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BLOG Bigger, Better, Bully Free

SF fandom is usually so tolerant so, asks blogger Alasdair Stuart, why the jibes about James Corden's size?

I'm overweight. I have been most of my life. I'm much, much less overweight now than I was when I was a kid but I've long since resigned myself to the fact that I'm probably going to be carrying a few extra pounds for the rest of my natural life. I'm okay with that too, if nothing else because it sort of comes with the body I was given. I'm 6'1" and I'm built broad with it so if I have to carry some extra weight as the price to pay for looking a really tiny amount like Helo's younger, chunkier brother? I'm cool with that, especially as being a grown up means that I don't actually get bullied for looking, thinking or acting differently. Or at least that's the theory.

There's an old collection of the Megatokyo webcomic which has "Relax, we understand you" written across the back cover in l33t speak and I've been thinking about it a lot this week. There are very few cultural subsets, if any, as accepting as fandom and by that I mean the love of all things genre, not specific subsets of fandom. Those you take as you find, some accepting, some very conservative, but fandom as a whole? For me, at any rate, it has always seemed to take a fierce pride in accepting people regardless of how they look, sound or feel. The two main reasons for that have always seemed to be the sense of fandom as a haven and the simple joy you get from realising that you're not the only person who can quote the entire script of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, especially Harry's opening monologue including the joke about Harmony's home town motto being "If in doubt, cut up a pig." Fandom is where we go to be understood, to talk to people who feel the same way about things as we do or, even better, feel completely differently. There's no definitive reading of a text whether that text is a movie or a book and everyone brings something to the table. We can all learn from each other, we can all enrich each other's lives and at the same time, we can do that in an environment which is welcoming and peaceful and free of bullying.

Except, of course, that's the ideal and not the truth. The truth is even fandom has its ugly side and this week, it showed up. As I first set out to write this we're less than 24 hours away from the broadcast of "The Lodger", the Doctor Who episode guest-starring James Corden and the bile is rising. On one level it's justifiable: Corden's over-exposed in this country, trades off a stereotypically laddish persona and managed to spectacularly blot his copybook with an on-stage bust up with Sir Patrick Stewart. On another though, it's anything but acceptable. Some of the comments have focussed not on Corden's person or talent but on his size, on the fact he's overweight, he's too fat, he's different.

Like me.

Like, in fact, the vast majority of the people I know.

This is where fandom crosses the boundary and becomes just as venal, facile and nasty as everywhere else and I honestly don't know whether it makes me angry or desperately sad. We contain multitudes and on our best days we welcome everyone to the party regardless of what colour their skin is, who they fancy, how they dress, how fat or thin they are, what their religion is or isn't or what their political beliefs are. We're supposed to be able to accept, to welcome or at the very least to give people a fair chance. We're geeks, we're supposed to better than this and that doesn't mean we should blindly accept people but it doesn't mean we should condemn them either. We don't win by being the same as everyone else, we win by being different and in this case that means being smarter, more open, more accepting and giving someone a fair shake even if we don't feel they deserve it. In other words, we're not just geeks, we're grownups and it's past time some of us acted like it.

This is a personal article by SFX site blogger Alasdair Stuart. Read more from our volunteer site bloggers here .