The beloved 90s TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000 will be returning thanks to Netflix on April 14th.
The key to the show's success has always been its small but devoted fanbase. In the old days, its popularity grew as people recorded the show on VHS and shared it with friends. The credits even featured the phrase "keep circulating the tapes," until they were forced to remove it to avoid encouraging piracy. While Netflix deserves credit for picking the show up, MST3k's return after all these years is primarily due to its incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign.
What distinguishes MSTies (yep, there's a name) from most fanbases is just how friendly they are, online and off. The show has always spread from person-to-person, created a sense of community among fans. When debates do arise, as they will in any fanbase, they are fairly amicable. Back when IMDb had its forums, the MST3k message board was one of the only active parts of the site not consumed by negatively and insults.
The Netflix revival is a major change for the show, but I hope the fanbase stays the same. We're all protective of the things we love, but I'd love to see longtime MSTies welcoming new fans who will undoubtedly be brought in by the reboot. If the show's fanbase can remain as welcoming and laid-back as it always has been, it will be truly unique.
Fanbases that grow large enough will typically try to decide what a "true fan" really is. The fanbase becomes fractured and discussion turns toxic. Fans will find a multitude of issues to argue over, and the smallest controversies become heated. You may still love the work itself, but it's best to tread carefully among many of its other fans.
Star Wars, with one of the biggest fanbases in the world, is unfortunately a great example of this. Some people will insist that a true fan must like every single movie with Star Wars in the title. Most fans hold the original trilogy in high regard, but others swear by the prequels. Some people like the original six, but hate what Disney has done with the franchise. There are also those that may love The Force Awakens or Rogue One, but hate the other. Being a Star Wars fan is still fun, but opinionated discussions can bring out the worst in people.
There's nothing wrong with having an opinion, even a strong opinion. However, problems arise when arguments get personal. Instead of celebrating their common interests, fans often end up insulting one another's intelligence. I may personally hate the Star Wars prequels, but I'm willing to bet there's a nuclear physicist somewhere in the world who loves them.
Maybe division and bitterness are just symptoms of people trying to form groups. However, I like to think that MSTies can roll with the changes and stay the friendly, welcoming group they've always been. The fanbase has so far treated anyone who enjoys the show as a true fan, and I hope it stays that way.
If you're interested, you can find 20 classic episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 streaming on Netflix right now, and over 40 episodes on Hulu.