The Neutral Zone

You’ve seen me use this term before to describe my place in a conflict or a fandom. I used to take sides when I was younger, but now I am officially done with doing that.

The following reasons for that is, I’m just done dealing with people who don’t understand me, I’ve had to deal with people who use their age and experience as an act to show superiority, I’ve faced harassment for being positive and encouraging others to do the same, and I’ve got too many things in my life outside of that to be concerned about what’s right and wrong.

I’m going to use fandoms that I’ve been part of for years to support my choice. To be clear, when I say these three reasons are for me leaving a fandom, it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop buying merchandise or watching the movies/playing the games. It’s not about that. It’s about the people. You take a look at it in person and we’re all one big happy family, but online, it’s war. One wrong choice of words and you can feel unwelcome. It’s just sad that there are such judgemental know-it-alls who like to shoot down anyone who is new, has different preferences, or is just not into it enough.

I know that not everyone in an online forum, Facebook group, or comment thread is like this. But it’s the elitists who think they are above everyone that speak the loudest. That has driven me away from all social interaction with franchises I love to avoid further harassment. Now, I just keep to myself and do my own thing while talking only with the closest friends I’ve made. When conflict arises I stay out of it even if there’s one side that I agree with. That is why I call it the Neutral Zone and here are the reasons why I have been driven away from the communities of things I love because of stupidity.
They don’t understand me so I automatically get labelled through a stereotype.

The Didact is pretty much the entire symbol of my place as a Halo fan and the number one character that enforces the judgements from others.

Using Halo for this particular example. I have been shunned constantly by the Halo fandom because of my different preferences. My choice to enjoy aspects of the franchise that are not or no longer in the spotlight such as the Sangheili and the Forerunners. Though I have made some lasting friendships there from forums and Xbox Live parties who accept me for who I am, there have been many run-ins with people who just don’t understand me the way I am. So what do they do? Instead of getting to know me, they start to judge.

One time I was in a Xbox Live party with a couple of friends from the Archive forums. One friend invited his friend and while that friend was asking me who my favourite character was via the live chat, I told him it was the Didact and why. His friend eventually butted in while I was explaining my love for the Didact and while my friend thought it was interesting, his friend thought I was weird and started laughing about why would I prefer such a character who got such bad representation. Telling him to read the books didn’t help that much. My friend, with the persuasion of someone else, muted him from the chat. That is the last time I ever recall using my mic in online multiplayer.

It happened on forums too. The moment I spoke up about something like I wanted the Didact to get better treatment from the developers, or I didn’t agree with something like a shipment related to him (other than with the Librarian), I was automatically labelled by some other users and even one admin (shocker, since he never understood me either!) as some overzealous fangirl who wants to claim the Didact as her personal property and desires acceptance.

I like to call myself a fangirl. I was born biologically a woman, I am happy being a woman, and I just prefer the pronoun that matches the sex I have chosen from birth. But sadly, the term fangirl is often stereotyped as some rabid crazy person who thinks they own the franchise or a certain character. Unfortunately, those types of fans do exist and some come from the first wave of female fans. Because of that, the reputation of fangirl can be tarnished easily.

I will admit I used to act that way in another fandom before I realized it only pushed people away did I stop, but here in Halo, it’s a different story. All I ever did was express my love for a part of the franchise that didn’t get enough love, and while some people thought I was fun and unique, other people thought I was dumb and delusional who wanted to be accepted and would make declaration that nobody was allowed to joke/ship about certain characters except me. It also happened on Halo’s official forum too, one rebuke even came from one of the managers of Team Beyond who decided to judge me for my love for the Didact.

I also got people continuing to talk shit to get a reaction out of me or lectures for me to stop claiming ownership over a character that they were going to ship with whomever they pleased. Not to mention I got regular reports from a friend I made on one of the forums that some of those people who didn’t understand me, were talking shit about me in private messages and threads I didn’t have access too.

All of that sums up to the fangirl stereotype I get thrown in my face because of my differing beliefs and even just identifying as a fangirl in general. That is why I can’t be bothered with such forums anymore.
My age and shorter duration of being a fan somehow makes me be perceived as immature and brainless.

You can easily look at me and think I’m a 15-year old teenage girl instead of a 25-year old woman. As flattering as it is when someone says I look younger than I am, at times it can be a disadvantage.

Transformers is the perfect example of this. I was born in the 90’s and did not get into the franchise until I was 16 where I watched the first Bay film and then the second. In fact, I watched them excessively in my early years until I branched out into the video games and Transformers: Prime. I have now been a fan for 9 years.

When my days of YouTubing my love for Optimus came to a close, that was when I began to realize the aspects of Transformers that I enjoyed even more than the movies, made me wish the movies were like that as well. My opinions were often labelled as foolish from elitists who had been around since the beginning. The best example I can give is the latest one:

Recently, I’ve had hype for the new Bumblebee film and was willing to give it a chance because it wasn’t directed by Bay. Normally, I try to stay away from comment threads of any subject because my biggest concern is when older fans try to prove me wrong by using their age and time as a fan to prove me to be mindless.

But, sometimes I can’t help myself. When I saw someone bashing the Bumblebee film for not having any “cool scenes” from the Bay films. (probably not enough explosions or fight scenes where the robots look like they’re smashing and ripping each other apart) I laughed and said they must have never seen the G1 Transformers and are judging a book by its cover. Turns out, they contradicted saying they have seen the G1 before I was born.

Oh, I see how it is. You’re assuming I’m some teenage brat and know exactly when I was born. Ladies and gentlemen, proof of an older fan using their age as a position of power over someone like me and assuming I’m younger than I appear. You might argue in the comments that I deserved that because I responded to the troll when I shouldn’t have. Unfortunately, I am still trying to break my habit of stirring the pot and it ain’t easy

But it sounds like the older fans act like they know everything and anyone younger is stupid and has bad taste.

