When the Magic is Gone

Have you recently discovered one of your favorite sources of entertainment–a book, t.v. show, author, designer, dyer or artist–is problematic? There are a lot of moments where I’ve needed to reassess my passion for a particular hobby, artist or fandom. Maybe the actions of the artist or their fans, have hurt others in the community surrounding a piece of work, or the writer behind your favorite story or show holds views you’d rather not support. With increased news coverage and communication also comes the possibility that we’ll need to periodically re-evaluate our relationships with the media and entertainment we consume. In this article, I’m attempting to outline some ways I’ve found to cope with these feelings of disappointment–here’s what I do when the magic is gone.

Gather the Facts

Before you burn all of your fandom paraphernalia, take some time to understand the nuanced issues that often surround a person or piece of media that has been labeled problematic. It’s important to fully comprehend the scope of the problem before we can solve it. The internet is always available to fill us in, but it’s also full of conflicting information or straight up misinformation. Do your due diligence before getting pulled too far into feelings of anger and disappointment. Look for articles from reliable news sources, or first-hand accounts from those close to, or affected by, the situation. Ask a friend familiar with the discussion how they feel about it. Having smaller, private discussions first often helps me to work out the finer points of my own feelings before taking them public.

Evaluate your own feelings carefully

Think about why–or how–your unique experiences might influence how you recieve or interpret this information. Are you more inclined to dismiss inconvenient information because you don’t want to believe that it could be the truth? It can be a hard pill to swallow to discover that your favorite children’s books may have been written by someone who doesn’t live up to your adult expectations, especially with the weight of nostalgia attached. Give yourself permission and time to fully evaluate your feelings.The fast pace of digital media discussions may make you feel pressured to give everything an instant response, but you don’t have to give into that.

Our attachment to a particular piece of art or entertainment is heavily related to our own experiences with that fandom. Maybe you found who you are while reading a series of books, or your friend group and hobbies are interlaced with the love of a particular show or movie. There can be a sense of fear that if you remove yourself from these spaces and remove your support, you’ll lose those parts of yourself. It’s important to remember that your identity is not actually determined by someone else’s artistry, imagination or creativity. YOU are yourself. Often, the  relationships you form within a fandom extends far beyond the original subject matter. It’s okay to give ourselves room between the source material and our relationship to it.

Appreciation with Context

When a beloved piece of art comes under scrutiny, a common argument is that the artist might have done something bad, but it’s still possible to appreciate what they have created. Before you make this argument, consider how your appreciation affects, aids or supports the artist’s views. 

Appreciating a work in private–for example, watching a  movie you already own in your own home, because the story brings you joy–does not materially support the artist or publicly promote their work. Maybe you’ll watch it with new eyes next time, and see things you missed before. Critique and context simply add new layers to your viewing experience. 

If your appreciation is public, be mindful about how you can mitigate further damage to those who have been negatively impacted by the creator or their work. Perhaps you have attended conferences and conventions for the fandom, and now you’ve discovered that the artist behind the original work would have liked to exclude people like you from enjoying it. Reach out to other supportive members of your community, band together and form a coalition to let others like you know that while you have found a home within the work, your space and participation is not for the artist, but for the community. Push back on businesses taking advantage of the popularity of the fandom to make money; ask them to acknowledge the problem and make amends with those they have inadvertently harmed. Discourage the production of new promotional work that benefits the original artist or might further their views. Share what parts of the fandom you still find joy within–and how those elements stand against the parts you do not. Advocate for community created art without profit
If your appreciation is promotional, you may want to re-evaluate your involvement. Do you produce a range of goods associated with the artwork? Even if you aren’t licensing or using the copyrighted material, your artwork is inherently celebratory of that initial material, and through producing it, you’re profiting off of, and promoting, the original problematic artwork. Consider: would you want someone believing you held the same views as that artist? Do you want to put your own reputation on the line for a creator who may never acknowledge your existence? Small businesses and artists are able to give fans more attention and direct access than major corporations. It’s one of the reasons we love them! But that also makes us more attractive, accessible targets for distressed former fans. Do you want to add the labor of addressing someone else’s wrongs to your business process?

Give others time to adjust

seems blissfully unaware–or emphatically against addressing the issue. Often, I feel that a good portion of angry comments, frustrated posts and accusations comes from a place of deep disappointment. When what we love has been ripped out from under us, it seems unfair that anyone should still find joy in it. Discovering and dissecting a problematic issue associated with your fandom is complicated, and may take awhile to process. Especially for those particularly dedicated to the original material. Having individual discussions with your friends and fellow fans is a great way to begin moving towards change. With so much emotion, identity, and personal feeling wrapped up in heavily influential material, each person needs time to evaluate their own feelings. Letting go of your relationship to a fandom may mean going through the stages of grief, so remember that while you may be in the “acceptance and hope” stage, someone else could be in “shock and denial” or “anger and bargaining”. Give your fellow fans room to grow; be kind and encouraging–this could be the key to your own healing, and theirs.

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