Sure! Let me preface this by saying that the reason I’m talking openly about these things is for two reasons:
1) Enough time has passed that I feel like I’m not rekindling the flame.
2) I’d really like to do my part to stop this behavior from taking place, so speaking about it will hopefully get some folks to understand why certain behaviors online are not acceptable or appropriate.
There were four big problems I had with the Lord of the Rings fandom:
1) You could not talk about any issue ever in regards to the original text.
During my read of The Two Towers, I spoke about the unfortunate knowledge that orcs were physically based on “Mongol-types,” devoted maybe a tenth of a very positive, glowing review to how distracting this was, and then ultimately said that I don’t care, I still love this book and Tolkien in general.
Some of the more egregious threads aren’t there anymore, but the LotR fandom FLIPPED. THE. FUCK. OUT. People begged me not to call him a racist. (Note that I never did once, but that’s the problem with anti-racism reactions online: White people routinely believe it is worse to call an action or a person racist than the act of being racist or upholding racism itself.) People claimed I could not do such a thing. People said awful things to me. I got the best death threat ever, though: Someone emailed me and said they wished they could resurrect Tolkien just so he could kill me. Shit yeah GHOST MURDERERS.
I had a similar experience when I complained about how white Middle Earth was and how few women there were. People were appalled that I should ever suggest that there was anything less than perfection in Tolkien’s work. It was consistently awful, and most of my mods hated it. Every day was a nightmare, but not just for this.
2) The fandom did not understand how Mark Reads worked, and consistently spoiled me.
Despite that the point of my site is to read a work of literature or watch a show unspoiled, people refused to believe that someone could read the Lord of the Rings canon without knowing every detail. A lot of my writing contains rhetorical questions, which is my way of working out plot or character development out loud. It is understood that I’m doing this without the readers responding and answering my questions.
Not the LotR fandom. I cannot tell you how many people violated the spoilers rule MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY. They would just flat out tell me the ending, tell me every plot, and do so with that particular brand of condescending nerd rage. You know, “HOW DARE YOU NOT KNOW THIS THING YOU HAVE LITERALLY NEVER READ BEFORE. WHY DON’T YOU HAVE THE SILMARILLION MEMORIZED? HOW. DARE. U." And it wasn’t just one person. It was tons of them every single day.
Now, people not understanding the rules of my site when they stumble on it is totally common. And I get it! But we are talking about people who were warned for spoilers 20-30 times over the course of me covering the series. They’d find out they couldn’t post spoilers AND THEY WOULD GET ANGRY!
But y’all, it wasn’t even the worst part:
3) The fandom refused to let me be wrong about anything.
Now, again, I accept that some people come to my sites and don’t get the rules. That’s fine. People need to learn the rules. However, this isn’t necessarily related to the rules because it’s more about how fandom can be condescending, overwhelming, and downright rude in their quest to make sure people do the RIGHT things and get the RIGHT interpretation and YOU MUST DO THINGS RIGHT.
So. Lord of the Rings is dense, complicated, full of words and terms that Tolkien invented, and consistently references a fully fictionalized history that isn’t given within the text itself. It’s understandable, then, that I missed out on a lot of things on my first readthrough, and I know I’ll never get every detail of canon.
That means I made mistakes. It happens. Some of them were misinterpreting plots or spelling things wrong. However, the fandom at large could not let such wrongs go un-righted! When I started reading Return of the King, I made the mistake of calling Denethor the King of Gondor. He is the steward.
The comments are largely gone because in a rash of pure anger, I deleted most of them, but I’m not exaggerating: Nearly the entire front page was people angrily correcting me about Denethor’s true role. It continued on to page two of the comments. But I didn’t see the comments first. No, I checked my email first that morning, and by 7am, I had 86 separate emails from people yelling at me that I had gotten Denethor’s role in Gondor wrong.
And that’s when it started. People suddenly understand that I was reading this unspoiled, and this could not stand. By 10am that day, the emails had a different tone to them. Not only were people correcting me, they were insisting that I adjust my reading schedule so that I could read the corresponding parts of the Silmarillion BEFORE each chapter so that I could understand all of the history and all of the references, and if I didn’t do this, I was disrespecting Tolkien’s intended wish for how to read his work. DISRESPECTING.
There came a point where I met Eówyn, and she is colloquially referred to as Théoden’s “daughter.” In NORMAL PEOPLE LAND, that means she is his child. That’s not what Tolkien meant. But without saying anything but the fact that Eówyn was Théoden’s daughter, everyone magically knew I had meant the wrong thing. Cue 100+ more emails with quotes from the Silmarillion, quotes from PASSAGES I HAD NOT GOTTEN TO YET, and every fucking email was dripping with that kind of nerd condescension that I despise.
It was relentless. Every single day, I just felt like my blog and my writing was under siege by the worst killjoys in the history of the world. Which brings me to my last point:
4) Large parts of the fandom had no sense of humor and were viciously anti-shipping and anti-queering the narrative.
I hate the idea of saying that people don’t have a sense of humor when they don’t like your brand of humor, so please understand that I am not referring to such a phenomenon. That is a shitty thing to do. I am talking about fanboys (Surprise! They were all men.) who literally told me that any time I poked fun at Tolkien, I was ruining his legacy. All those reviews that were plays? They were akin to (and I am quoting an email I’m looking at right now) “peeing on Tolkien’s grave with acid.” Which… how does that work? Wouldn’t my own body be eaten from the inside if that were the case? NEVERMIND.
If I made any comment about shipping characters, I was told to keep that romantic nonsense to myself. (But canon relationships? That romance is okay.) If I made comments about how obvious it was that Merry and Pippin are in love, or that Legolas and Gimli deserve to be married and living in domestic bliss, I’d get angry, homophobic-laden tweets/comments/emails about how I am perverting a children’s story with my dirty dirty gayness.
Y’all, I ended up liking Lord of the Rings out of spite. I refused to let these people win and make me hate it. Because I genuinely thought it was fantastic!!! And THE MOVIES. THE MOVIES. However, no fandom was ever so consistently rude and mean to me for months upon months. We’ve had small issues with nearly every show or book I’ve covered because it’s the Internet and human beings use the Internet. But fandoms I’ve been in through my sites have been so loving and accepting to have a new member in them, and this was the first one where so many people wanted me to feel like I absolutely did not belong.
Shit, I just realized, after typing all of this, why I felt so awful. These people did everything they could to ensure that I felt like I wasn’t welcome in their exclusive club. No fandom ever did that to me.
So, there it is. Wow, that’s long.