How Fandoms Go from Fab to Drab

Fandoms, which are a subculture centered around supporting or following a certain piece of media, are everywhere in Geek culture. Just about every TV show, movie, book series, and more has a fandom, some small, some tremendously big, and many in-between. If something extremely popular is released, usually its fandom explodes for a few months, or even a few years, before mysteriously collapsing and disappearing. If you’ve ever seen this occur, then you have just witnessed a fandom going from fab to drab.

How does this occur? Fandoms have normal lifespans, with the very small ones usually dying out fairly quickly after the piece is released (known as “going dead” in fandom terminology). Medium and large ones that continue in their drab phase can live a long time-I’m talking about decades of survival (Star Wars, Star Trek, Back to the Future). This is all a part of a natural cycle.

However, Fandoms that go from fab to drab have a relatively short and volatile lifespan, which can lead to fall-backs and resurgences, all before their eventual collapse. This usually comes as a result of several factors.

The first is the development is what’s known as toxicity. Every fandom has a few bad eggs. But when there’s enough of them, all attacking people and bullying people over differing ships and opinions, then the fandom gets labelled as “toxic”, both by people outside of the fandom and the few remaining clear-headed people still in the fandom. Fandom is supposed to be about a community coming together, not tearing each other apart. This is an issue that can occur in just about any large fandom, as major groups (particularly shaped around “ships”, or couples that people root for) belittle minor groups, essentially bullying them out of the fandom.

The toxicity does not stop at people in the fandom, either. I remember the days of Superwholock (The combination fandom of Supernatural, Dr. Who, and Sherlock) when the fandom would attack any outsider that questioned them or criticized them, building up their own reputation as toxic. The same thing happened to the Undertale fandom, leading to its demise within only a year of the game being released.

Which leads me to my next point: Hatred towards the fandom. When a fandom is toxic, it not only builds up a bad reputation, but cuts its own supply off of newcomers. When people are discouraged or turned off from joining the fandom, even the largest one will eventually fall. Every fandom needs newcomers to survive; too few or none at all will kill just about any one of them (Superwholock was an interestingly unique case, but in order to explain it in full detail I would need to talk about it separately).

When fandoms are faced with these two issues, they become increasingly volatile, lashing out against others and fully consuming themselves in their toxicity, which only furthers the problem. They solidify their own fate, even if they don’t know it.

Fandoms that once start fab, welcoming all others and becoming a large fandom that bonds over a certain media, can either quickly or slowly turn drab, turning against itself and ruining itself as others watch on. It’s an interesting and prevalent cycle that normally only happens to the biggest and trendiest fandom of the time, providing a serious lesson to others about growing too big too quickly.

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