Today I was utterly dismayed to hear about the closure of a long time fan site which the Winchester Family Business has had interactions with in the past, Whedonesque. I’ve met the creators of the site a few times at Comic Con and other cons as well and I know that they were dedicated, passionate, and very supportive of their fandom and discussion. They were in a sense early role models for me as I started this site and their demise mirrors a lot of the problems that has mired fandoms in recent times.
Whedonesque suffered a terrible blow, one that was considered the final straw after a long line of straws. They found themselves disillusioned and dismayed by the behavior of the man that they have put in the center of their being for the last 15 years, Joss Whedon. This person that championed feminism was outed as being less than honest by his actions. It was a hard fall from grace and Whedonesque ended up reaching a conclusion, they could not separate the artist from the art in this case. To them and their discussion atmosphere, they were one in the same.
One of the founders of Whedonesque confessed that she had been looking at closing the site for the last five years. Given their discussion environment and passionate base, I can see why. Aside from the tremendous maintenance that goes into a fan site anymore due to rapidly changing technology and trends, in recent years fandom has gotten more volatile and more vocal, resulting often times in a lack of respect for others and general bad behavior. Twitter has added massive fuel to that fire. It’s been a nightmare to moderate and keep the discussions civil. Even the smallest of debates can explode into a fiery storm, all for reasons that on paper seem unfathomable. Tolerance for others is thin. While that passion can make a TV show, it can also break it. The whole “dark side of fandom” concept permeates to multiple fandoms and this time a valuable victim was claimed.
The fall of Whedonesque got me contemplating about my own struggles with the Winchester Family Business. We’ve been at the center of our own fan controversies here at the Winchester Family Business and after it all we’re battered and exhausted. An incomplete version of a map was shared online by a couple of SPN staffers and the online fandom went ballistic because one of the two leads, Sam, was missing from the map. Our Managing Editor, Nightsky, offered her support to the staffers who shared the map in one tweet. The online backlash came at us with full force and harsh brutality, completely misunderstanding the message delivered. I still wonder how the whole thing mushroomed like it did but it didn’t exactly give me much faith in the SPN Family.
At the same time, I was struggling with an independent problem. Regular posters on this site were bickering like little children. They wouldn’t stop no matter what I tried and I got mad and shut the site down for a day, calling for a “time out.” I brought the site back with a plea for civility and you know what happened? More bickering. Sure, there were others that offered level headed comments and even some fun stuff, but they were easily drowned out by the few that couldn’t control their tempers.
Honestly, I’m tired, as is Nightsky. We don’t understand what’s happened to the discussion climate anymore. We know that a lot of this behavior is being fueled by our own infantile POTUS, but I’m not sure why everything has become a volatile and personal issue lately. Fandom especially should be fun! We can look at “Supernatural” with a critical eye and not make it a personal grandstand. We can respect the actor’s privacy and not attack them or their friends and family because a word or set of words was grossly misconstrued.
We’ve always tried to shy away from the hot button issues that sweep the online fandom, mostly because they get too personal. A few people on Twitter asked me where were we when fans attacked Samantha Smith for her comments about Destiel or when Kevin Parks, 1st AD for the show, was attacked by fans for just trying to clarify a question about the show. Jensen, Jared and Misha have all been targets of fan threats for comments made on Twitter or other forms of media for a while, and well, we won’t even begin what sort of ire the writers and producers face. Attacking anyone involved with “Supernatural,” even other fans, personally is wrong. It’s that simple.
Why don’t we speak out or get involved with such issues? Because we don’t want to. Here’s our official position. This is not the side of fandom we want to acknowledge or celebrate. I know it is a part of fandom, but touching any volatile fandom issue is like touching the third rail. You get electrocuted and die. It’s especially death for a fan site. We aren’t a political springboard. We are here to celebrate the best of fandom, not fire fight it’s difficulties. We started this site as escapism. It’s art vs. artist and we’d rather discuss the art, not the personalities and politics behind it. We are supportive of creative license, but that’s where we want to limit our critiques. We find it’s easier to keep our sanity that way.
I know some consider that a fine line, especially considering how much we scrutinize the episodes and the writing and raise questions about it’s themes. We have a big presence online in Twitter and some expect us to be more involved and engaged with the outspoken fans. Well, we refuse. I can assure that this latest dust up over the map will be the only time that the Winchester Family Business will offer a comment over a fandom controversy. That’s not to say an individual writer won’t offer an opinion, but the Winchester Family Business officially will stay out of it. Sure fans could bring up a controversy and their opinion via our Discussion Page or comments on an article, but we will not offer an official site opinion on such matters, especially one that has a personal impact on any cast or crew member involved with “Supernatural.” We have too much respect for their privacy and humanity.
As for the Winchester Family Business, we’re moving forward doing the stuff that we love. Both Nightsky and I, as I’m sure others, have had personal reminders recently just how precious and short life is. We choose to pursue the fun and analytical side of “Supernatural,” focusing on the material presented to us. We accept that when it comes to episodes and creative direction not everything is good and when that happens we will say so, but we won’t make it personal. We choose to celebrate the more inspirational side of fandom through our news articles, not the part that drags it down. We want to thank all of those that have supported us through the last 8 years and we hope that we can continue to provide a little something special to your day. When we can’t do that anymore, that’s when it’s time to say goodbye.
As for Whedonesque, I want to tell everyone that gave their hearts and years of dedication for the site thank you and you will be missed. I’m very sorry it had to end like this. I hope you do return at least as an archive only site. Your legacy to your fandom should always be remembered.