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The College Effect

For those of you who've been to college, you understand this pretty well. For the rest, you'll probably relate because of high school.

Ever read a text for a class that you absolutely enjoyed? Your first reaction was "I like this. I like this a lot. Glad they picked this for my class. I wouldn't know about this wonderful book without it."

Then, as the semester goes further, and your teacher/professor makes that text one of the primary texts to discuss through various literary  analysis, did you ever feel like "Man, I really USED to enjoy that text. It was great, but now? I can't stand it anymore. I don't enjoy it the way I used to when it was simply "liking" the text for just being the the text. I wish we could have stopped at just did you like it or not."

I think that's what happens to fandoms. ANY fandom.

Everyone gets together and gushes about how much fun it is to watch the show/ read a book/whatever. First impressions are usually "Wow, that was fantastic. Loved that. Love these characters. Amazing stuff. So glad others GET it. I didn't think anyone else liked it the way I do."

Discussions build upon the text and it enriches it mostly. Deep analysis reveals things about it that might not have been noticed otherwise. People trade back and forth with ideas of what happened or will happen in the next chapter/episode/book. It gives it more substance than simply enjoying it or not enjoying it. People try to piece together what is going on story wise, how the overarching plot will play through, what dangers the characters will endure next. Twists and turns and cliffhangers leave everyone in suspense, hungry to see where the tale goes next. People share their love through fanworks of various types. People explore things within the text that inspired them and relate to one another how it impacted them in essays. It helps some people see it differently than if they had watched it alone and isolated.

But, over time, it seems rather than being enjoyable, it gets twisted to an extent. One side starts to see flaws or grows tired of the story the way it is and starts to nit pick to an extent. Some see red flags that things are going in the wrong direction for the story. The other side disagrees and feels that it is still as excellent as it's always been. Both sides become defensive. It becomes a powder keg getting ready to explode. It becomes a vicious circle in some ways, feeding itself until there is a schism that cannot be repaired.

I think this happens for a number of reasons. People can outgrow material. Everyone remembers reading those young adult books while in school and that they were good read and that they were good stories, but looking back or reading them again later as adult we're not as enthralled. Maybe it's because they feel its not what it used to be, that there's something lacking that made it so endearing in the earlier portion of the story. Maybe it has to do with a twist or direction that just didn't satisfy or work for that person.

I think, though, it comes from that "College Effect." After analyzing a text, rooting around in it for various interpretations, I think sometimes it takes the shine away from it. We're removed so much from simply watching it, from enjoying it, and we can't find a way to turn OFF that analysis portion that instead what used to intrigue or entertain or delight now annoys or bores or depresses us. We're looking for something different to an extent than the text is providing on some levels. It leads to dissatisfaction and disinterest. It can turn us away from the story.

Throw in fandom with all of its voices and viewpoints---not to mention shouting matches---and it can amplify this effect a hundredfold. It isn't fun anymore when everyone is drawing lines in the sand and squawking at each other that their side is right and the other side is wrong and that's that. It's when this happens that fandom really starts to hamper a text more than help. What was once a respectful and roughly aligned group can become a corrosive and disjointed entity that ultimately destroys itself.

Sometimes, I think, fandoms need to get back to what got them together in the first place. What was enjoyable about the text and why they liked it in the first place. Then, they simply need to let the text be, let it present itself. Don't necessarily shove it through any particular lens to interpret it. Just ask the simple  question: did I like that or not? IF you can say yes, let that be good enough once in awhile.

You can always come back and give it the comb over with the deep analysis later on. The text might seem fresher then, too. And hey, doing so might give you the chance to fall in love with it the way you did originally. I know that's how I felt about Toni Morrison's Bluest Eye in the long run. I loved it first reading, hated it by the end of the semester, but now I think that it is a great text---simply because I'm not forcing myself to twist it into something or read between the lines so hard. Trying so hard to SEE something, to impose some deep meaning on it---that can suck the life out of the text.

Don't let the "College Effect" become the "Fandom Effect." Sometimes, you just have to let a text be what it is and leave it alone.

You might find the text thanks you for doing so.

Far Away Eyes

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Trying so hard to SEE something, to impose some deep meaning on it---that can suck the life out of the text.

Hear, hear!

All it took was one literature class in college for me to realize that, as much as I enjoy reading and writing, that was not the path for me. I never thought someone could suck the fun out of sci-fi, but damn if that professor didn't manage to do it!

I don't know if rooting around in the canon is the thing that breaks most fandoms in half; its when you become so convinced that your perception of the story and its characters is RIGHT while everyone else's is WRONG (and they are stupid for thinking whatever they think that contradicts you) that things start to fall apart. People forget the "fun" part of fandom in their quest to defend their territory. It really sucks :(

Exactly. I'm having the same discussion with others elsewhere. I just hate seeing how something that is supposed to be for fun and enjoyment becomes this nit pick parade and WAR. Can't we just say "I like it or I don't" once in a while?

The politics of fandom are fascinating and frustrating. It's mostly why I play in very obscure sandboxes these days :P

I'm currently in the Supernatural one and on one hand I love the fandom. It's full of generous and intelligent people and the actors are largely involved more than I've ever seen before---conventions, twitter, ect. And yet, some of the time I feel stupid for liking an episode or a season or a story arc because it seems everyone else (which is really the vocal minority more or less in many ways) seems to hate it. It's like GAH stop it and just let it be entertaining for entertainment's sake. Sheesh! I love delving into the meta and doing some deep thinking on it, but it seems like the things I like about the current season are the very things THEY hate. Which makes me confuzzled as I see the show get accolades---many fan voted on so if it's so bad WHY are they voting so heavily for it still. It's just frustrating to me.

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