Fan Disillusionment

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    I was a fan
    Didn't understand
    You said fuck off
    You wouldn't shake my hand
    You are such an asshole!
    You are such an asshole!
    You are such an asshole!
    So much for rock and roll

    Reel Big Fish, "So Much For Rock and Roll"

    The word "fan", originally descended from "fanatic", suggests a sense of loyalty to something, usually a particular media franchise. And most fans are, for the most part, a fairly resilient breed who will put up with a lot. However, you can only push them so far; if a fan perceives their loyalty to have been abused or betrayed, the disillusionment that follows can be bitter indeed. Whilst some may soldier on, resulting in the formation of various Broken and Unpleasable Fanbases, true Fan Disillusionment occurs when a fan abandons the show, book, or whatever it was that they lost faith in for good.

    Sometimes, such disillusionment may stem from an overall decline in quality (or a perceived decline, in any case) in the material itself. The show may suffer from one too many mistakes, glaring errors, or cullings of the cast, all of which can lead to fans just giving up. There's only so much you can quietly resign to the dustbin of Fanon Discontinuity before throwing your hands up in exasperation and storming off in a huff.

    Occasionally, however, the reason for a fan's desertion, or loss of enthusiasm, is because they feel that the people who create their favourite show, book, game, or songs have let them down in some way. Sometimes this is justified when the person in question is deliberately cruel to their fans, but sometimes this is entirely the fans' fault for crying Ruined FOREVER at every sign of something happening that they don't appreciate.

    Not surprisingly, this phenomenon is depicted frequently in fiction. Either a bitter artist may drop numerous Take Thats at their fans, or a show may set up a storyline in which a particularly nasty prima donna of a creator ticks off their entire fanbase. Expect either a fan to get pummeled or a creator to get their comeuppance. Either way, the never-ending saga of fans and the people who create for them is prime fodder for drama.

    Compare Artist Disillusionment. See also Ruined FOREVER for just how many times fans will claim this is happening in perfectly healthy franchises.

    No real life examples, please; this is entirely too subjective in reality and impossible to prove outside of only your personal experiences. This page focuses on examples of this trope taking place in fiction.

    Examples of Fan Disillusionment include:

    Comic Books

    • In the Dirty Pair mini series Fatal But Not Serious, the Angels visit a planet where a bunch of their fans are holding a big convention. Several issues involving an evil clone, a mind altering bioweapon and the star going supernova later, and all the people who were gushing over the Angels in book one are frothing at the mouth and forming lynch mobs to try and kill them.


    • In The Incredibles, Buddy Pine is the quintessential example of a disillusioned fan, being rejected by his hero himself. Of course, he then focuses his fanboy energy into other activities...
    • Comic Book: The Movie is a rare case of dealing with this from both sides - the star of the film is a fan who feels overly slighted by an upcoming film based on his comic book hero and his war with a studio that doesn't give a crap. It leans more towards the fandom view in the end, but takes more than a few shots at them. As the film was a project by comic geek and nerd icon Mark Hamill, much of the fandom humor was also self-deprecating.
    • In The Fan, Robert De Niro is an obsessive fan of Wesley Snipes' baseball star who goes berserk after hearing Snipes criticize his fandom.
    • In Big Fan, Paul Aufiero is obsessed with the New York Giants, especially star player Quantrell Bishop. He's 36, still lives with his mother, works in a parking lot, and watches home games in the parking lot of the stadium via a television hooked to his car battery. When he and a friend chance bump into Bishop at a strip joint, he decides to take the plunge and introduce himself to him. Things do not go as planned, a fight breaks out, leaving Paul with a black eye and a confused conscience as to how he should present himself as a court witness against his hero.


    • The whole of fandom, and especially Fan Dumb, is parodied in Sharyn McCrumb's murder-mystery Bimbos of the Death Sun. The murder victim is Appin Dungannon, author of a Conan-like series of novels who's described as "a malevolent elf with a drinking problem", being selfish, ill-tempered, capricious, and incredibly rude. However, a look in his mind shows that he's a victim of Artist Disillusionment himself, and is trying to inflict this upon his fans so they'll grow up and do something better with their lives.
      • The sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool, centers around a group of wannabe authors who buried a time capsule in the 1950s before parting ways; one member, Pat Malone, made his dramatic exit from fandom by publishing a vitriolic screed exposing the petty politics and minutiae of SF fans. During a one-on-one conversation with the main character, he explains (more tired than angry) that this trope was the reason he wrote his book and left fandom in such dramatic fashion.
        • Zombies has a more dramatic example, as Brendan Surn (a member who did become a success) has an assistant who used to be a normal fan. She loved his works and wanted to become friends, but when she got to his house she found an old man with Alzheimer's who needed help, and took it upon herself to care for him. Another of the group relates a similar story from her own fandom, but says that she eventually realized that fans tend to build up authors to be more than are or are capable of being, which is a disservice to everyone involved.
    • Annie Wilkes of Misery views her favorite book series, Misery, and its author Paul Sheldon, with an almost religiously positive view. Unfortunately for Annie, when she happens to save her favorite author from a deadly car crash and take him to her home to heal, he turns out to be different from her zealous expectations. Unfortunately for Paul, Annie is a profoundly Axe Crazy Serial Killer.
    • After two novels being a literal Loony Fan Ascended Fanboy Up to Eleven of the Chivalric Romance, Don Quixote must accept in the last chapter that the Cliché Storm that he read as the adventures of a Knight Errant is not as joyous as he thought it would be:

