Is It Time to Give ‘Fanboy’ A Rest?

The Hollywood Reporter’s review of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters describes the film as “tacky pastiche” that’s missing “a genuine sense of wit,” with an “awfully thin” script. “There isn’t much here to entice anyone with a bit of maturity,” it says – but the sub-heading for the review suggests that the “campy, violent version of Grimm’s fairy tale should entice fanboys.” Isn’t it time that everyone gave fan boyishness a break, already?

On the one hand, I get it; fanboys historically haven’t been known for having the most discerning palette in the past. You only have to look at some of the things that have been embraced so passionately by nerddom as a whole that, perhaps, didn’t quite deserve it, after all (I’m not pointing any fingers here, but we can all list off projects that everyone else seems to adore that leave us cold, I’m sure). For years, as science fiction, fantasy and horror were genres that were far less popular – and definitely less respected – than today, the idea of a fanboy was popularized as someone whose tastes were lower than low brow, and easily led by the appearance or even hint of tropes and ideas so rare that everything would be eagerly accepted and treasured.

(I wonder if there’s some level of truth to this; in less geek-friendly days, it’s true that a lot of SF and fantasy was championed by fandom regardless of its quality under the belief that, if it failed, it would lessen the chances that there would be more genre projects, hopefully better, in the future.)

These days, however, the idea of making cheap fanboy jokes feels lazy, and worse, old-fashioned. Genre movies and television are the biggest things around, and comic book culture has overwhelmed mainstream pop culture; from Marvel’s The Avengers to The Walking Dead to Doctor Who, Star Wars and Star Trek, everyone is a fanboy of sorts now, to some degree. Complaining that you wanted something more out of a movie called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is, in itself, a fanboyish impulse; it’s called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunter, after all. How good could it actually be? Saying “Well, maybe the fanboys will like it” as dismissal feels like some weird example of projection more than anything else.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t still fans of particular things that seem inexplicable to others, finding favor in that which just confuses and appalls everyone else (Exhibit A), but that’s the case in every culture, genre or otherwise, isn’t it? There are fans – boys and girls – of everything whose devotion to their favorites seems a thing of wonder and confusion to everyone else… which is the other reason why “fanboy” jokes rub me up the wrong way: Isn’t there something kind of great about having such love for something that it allows you to love it despite its flaws?

Perhaps it’s just me, but I find myself increasingly envious of that level of excitement and adoration for a show or movie, comic or whatever. Instead of making jokes about it, it’d be nice to celebrate it and admit that, just maybe, we’d all be a little bit happier if we had something to be as excitedly fannish about ourselves. Hardcore fanboys: On behalf of all the cynics out here, I’m sorry for the weird and occasionally bullish teasing. When it gets down to it, it’s possible that we’re just a bit jealous, really.

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Comments

  • Lyle

    It does seem that being a ‘fanboy’ is not so dismissive anymore. In fact, I recently saw someone get upset when he discovered he was considered a mundane.
    It is true, I look at some old comics I used to like and cringe at how bad they seem now. But, I feel the same way about some old television, too, and this was mainstream stuff. I think its because we write differently (not sure if that means better) than we did in the past. So, I really question the attitude that the stuff that ‘fanboys’ liked was all crap.
    Actually, I have noticed different types of ‘fans’ appearing all over, all of whom find the tastes of each other suspect. I remember when the people into Twilight started popping up, and someone wrote an article with the quote, “Why pick on girls who are into Twilight? They didn’t pick on you for being into comics and sci fi.”  At which point, I rolled my eyes, and muttered, “What planet do you live on?” It’s odd that people into Twilight aren’t called ‘fangirls’, which, in itself, suggests that maybe the term is a bit tired.

  • Bass Guitar Hero

    To me, the term “fanboy” has come to describe someone who spends a lot of time online complaining and picking things apart, and it’s nowhere near ready to be put the rest, IMO.

    Terms like “nerd” or “geek” are used more generally to describe fans of sci-fi, fantasy, and other less mainstream fare.

  • Sam L. Y.

    I see “fanboy” as referring to a person who only likes a specific thing, and doesn’t give other things a chance. Such as someone who ‘likes comics’ when the only thing they’ve done related to comics is Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and any mention of any DC-related-subject makes them cry. Similarly, people who ‘”like Batman because of Chris Nolan, but every other DC property is lame.” The type of people that don’t see or know anything passed what is considered ‘cool’ at the moment. The people who get angry when you try to introduce new content to them, because it’s not Avengers or Batman, but won’t actually read a comic about them or anything else.

  • Shawn

    Everyone’s a fanboy about something. EVERYONE!!

    You love sports? Sports fanboy.
    You love beer? Beer fanboy!
    You love girls? Girl fanboy!
    And the list goes on forever.

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote Graeme! Thanks for writing something that can open peoples eyes to the fact that it’s an unfair label! Kudos!

