I know we are now technically moving past this in class, but I wanted to post this because:
1. I am slow.
2. I will get fired if I blog from work.
3. I didn't want to wax poetic about Bret's Shawshank Redemption metaphor in Wrestling with Shadows, and I made the same underlying points a few weeks back.
4. Josh haunts my dreams. Dr. Nausbaum says it's becoming unhealthy.
But really, I was trying to get my hands around a type of fandom that revolves around maintaining or grooming the culture. This kind of interaction usually happens after or the presentation of the media. I really first noticed this as part of an anime fandom backlash against Pokemon. As this too fell into part of a class, I started trying to see why they hated this particular show. Most chided its animation or how repetitive and "stupid" it was. Well, it was geared to kids and there were a lot of series that had the same flaws and got a pass from most fans. The real reason, I gleaned, was that Pokemon had become very mainstream and essentially brought in a whole swath of new fans that were very removed from the rest of the fan base. A lot of web sites lamented how people had to wade through idiots, kids, and parents looking for Pokemon cards while they tried to get Ruroni Kenshin episodes. When I presented this theory to fellow classmates who were much more fans than I, they disagreed, but their points came back to how Pokemon "bastardized" Anime to Americans, making people think it was something that was not. So I said I was right, their subculture had been tread upon and
they were trying to rectify it.
I've seen this also happen recently for a website called ytmnd.com (short for You're the Man Now Dog, Sean Connery's quote from Finding Forrester). At its heart, it is a place where one can splice together a picture/movie, sound, and large font text to make some interesting result (usually humor). Other people could then rate how good your ytmnd was. Rules developed very quickly about what was a good ytmnd or a bad ytmnd. A more famous early ytmnd called "remember your fundamentals" by a well-known member of the site. The ytmnd stated "Picture. Sound. Text. A singular focus, not a faggy short film," fighting against a backlash of sites that would try to splice in long movie clips for the visual part of their site - something viewed as not in the original spirit of the site. The quote became somewhat of a fad among members. Later, a lot of very good ytmnds did have a motion picture aspect, and the rule was generally dropped. Still, lot of rules still apply as to what kind of humor is meant for the site. Clips from radio shows or bits from sits like college humor are looked down upon. A certain level of abstractness needs to be there. Members have made the term NARV - short for New Age Retard Voter - to describe newbies who are unfamiliar with the history and culture of the site. They've even gone so far as to make a certain types of sites (the Poland fad - where GW Bush's quote of "you forgot poland" is tied in with painful flashing lights and square waves) that are meant to drive away these new members. Again, there are a number of members of this fan culture that are acting to protect it.
So that brings us to wrestling. And I think that there is a healthy part of this protectionism in the wrestling fan culture as well. You will have a some fans saying that attempts to take a highly analytical bent on wrestling is against the spirit of the culture. You'll also find others (a few years ago) who say that fans who came in just for The Rock or just for Stone Cold don't really understand wrestling either and are not real fans. As the culture eventually did change, these cries are a bit less frequent. But fandom essentially has meant something specific to a core group of people, and they want to be sure that this is not lost.
It's important to mention that I think this is different than fan-as-critic that Sam describes in his piece. Critics are responding to the media presentation itself, and are trying to groom that. These arbitrators as I've called them are responding to fans or fan reaction, and are trying to groom that. They can converge (as I now tie in Bret Hart - note his reaction to fans wanting anti-heroes as babyfaces) or be entirely separate (old school ECW fans bashing Vince McMahon's version). And it also plays into the fan-as-community member as well, they're just now playing "town council" to that community.
I have to believe there are scores of other examples in other cultures that some others can bring up. Or maybe I'm off my rocker like Doc Nausbaum always says. What do you think?