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Tania González/CNET In the midst of the Saturday hubbub at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, a small group of attendees gathered outside for pop slots free chips links the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel to hold a rally in honor of Rose Tico, a character from Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The group included Tico cosplayers, and folks wearing shirts with her face on them, illustrated in the style of Shepard Fairey's iconic "Hope" image of President Barack Obama.

In the time since The Last Jedi came out, Tico has drawn the ire of a group of Star Wars fans, and last month the resulting vitriol drove the actor who plays her, Kelly Marie Tran, to delete her Instagram account.

"No one should be bullied off social media," the organizer of the Tico rally, Keith Chow, told CNET via email. "And this was our attempt to win the argument, not by fighting what we hate but by saving what we love, to quote Rose's line from the movie."

Fandom can generate a lot of fun and good vibes. Comic-Con is a four-day celebration of all things pop culture that takes over the San Diego Convention Center and the surrounding areas. Cosplayers toting bags, poster tubes and boxes with exclusive merchandise spill out onto every available inch of hallway and sidewalk. It's an event for fans who love to love everything from Wonder Woman and Aquaman to Funko figures. People pose for pictures, trade compliments, debate fan theories and wait for exclusive merch -- the enthusiasm is unending.

But an event like the rally is a reminder that despite all the harmless (super)hero worship, there's also a corrosive element to contend with.

There're a few names for it. Toxic fandom. Protective fandom. When we talk about either, we're talking about behavior that includes hating on creators, celebrities, other fans or on creative decisions we disagree with. It's something that demarcates a right and wrong way to approach a piece of pop culture. Sometimes it's a matter of angry sputtering on social media. Sometimes it's death threats, rape threats and publishing personal information online for the sake of harassing someone.

At a place like Comic-Con, on one level you get the idea that people don't want to spend much time talking about the nasty side of fandom. But the fact is that many of the fandoms represented at Comic-Con -- everything from Star Wars to adult cartoons -- have had notable online blowups.
Thu Jan 9, 2020
12:00 AM - 3:00 AM JST
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