  • Reneemichael1992

    Fanboys to me have always not been those that love something, but those that look down on others because they feel like they “know more” or “care more” then others. Fanboys to me have always been those that take something so seriously they can’t laugh at it every once and a while and take it as life or death. Fanboys to me are those people that complain everything is the same but then freak out as soon as they change it up a bit for awhile. Fanboys to me feel like they are this almighty sentinel that must protect what they love and cast out everyone that doesn’t meet their standards rather then welcome people and create a comadre and share in this thing that tey enjoy. Fanboys to me have always been an insult to those that take stuff way to seriously and push people away rather then invite them with open arms. So I think the term fanboy is fine.

  • Mou101

    “Fanboy” used to be a pejorative, but that has changed over time, thanks largely to the infusion of “geek culture” into mainstream popular culture. As a film, “The Avengers” fully and unapologetically embraced the superhero genre and its comic book roots, and the world did not respond with disdain. “Fanboy” as we knew it is gone; “fanboy” (and “fangirl” for that matter) applies to a person who enjoys a thing fully.

  • Orphan

    Only a fanboy would ask a question like this

  • Jon

    People who nitpick about terms like “fanboy”, “nerd” or “geek” deserve to be called all these things. That very obsession is what the rest of the world makes fun of, not unlike pro wrestlers who completely lose it when someone says wrestling is “fake”.

    Let it go. Wrestling is fake. And fanboys are fanboys. When everyone starts to take themselves a little less seriously, they will be made a little less fun of.

  • Bill Batson

    Wow, are you guys sensitive.  What’s wrong with the word fanboy?  The term makes perfect sense in comics.  Comic books are a small niche market that is, for the most part, male dominated.  The stories, again, for the most part, are adolescent power fantasies.

    Despite the popularity of comic book characters in film and tv, comic books themselves have had very little growth at all.  There are fewer comic book stores today than there was 10 years ago.  After the hunger games movie was released, sales of the book skyrocketed, while Marvel and DC see only a modest bump in sales after mega blockbusters like the Avengers and the Dark Knight.

    If you want to believe that the popularity of the superhero genre is justification for your love of comics, that’s fine.  But to me, I accept, and even embrace, the term fanboy.  When were at the movies, we know that Uncle Ben will be murdered or that Captain America will eventually be frozen in a block of ice.   We’re fans.  Why get hung up on the label?

  • Jed

    I always saw the term “Fanboy” as a badge of honour. Although perhaps that’s just a mixture of denial and undeserved pride. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephan-Maich/710277318 Stephan Maich

    fanboy doesnt exactly say anything anymore.  the domain of “nerddom” is as pop-culturally mainstream as you can get now, so we can pretty much start leaving out the once-segregational extraneous terminology.  back when nerds were nerds, it wasn’t cool at all – not ever.  turning derisive terms into a badge of honor isn’t really empowering when everyone does it – that edge-of-society is gone.  so what?  maybe more people will develop highly personalized tastes now rather than deciding to like/dislike things because it fits with a self-image label.  i think when society becomes more all-inclusive we can collectively start worrying about more important things than getting derided for reading comics.

  • Bill K

    “Palette” – a handheld board on which an artist mixes paint, and thus metaphorically a chosen set of available colours – is different from “palate”, the roof of the mouth and thus metaphorically a sense of taste. 

  • Jimmy

    Yeah, that’s pretty much my interpretation of fanboy – someone obsessed with the genre, but spends 99% of their time on the Internet complaining about it. Nothing is ever good enough, they could do better, blah, blah, blah. A bunch of petty wannabees. It stems from the Comic Book Guy persona in Simpsons. They are the skurge of the genre I love so much.
    I could even rattle off a few titles – they’re right here…

  • Cjorg2

    The simple fact of using the Comic Book Guy as your example of a “fanboy” makes it a negative stereotype. As a result the definition of a fanboy is an ineffectual and unimportant person, usually overweight and with poor hygiene due to their comic/ sci-fi obsessions taking up their time, who spends all their time online complaining endlessly about everything they seem to love, being a troll to anyone who has a different opinion to them, and bizarrely finding comfort and satisfaction from knowing everything about Star Wars Episode 4, and Fantastic Four issue 93 (for example.) I’d like to think it’s a stereotype, but based on comments on Spinoff and the Bulletin Boards they are alive and well. Just take a look at the J.J. Abrams doing Star Wars blog and they are all there, like festering sores, seemingly unaware of how tiresome they are. But unimportant and ineffective people need something to make them feel powerful, hence the popularity of the Internet.

  • Zor-El of Argo

     To me, a “Fanboy” is someone so devoted to a specific part of a genre that they feel the need to hate and bash other parts of the genre. Like a Star Wars fanboy who feel the need to bash all things Star Trek and anyone who enjoys Star Trek. Or a Star Trek: TOS fanboy who bashes any Star Trek that does not feature Shatner as Kirk. Or, more recently, those Avengers fanboys who bash all things “The Dark Knight Rises” or vise versa.

