Fandom. If you’ve spent any decent amount of time on the web outside of Facebook, chances are you have run into at least some aspect of this. Fanart, fanfiction, costumes, blogs, roleplaying; the list is literally endless. And why not? Getting inspired by a work is one thing, but being able to share it with other people is the delicious topping of your choice on the proverbial sundae. It’s a great place to meet friends, improve as an artist, and just in general enjoy yourself. As you can probably tell, I could go on and on at lengths about the benefits of fandom in general, but this isn’t about that. No, sir. Welcome to the “dark side” of fandom.
As with any large and spread out group, less than savory elements begin to develop and thrive, and as seen with some of the larger, infamous groups, the saying “one bad apple…” really does spoil the whole perception of this wonderful thing. People even go so far as to say that they feel like they can’t enjoy the series anymore because of the fandom and/or the hatred of said fandom. Now, this is completely my opinion so feel free to shoot me a line in the comments if you want to add on to what I say or have ideas for something that really grinds your gears.
My culture—American culture—seems to be struggling lately with how to deal with a certain group in the population in the media as of late, and almost every way they try to “solve” their quandary is insulting in some manner. They are shamed, laughed at, or just ignored all together. Yes, we are the overweight—sorry, but you’ll have to put on your big kid pants and deal with us. Within each medium, the heavier crowd seems to be relegated to the “lovable and funny/quirky but no chance for love unless it’s with another fat person because heaven forbid if an attractive person (who obviously can’t be fat, are you kidding?!) gets together with them” type, the “wow, lets shame them until they have a full body make-over then lord them with praise when they’re pretty (see: skinny)”, or the background character that you promptly forget about.
Characters like these can be found from comics, such as Volstagg of the Warriors Three from Thor, to video games, and the rotund Volus can be easily argued as the “comic relief” alien race in the Mass Effect series.
Although this seems to be changing ever so slightly with the introduction of characters such as Lauren on Glee and shows such as Huge (which I didn’t see, but I heard was rather good before it got canceled) revealing that yes, surprisingly not-thin people can be three-dimensional characters too. While the blatant stereotyping is far from excusable, it is at least understandable, given that this is an era of visual media and simply put, a majority of the public isn’t willing to readily admit when a heavier chick has a ba-donk-a-donk and is working it or when a heavier dude really pulls off that outfit he’s wearing. But fandom doesn’t have that excuse: we’re not trying to sell anything, so why the weight hate, bros?
I know there are some discrepancies in the area of cosplay (which is for another article) but this baseless rage happens on general encounters even leading up to a hierarchy of “fatness”, so to speak, labeled so we can kindly find where we’re at. And while this in and of itself is extremely problematic, today I want to focus on one word in particular. One word that should never be uttered ever (and if I hear anyone say this in real life I will for real break a blood vessel in my fatty eye from twitching). This is the word “hambeast.”
Just look at it for a second: hambeast. What the fuck? When I thought about it, it really is the perfect name for a boss from an RPG—like, a really kick ass boar with swords for tusks and a fire pelt. So cool. But in the words of the highest rated definition on Urban Dictionary it is actually a person who is “piggishly fat, with arms and legs like hams.” And according to a certain site (which I will not name for politeness), in addition to such qualities the person has an odd odor and is also annoying. Well, ignoring the first definition’s qualities, there should be an equivalent of a thin hambeast (hambeast lite?) since smell and disposition are not qualities determined by BMI. Yet, as I kind of figured, there was nothing to be found via Google search, which leads me to believe that this is another way to shame people into not enjoying themselves because they had the audacity to go out in public. It’s like when people comment on a woman who wears clothing that is more revealing than a burqa: what gives anyone the right to determine whether or not what you are doing is right or wrong (as long as it’s within the law)? Do such people really disturb the flow of life so much that there has to be such an active regime against them? Seriously, step off, body police, and let the kids have their fun.
Another thing this word does is completely dehumanize the subject. I mean honestly, look at the second (highly rated) definition from Urban Dictionary: “an extremely obese mass of flesh that is collectively thought of as human”. This goes beyond the realm of shaming in my book. What could be more insulting than to have your fucking humanity stripped away by someone that doesn’t even know you? Just because you’re fat.
Remember how I envisioned the word earlier? It is almost impossible to not de-humanize the person based on the suffix of beast alone. Look, if I called someone a “purrbeast” that might convey the sense that the person I was describing was cuddly or cat-like, but while more positive, it definitely doesn’t make them sound like a human. You personally may not like being around heavier people or may find us disgusting, but at least give us the common courtesy that you would give a random person in your office or that person you just met on Tumblr that you actually haven’t met in real life yet.
And what kind of post would this be if gender wasn’t involved in some way? If you looked at the definitions at their home site, you would notice that each entry was very careful to not mention anything about a gender, even going so far as to use both genders (or an androgynous pseudonym) in the example sentences. Yes, one would assume that this was an equal opportunity slur, but in my experience I have never, never seen this term used to describe a guy. In my opinion, this has to do with two elements: tradition and the media. Keeping with its own tradition of creating unrealistic expectations, the media has recently taken it upon themselves to show that nerds and geeks can be attractive too. Even girl geeks and nerds. Astounding! Better call up Scientific American for that one.
Of course, this is not the problem: everyone is allowed to be a geek. Hugs and bro bumps for everyone. But suddenly it seems like males feel entitled to have their own sexy nerd, like Felicia Days and Kari Byrons just pop out of the sky all the time. So whenever anyone appears and doesn’t fit into this, the immediate reaction is “OMG, get away, hambeast!” It’s not right, but it happens. Also, I believe the demographic as a whole is more sensitized to the “basement dweller” stereotype: the fat, greasy twenty-something male that is still living in his parents’ basement. So when we see a fat male nerd well, nerding out, it’s just business as usual. I’m not saying that they aren’t looked down upon as well, but the degree to which they’re slammed is much less harsh than a female.
Fandom is supposed to be a place where like-minded people can get together and nerd out. There’s not supposed to be all the stipulations for enjoyment. If you can’t help but feel sick that a certain sect of people want to attend the same con as you then maybe you shouldn’t go. Or else get your entitled head out of your ass and fucking enjoy the forest already rather than getting pissed off at a tree.