Fan debates that spiral out of control used to be called wank, ostensibly because it was seen as self-aggrandizing with no particular goal except for an anonymous emotional release on the internet, and it was labelled and described as such in communities such as fandom_wank and fail_fandomanon on LiveJournal and Dreamwidth. Nowadays, these similar arguments on Tumblr and Twitter are called discourse, a term co-opted from academia which lends gravitas and credence to the arguments being expounded in the post. Similarly, squick in old fandom simply implied a visceral dislike of a given topic, but the new fandom term trigger makes someone’s aversive feelings towards that topic more intensely personal and potentially traumatic. As fandom became more and more political and critical of its consumption of media, its preferred terms to describe its engagement with the media have also shifted towards a more academic, professional lexicon.

In the end, perhaps that is what the old fandom denizens currently on Tumblr are bemoaning when they note the shift from wank to discourse or squick to trigger. This cultural shift to becoming more serious about one’s hobby has thrown people who have been in fandom before Strikethrough slightly off-kilter. (…) In its current iteration on Tumblr, fandom’s shift from wank to discourse and squick to trigger indicates its growing acceptance of critical analysis of media, especially in regards to increasing representation for marginalized populations.

Winterwood, Lily. “Discourse Is the New Wank: A Reflection on Linguistic Change in Fandom.” In “Tumblr and Fandom,” edited by Lori Morimoto and Louisa Ellen Stein, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 27.
Tagged on: