Fandom isn’t a new phenomenon. As long as there have been stories, there have been fans of those stories. The Sherlock Holmes stories of Arthur Conan Doyle birthed The Baker Street Irregulars, one of the earliest “fan clubs." Indeed, even the greatest work of Roman literature, The Aeneid, is ultimately just Iliad fan fiction.
But the rise of the internet revolutionized fandom into what we know it as today. While there were always fans who felt a bit too entitled or too invested, they were once outliers. But through Reddit, Tumblr and the like, we rabid fans can constantly bat around fan theories, over-analyze and even whip up public outrage, often taking it too far. 2017 brought with it some of the most alarming and absurd examples of these “fan freakouts.” Maybe some things here you’ll laugh at, others may horrify you, and perhaps a few you’ll find justified (to be clear, death threats are never justified). But we hope that 2018 can be the year we stop taking fictional lives more seriously than real human feelings, and maybe all learn how to say "You know what, maybe this one thing just isn't for me."
15 HARRY POTTER AND THE NOVELS ON FIRE
Since her rise from obscurity to self-made millionaire through her game-changing Harry Potter novels, author J.K. Rowling has never shied away from expressing her true feelings, be it about art, pop culture or even politics. Her written works took a strong moral stance within their fictional world, but when Rowling decided to express those same views in the muggle world, some of her fans revolted.
Voldemort, the chief villain of her series, rose to power through fear, bigotry and authoritarianism; no reader viewed this character as anything less than the epitome of evil. But when the woman who wrote Voldemort began drawing parallels she saw between her fictional facist and the newly elected U.S. President, conservative Potter fans were outraged. Determined to prove to Rowling she was wrong for comparing them to Nazis, they promptly held book burnings for all of her novels.
14 TESTOSTERONE IN THE TARDIS
Doctor Who was reborn with Russell T. Davies, the showrunner who shepherded the character through his 9th and 10th incarnations to massive acclaim. When popular episode writer and Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat took over with the start of the 11th Doctor, the show was at its peak. But after repetitive episodes, overly convoluted arcs, and the squandering of Peter Capaldi’s engaging 12th doctor, Whovians were ready for a drastic change. And they got it.
When new showrunner Chris Chibnall announced the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor, Doctor Who fans responded with a resounding “Cor Blimey, these wankers be puttin’ a bird in a bloke’s show!”, and there are boycott threats on both sides of the pond. Giving up on a show because the Doctor no longer has the “sonic screwdriver” is silly on its own. Having stuck with it after the abysmal “Sleep No More” and only quit at the sight of feminine fingers on the Tardis controls? That’s just bloody daft, mate.
13 WHITEWASHING THE GREAT WALL
Whitewashing is a serious issue in Hollywood, and deserves to be called out when it happens. 2017 saw the rightfully ridiculed casting of white actors in traditionally Asian roles like Death Note and Ghost in the Shell. Considering how few opportunities there are for actors of color, it's important that when a role does call for one, Hollywood doesn’t “cheat” for the sake of getting a name actor.
But sometimes the well-intentioned but high-on-smug-outrage internet can go a bit too far. When the first poster for The Great Wall, a Chinese produced, Chinese directed film with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, featured Matt Damon, the internet declared whitewashing without seeing a single frame. Of course, director Zhang Yimou explained that those protesting the film weren’t “armed with facts,” but 2017 was the year facts didn’t matter in the face of feelings, so The Great Wall promptly bombed as a result.
12 NO SUPER-GIRL ON GIRL SETS TUMBLR ABLAZE
Tumblr is a powerful force. Its diverse user base has been great in starting a dialogue about the spectrums of gender and sexuality. But its well-intentioned push for inclusion can get far, far too intense, treating TV characters (and even their casts) like Barbie dolls being smacked together while a voice rings out “Now kiss!”
Like the blog version of Hugh Hefner, Tumblr has seemingly never seen a pair of pretty platonic friends they didn’t want to see make out. So when the cries of “shipping” for Supergirl’s titular character with Lena Luthor became too loud to ignore, the cast used an SDCC panel to stress that the two were only friends, and that the vocal “SuperCorp” shippers seemingly devalued the importance of intimate friendships by demanding they also be romantic in nature. Outraged shippers were quick to declare the show, which had just aired one of the best “coming out” stories in television history involving Kara’s sister Alex, of being anti-gay for not fulfilling their fantasy pairing.
11 MORE PROTECTIVE THAN SHERIFF HOPPER
The fans who defended Stranger Things actress Millie Bobbie Brown from the leering eyes of red carpet reporters trying to objectify the underage actress were right to be outraged. In an industry guilty of exploiting children, it's important to be vigilant against those that would seek to harm these young people. Taking that same level of outrage over a fictional character, however, might be a bit of an overreaction.
