John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Fandom and orthopraxy

I have learned a new word: orthopraxy. I ran across it in this passage from Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce:

[Phillip] Lancaster promotes a Christian men's movement of "abiders" who "abide in Christ" by obeying His commandments and harkening to the "good old days" not of the 1950s but the 1700s, before industrialization came and upset the balance of men in the fields and women at home. Barring such an unattainable return, Lancaster calls for a more disciplined Christian men's movement, which doesn't rally stadiums full of weekend prayer warriors but will guide the church back into an orthopraxy that rebukes sinning members for gossiping, chastises husbands for their wives' immodest dress, and excommunicates adulterers.

As you might have been able to glean from context, orthopraxy is an emphasis on correct conduct, as opposed to orthodoxy, which is an emphasis on correct belief. Of course, all religions are concerned with behavior to some extent — thou shalt not kill, do unto others, that sort of thing — but I didn't know there was a special word to describe a particular emphasis on it. But now I do, so yay me for being a lifelong learner.

Because I belong to a Christian denomination that isn't much concerned with orthopraxy, and only a bit more concerned with orthodoxy, my mind quickly strayed away from religion to fandom. Fandom is a lot like religion, when you come right down to it; fans may not literally worship the TV show or football team or musician they're fans of, but the principle is the same. I would argue that fandom is necessarily concerned with orthodoxy; any given fandom is literally defined by the belief that the fan-object is deserving of special attention and devotion. You can't be a Jeff/Annie fan if you don't belief that Jeff and Annie belong together. You can't be a Beatles fan if you don't belief they're a great band. But is fandom concerned with orthopraxy?

Having given it a lot of thought on the bus this morning, I think that in most cases it's not. There's no one right way to be, for example, a Jeff/Annie fan. Some people make videos about them. Some people write fic. Some people make mixtapes. Some make gifs and picspams. And some people just rewatch the episodes with good Jeff/Annie moments and moon over them. All of these are considered acceptable behavior for a Jeff/Annie fan. The same can be said for any fandom.

Having said that, I did come up with a few fannish things where orthopraxy comes into play. The first that came to mind was the Television Without Pity forums, which have an extensive and vigorously enforced set of rules and regulations concerning appropriate behavior. So if you want to be part of the subset of Buffy fans that hang out in the TWoP forums, you'd better be concerned with orthopraxy. The second: historical reënacting. If you're the kind of Civil War buff who likes to reënact battles, then by God you'd better show up in costume. If that's not fannish orthopraxy, what is?

Those are pretty benign and self-selecting sorts of orthpraxy. But not so is the whole "fake geek girl" thing. I reblogged something about that on Tumblr the other day:

  • men get into something not aimed at their gender: get special titles like "brony." recognition by creators. heralded for defying gender appeal. get documentary.
  • women get into something not aimed at their gender: not real fans. probably secret friend zone warriors deadset on erasing men from the human race. get insulting demeaning memes and sexual harassment.

That attitude toward female fans — most commonly seen among comic book fans and videogamers — is not only orthopraxy, it's virtually indistinguishable from the orthopraxy described in the quote from Quiverfull up top. Women who step outside traditional gender roles aren't real Christians. They're deadset on depriving men of their rightful place at the head of the family. They get excommunicated or abused.

In some ways, the fannish orthopraxy is worse, because it's a standard only women are held to. To the Christian patriarchy movement, a man who steps outside the traditional gender roles is almost as bad as a woman. Not as bad, of course — it's probably the woman's fault if a man does that — but still frowned upon.

But that represents a fairly small part of fandom as a whole, thankfully. These examples notwithstanding, I think fandom is on the whole not tremendously concerned with orthopraxy. Your thoughts?

Crossposted to Tumblr

Tags: fandom, reading: books, religion, tv: community

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