[Convention] C2E2 2023 – “The Future of Fandom: Better Together vs. Absolutely Toxic” Panel

At the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) this year, one of the first panels of the weekend was titled “The Future of Fandom: Better Together or Absolutely Toxic.” It took place on Friday, Mar 31st from 11:15 AM – 12:15 PM. Here is the description of the panel:

The Future of Fandom:
Better Together vs. Absolutely Toxic

Fandoms are a great way for like-minded people to come together to celebrate all the nerdy things we love – until they’re not. Some fandoms are friendly communities where we can all share in our love of nerdom together. Other communities can be a bit, ummm, prickly (looking at you STAR WARS). Passion is great, but when that passion turns to exclusivity and gatekeeping, that’s when you’ve got a toxic fandom.

The question is, how do fandoms evolve in a healthy way? At Alamo Drafthouse, we’re constantly trying to grow fandoms in a way that’s fun and welcoming of everyone – from die-hard Yarael Poof fans to those who don’t know a Wookiee from a Gungan – with unique screenings, movie parties, film clubs, and more. Join us for a panel of incredible film and pop-culture experts to chat about this topical topic.

With that description, my interest was certainly piqued. After all, the state of fandom is a subject almost as hotly contested as hot topics within fandoms themselves!

Moderator: Alex Shebar of Alamo Drafthouse Wrigleyville
Moderator: Alex Shebar of Alamo Drafthouse Wrigleyville

The moderator was Alex Shebar of Alamo Drafthouse Wrigleyville and the panelists included Denny Von Doom, Michael Moreci, Laura Wimbels, Alani Vargas, and Nekia Nichelle. What ensued was an interesting discussion on the good and bad of various fandoms today, and what we can do moving forward.

To open up things up, the panelists were asked what they thought about the current state of fandom. Most seemed to agree that, like just about anything, fandom has its good, bad, and ugly sides. With fandoms that have active properties, it can always be a little tricky because whenever there is a change in someone’s favorite character, as you don’t always know what the community’s reaction might be. However, TikTok seems to have become a great way of spreading community and a sense of belonging among fellow fans.

C2E2 2023: Friday Cosplay Pt. 1
C2E2 2023: Friday Cosplay Pt. 2
C2E2 2023: Friday Cosplay Pt. 3

C2E2 2023: Saturday Cosplay Pt. 1
C2E2 2023: Saturday Cosplay Pt. 2
C2E2 2023: Saturday Cosplay Pt. 3

C2E2 2023: Sunday Cosplay Pt. 1
C2E2 2023: Sunday Cosplay Pt. 2
C2E2 2023: Sunday Cosplay Pt. 3
C2E2 2023: Sunday Cosplay Pt. 4

C2E2 2023: “The Future of Fandom: Better Together vs. Absolutely Toxic” Panel
C2E2 2023: Vendors and Artists


Each was asked about their favorite fandom, and many of them stated that they felt the horror community is a generally positive fandom. Laura Wimbels even stated, “It feels like a giant hug when you walk into a horror con.

They seemed to feel it is so positive because of the shared experiences horror films give audiences – everyone has been scared at some point, and jump scares are more fun when they’re experienced with a group of people.

A second fandom that has a positive reputation is the wresting community.

One fandom well-known for its negative side is Star Wars. From hounding of fellow fans over their opinions to harassing of the actors online, Star Wars fans have not always been known for their good behavior, particularly when it comes to the prequel film The Phantom Menace. It may be a minority that are negative, but it is no secret that fans tend to get attached to certain characters or storylines, and any variation from that can spur them to voice their opinions – up to, and even including, death threats. Those can be particularly hard to be on the receiving end of, especially when all you are trying to do is share your opinion about a thing you love!

The gaming community has also had its own share of negativity – from simple gatekeeping to Gamergate and beyond. It’s another example of fans being very protective of a property they love. This has most recently been exhibited in the HBO adaptation of the popular video game The Last of Us. Obviously, even with the game’s creator Neil Druckmann involved in the series, there were going to be changes. And true to form, there was inevitably backlash against said changes. Thankfully the dominant voice about the show has been in the positive.


One of the trickiest things about being a fan is navigating toxicity – how do you take part in a fandom when the negative parts can be so vocal? An important part of that is doing your best to create inclusivity, and the most important part of that is having representation. Because when fans see themselves represented, they can feel more comfortable sharing their opinions. Also, the more people start talking about toxicity, the less likely it is to happen and the less gatekeeping there is. Community is something that needs to be built and fostered over time.

One question that stumped the panelists is what they would change about a fandom to make it more inclusive. They all thought this was very optimistic, but almost impossible, because everyone has opinions and it can be near impossible to change someone else’s opinion. You can have your opinion, but you also need to learn to respect someone else’s. Additionally, fans need to learn to respect boundaries. When you’re sending a message or comment, remember that there is another person/human being on the other side. Additionally, it’s important to remember that actors/personalities are playing a character and that might not be exactly who they are (compared to their character).

To close out the panel, they were asked to make a decision about fandom – are we better together or absolutely toxic? All seemed to agree that we are better together. Sure, there will always be dark spots, but overall the ways we connect to each other makes us better. There are so many spaces you can carve out for yourself and like-minded people. There will always be trolls, no matter the fandom, but overall fandoms are great and can create such positivity.

What do you think? Are fans better together or absolutely toxic?

Convention – C2E2:

About C2E2:

C2E2 stands for the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. It’s the largest pop culture convention in the Midwest. C2E2 espouses that all nerds need a place to call home. Whether you’re a fan of comic books, cosplay, video games, anime, TV shows, movies, books, wrestling, comedy, or anything else – C2E2 is your home for good and geeky times.

*** Panelists pictures courtesy of C2E2.com