if everybody had to wake with their dad not knowing his name, not knowing his kids’ name, not being able to function at a normal rate after football, they would understand that the game needs to change.”

Following last summer, I can’t deny that I wasn’t a bit queasy, when I’d see Shawn Thornton challenge another enforcer, or that I didn’t wince at a particularly strong hit from Boychuck or Seidenberg. A part of me wonders if they’ll have a good quality of life after retirement, or if they’ll be old before their time, forgetting the names of people dear to them and spiraling into depression.

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone walk away from Doctor Who, hockey, football, or anything else. I know people who’ve quit watching Doctor Who, hockey, and football, and I can’t fault them. Responsible fans engage with it in whatever way they can for the benefit of the fandom, even if that means walking away.

With Doctor Who, I can write fanfic, my way of engaging with the “canon” of that fandom. With a few strokes on my keyboard in Scrivener, I can make Martha and Mickey awesome and have adventures where they’re respected. I can add my voice to the dialogue and correct problems in the show.

But in hockey, I can’t write different stories. There are no more stories for Belak, Boogard, or Wade. I do know, though, that the NHL is trying to cut back on hits to the head and is trying to change—although slowly, unlike the NFL. Are the changes enough? Will more be made? One can only hope, so that players like Shawn Thornton live happily ever after.

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~ by Jen on May 3, 2012.

 
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