I mean, it’s bad enough being a woman entering a fandom mainly populated by men and there will be some pricks who will try to test you to make sure you’re not a poser or immediately prejudice upon your arrival.

But now, all of a sudden because I am still a young Transformers fan, who started in my teen years in a mainstream part of the franchise before expanding beyond that to the real stuff – I am some brainless and obsessed freak with opinions that need to be rethought.

And that why I keep to myself with Transformers today, except for close friends. We are all fans no matter our age and no matter when/where we started. Can we just leave it at that please?
I’m too positive and accepting, therefore, I am not a real fan.

Why is it that I never whine? I just suck it up or don’t say something unless it’s completely positive. Some things I love, I tend to be more open-minded than in the others. This is very true with Mass Effect. The trilogy has been one of the most precious sci-fi game series to me since 2012. My brother started playing and then I did not long after in chronological order and I never got tired everything I did and saw. When BioWare announced Andromeda, I tried not to be too skeptical, but decided to give it a chance.

The result, it presented a story that wasn’t as strong as the trilogy. However, there were multiple aspects of general sci-fi that made me enjoy it such as the excitement of going to a new galaxy and meeting new aliens. With that, I ended up loving the game, even if it was nothing compared to the trilogy. But with that love, came a price

As elitists rose up with hatred for the game because of nostalgia blindness, it soon became bandwagon to hate on the game for numerous reasons. Fans who enjoyed the game, regardless of its flaws, had to either face harassment or go underground. Many times I spoke about my love for Andromeda and told people to calm down, or I tried to send positive vibes by telling BioWare to continue to work hard. That resulted in angry white fanboys calling me a poser, mocking my words, or calling me a robot because I didn’t have any negative feelings towards the franchise.

That is just the surface of what I experienced. Some of it was worse like one time I was sexually harassed by one guy who assumed I was not a woman when I was getting rebuked by a bunch of other guys in the fandom. Those other guys were accusing me of being stupid and fake for enjoying the game. When I stood up for myself by telling them that treating some innocent young woman like that for her different tastes would never get them girlfriends, that is when the harasser came along. I was forced to block him and the others when the situation got worse.

When some fandoms like Mass Effect, Star Wars, or KISS become full of hate, it’s all of a sudden assumed that the real fans are people who bitch and whine about everything and that anyone who is more accepting of anything new, is fake, or a bot.

This is my biggest gripe about online fandoms, but sometimes it can be the opposite. If I have a negative opinion about something, I never express it without context, nor am I harsh, or force it on every post that might be related. The result of that is when I occasionally open my mouth, I am told to either leave or kill myself. There is no grey area, I can’t feel welcome with a positive opinion of something that is hated by the bandwagon or vice versa.
I’m not committed to it enough.

Since when does being a fan of something involve having to devote your entire time and energy to it? Since heavy metal is such a broad fandom, this is a difficult one. But I’ve stopped interacting with most communities because I have other things that I enjoy and commit to, and I don’t fit the norm of heavy metal.

Over the past few years I started expanding myself to open up to new interests as well as bring back old ones. The result is I’m not always wearing band shirts 24/7 outside of my professional life. I like to wear different colors, I love makeup, scented candles, plushies, and video games.

They make it sound like it’s a lifestyle. Yes, it’s my favourite genre, but I enjoy other genres too.

Thankfully, I’ve never been harassed or lectured for that since I never go around talking about aspects of my life on metal pages. Hell, I rarely visit them anymore.

But oh sweet Maker, there was one time I did and didn’t like the results. Stu Block of Iced Earth was asking who was coming to the Toronto gig on March 26th last year. Unfortunately, that was the same day that I was due to start a 4-week hospital internship for school, and attendance was mandatory in order to graduate. I told him I couldn’t go and said next time. Someone responded that I should ditch my work and go anyway. Now, that I look back at it, they were probably joking, but my literal self at the time didn’t see it that way and everyone was telling me to calm down.

Either way, maybe that person was in a position in their life where their career wasn’t important. Nobody knows, but what matters is, you either die a poser or live long enough to see yourself become an elitist in the metal world. Many metal fans I’ve encountered appear to spend a lot of time going to many concerts. When that is not possible, they’re at home listening to what’s in their collection and almost nothing else. People say that heavy metal is not a phase, and that I do agree with, I don’t see myself replacing it with another genre anytime soon, but why should I devote my entire remaining waking hours that are not at work, to heavy metal?

Yes, I don’t go to every concert because I like to do other things, yes I listen to other genres, and yes I don’t collect every piece of merchandise from a band that I love. When did it become all about full-time commitment and materialism?

That’s why I hate it when people joke around with me why I can’t go to one concert because of work commitments. That is why I hate it when people try to tell me what I “need” to purchase next on those rare occasions when I share the merchandise I do have.

If I really can’t miss a concert, then I’ll either book the day off, or trade shifts with someone to cover for me. Above all, I’m just more selective with metal concerts and the merchandise I buy and there is nothing wrong with that. I’m still committed to being a fan of the genre, but to some elitists, it’s not enough and that’s just sad.

And there you have it, those are the four reasons why I hardly ever engage in communities of things that I love, because of stupid people.

I know what you’re going to say, those types of people are small in numbers and I shouldn’t let a few of them prevent me from interacting with the welcoming and friendly people. I’ve made many friends in the following four fandoms, plenty of them I still keep in touch with today, hell some of them I’ve met in person at conventions or gigs! They accept me and I accept them, but until there’s some rule put in place that punishes trolls and people learn to not joke at/chastise me or others for making different choices. I’m going to stick to my Neutral Zone and do my own thing. Peace out.


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