Co-hosts Robert Meyer Burnett and Mike Bawden discuss Rob’s recent revelation that he is, in fact, THE GATEKEEPER OF ALL FANDOM and what Imagination Connoisseurs can now expect of him serving as the judge, jury, and adjudicator of all things geeky. Plus, interesting letters from fans.

Can RMB save fandom from itself?

by Mike Bawden

I suppose this was a long time coming.

I’ve noticed that Rob has been on the receiving end of more than one heated Twitter exchange with people his ongoing criticisms of both Star Trek and Star Wars. According to RMB, he receives several tweets a day of people sending him images of Gabe Simpson shaking his fist at the clouds (I’ve borrowed Gabe for this episode’s keyframe).

Some people call him an “asshole” or a “bully.” But most often, people just accuse him of being a “gatekeeper.”

But is he?

We now have an answer. As of the date and time of the recording of this podcast (and then again, later in the day on The John Campea Show), Rob has come out from under the proverbial bridge and publicly proclaimed himself as THE GATEKEEPER OF ALL FANDOM.

And, predictably, the Twitterverse had a spaz attack.

Apparently, Rob’s challenge to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds fans – that they provide a reading list of their favorite sci-fi books to prove they actually read sci-fi and that the books they admire establish some kind of bona fides – was viewed by many as “bullying.” It may be the first time someone was ever accused of bullying people by accusing those people of not reading enough books.

Books, people. We’re talking about reading books. If you’re triggered by being accused of not reading books, you’ve got bigger problems than the Twitterverse can help you with. You need to see a Librarian, stat.

Some folks just can’t take a joke, I suppose. Maybe if they read more joke books???

Listen to “ROADT #045 – Rob comes out and admits he’s THE Gatekeeper of Fandom – and letters from listeners (#045)” on Spreaker.

Obviously, both Rob’s proclamation on both the ROADTRIPPIN’ podcast and The John Campea Show, as well as the subsequent Twitter posts he made defending himself was meant to be taken in good humor. But since social media has never really been a good environment for irony or nuance, there were literally hundreds of people jumping into the fray to tell Rob why he’s such a horrible person.

Where does all that anger come from?

So what’s behind the vitriol and anger directed at Rob and the opinions he freely shares via the platforms he’s given? If you talk to Rob, you get the distinct impression he’s shocked at how people can’t seem to discern a difference between “gatekeeping” and “criticism.”  Interestingly enough, those words don’t mean what most people seem to think they mean.

“Gatekeeping” in a contemporary sense, refers to someone taking it upon themselves (as the “gatekeeper”) to decide who does or does not have rights to a community or identity. The problem is that “gatekeeping” actually means to control or limit access to goods or services (in this case, content), or to filter information prior to its publication or distribution. If you take a look at those definitions (the contemporary/popular understanding of the word versus what you’ll find in reference books), they are almost diametrically opposed.

Clearly, Rob is not limiting nu-Trek or Star Wars fans from accessing Discovery, Strange New Worlds or Obi-Wan Kenobi shows (or any others), he’s just critical of those shows for a variety of reasons ranging from obvious plot holes to poor storytelling form to just plain laziness when it comes to story creation.

So why are these fans calling Rob a “gatekeeper” – and, more importantly, why has Rob accepted the challenge and decided to “troll the trolls”? I think it’s because it’s pretty clear, that most people don’t seem to understand the role of criticism and dialectic in today’s society. And there’s very little desire for truly civil, social discourse.

Anger (and the accompanying vitriol) seems to go a long way in fueling people’s conversations. And the attitude that every interaction with someone – from buying a house to trying out for a sports team to talking about Star Trek – needs to have a “winner” and a “loser.”

And God help you if you’re the loser – in any one of those scenarios.

In its purest form, criticism isn’t supposed to be angry or irrational. It’s not supposed to be infused with biases or hatred. Criticism is supposed to be analytical and presented in a way that lays out perceived faults or mistakes. But it doesn’t stop there. Criticism should also point out the merits of a piece of work, too. It’s not supposed to be equal or equivalent amounts of “good versus bad” – but if a show, movie, piece of art, etc. does some things well, those things should be noted in the critique, too.

The problem with this, of course, is that identifying the good parts along with the bad tends to diffuse the anger and reduce the vitriol. It may even yield something constructive – and nobody seems to know what to do with that, anymore.

And that’s a problem for another day.

What do you think?

Remember, you can always send us a letter. Just click here and then send us a message to let us know how we’re doing and what’s on your mind. We look forward to hearing from you.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast

I invite you to listen in on my weekday conversations with my friend and business partner, Robert Meyer Burnett, as we talk about the things we love: great movies, inspiring television programming, nostalgic genre entertainment, and pop culture.

This episode was recorded on June 17, 2022.

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