Internet fandom itself is a widely held presence on numerous Internet communities and message boards from Star Wars, Star Trek, and Stargate to various other science-fiction related series. The fact is, so little know about the Jurassic Park online fandom. The fandom itself was established loosely in 1998 following a year after the release of the second film. The original community itself was a loose conglomeration of Yahoo Groups and Geocities websites. Eventually after the Dreamworks Interactive game, Trespasser, was released fan communities for Jurassic Park organized. The fandom itself was primarily formed from an age group of 15-17 year-olds. After the Yahoo Groups came great sites like InGenNET, Dan’s TLW/JP3 (The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park 3) Page. The site established and entered into a golden era lasting from 1999 to mid-2001 until the “Flame Wars” started.
Flaming is an Internet term for being hostile and making negative comments about another individual. It is a form of Internet bullying. Trolls continually make negative comments on the message boards to flame the other members and cause fights. Troll is another word for bully or someone partaking in hostile actions. The “Flame Wars” were the result of such Internet bullying and inequality amongst newer members. This issue lasted until 2003 when Jurassic Park Legacy was founded by three other individuals and myself. Our mission was the expressed purpose to end the reign of Internet bullying found in the community.
What is the JP Fandom & what does it mean to be a fan?
There are different degrees of fandom: there are the movie buffs, prospective paleontologists, the prehistoric fans, and the die-hard Jurassic Park fans. One can belong to more than one group. The most important thing to possess is a passion for the films and the prehistoric. One long-time fan and close friend that goes by the name of AlphaChaosRaptor discusses the attraction of Jurassic Park for some: “The dinosaurs, of course, both because they were so lifelike and accurate for the time, yet at the same time because they are so different from what we now know them to be like. They took on a life of their own, and people like seeing this idea of a genetically engineered zoological park gone wrong.” The idea of dinosaurs in unseen lands is always a matter of intrigue and fantasy for people.
Some of the scientific community could consider Jurassic Park fans as a counter-culture of sorts. AlphaChaosRaptor points out, “In general, though, there is a lack of understanding of how exactly science works, and what it’s meant to accomplish, which can be easy to lose sight of when the temptation to speculate is so great and easy to fall into on a subject where there is frequently not enough data.” There is some apprehension in regards to “fanboyism” among the group that are scientifically minded and the desire to see the dinosaurs as movie characters.
Fans usually discuss the franchise to an extent of over-analysis often devolving into arguments. This usually “leads into some trying to present their own ideas as absolute fact regardless of whether any real evidence exists for it and entering denial if something doesn’t fit that view. People also tend to engage in arguments regarding which sequel is better, the T. rex – Spinosaurus fight and which is the better animal,” according to AlphChaosRaptor. Conflict arises from discussion of varying subjects to the point most forum threads themselves will be closed by the moderation staff.
I found my way to the community itself in January of 2000. I was inducted into the moderator-ship later that month of a site known as InGenNET. I became successful due to my analytical work with the Jurassic Park Encyclopedia from 2000 to recent. I focused on building a huge reputation for myself regarding the encyclopedia as the clear concept of canon was not completely realized totally by the fans.
Others saw purpose in the cause to define canon and felt it would unite the community in a different way akin to Star Wars and Star Trek fan communities. I still maintain the encyclopedia to this day and it was used by TellTale games for their new Jurassic Park game. The encyclopedia is well-recognized by the fan community as a valid and vital resource as a result of my contributions.
Like most Jurassic Park sites, Jurassic Park Legacy has a design that’s reminiscent of something meant to be out of Jurassic Park. Designs themselves of Jurassic Park sites in general incorporate a lot of reds, yellows, oranges, and greens. Some designs attempt to emulate a jungle appearance or an abandoned “industrialized” jungle appearance that was seen in the second film, The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
Meaning can be found in belonging to something. Jurassic Park is still an infantile fandom that doesn’t have nearly the decades behind it that Star Wars and Star Trek have. Due to this the fandom is constantly growing and constantly changing; however, the aspirations of the fandom itself remain extraordinarily high and often fraught with failure. For example, fan films and game mod conversions dominate that list extensively.
Notoriously, Jurassic Park fans collect dinosaurs or Jurassic Park merchandise from when the film was released. I have in my hands a Thrasher T-Rex from The Lost World: Jurassic Park toy line. A lot of fans favor the T.rex for its power and grace. I chose the Thrasher because it is my favorite, but there are other sought after items of “Jurassic Gold”. Tyrannosaurs in the community are heavily regarded in addition to other popular theropod dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and Dilophosaurus. Spinosaurus is also popular in its own right as well even though people disliked how it was portrayed in the third film.
The Thrasher is at least twenty inches long and is a mixture of greenish gray, black stripes, and white underbelly. The Thrasher is actually meant to be the female Tyrannosaurus from the second film and is adorned with a “Mark of Jurassic Park”. The Mark of Jurassic Park adorns almost all JP products and boldly states “If it’s not Jurassic Park, then it’s extinct!” In addition, the T.rex toy is made of a rubbery skin with moveable arms, legs, clamping jaws, and thrashing head and tail action. It also came included, originally, with capture gear, which basically was a set of restraints that could be strapped to the animal to signify it was captured by humans.
