By now, I’m sure you’ve all noticed that I’m a fan of Critical Role.
Truth is, I’m a fan of many things. I love Star Trek and Star Wars equally. I inhale Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend Of Korra. I’m a huge comic nerd, and my week revolves around the CW’s DC Universe, even when it falters, and think Justice League Unlimited was perfect. I lose weeks rewatching the entirety of Supernatural about once a year.
I love all these thing. I don’t engage with the fandom, however. Fandom has a tendency to become toxic, very quickly. Arguments break out over the most minor things and factions develop over the least important aspects. Passion I can understand, but anger and hatred towards fellow fans who disagree with you over a trivial issue I will never grasp. Anger and hate over major aspects is something I don’t get. In general, anger and hate are things I don’t get.
Fandom tends to become full of these things, often very fast, making it something I personally choose to not be a part of. I’ve got enough stress in my life without adding more. I don’t need or want to receive all caps, poorly spelled rants from a fellow fan, detailing all the ways I deserve to die for thinking Sam is better than Dean. Yes, that has happened. As has being told I deserved to be raped with a butcher knife for saying Mako wasn’t broody in Korra. You really don’t want to know what people said to me when I called Bolin a waste of space.
Point is, I’ve had a lot more bad experiences with fellow fans than I’ve had good ones. So, while I am a fan of many things, I don’t engage with the fandom. I’ve got no reason to.
The one exception to that is Critical Role. Critters, pretty much as a whole, are unlike any fandom I’ve ever seen. I can’t honestly say there’s ever been one like it. Not just in the ability they have to engage the actors involved in Critical Role, and be engaged by them in return, but how they relate to one another.
I lurk in the corners of the fandom, my old habit of not engaging a barrier I now have to overcome, though there are some I chat with from time to time. (Yes, I mean you, Jude.) I read the posts at CrittersRPG, keep up with the Reddit page, the Tumblr, and many of the Twitter feeds about it. I’ve seen every video Critical Scope has posted, most twice. I’m there, though I pretty much never say anything.
What’s amazing about this fandom is the lack of anything even remotely like a toxic environment. The shared love of Critical Role, the thing that tends to drive other fandoms into angry factions, is unified and whole there. Everyone treats each other with respect. There is kindness, and what few arguments I’ve seen have been pretty mild, concluded quickly, and never disrespectful. Fan art is all treated with the adoration, and fan fiction is all loved, virtually without snarky comments or nitpicking.
It is the ultimate fandom, is what I’m getting at. Passion is appreciated, but never toxic.
Most of this, I think, comes from the people involved in making Critical Role. The cast are all close friends in real life, and no matter what happens in the game, that friendship is obviously, tangible, and inspiring. The openness they have to fans, the warmth and generosity, the willingness to engage and be a part of the community, all done with a positive attitude, encourages others to treat people the same.
Critical Role is more than a Twitch stream about nerdy ass voice actors playing D&D. It is permission to be our better selves. It is inspiration to hold back the nasty, toxic side, and be one community, that supports and appreciates each other, as much as we do the show itself. It brings people together in a way I’ve never seen any show do. It gives voice to our inherent goodness.
Granted, that voice sometimes sounds like Grog, but hey, I’m good with that. Grog is cool. If I could draw, my avatar everywhere would be Grog wearing sunglasses ala David Caruso in CSI: Miami.
Unfortunately, I have no talent for art. I’m a decent enough writer, good enough to get published, even, and once gifting a copy of my first novel to the cast during a Critmas session. I’d love to get into writing Critical Role fan fic, but the actual writing of my novels eats up all my writing time, leaving me little to offer the community outside these weekly clips I share. Fun moments to relive, if nothing else.
Speaking of which, you should seriously Google Critical Role Fan Art. I mean, damn. Just, go do that and be awed by the amount of talent on display. Some of these people, I really would love to see doing actual book covers, maybe even my own.
While I’ve little to offer outside my love and support, others do amazing things to show theirs. Take, for instance, Ellie C. Bright, who you can find on Twitter, and the short film she directed, titled “The City”, shared to Youtube by way of Critical Scope.
I highly recommend hopping over and reading the description for this one, as it features an open letter from Ellie that really highlights how much a labor of love this short film truly is. I also recommend watching the accompanying video, where Ellie and some of the cast and crew talk about making the film. The depth and breadth of inspiration Critical Role has given to people is really powerfully seen in those two things, and should not be missed.
As for the film itself, Ellie does an amazing job of directing it. It’s simply beautiful to look at. Beatrix Newsome and Jackson Pentland are brilliant in their adaptations of Vex’Ahlia and Percy. Mike Flood’s music is a perfect touch, and the whole thing comes together in a staggeringly beautiful whole. I honestly cannot find the words for how amazing this is, not just as a short film, but as an expression of love from a fan.
Really, do please watch it, then head over to the video at Youtube, like it, share it, and if you are a Critter, share the love. We’re all together in this mad dash to save the world, after all.