Jason “ToyOtter” Geyer has a blog post about the online action figure collecting community, explaining why they recently banned a forum member (I don’t know who, nor does it matter). It occurred to me that I’ve been a member of said community for nearly ten years now (fifteen if you count my early days on the Prodigy bulletin boards as a member of a Transformers fan club).
My first real online action figure community was the Spawn.com boards. Eventually those boards got a little too contentious for my taste and, as Geyer suggests in his post, I founded a website (or rather, was talked into joining the founding of a website) with two other Spawn.com expatriates. Over time, I found I was less interested in writing toy reviews than I was in just commenting on the industry as a whole (plus I’m a control freak and wanted my own site), so finally, at the beginning of this month, I unleashed this blog upon an unsuspecting and uninterested public.
I think the issues Geyer brings up apply to pretty much any online fan community, from toy collectors to football fans to philatelists. Last week, I was thinking about an argument I’d had, and it occurred to me that when you’re in an argument with someone about something that can’t be decided by a quick check of a dictionary or Wikipedia–that is, an argument of opinions–you have three options.
1.) You can accept that you and the other person disagree, which many people don’t do. I think this is because it’s unsatisfying to their sense of self and their understanding of the world to think that there can genuinely be two ways of looking at things–most people hate thinking in shades of gray.
2.) You can come around to the other person’s point of view, which does happen with more frequency than the media (sports commentators, political talk shows, daytime TV) would lead you to believe.
3.) You can try to change the other person’s mind. This is easy when your argument is about the spelling of “segue” or how many touchdowns Dan Marino threw in 1992. It’s harder when it’s an opinion, and most people tend to dig in. When they argue, it becomes less about determining a fair assessment of the topic at hand and more about bringing the other person around to your perception of the situation. This validates
With toy collectors, the reason for the sometimes ferocious arguments is pretty simple, I think: people spend money on these things and they don’t like the idea that what they spent their money on might not be good. And so you have the strong feelings for and against Hasbro’s Marvel Legends–some collectors defend them, while others say they’re inferior to Toy Biz’s earlier work. I know I’ve defended certain action figures (McFarlane’s Movie Maniacs III Ash, anyone?) that, in hindsight, really were not that great. But at the time, I defended them because I wanted them so badly, and wanted them not to suck, so I tried to convince myself that they didn’t–and in order to that, I had to argue with those who said it did suck, because in my heart of hearts, I knew they were right. If only I could convince myself otherwise–!
On a far larger and more significant scale, I think this kind of thing applies to politics, except people take that far more seriously and personally.
All that said, I do like the comment of “DC Biased” on Geyer’s entry: “Are we really at the point where we’re talking about one action figure forum taking shots at another action figure forums? Really? Wow. No wonder everyone thinks we’re all nerds.” A little glib, yes, but as someone who writes a blog about toys, I appreciate the reality check.