A majority of fans collect the toys due to their heavy symbolic nature. The toys themselves capture the feeling and spirit of the films in the eyes of most. Many also believe that the larger the collection, the more serious the fan. Some fans even get ridiculed for selling what appears their entire collection. A favored pastime in the community is taking pictures of the toys in various dioramas and action poses. Eventually the photography itself is published and featured on various websites, primarily on JPToys and JPLegacy’s forums. If the member’s dioramas do well enough they will end up receiving and building their own prestige and become known for their work. Many people in the community that collect Jurassic Park figures also collect other dinosaur memorabilia.
Another method of acquiring a recognized status in the community is joining up as staff on a website or just generally by being knowledgeable about the source material ranging from the films, novels, comics, games, toys, and the rides. Knowledge is a highly sought after commodity in the fandom. If the member displays knowledge of the franchise on an expert level the member will often be recognized and rewarded for it. Fan projects are another way to contribute. Unfortunately, some fan oriented projects are destined to failure such as game modifications as well as most fan films. “Jack DeLaMare” was one of the most successful in developing a serious fan film that wasn’t a hokey satire of the Jurassic Park franchise. The Prime Survival fan film, though was fraught with overwhelming challenges due to lack of experience with film making in addition to apathy of some of the other individuals tied to the production. The problem at this point in time in the fandom is that a lot of desire to be collaborative on realistic projects such as the encyclopedia is in sharp decline.
Membership Relations/Organizational Functionality
The fandom itself is a turbulent and volatile culture due to the constant shifts in power. Due to the turbulent history, websites like JPLegacy have adopted a sort of governmental body similar to functionality of a benevolent dictatorship. This is to safe-guard the community from bullies and those who would manipulate these politics to their advantage. Other sites are fewer with their hands-on in terms of administration when compared to JPLegacy. The community itself has had to repeal the stereotype of children being into dinosaurs mostly as it matures as well as individuals who choose to speculate without evidence and parade it as fact when it comes to matters of the encyclopedia.
The initial conflict began back at inGenNET, which was fraught with numerous civil wars within the staff and user base. My group on inGenNET felt that the equal treatment among new members would promote a positive and cohesive environment that would allow new members to build prestige to belong based on fan works and ideas. The others believed into a “bully to gain respect” motto, which resulted in the death of many great websites such as InGenNET, JPAftermath, Jurassic Park Database, Jurassic Island, Jurassic Kingdom, Jurassic Park Gateway, and the list goes on of casualties. AlphaChaosRaptor’s view on the “Flame Wars” is very similar to my take on the events: “These conflicts were mostly driven by needless personality conflicts and people having nothing better to do than argue with others in order to uplift themselves. In the end it created an almost dog-eat-dog environment where only the people that could run the gauntlet of insulting commentary and put up with whatever was thrown at them would be able to stay.” The “Flame Wars” raged for years from 2001 to 2006 roughly before the aggressors disappeared. Further, the wounds of the war still affect us to this day. “The resulting posting environment transferred from site to site, and eventually consumed itself after forcing many of the good people from our generation in the community to leave. The behavior of the people that were left was passed on to other members, and not all of it was good.”
My group had several names for the bullies in the community. Some of these names were: pseudo-intellectual swine (PIS) or more common “The Idiots”. The reason we referred to them as such was due to their methods of attack with belittling and alienating others for not having an opinion other than what they deemed as status quo, which in itself was constantly changing. In a contemporary issue, a similar pattern is unfortunately taking shape with some members using speculation as fact in the encyclopedia process, and even condemning others for not agreeing with them.
“The Idiots” also used their intelligence to attempt to make the moderation and administrators look bad by claiming injustice when they were punished. If a site owner would stand up against them then “The Idiots” would recruit others, often friends, to try to bludgeon the administration into unbanning them either by flooding a message board, trolling, or countering their ban by having alternate accounts. Often they would dictate the terms of stopping their activity, which often resulted in them being granted a position of power as staff to continue to otherwise promote their social inequality manifesto. Flooding is essentially the practice of pressing the “submit” button on posts multiple times for posting a new thread. The overall reign of “The Idiots” has resulted in years of turmoil from the communities where numerous fans have otherwise left the community. People of my generation are very limited in number.
While the fandom suffers from social inequality there are positive individuals striving to constantly repeal that inequality with knowledge of the franchise and fan projects. The fandom itself has rebounded in some aspects after the “flame wars”, but still is constantly plagued by the same personality type that engages in the hazing of individuals promoting social inequality. Additionally, due to the chaotic membership base the fandom itself may be in decline due to the lack of official supplemental material from Universal. This research suggests that, due to the turbulent nature of the fandom, the community is a volatile state, and in need of social order that needs to continue to establish itself through cohesive venues such as franchise awareness and fan-oriented projects. Knowledge is a commodity clearly in this fandom and does help to improve member relations. Those with the knowledge of the franchise clearly gain prestige and acknowledgment through their efforts and positive contributions for the community.