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Adults in children’s fandoms have an obligation to protect those children

Adults in children’s fandoms have an obligation to protect those children

Adults in children’s fandoms have an obligation to protect those children
May 07
16:00 2021

Children’s media has seen a much-deserved upsurge in appreciation over the years, with animation, in particular, making strides to disabuse the perception of itself as a lesser medium. Now, for better or for worse, fandom culture has become mainstream, and while it’s great to see that even more care is being put into children’s shows as a result of public interest, the presence and prioritization of adults in children’s spaces has become both a fixture and a problem in this cultural phenomenon.

To put it more bluntly, spaces that were originally designed with children in mind are becoming child pornography hotbeds. Grown adult people are circulating pornographic content of underage characters and/or characters from children’s television, with no regard for the effects being exposed to something like that at a young age might have on children’s development, or for the dangers that accompany normalizing predatory behavior in spaces where the presence of children is an inevitability.

I think that last point is both the most neglected and the most prescient. It’s easy enough to roll our eyes and dismiss such concerns as the hand-wringing of people who, say, use the welfare of children as an excuse to petition for the exclusion of gay characters in children’s media, but as a gay woman, that comparison has always rankled me.

It brings to mind the longstanding and unfounded association of gay people with predators, and if anything, that the argument is being made to defend predatory behavior makes it worse. The fact is, if you normalize predatory behavior in children’s spaces, predators will gain access to children’s spaces and take advantage of their occupants because the adults who could have protected those kids made it easy for them to do so.

Then there is the matter of how being exposed to pedophilic content affects kids’ mental health. When I was a kid, I was really into the show “Gravity Falls,” which I still watch and enjoy on a regular basis. I was both old enough so that coming across all of the R-rated content that I did, made me feel like I was doing something wrong, and young enough so that it made me feel kind of violated. I tried to avoid it, but it made up a significant bulk of any Google-related search results. You still to this day cannot scroll through Google images of “Gravity Falls” without coming across at least three pornographic items. And this was a show aimed at kids ages seven and up. What else is a kid going to Google, if not their favorite television shows?

The creator of “Gravity Falls,” Alex Hirsch, uses his platform for a lot of good, and I don’t mean to imply that he purposefully exacerbated this problem, but when asked what he thought about fans producing incestuous content of his characters, he basically responded by saying that people can ship whatever they want. This is technically true but does not take into account the full ramifications of letting people who produce child porn run amok in children’s spaces without consequence.

I find myself less forgiving of “Steven Universe” creator Rebecca Sugar, who literally got their job by way of creating “Ed, Edd, n Eddy” porn, which was probably a joke, but definitely demonstrative of how desensitized the industry has become to this sort of thing.

But the worst example by far is of a fandom I thankfully had the good sense not to go anywhere near, that is so inundated with porn it has become a running joke. Men in their forties took over the “My Little Pony” fandom so thoroughly that women were basically ousted from the fanbase, and the creators actually started catering to an older audience. It’s easy to forget that there were probably still children watching, who maybe went online to look up their favorite show, only to find an online space swimming with middle-aged men who draw child characters in compromising positions.

It’s okay to be an adult fan of children’s shows, just as long as you know your place. That space was not created with adults in mind and said adults have an obligation to protect children in fandom.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

About Author

Rachel Card

Rachel Card

Rachel Card is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in sociology. She was born in Austin, Texas, and is currently quarantining there with her family and three dogs.

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