Tattle Diary Entry #25: How The Hannibal Fandom Went Crazy
I started to watch NBC’s Hannibal when it first aired way back in 2013. From the moment the first episode started I was hooked and even when my roommate came up in the middle of it to tell me he was going to sleep I told him to shut the hell up cause the show was on. Yeah, it was that good, and I will always defend the first season (and only the first season) of the show. Obviously, this was 6 years ago at this point and I was a lot younger and stupider than I am now. I started a blog on Tumblr because I thought “why not?” and decided to see if I could connect with some of the other fans of the show. At first, it wasn’t that bad but it progressively got worse. My first URL still exists but because of all the changes Tumblr made and the fact that I can’t for the life of me remember the damn login information it just has a link back to this website now. You can see if it you want though, at this link.
Initially, the fans were pretty cool, and I figured that a fandom like this would be filled with some open minded and chill people because, well, look at what the show is. It’s a crime drama, it’s got gore, murder, cannibalism, crime. I mean it’s all the stuff you think would be too triggering for your typical brand of Tumblr snowflakes to be watching so one would assume it would narrow out the weak links pretty quickly and only leave the sane and mature people around to enjoy the content. The key demo for the show was actually supposed to be adult men not teenage girls so how that ended up happening I’m not even sure. However, even back then I remember people pointing out that there was no real marketing for Hannibal outside of Tumblr (at least in season one) and I even remember that to be the case. Had I not already been on there I’d have forgotten about the show. Though I had seen one ad outside of the website it was months before the show actually aired and I’d pretty much forgotten I’d seen it. Gillian Anderson was announced as being in the show and that’s what reminded me that it would be on and I should check it out as at the time I was a much bigger fan of hers than I am now.
There were also the memes or I guess inside fandom jokes. There was a blog called comicsannibal that had some great content and still makes me laugh out loud if I go look at the original jokes they were posting. I mean yeah they were dumb but they were the right type of dumb to tickle the funny bone. Everything was pretty okay until we got near the end of the first season and there was a big ass fuss about if the show would be renewed or not. Then things started to get a bit more crazy. The first time I realized the fandom was more obnoxious than I could anticipate hit when there was an event in NYC for Mads Mikkelsen’s new movie Jagten (The Hunt) in which there would be a screening of the movie and then a Q&A after. No big deal right? Wrong. Very wrong. I was friends with a girl at the time who was going to that because she wanted to see the movie and attend the question and answer thing. When she came back she told me all about it and she was pissed.
What she said was that after the viewing everyone went into a room and they were explicitly told that Mads was there to answer questions about the movie and would not be taking questions about Hannibal. The only problem was that this event had been infiltrated by rabid fannibals anyway (yes it was that bad already) and this even includes Jennifer (the owner of Tattle-Crime.com) sending in some of her “staff” to ask questions and get an exclusive. My friend who went told me she was highly annoyed by this behavior and due to this, she and other people who actually wanted to ask about the movie never got a chance. He mostly ended up answering Hannibal questions instead of anything about the movie. The first indication that this fandom was out of hand had hit me.
Then the blog popularity contests started. The very first one was someone named Halia Meguid she wrote some original song for the show which got featured by the official NBCHannibal blog. It was one of the very first instances of fan work or fan art being featured by them because it was so early on. To be completely fair it’s not a bad song and I have nothing against it. I can definitely see why it was featured, however, Halia as a person was a total head case and ego maniac about this. She thought it made her queen shit and definitely started to act like it. That’s when all the elitism started in the fandom and people clamoring to get their shit reblogged to the NBC Hannibal blog. If you managed to do that (on purpose or accidentally) the fannibals counted this as some sort of “endorsement” and whoever got a reblog grew in popularity super fast. I was an unfortunate victim of this and no, I was not trying to do it. Since I was one of the first blogs around and posting all the time, NBCHannibal had followed my blog (and I’m sure hundreds of other Hannibal blogs) and they ended up reblogging one of my stupid posts. Something about cannibalism being a popular search term on the internet or something. I vaguely remember what it was. The point is, that my follower count skyrocketed after that point which I never really wanted. I know it sounds like a lie but I already knew how that website worked and I knew with popularity would come hate and that would mean censoring myself which I was never good at. I also already had very unpopular opinions about the show (Freddie Lounds was a great character, Abigail Hobbs sucked and was the worst character on the show) stuff like that.
