Contrary to the title this is not, in fact, a blog about anonymous internet users flaming and trolling each other back and forth. Nay. The point I wish to raise today is unfortunately a pessimistic one (don’t worry, I don’t intend on writing any more lexical rants if I can help it). Using my knowledge of the English language, a bit of personal experience and the most passionate argument I can conjure at this moment, I shall explain precisely why I cannot stand to use, read or speak the term ‘fanboy’.
My A Level English teacher once told me something along the lines of “whenever an Englishman opens his mouth he offends another countryman”. The point she was trying to illustrate was, no matter where you are in the world, man, women or child, your use of language will be valued less by someone else. Perhaps you aren’t pronouncing the infections the same way as your neighbour or your accent differs to that of your schoolmates. Of course, this is natural. Everyone is different in life and thanks goodness we are. I like to think I’m a very open person when it comes to respecting others languages, cultures and beliefs. However, when it comes to the term I am discuss in this post, and the deluge of negative connotations attached to it I cannot support, nor encourage others to use it.
I’ve no knowledge where the word may have originally come from, but it soon seeded itself in the everyday lexis of regular internet users and eventually into general usage in major publications and dictionaries (I’m no conservative, but god forbid they put in the OED). Wikipedia, as the ephemeral source for millions of topics these days, naturally has a definition, which at the time of publishing reads: ‘Fanboy is a term used to describe any man who is devoted to a single subject in an emotional or fanatical manner, or to a single point of view within that subject, often to the point where it is considered an obsession’. There’s even been a film for goodness sake.
For the most part it has been used in, and about, what is commonly seen as ‘geek culture’ – comic books, anime and, of course, video games. Back in late 2004 I started writing on video games-related forum or two. After immersing myself into the atmosphere of the cyber environment I found it more than a little addicting. Between GameSpot’s user badges (essentially a rewards system), blogs and the forums I regularly browsed, I was losing plenty sleep becoming a web-feeding zombie. Thankfully I am older and a little wiser now too. Nowadays I’m more of a silent shadow. Anyway, when browsing any forum online it won’t take long before you spot a topic or post you or somebody else disagrees with. The problem is, online, people just don’t know when to quit. Insults flying back and forth, pointless HTML links to rude or violent images, death threats, Caps Lock attacks, whole groups of people dissing one and other – it’s chaos! And somewhere amid all this hate the term ‘fanboy’ appeared. A convenient and derogatory term to label online adversaries.
The thing is, I’m an avid fan of quite a few ‘material’ things and I am male, though, I would not refer to myself as a ‘fanboy’, purely as its definition has been so radically skewed. If I present a logical opinion on something, with heart where necessary, I don’t appreciate my views being thrown back in my face with this feeble excuse of a lexical come back. I am also ready to listen to anyone who can do the same. The very reason I us the internet less for socialising these days is because it has become a breeding ground for antisocial groups and individuals inept of truth or reason – you can’t even see their real identity. In western culture at least, ‘Otaku’ has fair less negative sigma. Terms such has ‘addict’, ‘brand loyalty’ ‘obsession’ are little revered, nevertheless, why are they automatically attached the definition of fan?
Moreover, my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary (sixth edition – not contacting the full etymology of words) has a definition of ‘fan’ which reads: ‘a person who supports or has great enthusiasm for a sport, celebrity, etc’. Under the second definition for ‘fanatic’ it reads: ‘a person with an extreme enthusiasm for a pastime or hobby’. Nowhere in those definitions do I get the sense that being a ‘fan’ means you are ‘unable to stop thinking about’ that object/person, or that you are physically and mentally devoted to something/someone to the point of risking lives. Some may consider my love of Gorillaz to be ‘unhealthy’, yet they have no knowledge of the personal and social connotations and thoughts it has to me. A brand new studio album from the band is about the only things I may consider sleeping out for. Would I threaten someone’s life, resort to physical violence to defend the bands image or steal? No. I’m not a football hooligan and I don’t go around burning Apple Macs the moment I see them, so, why is my level of fandom considered dangerous?
Beyond this there is also the fact that ‘fanboy’, as a colloquial term, is massively sexist. While some may spit a ‘fangirl’ every once in a blue moon the former is commonly seen as an all encompassing norm. Video games are still in their infancy and I for one would like many more women to embrace them in the same way they do film and music. The idiocy of BBC Radio 1’s DJs during their first-ever gaming weekend has only sharpened my resolve that mainstream media still haven’t grownup and accepted video games as culture. Why, then, do so many specialist games journalists tagalong with the informal stupidity of their audiences? Personally I think it only hurts the image of the industry. Most of the games that women enjoy, such as SingStar and The Sims, are relegated to the status of ‘casual’ or ‘girly’ games by many men, so why should women feel inclined to engage in the rest of the testosterone-saturated industry if they feel they are not welcome?
From what I’ve said so far I hope it is abundantly clear that I absolutely despise the word ‘fanboy’ and wish to banish it forever more! I certainly won’t use it of my own accord in any journalism articles, unless I am specifically referring to its cultural usage. It is foolish, bland, uncouth, sexist, demoralising, obnoxious, cowardly, selfish, discriminating and demonic, in my opinion. I may be ‘fanatical’ about a lot of things, but I’ve also got morals and competence when it comes to my native language.