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Fan Disillusionment

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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. 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. While 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, cullings of the cast, or the show could even be completely withheld, 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 favorite 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 or if the personality in question tells the fan that they are being rude. note 

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.

A Sub-trope of Broken Pedestal. Compare Artist Disillusionment. See also Ruined FOREVER for just how many times fans will claim this is happening in perfectly healthy franchises.

In-universe Examples only

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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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 as nerdy as they are.

    Comic Books 
  • Happened to a generation in the Marvel Universe. James "Bucky" Barnes was the first sidekick in the world, and served with Captain America. Naturally, every kid wanted to be Bucky. Then he died, and no one wanted to be Bucky. J. Jonah Jameson, of all people, was one of these fans. While Bucky is still held in high regard by everyone, his death disillusioned everyone in regards to teenage superheroes. Teenage superheroes themselves still hold Bucky in incredibly high regard, and when the Young Avengers meet him, they salute and tell him it's an honour.
  • 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.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live Action 
  • 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 a baseball star (Wesley Snipes) 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 by chance bump into Bishop at a strip joint, he decides to take the plunge and introduce himself to his idol. Things do not go as planned and 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. He can't go through with it, even rationalizing the beating because he was "bothering" Bishop.
  • In Galaxy Quest, Tim Allen's character, the washed up star of a long-canceled Sci-Fi show, snaps at a fan at a convention for bugging him with technical questions about the show's fictional universe. This may be a Shout-Out to similar incidents that happened to cast members of the original Star Trek series by similarly overzealous fans. And this happened after Tim Allen's character heard three people in the restroom talk about how ridiculous the show and its cast was. Later on in the movie, Allen gets to speak to that fan again and apologizes for being so rudenote ; likewise, the fan apologizes for being so pushy, and he goes on to help save the cast's lives.
  • Its spiritual predecessor íThree Amigos! has a somewhat darker take on the trope. The German had been a fan of Ned Neiderlander's work since his youth, and practiced religiously to mimic Ned's famous quick-draw. He was devastated to learn about film special effects and assumed that Ned cheated with trick photography, so The German challenged him to a quick-draw duel to the death to prove that his former idol was just a fraud. The German was wrong.
  • Batman Forever: This is how Dr. Edward Nygma AKA the Riddler started out. He idolized Bruce Wayne and wanted Bruce's approval of his "Mind manipulation Box." Bruce rejects Dr. Nygma's project, stating that it "raises too many questions." As his idol leaves, Nygma vows revenge, the first step toward him becoming the Riddler.
    Nygma: You were supposed to understand. I'll make you understand!
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had Maxwell Dillon going into this when Spider-Man tries to talk him down but thinks he's "using" him when the news cameras film the proceeding and all the TVs in Time Square focus only on Spider-Man when they were on him a moment ago. Then again it's shown earlier that Maxwell isn't mentally stable to begin with and turning into a pure energy being certainly didn't help.


    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Step by Step: Brendan is a huge fan of baseball star Kenny Barton, but his idolization is dashed when Kenny starts acting rude to him, demanding $50 for an autograph. A crushed Brendan tells Cody about what happened, and it isn't long before Minnesota Twins legend and sportscaster Harmon Killebrew intervenes.
  • 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 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit 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.
    • Similar to this the great Time Lords the Doctor looked up to often don't live up to expectation. Omega, who was thought to have died during experiments that enabled the Time Lords to master time travel, turns out to have survived and gone insane. In the audio drama Zagreus towards the end the Eighth Doctor goes on a big rant about how terrible his heroes are the First Time Lord President Rassilon turns out to be an Evilutionary Biologist who has prevented entire races from existing to ensure the Time Lords' power.
  • In the Family Matters episode "False Arrest", the Winslow family becomes enthralled with a TV actor name Buddy Goodrich (one of those wholesome dad types usually seen in sitcoms), save Carl. He winds up meeting the actor to simply to ask him to move his car off a handicap spot. Buddy, however, turns out to be rude and quite arrogant, to the point he even attacks Carl forcing him to arrest Buddy. The media paints Carl as the offender though and the family likewise think Carl was being too harsh on Buddy. Then Buddy comes to the Winslow house to bribe Carl into throwing out the offense, which the rest of the family overhears. Needless to say, their giddiness at meeting him quickly turns into this trope.
  • Sister, Sister: "The Concert" has Tia and Tamara being big fans of a rapper called Cold Dog (much to the chagrin of their parents, who don't like his lyrics) and get to meet the man at a backstage party, only to find that he's a whiny, demanding jerk. They pretty much swear off both him and his songs not long afterward.
  • The Big Bang Theory: As a child, Sheldon was a huge fan of Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He went to a Star Trek convention in the hopes of meeting Wesley's actor, Wil Wheaton, but Wheaton never showed up. This flipped his adoration into hate, in a sort of one-sided Sitcom Arch-Nemesis. (Wheaton being a jerk toward him in the show didn't help matters.) They eventually reconcile, only for Brent Spiner to replace him on Sheldon's list of enemies.