Then there was something about the Hannibal blog awards or something. It was organized by the Fannibals and there were several categories for blog content including idiotic things like “friendliest blog” and shit. The nominations seemed to be done completely arbitrarily and based on nothing other than popularity then people started to vote on the “best” blog. I think from the start the death of the fandom came with the elitism because of the fact that after the winners of these completely bullshit popularity awards were named those people became fandom royalty and trend setters and everyone else was considered trash. Then these people somehow started to set the “rules” for the standards of behavior in the fandom. What it was okay to ship, what it was okay to post, what people could blog about and what people couldn’t. Obviously I didn’t win one of these awards (nor did I even really want to but I was someone on one of the nominations list to my surprise) so that made my blog even more popular.
Now, I don’t know when or how it was decided that the status quo of the fandom was going to be “SHIP HANNIGRAM OR DIE” and also you absolutely had to accept Abigail as the BEST female character on the show (followed by Alana and possibly Bedelia) but it did. Suddenly, if you didn’t like or blog about all of these things or dared to contradict them completely, then you were attacked. I mean viciously attacked. People were telling me to kill myself on a regular basis. I remember one stupid situation where I reblogged a few pictures of Freddie Lounds only to get lambasted for not posting enough pictures of Mads and Hugh. I replied to the haters saying “90% of my blog is Mads and Hugh I post a few pictures of Lara Jean and suddenly I’m Hitler?” of course, that didn’t go over too well. All of this changed the fandom mentality drastically because if you weren’t doing what the popular blogs were doing and you weren’t following the proper format, memes, and opinions everyone else had you were “kicked out” and considered a “non-person”. Once again, this happened to more than just me.
The bullying was another huge issue. Though it was annoying as holy fuck it didn’t get to me as much as it got to some of the others. I was friendly with a few girls on there who were much younger than me, routinely getting “kill yourself” messages because they didn’t like Abigail or didn’t ship Hannigram. One girl that I followed was chased off of the website for making a joke about Abigail being veal after the season finale. Another friend I made on there straight up vanished after being overly attacked for shipping Hannibal with Bedelia instead of shipping Hannibal with Will. Still have no idea what happened to her or where she went. Due to this, everything got whittled down to the echo chamber of obnoxious assholes that it is now. Everyone took it upon themselves to attack everyone else who didn’t fall in line with whatever the most popular thing was. By season two there were less people being vocal about their actual opinions for one of two reasons. First and foremost, they knew they’d get attacked if they stepped out of line, and secondly, a lot of people just straight up left (myself included) because no one wanted to deal with the bullshit drama these people were creating over having mild opinions on a TV show that didn’t matter.
This left the Fannibals to be in an echo chamber of massive proportion where everyone was sucking everyone else’s dick about how great everything was. The top ten or so most popular blogs all followed and promoted each other but refused to promote anyone else. They stayed at the top and they continued to set the trends. People like Laura, Nickie, Tattle-Crime…these people. They would promote each other but should anyone else ask for promotion of any kind they’d always get the same answer “Oh I don’t promote anyone because then I’d have to promote everyone” but they were certainly more than okay with promoting the TOP TEN blogs and making sure they all stayed in a power clique of being able to decide what was right in the fandom and what was wrong. For a while, people did try to stand up to these bullies but since there were way more of them than there were of the people trying to stand up to them, efforts eventually became futile and suddenly the fandom was left with a mix of “Fannibal Royalty” their minions who would enforce their rules, and people who wanted to be in the fandom but too scared of being attacked to speak up and say what they really thought.
