A Beginner's Guide to Fandom: A Fangirl's Perspective

{September 20, 2009}   The Fandom/Twitter Saga Continues

In my last post, I explained how a misunderstanding between “Supernatural” fans and Twitter users caused a confrontation between fans using the #luciferiscoming hashtag and followers of P. Diddy using the #godishere tag, leading both to be banned from appearing on the Twitter Trending Topics list. While this was unfortunate, I felt like the publicity generated (as well as the continued use of the #Supernatural tag) was an overall positive example of the collective power of fandom to promote the show.

Misha Collins, a regular actor on the show with a large Twitter following, has continued to comment on the situation. I should note that his tweets are frequently sarcastic and silly, and his comments should be taken with a grain of salt. For example: he calls his Twitter followers “minions” and frequently references his plans to use them for world domination. Additionally, when P. Diddy started his #godishere rally, Collins challenged him to a cupcake-eating contest on horseback. Since the incident I previously described, Collins advocated Supernatural fans using the tags #pdiddyisscaredofhistv and #Twitterisafraidofmishasminions.

This BuddyTV article by John Kubicek has good evidence that Twitter banned these from their Trending Topics as well, since they do not appear on the list despite having enough mentions to do so. I’m going to come right out and say it: good for Twitter.

I’m the first person to admit I follow Misha Collins on Twitter; he’s hilarious. I also praise the Supernatural fandom for using Twitter to promote the show. However, these tags are not promotion; they represent a confrontation with P. Diddy and his followers that brings no real benefit to the show. In fact, there’s more potential for harm than for benefit because this kind of collective action amounts to a large-scale personal attack that fans shouldn’t be encouraged to engage in.

Twitter’s recently updated Terms of Service page makes it pretty clear it doesn’t condone personal attacks against other users, so Twitter is perfectly justified in banning these activities or even suspending users who repeatedly attack others. Think about it: if you’re doing something against the site’s policy, it’s not only harmful to you but to the cause you support. If other users see Supernatural fans being suspended for their online activities, how does that reflect positively on the show?

Kubicek sums it up perfectly:

“The lesson from this week is probably that while it is pretty darn funny, petty feuds and catty hash tags aren’t the way to go if you want Supernatural to dominate the Trending Topic list.”

By using its collective power to launch attacks on other users (even if it starts out as a well-meaning joke), fandom is wasting the technological potential a site like Twitter has to offer. Fans have the chance to reach a very wide audience, so don’t waste it by proving that every bad stereotype about screaming, crazy fangirls is true.

I’m taking a break from the series on fanfiction to address a recent phenomenon in my fandom. The season premiere for Supernatural was Thursday, September 10, and several fans of the show decided to try to get a Supernatural-related tag onto Twitter’s trending topics in order to promote the show. Since last season’s finale ended with the beginning of the Apocalypse (a storyline a long time in the making), they chose the tag #luciferiscoming, along with #supernatural and a few others.

Thanks to fans worldwide, #luciferiscoming and #supernatural made it to the top of the trending topics list:

photo credit to supernaturalwiki.com

photo credit to supernaturalwiki.com

Once at the top, it naturally received a fair amount of attention, as fans intended. Unfortunately, however, some people who didn’t know the show’s context interpreted the tags as the work of religious people, rather than fans. Rapper P. Diddy led a large group that reacted by promoting the tag #godishere. The subsequent clash led Twitter to stop posts with God and Lucifer tags from appearing in their trending topics.

The story was mentioned in many national news outlets. One of two important points, in my opinion, was that much of the uproar happened because people didn’t know and didn’t seek out the context for the tag. An article on Associated Content says:

“Those who actually knew why the tag was so popular were easy to spot. They also used the #Supernatural tag in their tweets, indicating the name of the show which caused this mass hysteria.”


“A very simple search of the tag which is on clear display under trending topics would show what all the fuss is about, but people do not seem inclined to do this.”

A second important point was that unconventional or not, fans managed to gather a lot of attention for the show. Eclipsed Magazine put it eloquently:

“This massive push by fans to promote the show garnered a lot of buzz and attention among many people who are active on Twitter and no doubt brought more attention to the premiere. It also goes to prove a personal point of my own, which is that scattering things on numerous LJ’s doesn’t have the kind of impact of fan based promotion for the show as it does when fans and viewers come together in one central location, easily accessible by other fans, media and those involved directly with Supernatural. When everyone comes together on one place, it creates a more cohesive force and gets more voices of support heard.”

This story overall serves as an example of what can happen when fans and popular culture interact. On the one hand, many people (as P. Diddy shows) misinterpret their actions because they fail to understand their underlying context. Often, a simple search will help explain what on the surface appears to be extreme.

On the other hand, as Eclipsed noted, fans can do far bigger things as a unified group than any one person could hope to accomplish. Fandom is not an exclusively inward-focused group. They seek to interact not only with each other but to collectively make an impact on the larger world. And I say, more power to them.

et cetera