  • Tenormadness365

    Somewhat convincing arguments here.  Care to re-post them somewhere where people that use “Fanboy” as a derogatory/dismissive term might see it and be influenced?

  • Jimmy

    Yeah that too. So what do we call a person who likes Avengers and Dark Knight Rises, Star Trek and Star Wars, Marvel and DC? A true fan? Well balanced? I’ve never understood the need to take sides – they’re all great.

  • AllTheBaconAndEggsYouHave

    “You know, nerd culture is mainstream now, so when you use the word ‘nerd’ derogatorily, it means you’re the one out of the zeitgeist”

    - Ben Wyatt, author of the world’s best Star Trek fanfic 

  • Jimmy

    Ben’s not exactly an objective observer though is he?

    Nerd culture is not mainstream at all. Sure, many people went and saw Avengers but 99.9999% have never read the comic, let alone know that Cap had a comic in the forties and was revived in Avengers #4, that Tony Stark is an alcoholic, or that Thor’s alter ego is Don Blake. If you do know that then you can gladly call yourself a nerd. Trying to desperately make out that we’re all geeks now, so we can all be accepted as mainstream is fooling yourself. Next time you’re on a date tell the girl you write Star Trek fanfic, (no it’s not your job, but your hobby) and see what happens…

  • RighteousBrother

    I always took the term Fanboy to mean, an adult who had an arrested sense of development due to spending inordinate amounts of time obsessing over comics and movies designed for children.  However the term is overused and misused now to the point of being meaningless. 

  • Alex

    Rational, you call these people rational.

  • Lyle

    Reading the many comments here, I think I get what a lot of people here consider ‘fanboy’ compared to, lets call it nerd culture.
    I am actually in the center of nerd culture, because I help my wife run a small sci-fi convention. The guests are all genre authors, and its very laid back, and there are conversations about the future of such genres as sci fi, fantasy, and horror, and people there are generally intelligent and love the different genres, warts and all.
    Then again, I was once invited to a nerdy party that goes on once a month in my area. I went with a friend, and this party had a definite negative feeling to it. A friend who went with me commented, “I can’t believe that people into sci fi HATE sci fi so much.” At the party, they were showing Avatar, and everyone was bad mouthing the movie as it was going on. I mean, I get it, Avatar is not a perfect movie, and I get why some people would dislike it. But, at the same time, there were comments made about the movie that I found incredibly inane. For example, at one point, the main character falls into a river, crawls out, and lights up a torch, and one person yelled, “Why aren’t his matches wet?” I right away thought, “Do you get that people in the military have waterproof pockets to keep their matches, and in the future, they would probably have a better solution?” But, I realized this person just watched this in an effort to find fault with the movie and there was no point reasoning with them. I just never got this type of attitude. If I am watching a movie, it is because I am expecting to be entertained, not because I want to hate said film and complain about it ad nausea. Later, my friend talked to someone about Doctor Who, a show that everyone in this party claimed to like, and talked about how Rose was his favorite companion. The person he talked to went on a rant about how Rose was the worst companion in Doctor Who history. I myself was subjected to a lecture on why Joss Whedon is the worst thing that ever happened to sci fi. In the end, I left the party with my friend, and we decided never to come back.
    Reading the comments, I realize that the people at this party pretty much represent what many here feel are ‘fanboys’, and I can definitely agree that I prefer not to be around them. 

  • Kickass

    With iFanboy website gone down the shitter now that their sponsor Graphicly officially dumped them, maybe its time fanboy goes into complete irrelevance, just as the website nukes the fridge.

  • Zor-El of Argo

     The thing is, it’s not just sci-fi/fantasy/super-heroes. It’s EVERYTHING! I see the same kind of insane uber-loyalty to college football, to. Where I live people who root for University of Michigan football automatically root against Michigan State, regardless of who they are playing. Being a Michigan fan(boy) means you HAVE to HATE Michigan State! Do I even need to point out how this phenomenon has affected this country’s political process?

  • WrightStuff

    we can rename the derogatory term—-”Graemeboy”

  • WrightStuff

    we can rename the derogatory term—-”Graemeboy”

  • Wrightstuff

    or a “Graemeboy”

  • Wrightstuff

    or a “Graemeboy”

  • Ennisellis

    Can we also lose the terms “fan favourite” – used to describe some nobody who’s name you don’t recognise even when they list the comics they worked on that barely made it into the Diamond top 300, and “game changer” – used to convince you there is something so amazing and important to a series that barely raises a “meh” when you actually read it.

  • Anthony Welsch

    I don’t know if I agree with you on some of this. “Geek” is now a very mainstream term— look at what’s hot in pop culture. Shows like Big Bang Theory are what everyone is watching and it’s become cool to describe yourself as  ‘nerd’ or “geek”. It’s almost like the terminology is changing. Nerds and geeks aren’t just looking at comic books anymore… they’re anyone with an imagination and hunger for something different.