Fandoms at war: Are they going too far?

Note: This article mentions suicide, death threats and toxic behaviors. 

Photo courtesy of Karl Ibay

AFTER DEFENDING a K-pop artist by replying to comments to a Twitter hate post, Polytechnic University of the Philippines biology senior Seth Niño Paparon was mobbed by several fan accounts.

Online attacks on K-pop groups, Paparon said, usually happen during their most notable events like awards nights and talent show awardings, and reading such hate comments is indeed hard to ignore.

“I’m just opposing everything that the fans of other groups claimed or those statements that are thrown at us,” Paparon said. 

Since he uses his personal account, most of the comments targeted his physical appearance.

“It (personal comment) does not bother me, but the hate comments targeted at my idols such as Taeyeon’s voice having a terrible sound. I’m always infuriated by that […] It’s like they are directly insulting my whole life,” Paparon said, referring to the artist he has been supporting for about a decade. 

It bothered him more than the personal comments he received.

It took him a while before realizing the importance of not responding to such vitriol. But he is convinced that there are circumstances where engaging in “fan wars” is important, especially when the rival fan groups are propagating “fake news.”

These fan wars occur to show who are really the leading groups in the industry that contest and contradict the “entitled fan groups,” Paparon said. 

Despite criticisms that they have become toxic, fandoms earned their relevance in Philippine society because they are “not simply passive people,” said Asst. Prof. Samuel Cabbuag of the University of the Philippines sociology department. 

“Fandoms are considered groups of people with similar goals and points for affection (or what scholars call ‘fan objects’),” Cabbuag told The Flame.

Toxicity and fanaticism

Fans in the online world go to a certain extent of aggressive arguing and debating just to defend their idols. It includes participating in online engagements such as “wars” with other fans.  

“You can consider it a fan war if it [becomes] trending towards the community, which takes a lot of time to spread and make stories, accusations, [teasing], etc.,” Paparon said.

Paparon, who has been a fan of several girl groups like Girls Generation since 2012, has already witnessed and engaged in many “fan wars.” He noted that it was also in this year when the peak of “fan wars” occurred.

“It’s like if there’s people who can afford concerts and support them in the front, we support them at their backs,” Paparon explained. 

Another biology student, Denise (not her real name) has also experienced many “fan wars” since she joined stan Twitter, a so-called community in Twitter where fans interact with each other using accounts dedicated to their idols. 

“I was taking everything seriously […] I finally realized that most haters do not want to be convinced that they are wrong, they just want to hate everyone,” Denise said.

However, Denise realized that the zeal of these fans and their aggressive behaviors often bring their idols harm: “The worst part is they will involve the artists too. They will do anything to ruin someone’s reputation.” 

UST literature student Yvonne Vigillia believes that toxicity only happens when it “takes over your life” and has endangered one’s overall well-being.

It becomes toxic once it takes over your life to the point of endangering your health, your finances, and the way you treat other people whether or not they’re fans of the same thing as you, Vigillia said. 

She also warned about blind fanaticism as a source of toxicity. According to her, it happens when fans justify and condone problematic behavior of their idols despite shreds of evidence. 

Cabbuag observed that some fans may believe that they have a certain power, the reason why most clashes happen.

“They insist on certain norms, ideas, etcetera to other fans, non-fans, and sadly, to their idols because they are not doing what the fans want them to do,” Cabbuag explained how these extremes connect to their identity as fans.

How wars start in fandoms

Cabbuag said fanwars often started with the one who is deemed “superior” in the fandom.

“Actually, most of fan wars occur intentionally, but in my opinion, we only follow what other fandoms started,” Paparon said, as spur-of-the-moment conflicts are only short-lived and do not lead to fan wars.

“Of course, most of the fan wars start on who is the most [superior in] different groups,”Denise said. 

Denise and Paparon admitted that they joined fanwars to defend their preferred performers from the attacks of fans showing disrespectful behaviors. 

‘[If] I find some comments not decent enough or outright disrespectful, I still call those people out (e.g. sexualization of minors, involving the artist’s dead relatives, racism),” Denise said.

“It was like Goo Hara fandom versus other groups’ fandoms (who wanted to see her downfall) until she committed suicide. It was really painful,” Paparon said, adding that the incident is one of the extreme effects of fan wars.

But sometimes, fans could also cross the line by taking such war personally to the extent that they would send death threats either to other fans or the artists, Denise said.

“In some fanwars, some fans will try to dox people, some are even sending death threats to the artists and the fans. Though I did not experience them myself, it’s still wrong in any sort. I can’t believe some people are doing [this] over kpop,” she said.

Block and ignore

While K-pop fans interviewed by The Flame admitted that such wars would never end as it is already part of the culture, they advised fellow fans to just block and ignore those who exhibit toxic behavior. 

“When someone [who is] mad replies to me, I ignore them and then block their accounts. These are people I don’t know and I get absolutely nothing interacting with them,” Vigillia said.

“Actually, there’s no specific reason that these fan wars stop as I remember. We just wait until the issues dwindle on their own,” Paparon said. 

Denise, for her part, said getting involved in fanwars could actually “ruin” fan experience, hence “choosing not to engage will stop the draining feeling,: 

At the end of the day, joining fan wars does not bring any benefit and would only “promote cancel culture and bullying,” she added. 

Paparon said that while implementing strict rules would make fan wars die down, it would also lose the essence of fandoms and fanwars. She suggested that fans “just refrain from digging deep into personal information” of artists and their supporters

Cabbuag said promoting good practices can start by listing etiquettes that fans can observe.  

“I don’t think that calling them out is beneficial, so it is best to show what the good practices are so people can learn about it and follow through,” Cabbuag said. F  – S. Argonza and T.R. Flores

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Vol. 58, Issue No. 1 of the Flame. View the entire issue through this link.

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