More news about James Gunn’s departure from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 this week. No matter where you fall on that subject, there’s no escaping the news stories about ‘toxic fans.’ You may have even asked yourself: ‘Am I a toxic fan? Is someone I know a toxic fan?’ I’ve come up with 10 questions to ask that might help.
Do toxic fans exist? Of course they do. In fact, I’ve been talking about them for a while now. Two questions are missing from all of these articles though:
- Would someone know if they were a toxic fan?
- What are you supposed to do about it, if you are?
Just like an alcoholic who may not know they have a drinking problem, some toxic fans may not realize the damage they are doing to themselves or other people. Am I a toxic fan? Are you? I wanted to help fans know which side of the fence they fall on, so I compiled 10 questions to ask. See if you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these behaviors:
Toxic Fan Test
Answer each question below. For every ‘yes’ question, give yourself one point. Add your score up and then see how you did!
Are all of your problems with scifi someone else’s fault? – It is possible to be surrounded by people who make you miserable. Healthy people will try to dig themselves out of that hole, but toxic people will stay there and accept being a victim. Do you know someone (or are you someone) like this?
- Do you have enemies? – we’ll give you a pass on George Lucas for Episodes 1-3 but, anyone else?
- Are you incapable of changing your mind, or the subject, on scifi topics?
- Do you take everything that happens in scifi personally? – Was Star Wars only made for you? Are Marvel movies only there to make you, or people like you, happy. Do you feel that if a movie doesn’t follow what you consider to be canon, then Disney, Marvel, or Lucasfilm have deliberately done this as an attack on you, or people like you? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, answer yes.
- Do you take more than you give to scifi? – Science fiction is both creative and consumer-based. Whichever end of the spectrum you fall on, do you take from the genre (complain, boycott, troll) more than you give (participate, create, support)?
- Is scifi, for you, constantly full of drama? – There’s always a new scandal to cover. There’s always a new bombshell. What? A girl hero in Star Wars? This is an outrage! Somebody said something on Twitter? Bring out the torches and pitchforks!
- Do you consider yourself a victim, or negativetly impacted, by changes to scifi?
- Do you need constant validation from scifi?
- Are you too blunt or invasive in your scifi discussions? – Toxic people tend to focus on the negative aspects of any situation, and frequently dominate the conversation. Does that sound familiar to you?
- Do you love rehashing conversations? Two words, people: James Gunn.
How did you score?
Just like Play-doh, you are totally non-toxic! – 0
A little bit of toxicity, but normal. Nobody’s perfect. – 1-3
Yeah, bro. Time to take a step back – 4-6
Don’t make me get all Red Foreman on you. – 7-9
You are in a safe place. We love you, but we need you to hear what we have to say because we are afraid for you. – 10
Understanding Your Score
So yeah, some of these questions may hit close to home. That’s to be expected. Toxic fans don’t wake up one morning going ‘yeah, today’s the day!’ Like any other behavior change, it happens over time and usually without our notice.
Why does toxicity exist? Where does it come from? I can’t answer that question, but I do have some theories:
Why Are Fans Toxic?
There are a million reasons why someone could be toxic. I’m not a mental health professional, so I don’t feel qualified to dig into this topic. One person explained it this way, and it seems to cover most cases: “Sometimes, people are very hurt inside and they decide to hurt everyone else to make up for it.”
It’s also suspected (but not known) that toxicity is a symptom of larger societal issues. As in, some are so marginalized and sidelined by social and economic inequality that the only control they have in their lives is how much of a pain they can be to someone else. It’s not an attack, it’s a cry for help. I can’t argue with the logic, but since I’m not a mental health professional or a sociologist, YMMV.
Help, I’m a Toxic Fan!
Not to worry – life isn’t over. 🙂 The first step toward solving a problem is becoming aware of it, so congratulations on taking that first step! The good news is that the Internet is chock-full of helpful advice on how to change your behavior in an empathic, judgment-free way. Take advantage of it – here are some helpful resources:
- 7 Ways I Used To Be A Toxic Person — And How I Changed My Behavior
- Are You Toxic To Deal With? How To Tell, and How To Change
- I Stopped Being A Toxic Person: Here’s How
Yeah, I’m Toxic – So What?
If you’re aware of this behavior, but see no reason to change, I can’t improve on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s words, included below:
“As evil and stupid as this comment is, I’m not going to delete it or ban you (yet) because it’s a teachable moment. You have two possible paths ahead. Right now, I guarantee you that these athletes have more courage, compassion, brains and skill – actually more of every positive human quality than you. So take their path – you could learn from them, and try to challenge yourself, to give back, to add something to the world. Or you can stay on your path, and keep being a sad pitiful jealous Internet troll who adds nothing to the world but mocks anyone who does out of small-minded jealousy. I know that all you really want is attention, so let me be clear. If you choose to keep going this way, no one will ever remember you.”
Is this really what you want for yourself? Would you want The Terminator to say this to you? I hope not. I have a lot of problems, and I’m coming back from a lot of bad choices. I’m still trying to find my way. I hope that you can find your way, too.
So yes, if you’re asking ‘Am I a toxic fan,’ I think these 10 questions to ask can provide some level of self-awareness. Toxic fandom is a solvable problem. It’s larger than fandom itself, it’s actually a human problem. Scifi has successfully tackled issues like this in the past. We can’t solve it systemically, we can’t solve it by pushing people away. The only way we’ll fix this is one sci-fi fan’s heart at a time.
Please join us, on the Light Side of the Force. We’re weird, we’re damaged, but like a single broken egg, we can be delicious when we’re mixed together! Like you, everyone wants the best for themselves – let’s combine our forces to become the Voltron-like power we all want to be.
The future can be a beautiful place. Let’s build it together.
Special thanks to
for helping me compile this information