Sure, one could make the case that Yandy.com’s “Upside Down Honey” costume might be in poor taste, given the pubescent nature of the character it spoofs. But one has to question why, in a world full of unquestioned “sexy” versions of young characters like Red Riding Hood, Dora the Explorer and the archetypal “sexy schoolgirl,” the equally fictional Eleven was somehow a bridge too far. But if you want to defend the honor of a fictional character before donning your "Sexy Indian" costume this Halloween, who are we to judge?
10 THE INFAMOUS WOMEN-ONLY WONDER WOMAN SHOWS
There’s a chance that your high school may have had an elevator to help handicapped students, while able-bodied students had to take the stairs. And there may have been one able-bodied student who said it was “unfair” that the handicapped students could use the elevator and he couldn’t, and that was discrimination. But the rest of the class all realized that that student was just unaware of the myriad of privileges he was privy to by virtue of his working legs.
Completely unrelated to that, some men's rights activists were outraged when a single theatre chain, the prestigious Alamo Drafthouse, was going to have select “women only” screenings of the film Wonder Woman at its Austin, New York and Denver locations. Bloggers declared boycotts, which surely made a dent in the film’s record breaking box office. Others threatened to assert their masculine dominance by showing up at the all-female screenings anyway. But they seemingly all found more pressing matters to attend to on the day of the actual screening.
9 MAKE MARVEL GREAT AGAIN
Civil War II and Secret Empire both failed to excite readers, and ultimately proved to be dropping off points for longtime Marvel fans. Legacy characters were failing to click, and fans were getting sick of a certain thing being forced into seemingly every story by corporate entities with cynical intentions. By that we mean the constant pushing of Inhumans. What did you guys think we meant?
Well, if you were one of the retailers at the Marvel NYCC Retailers panel, you apparently (and loudly) thought it was diversity. Now, there is a worthwhile discussion to be had about the way Marvel handled some of its legacy characters, and even how some new characters seemed less about representing an under-served community and more a cash grab. The best way to have said discussion is probably not yelling "Homo!" and "Freaking Females!" in a Javits Center event space like you’re auditioning for a live action version of The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy.
8 THE DREAM DADDY FAN ART CONTROVERSY
If you’re not familiar with the “Dream Daddy” Steam game and subsequent controversy, you’re probably better off. Traveling where Steam’s rainbow ends might shock and dismay some, so skip ahead if you wish. For the rest of you brave souls, enter -- the password is Fidelio.
Dream Daddy is a dating sim where you can couple hot daddies with other hot daddies. This is not altogether odd, considering a sizeable chunk of Steam is fetish fodder these days. But Dream Daddy’s fanbase is more intense than most, and when one fan artist had the audacity to imagine a gender-swapped “MILF” cast, repulsed players felt the need to offer constructive feedback on how the characters were translated -- furious constructive feedback... including death threats. So vicious were these attacks, the artist was driven off of social media; so vocal was the deluge that it was covered by Forbes. Yep, 2017 proved any “controversy” can get major media coverage if the outraged are vocal enough.
7 HEARTS DON’T BREAK AROUND WESTEROS
If you’re not a “Sheerio,” let’s face it, you probably think Ed Sheeran kinda sucks. From his shaggy look to his laid back vibe to his lilting songs with surprisingly misogynistic lyrics, Sheeran is like if Ron Weasley had a baby with the dude whose guitar John Belushi smashed in Animal House. He’s so insufferable, Playboy called him out for his toxic masculinity. Playboy drew the line at Sheeran’s schtick.
So there are plenty of reasons to give Ed Sheeran hell. Him popping up to do a split second song on a sword and sorcery show? Not one of them. Even if you find the shaggy singer repugnant, the vitriol with which his Game of Thrones cameo was greeted is overkill. Sheeran was driven off Twitter when fans declared that the barely-there cameo ruined not only the episode, but they dare say the entire season. Rape and incest? A-Ok. British singer cameo? Intolerable! Gotcha.
6 SPIDER-INCENSED TINGLING
Comic book fans are very resistant to change on the page, but they’ll allow a lot of leeway if it means getting to see their favorite characters on screen. Bat-fans didn’t care that Joker killed Bruce’s parents in Batman, or that Bane wasn’t Mexican in The Dark Knight Rises. Spider-Man fans didn’t have a care that no Gwen Stacy came before Mary Jane in Raimi’s Spider-Man films.
