We like to pretend fandom is a safe space (I know that isn’t always true, but at least it’s an ongoing discussion). We need to make it a safe space for EVERYONE.
So what’s the solution to this? Some suggestions for panels below. Feel free to debate or add your own.
- YOU. Shy fan in the back. You have a very nice, in-depth question but you’re too scared to talk. Go take that mic. That’s one less opportunity for someone else to cross the line, and you’ve given everyone food for thought too. Write down your question. Print it out. And ask, even if your voice shakes.
- Are you a creative person? Do you put a lot of effort into your craft? Imagine if every time you talked to an audience who presumably enjoyed your work, much of what they did was compliment your appearance, crack often-sexual jokes, or fixate on one little sketch/story/song. Not exactly uplifting, right? THINK ABOUT THAT before you formulate your questions.
- Relationship questions are fine. Shipping questions with a transparent agenda are NOT. Ask about personal interpretation, character motivations, or how a scene went down in an intelligent way that isn’t leading, which would be uncomfortable and boring to boot. Remember, the actors don’t understand shipping in the first place thanks to the misbehavior of fans.
- Don’t put deliberate innuendo in your questions. Don’t put deliberate innuendo in your questions. DON’T PUT DELIBERATE INNUENDO IN YOUR QUESTIONS.
- The actors are not the writers. They can predict how their characters might react to something, but they can’t explain the distant future of the show (and even when they know some details, they can’t tell anyone). It’s a waste of time to ask them.
- It’s fine to ask the actors about themselves. It’s fine to ask what their favorite songs are, what they’ve been up to, how their hobbies are going, what inspires them. Just know where to draw the line. And if people have already quizzed them on their personal lives, change your question.
- If your question is solely for your benefit, change your question.
- If someone has already asked your question, change your damn question.
- On that note, have some backup questions. You should never be in a position where someone “stole” the only thing you had to say.
- It is NEVER appropriate to give an actor sexual fanfiction or fanart, or even ask them about it. That’s essentially forcing them into a sexual situation without their consent. They know it exists. Leave it the fuck alone.
- Even non-sexual fic isn’t a good idea. We know that a single fanwork can’t represent fandom as a whole, but actors don’t know that, and it could influence their opinion of all of us. Not cool. (Fanart as a gift feels different to me, though I’m not sure why. It’s less “personal,” I guess. It doesn’t pretend to know the characters. It doesn’t demand participation in the same way as reading material.)
- If you want to make them laugh, be clever about it. Make a bad/good pun. Point out something silly from the show. Don’t shoot them lines they could get in a seedy bar.
- If you know someone intends to ask a harassing question, call them out on it. Explain why it’s wrong.
- Be proactive. If you’re in line, why not chat with your fellow ask-ers and find out what they’re going to say? To some extent, we have to police ourselves on this, especially in unmoderated settings. Don’t be a jerk, but don’t let something blatantly harassing pass by unremarked.
- Just because an actor made a sexual joke or is being silly doesn’t mean the audience should latch onto that tone and run it into the ground. Variety is the spice of life, folks. Goof it up for awhile, then turn it down a notch. Pay attention to the actors. When they’re trying to be serious, TAKE A CHILL PILL.
- Remember they’re in front of an audience. Do not underestimate the pressure of crowds. They’re actors and people-pleasers, and if you put them on the spot they want to be entertaining. They have to hide discomfort, and they’re going to be damn good at it. So remember…
- …Before you talk to any actor, panel or not, remind yourself they have families and kids. Remind yourself they work long days for your amusement. Remind yourself they’re a person with feelings.
Something I want to note: It’s okay to be a little inappropriate. Lord knows the actors (*cough*Misha*cough*) are a little inappropriate, and we love them dearly for it. But let THEM set the terms of the sexual silliness. When they’re the ones cracking sexual jokes and inviting you to participate, it’s their decision. When you deliberately try to instigate it, you’ve taken that decision away from them. They’re forced to play along and be a good sport, whether they want to or not, because what else can you do in front of a screaming crowd?
Seriously, you guys. Here’s how fucking awesome Misha is. Don’t treat him like a dancing monkey.
And imagine what it would be like if at the next panel, nobody crossed the line with Misha. Imagine if at least half the questions were thoughtful and interesting, and related to his craft. Imagine if the other half were respectful. Imagine if people complimented him on his acting or as a person (“I loved you in <insert episode here>”/”you inspire me”/”thanks for all your hard work”) instead of his face.
Imagine how pleasantly surprised he would be.