Season two brought the fan service element to the show. As in, they literally took ideas from Tumblr and put them in the show. This was pretty much confirmed by a few blog posts by the official blog which had a change of staff from season one to season two. Once again, I wasn’t actually in the fandom in season two but I did know Jennifer and her idiot group at that time so I was still aware of what was going on. Also, my new blog became the fannibal complaint department so people would come to my blog and tell me how shitty the fandom was (and what they were doing) all the time. My new blog had nothing to do with Hannibal, I swear, but I wasn’t secretive about who I once was so people knew to report to me and it was fine. In any case, in one of the episodes there was a scene with Hannibal in a super tight bathing suit and nothing else which prompted this post by NBCHannibal’s official blog. [Archived Post Here]
I know that this may not seem like the biggest deal in the universe except it was. The reason being that this was the point that they were acknowledged and believed they had even been credited with “creating” and influencing the writing in the show which wasn’t even that far from the truth. I mean, season three literally seems like Bryan Fuller went on tumblr, read all the Hannigram bullshit and decided to write it accordingly. This is a huge problem because this reinforced their negative behavior. This told them that what they were doing was the right thing to be doing because it was changing the show into what they wanted. The bullying, harassment, death threats, cult mentality…all of that got a lot worse and led into what the hell it is now. An actual cult.
Once again, not saying that the entire fandom is a cult. I know there are more people who like the show than who are just on Tumblr (as I’ve said numerous times) what I’m specifically talking about are the people who are in this group on tumblr who behave this way, to which I estimate there are about 200-300 active members of it. That may not be a lot but holy fuck are they loud and they certainly seem like the majority because they never fucking shut up about anything. The people who willingly added their names to this list on purpose. Those types of people.
Alright, so at the heart of all of this we need to look at why this happened or what elements could cause it to happen. For one, I think that the primarily advertising it on Tumblr thing initially was the start. As to why this was done I have no actual clue, especially since Tumblr has very little of the key demo they were trying to market to. Among 13-25 year-olds, Tumblr is more popular than Facebook. (Source) This is, of course, as of now, 6 years ago (which I’m having a horrible time finding stats for) it was much more female dominated but it got more popular since (obviously and mostly cause of porn until Tumblr purged porn) but the point is that it was mostly underage females on there at the time Hannibal became a thing.
The second thing is that the show glamorizes, normalizes, and romanticizes not only extreme and dangerous mental illnesses it also does the same with abusive and toxic relationships. It attracted those types of people because it normalized things like psychopathy, sociopathy, and other very severe problems and that meant there was no stigma. If you haven’t noticed, Tumblr is a place for people who are mentally fucked in the head anyway (on top of which dozens of self-diagnosed idiots who think they have things like psychopathy, DID, Borderline personality, and a whole host of other things when really I think most of them are just attention seekers or have histrionic personality disorder). The point is that this show was very much accepting of this level of violent behavior. This show had the tagline “eat the rude” because Hannibal would literally murder and eat people who were rude to him. It made this type of thing “okay” and because the official blog and Bryan Fuller reinforced this behavior by rewarding it with fan service it continued. The more obnoxious, violent, and horrible you were as a blog or a person the more praise you got because you were representing a show where this behavior was glorified instead of condemned. Combine that sort of mentality with the elitism and echo chamber that the fandom already was and you get the fandom you have today. The very, very CULT fandom. The thing is, I think this is exactly what Bryan Fuller wanted out of this or else he wouldn’t have marketed exclusively to Tumblr for season one. He was looking for a crazy devoted fanbase and boy he sure as hell got exactly what he sought out. The good news is that it pretty much ruined his career, the bad news is that the people who suffer the most from this are the main cast of the show like Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy. They now have stalkers they don’t even slightly deserve because even the creator of the show praises this behavior and rewards certain fans with lunch dates, gifts, and money for erotic fan art when that is entirely unprofessional and uncalled for.
The downfall of the Hannibal fandom is a combination of a lot of things, but the strongest and most overzealous fans that still exist and are the loudest voice are literally the craziest. I do feel bad for the normal fans of the show (which surely out number these people) however those people have lives and don’t have time to sit on twitter and tumblr and constantly obsess over the show and it’s actors. Therefore, the minority has become the voice, has become the representation, and essentially the crazy face of the crazy fandom. It’s rampant with mental illness, stalkers, and a power mad egotistical creator who wanted to create a cult and by GOD did he ever get one. The show has been cancelled for over three years now with almost no end to this behavior in sight. One wonders what exactly these psychopaths will do when they finally wake up and realize Fuller has been lying to them all along about a season four and their religion has ended. It won’t be pretty.