Yet, for all the drastic changes to Spider-Man lore in Spider-Man: Homecoming, from the incorporation of Vulture’s origin into the Avengers timeline to Tony Stark making Peter’s suit, the only alteration that received such vocal and sustained fan outrage was the intimation (but never overt declaration) that this continuity’s Mary Jane would be played by the talented Zendaya and not a white redhead. Why were these fans outraged? Well, it definitely wasn’t racism. We know that because they specifically said "I'm not racist, but..." and that of course covers everything.
5 I’M PICKLE-CHAUVINIST, MORTY!
Rick & Morty is a great show, no doubt. It's smart, funny and culturally relevant in a way no animated show has been since South Park. Scroll through Reddit or 4Chan now and you’ll see exhaustive arguments about the show’s superiority, many declaring it's most recent season the best yet; every episode a piece of perfection.
But that fanbase didn’t always feel that way. Only three episodes into the new season, rabid Rick adherents felt the new season didn’t live up to the past ones time had allowed to be rendered untouchable in their hearts, and they knew what the difference was: girl cooties. After identifying the female writers of “Rickmancing the Stone” and the oft-quoted “Pickle Rick,” angry fans harassed the women on Twitter and even published their personal information. Apparently, 2017 was the year to dehumanize the people who create the content you love in service of a fictional jerk you idolize.
4 SHOTS FIRED OVER THE PUNISHER
Somehow it seems to have slipped from the public consciousness, but on October 1st, 2017, a vile and hateful individual opened fire on a crowded Las Vegas concert, taking 58 lives and irreparably altering over 500 more in the deadliest mass shooting in US history. While it’s impossible to discuss means of prevention without being swarmed by the “Well, actually” brigade, at least we can all agree it's important to be sensitive to the feelings of the victims and their families.
That’s what Marvel thought when they decided to cancel the panel for their upcoming Punisher series at New York Comic Con less than a week after the tragedy. Punisher fans, however, were not so understanding. They failed to see how a show that depicted a lone gunman taking the law into his own hands as judge, jury and executioner with heavy artillery might not be the most appropriate thing to deify in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, and they let Marvel know it at every turn that Comic Con.
3 THE LEGENDARY ZACK SNYDER CUT
Zack Snyder has been endlessly dragged by DC fans for his handling of the cinematic universe, first for the destructive ending of Man of Steel, then the overly grim tone of Batman vs. Superman. Fans were tired of Snyder, and desperate for a new voice to come in. When a personal tragedy pulled Snyder away from Justice League and nerd-icon Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the film, fans felt they’d finally get the light and humor they hoped for.
When the film still turned out “awful,” those vocal fans responded with “Lol jk, we loved Zack Snyder all along. He’s a visionary genius whose original cut, which totally exists, was absolutely flawless, and Whedon and the studio ruined it.” They demanded a director’s cut that everyone involved in the film admits doesn’t exist, and have, at the time of this list's writing, planned a protest outside of WB headquarters to demand the non-existent cut be released. Because there’s really nothing else going on more worthy of protest these days.
2 A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE
Everyone hates the prequels. Maybe not everyone, and almost everyone is a bit too harsh to them. But the prequels are near-universally considered lesser than the original trilogy, now made sacred through a mix of genuinely great storytelling and nostalgia. But nobody had ever made a concerted effort to get any of the prequels “removed from the canon.” That would be an absurd waste of energy, and seem insanely entitled.
That’s what we would have thought in, say, 2015. But 2017, in its infinite over-reactiveness, brought a fanbase freakout that made the new Ghostbusters look well received. For reasons that have nothing to do with an inability to accept change, fans were furious at the way Last Jedi told its story about the importance of letting go of the past, declared it the worst Star Wars ever, and actually started a petition to get the film removed from canon.
1 GUYS, IT’S JUST A MCNUGGET SAUCE
Ask your friends about the worst tragedy of 2017. They might say the Texas Church Massacre. They might say the thousands dying without power in Puerto Rico. They might mention the Las Vegas shooting, or the horrendous display of hate in Charlottesville. Or they might just say that time McDonalds didn’t produce enough ironically beloved McNugget sauce to appease obnoxious fans. You can decide how to approach that friendship moving forward.
Look, we’re bummed that McDonald’s didn’t deliver on the Szechuan Sauce promise as well as they could have. Nothing would have been cooler than to walk out of New York Comic Con weekend and nosh on some ‘nugs in the Szechuan sauce, and we were annoyed that we couldn’t. But we didn’t flip tables. We didn’t harass people, or threaten to stab employees or damage property. We want to believe nobody did any of these things. But a quick Youtube search says otherwise.