    Live-Action TV

    • The Sitcom Growing Pains featured an episode in which Ben, at a concert featuring his favorite singer, gets a backstage pass to the singer's dressing room... and is disgusted to find that the "wholesome" artist is having a tawdry affair.
    • The British TV comedy/drama one-off Cruise of the Gods is about all of the confusions, disappointments and shattered illusions that result when the fans, writers and actors of an old science fiction series meet up at a shipboard convention.
    • Joey on Gimme a Break watched a TV show starring Captain Jerk, whom he idolized. After meeting him in person he discovered the actor playing Captain Jerk was a racist, which crushed Joey. He finally confronted the actor and told him he was going to tell all his friends to stop watching Captain Jerk's show and start watching Mickey Mouse, adding "and Mickey Mouse is black!"
    • A slightly hilarious version of this occurred on SVU when Elliot found out that his famous astronaut friend—after whom he'd named his son—was in fact a murderer.
    • In Doctor Who, the Doctor and Martha encounter Shakespeare and experience Fan Disillusionment upon discovering his loud and bawdy behavior, more akin to a frat boy than a literary legend. Martha remarks, "You should never meet your heroes." However, they eventually grow to like him.


    • In Otaku no Musume-san there is a scene where Kouta's Otaku fans rush onto his stand in the Comiket manga fair, but when they find out that he actually has a daughter, many of them get disillusioned by the fact that Kouta is not so much nerdy as they are.


    • The song "Van Halen" by Nerf Herder is about a Van Halen fan who becomes disillusioned after Sammy Hagar replaced David Lee Roth.
    • "Stan" by Eminem. He kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend over not getting a timely response to his letters.

    Web Comics

    • As with Artist Disillusionment, this is a plot line in Megatokyo. It's suggested that not-entirely-inaccurate rumours of Erika's violent nature affected her image badly, a jarring contrast to her Genki Girl voice-actress persona. However, apparently it didn't do enough damage to keep her more obsessive fans away. Kimiko constantly worried about "letting her fans down," although she more or less stopped this since encountering the unpleasant side of fan obsession.
    • Something*Positive
      • A storyline about Mike's Fan Disillusionment upon learning that his favourite sci-fi author disagreed with him on gay rights. (The author was a thinly disguised Orson Scott Card, whose own views were in the news at the time, but he could just as well represent Heinlein, Clarke, or any number of others—sci-fi attracts writers with all sorts of controversial opinions.) Ultimately, Mike decided to focus on his love of the author's work, not his politics.
      • Something*Positive also featured a couple of the main characters writing "Neko Neko Holy-chan", a webcomic which was an over-the-top catgirl parody... that acquired a large and very obsessive fanbase consisting of the very catgirls they were mocking. After fan disillusionment (when one of the creators objects to the murder of a man who spoke against the comic, claiming it isn't that important) at a convention, they react poorly.

    Western Animation

    • Disney's Fillmore! had an episode resolution dedicated to this. The fangirl discovered her favorite author had completely derailed her own book series, and upon meeting the author herself, found her to be an impatient, cynical woman who did not consider the books, the plot, the fans, or the characters worth such devotion or attention. Interestingly, the episode ended in a rather positive note for fans with the girl declaring that a book was a promise to the fans, and the author broke it.
      • Lampshaded when O'Farrell, who over the course of the episode becomes a fan of the aforementioned series, says at the end of the episode, "I didn't even get a chance to become disillusioned."
    • Hey Arnold!
      • An episode depicted Arnold in search of a missing children's author who has turned extremely bitter and reclusive. Through sheer persistence and a massive guilt trip, Arnold gets the woman to write again; her first new book begins with "A boy with a strange-shaped head and a nasty witch who no longer believed in magic". The author's name, Agatha Caulfield, is a reference to real-life reclusive author J.D. Salinger.
      • Another episode of Hey Arnold! focuses on Eugene finding out that his favorite superhero, "The Abdicator," is a jerk when the camera's not on him. Eugene goes on a badboy rampage.
      • In another episode, Phoebe meets a famous pop star whom she idolizes and finds out that he's really a shallow Jerkass—Phoebe's friend Helga, who wasn't initially enthusiastic about meeting him, ends up thinking he's really cool, and she and the pop star talk for hours while Phoebe sits with them looking bored.