So, as part of Zimbio's continued quest to dominate the planet by undermining our collective image*, I found myself taking a quiz the other day entitled 'Which Fan Group Do You Belong To?'
*Seriously. At this point I have no idea who or what I am. Am I Luna Lovegood? The Color Mauve? A Painful Bowel Lesion?** Thanks to Zimbio, I no longer have any idea.
**Avoid the 'What hurts when I poop?' quiz. I cannot overstate this.
In any case - The quiz, after an intensive session of 13 questions, determined that I belonged in the Fans of Benedict Cumberbatch category, and then went on to make a few references to Sherlock that it thought I might enjoy.
The first point of interest here is that the quiz authors seem to not make a distinction between Fans of Benedict Cumberbatch and fans of the program Sherlock. While it's true that there's a great deal of overlap between the two, there's definitely a distinction. But that's not the thing that really grabbed my attention.
What really grabbed my attention was that halfway through the description it referred to the Benedict Cumberbatch fan base as 'Cumberbitches' which, while cute, is actually disliked by Benjamin himself. He's gone on record a few times now as asking his fan base to please not refer to them thus because he feels like it's demeaning to them - which is really a surprisingly well adjusted and healthy attitude to hear from a celebrity, so points to him there.
It all begs the broader question of why we feel the need to have one media-friendly buzzword to identify whichever TV Show/Book/Film Franchise we like best. The obvious answer is 'To allow us to make hashtags about it', but I think in the broader sense we have to blame Star Trek*.
*In this as in so many other things.
It should be pointed out before we get any further into this that the word 'fan' itself is problematic. An abbreviation of 'fanatic', it already carried a vague undertone of 'unseemly enthusiasm' well before Gene Roddenberry's devotes came on the scene. Once people began to be aware that there was a reasonably notable group of people who seemed really worked up about this Saturday Morning adventure series it was only a matter of time before they had to come up with a term to refer to them. And so, the term 'Trekkies' essentially came into being as a way for others to discuss them. Because this is essentially a diminutive form of the word it came to be seen as insulting and a countermovement rose up from within the fan base to rebrand themselves as 'Trekkers'. An amusing but largely insignificant power struggle thereafter took place as the two factions both attempted to present themselves as 'the REAL face of Star Trek fandom', but for the most part the rest of the world carried on happily not caring much either way.
The real lesson learned from this was that if you were a devoted fan of a program it was vitally important to get ahead of the ball and come up with your own name, and thus maintain what we can loosely call 'brand integrity'. This was a lesson that the fans of The X-Files picked up and ran with, christening themselves 'X-Philes' on the newly existent internet almost as soon as the first episode of The Adventures of Brisco County Junior had finished.*
*It was the lead in show on Friday nights during the first season. It starred Bruce Campbell and was an almost complete bomb, despite being reasonably amusing. Vizsla=knowledge.
Of course things spiraled out of control, as these things tend to do, and now we have Whovians*, Bronies, Thunderheads, the aforementioned (if frowned upon) Cumberbitches and no end cute and Twitter-ready group identifiers. Not to mention the murkier and more trouble subgroupings where you find your Yiffers and others even more troubling.
*Fans of Doctor Who found the entirely ingenious and dignified way of avoiding the whole 90s fad for creating fan-group names by the simple expedient of their program not existing at the time. Russel T. Davies put an end to that of course, but we had a good run while it lasted.
Of course, what the Zimbio quiz and other internet message sniping fail to recognize is that these days nobody IS a fan of just one genre program. One is just as likely to simultaneously be a Trekkie(er) AND a Whovian and a Cumberbatch enthusiast and whatever the hardcore Downton Abbey fans refer to themselves as while they're at ComiCon*
*Abbites? The DA? Public Television Supporters?
So your typical genre TV enthusiast these days isn't a single group name so much as a recipe. 'I'm Babylon/Battlestar/Midwife/Who with a dash of FaceOff'* It's so much more interesting when it's this overcomplicated, don't you think?
*The SyFy reality show, not the stupid Nicholas Cage film