The XX Factor

Your Pop-Culture Obsession Is Not a Sickness

New York Comic Con 2012: Do these people look anti-social and uncreative?

Photograph by Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images.

You have to give Vulture credit for this: It takes a lot of cojones to so obviously troll your own audience of pop-culture obsessives with an article pathologizing pop-culture obsessions. “Is There Something Psychologically Unhealthy About Being A Fan?” asks Phoebe Reilly, after interviewing a handful of psychologists who, but for one, all seem to believe that, yes, being deeply involved in watching Doctor Who or obsessively following your sports team alienates you from others and prevents you from becoming a better person. Best to commit to a life of small talk about your garden.

Reilly sets up a dichotomy between consumers and creators, saying, “And yet, it is, by definition, a bit different from hobbies like cooking or learning an instrument in that fandom is in the service of someone else’s creativity rather than one’s own.” But how will you ever be motivated to learn an instrument if you don’t have the obsessive love of pop music that these psychologists would likely deem a problem? Every writer, every artist, every person who creates things also consumes things—you can bet Joss Whedon has watched some TV. In fact, in my experience, intense fandom often leads to a spike in creativity, as anyone who has perused the costumes people make for comic book conventions can tell you. 

Repeatedly in this article, fandom is flagged as an obstacle for living your life and developing your relationships with others: 

Boston-based psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, an author and infamous Fox News talking head, takes a characteristically hard line: “Most fandom is distraction. People who are living their lives completely have very little time to be significant fans of anything, but people avoid struggling to find themselves because that journey is painful.” According to this logic, the decision to finally start watching Breaking Bad is, at best, a way to put off conversing with family members and, at worst, a failure to confront everything that is wrong in one’s life.

“If you’re going to bed upset because your football team lost,” Ablow later says, “you shouldn’t watch games anymore.” And in fact, there’s more than a whiff of sexist stereotyping going on with all this hand-wringing over the dangers of obsessions, with an assumption that it’s men who can’t manage both to have a family life and keep up their fantasy football team. Another expert in the Vulture piece says that he’s seen many marriages “compromised” by NFL Sunday.

This is all part of a larger cultural narrative that holds that men these days refuse to grow up, and instead “escape” into their fantasy worlds. Is this really why our relationships break up? I guess we’ll never really know the answer until someone creates a TV show about it and we all binge watch to find out.