Psychostick, a comedy metal band I follow, shared this video a while back. In it, this guy goes up to metalheads outside music venues and asks them to name three songs by the band on their shirt. Psychostick shared it because they were stoked someone was wearing one of their t-shirts. And honestly, the whole thing is kinda comical, with the I’m-so-drunk and the You’re-putting-me-on-the-spot-and-I’m-blanking replies.
But it does also highlight one of the more problematic aspects of any fandom: elitism. The idea that, unless you enjoy the thing my way, then you aren’t a real fan. That some sort of test must be passed before one can be considered truly part of the club. A glance at the video title highlights this attitude. It’s “calling people out,” with the presenter launching the video by saying he’s going to see if people “really know about the band on their shirt.”
The fact that he only talks to two women in the entire video is a good signpost as to one direction metal elitism takes. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the presenter is being exclusionary. It’s just the nature of metal demographics.
Any metal show I’ve ever been to, the men have outnumbered the women by … 5 to 1? 10 to 1? More? I dunno exactly. I’ve never done a proper head count. But I do know that it’s the one place where, without fail, I get to walk past a huge line of guys waiting for the washroom, and straight into a stall in the ladies room without breaking stride. So let’s just say a whole fucking lot to one.
It makes us easy targets for the uber-fan.
Full disclosure: this almost never happens to me. Not never. But rarely.
There are multiple reasons for that, I think. First off, I don’t much talk to anybody. I’m not terribly friendly, and when I’m at a show, I’m there to see the show, not converse with strangers. I’m also too old to be of much interest to most of the young men – the demographic most likely to contain elitist assholes – on the scene. And I mosh. No standing on the edge of the pit for me.
Plus I tend to look something like this.
Of course, the primary reason I get left alone is Ron. At any given metal show, he engenders equal parts intimidation and respect. For the intimidation part, well, if you saw him, you’d understand why, but I can’t show you what he looks like. Suffice to say, a friend once described him as, “Someone who looks like he could bury your body where no one would ever find it.” (Yes! A friend said this!) As for the respect, he moshes easily as hard as anyone in the pit, at easily twice their age. After every show, I stand back and watch a stream of young men come up to shake his hand and tell him they hope they’re still moshing that hard at his age.
So yeah, nobody fucks with me when Ron’s around.
Which is actually part of the problem. Because me looking like I do, and acting like I do, and just fucking being there, isn’t enough for some people to accept me as a “real” fan. I can tell you that none of the guys who have ever accused me of being a fake fan have done it when Ron was around. And more than one of them has turned tail and run away when Ron’s come back from the beer tent.
Obviously not all fan elitism is gender based. The above video is a prime example of another kind. The idea that one must be able to name three song titles or not be “worthy” of wearing a shirt is ludicrous. But of the two women seen in the video, one of them refuses to answer the question, “just on principle … ’cause I don’t need to prove myself.” (To his credit, the presenter responds, “That’s totally fair.”) So you can tell how often she’s had this fight.
Also obviously, fan elitism isn’t unique to metal. I have a friend who paints miniatures, and the stories he tells me about the fights people get into about the validity of various painting techniques blows my mind.
In all honesty, the mere concept of fan elitism blows my mind. I simply can’t imagine wasting time and energy on policing others in the pit when I’ve got my own enjoyment to think of.