Fandom is a strange concept. A deep love for a story sounds like a great thing, but it can devolve into an obsession that, like Lenny from Of Mice and Men or that white, hairy monster from Bugs Bunny, just ends up crushing the thing to death.
Both the strength and flaw of fandom is the sense of ownership among its ranks. That collective ownership drives fans not only to like something, but to love it, to champion it, to self-label with silly names, and spread news of its awesomeness. Unfortunately, when something becomes “ours”, it tends to mean that it’s not “yours”. A collective ownership becomes confined to a select few and excludes others. Oddly enough, membership to those clubs often depends on what sort of genitalia you have. The science has yet to come back on whether having a penis makes you way more into Captain America than someone with a vagina, but I’m skeptical.
This kind of ravenous fandom may be born out of love for the story (mixed with a dose of delusion and self-importance), but it can end up damaging the brand it so fiercely (and sometimes psychotically) purports to love.
The above mentioned exclusion of half the population is a shining and enraging example. Misogyny in comics and other storytelling mediums makes it unsafe for women fans and creators to participate, thus severely limiting the kinds of stories produced by eliminating unique perspectives. The stories we get then are shoved through the same lens as those who’ve controlled the medium since it began. We get the same characters doing the same things for the same reasons. That’s called stagnation. And consuming stagnant things gives you diarrhea.
Maybe things are getting better. Five or so years ago, writer Valerie D’Orazio was relentlessly harassed by Chris Sims, the harassment hitting its peak when it was announced that Valerie would write a Punisher one-shot. Marvel announced a few months ago that writer and artist Becky Cloonan will be writing the Punisher ongoing series. But she will also be the only female writing a male lead character.
Entrenched fandom also breeds resistance to changes in character and inflexibility, reluctance to see the story grow. Cullen Bunn left Aquaman before his first issue even released because Aquaman fans were brutal and vocal about the new direction he was taking the character. People still complain about the end of Man of Steel, which I didn’t even find that unbelievable or a huge departure from the character. Yeah, Superman snapped a dude’s neck. Because that dude was about to laser vision some people. Michael Shannon has crazy eyes. Crazy laser eyes. Nothing short of a good neck snapping was going to stop him.
These characters are seventy-years-old. They can’t behave the same way they did in the thirties or even the seventies. Aquaman became cool. Superman experienced a very emotional, very human, struggle. He needed to become relate able for the story to work. And it did. Fandom resistance would have characters keep doing the same things Whether you agree with the changes in character or not, they are necessary. Because without growth, without at least attempting new things, the story becomes stagnant. And you know what happens when things get stagnant.