  • During the final act of Tommy by The Who, Tommy's followers are looking for a quick fix and an easy path to enlightenment. When Tommy at first tells them that there is no such thing, and then tries it anyway with pinball while pretending to be blind, deaf, and dumb in order to reach enlightenment, the fans promptly turn on Tommy and abandon him, leaving him with nothing. In the movie version of the album, they also kill Tommy's uncle Ernie while leaving the compound.
  • 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. The titular character kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend over not getting a timely response to his letters by Eminem. Only when Eminem is finally writing a letter in response does he realize that he saw a news report about someone killing themselves over not getting letters, and realizing it was Stan.
  • Ben Orum told an interviewer about how his opinion of Malevolent Creation (which he was a big fan of) was ruined by his first encounter with Phil Fasciana, who responded to Orum's starstruck greeting by asking him if he had any cocaine, then proceeding to verbally abuse Orum and call All Shall Perish a "nigger band" when Orum told him that he didn't have any.
  • This is what happened to several former members of The Faceless, most notably Alex Rudinger, Justin McKinney, and Bryce Butler. All were longtime fans of the band who counted them as a major musical influence, but several years (or months, in Butler's case) of dealing with Michael Keene's drug issues and many issues as a human being that had little or nothing to do with drugs steadily wore out their patience and good will towards Keene, and Butler in particular openly stated that joining the Faceless was a childhood dream come true that quickly turned out to be a colossal mistake once he was actually in and got to witness the band's dysfunction firsthand.

    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", an over-the-top catgirl webcomic purely intended to make money from merchandising, which acquired a large and very obsessive fanbase. Disillusioned at a Fan Convention (one of the creators objects to the murder of a man who spoke against the comic, claiming it isn't that important), the fangirls tear the convention-goers apart in a bloody rampage.
  • Minmax gets it pretty hard in Goblins when it turns out his idolised Dellyn Goblin-Slayer is much more than just a heroic scourge of Always Chaotic Evil species... To name just a couple of things, leading exceedingly cruel experiments on a number of creatures of varying intelligence, and keeping a Yuan-Ti to beat and rape her frequently only to heal her for repeats.

    Web Videos 
  • UrinatingTree:
    • Pretty much any video he's done on Pittsburgh-based sports teams (the city being his hometown) has some of this, the most pronounced by far being the Steelers due to his increasing awareness of the arrogance and hypocrisy of both the team and the local fans. When the Steelers lost to the Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Round in 2018, Tree tore into the team for "playing down to their competition" and thinking the Jaguars weren't going to be a challenge.
    • The San Jose Sharks are his favorite team from outside the Pittsburgh area. They also have a reputation as "miserable chokers" in the NHL Playoffs, which drove him to give them an installment in his "A Legacy Of Failure" series in order to vent some of the negativity building in him from watching them repeatedly collapse in April and May.

    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 focuses on Eugene finding out that his favorite superhero, "The Abdicator," is just an actor (with a stuntman doing the major heroics) and goes on a bad boy rampage. Unlike other examples in the show or on this list in general, the actor in question is generally a nice guy and actually feels terrible for not living up to Eugene's expectations ("Kids need a hero to look up to."). He ultimately redeems himself in Eugene's eyes by saving him and another boy.
    • In another episode, Phoebe meets a famous pop star, Ronnie Matthews, 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 Matthews talk for hours while Phoebe sits with them looking bored.
  • In an episode of Rocket Power, Otto is excited to meet his favorite skateboarding action movie star, Donny Lightning, when he comes to town to film another one of his movies. It turns out Donny is a huge jerkass who can't skateboard and has all his stunts done by a (female) stunt double. Otto is in denial at first until Donny rudely rejects his request for an autograph.
  • Spongebob Squarepants
    • Happens in the episode "I'm Your Biggest Fanatic" where SpongeBob gets to spend the day with jellyfish enthusiast, Kevin C. Cucumber, and is offered the chance to join his group. But Kevin is actually a Jerkass who only wants to humiliate SpongeBob, but has a hard time doing it. He eventually plays a trick on SpongeBob, leaving him feeling hurt and embarrassed when Kevin reveals that he thinks of him as nothing but a loser. Kevin gets his Laser-Guided Karma at the end when SpongeBob proves to be the better jellyfisher.
    • Happens in the Framing Device of "The Sponge Who Could Fly", when Patchy finds out the lost episode he was searching for was just a bunch of walk cycles. In a rage, he gets rid of all of his SpongeBob stuff and runs away, slamming the door. Upon Potty the Parrot saying there's more on the tape, Patchy opens the door, says "really?", closes it again, and then restores his collection by rewinding the footage.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures special episode "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," Fifi LaFume is obsessed with teen actor Johnny Pew. She gets to meet him and fawn over him in person, and at first he seems like a fairly decent guy, consoling her when he doesn't have a pen to sign her photo. Over the next few weeks he becomes increasingly demanding, having her carry things for him and other menial tasks. She finally has enough when a pretty girl asks for his autograph, and he pulls out a pen (which he's apparently had the whole time) and signs Fifi's photo and gives it to the other girl. Fifi calls him out and proceeds to throw him bodily out of the theater where all this takes place, and is applauded by her fellow moviegoers.