The GeeksverseThe Cult of Status Quo

The Cult of Status Quo
Published on Monday, October 25, 2010 by

I’m a huge Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, fan. He’s a columnist for ESPN. In his latest column, today’s mailbag, his response to a question got me thinking. Read the original mailbag here.

SG: You just introduced a premise called “The Cult of Status Quo.” Sometimes when people become die-hard fans of something that isn’t mainstream — a writer, a band, a player, a TV show, a sport or whatever — they want to keep that thing the way it is over seeing that thing take off. Why? Because it’s cooler to like something that isn’t mainstream popular. Because mainstream popularity begets bandwagon fans and people who aren’t as sophisticated about that product. Because it’s more fun to love something before it takes off than after it takes off.

Hence, it’s easier for original fans to dump on newer fans over tolerating them and hoping they advance the cause of whatever they like. I notice this every time I mention the UFC or poker — there’s this bizarre (and totally dismissive) backlash, as if I’m not allowed to watch those sports or even mention them because I’m not a real fan. Well, how do you become a real fan? By liking a sport without disliking the core people who like it. So it’s a self-perpetuating cycle, and as weird as this sounds, the original fans like it that way. It maintains their ownership of the product. When the product outgrows them (specifically in the case of a creative entity), that’s when the core fans start throwing around phrases like “jumped the shark” and “sold out,” mostly because they’re bitter it’s not just them and the product any more.

We see this all the time in music, comic books and I think to an extent in the toyworld. People like the status that comes with being a fan of an indy thing (person, etc..). And they get angry when said Indy thing becomes popular.

An Indy writer starts writing mainstream books, he’s said to have “sold out”. Why can’t he do what he wants and write who he wants? Indy book goes to Image, same thing.

I think genre fans, which includes us, have a tendency to create a sense of entitlement. We’re not part of the popular crowds, we don’t see things the same way, we’re a niche group. And to an extent we prefer and like it that way. Who needs new fans, seems to be a common mantra (not accusing anyone in particular, lol, we got a bunch of open minded people here at the Pryde). Who needs change to bring in new fans? The Cult of Status Quo doesn’t want things to change. In a way they don’t want the property to grow because then it’s no longer just theirs. They now have to share it.

Sometimes the creator does legitimately sell out. I use Stone Temple Pilots as an example of this alot. When Core came out, they were heavier and harder then they ended up being. Sex Type Thing almost seems like a different band than the same one that did Vaseline, Interstate Love Song and Plush. They found they could sell more by doing those last three songs more then the first. They legitimately sold out.

Most people that are accused of it though, they haven’t. Is it wrong to want money, attention and acclaim for what you do? No, it’s not.

The cult fans, the underground fans, whatever, are the ones responsible for getting that creator/song/person/band/artist/whatever the acclaim that brings them the mainstream attention. Without them the person/thing wouldn’t be able to grow, and grow they have to. The first fans should be thanked for what they have done, but they can’t take it personally when the person grows bigger.

I hate the term “bandwagon” fan. A bandwagon fan is someone that’s only a fan for as long as the thing is super popular. Once it’s 15 mins have failed, a new fan that came on during the bandwagon period but stayed is not a bandwagon fan, they are a fan just like the orignal.

The Cult of Status Quo really hits with the Joe fandom, and I’m led to understand (no personal knowledge of it) with the Transformers fandom as well. Change is bad. There’s no reason to change designs/concept from what was popular when “I” (I being the Cultist) became a fan. “I” liked it, therefore it’s perfect the way it is.

The Status Quo cultist doesn’t want things to change because that means that their beloved property/artist/thing will attract new fans. And thats bad in their eyes.

Change for the sake of needless change is wrong, but changing to grow the property and attract new fans? Really, what is wrong with that?

Go to the Pryde’s forums and discuss this column.

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