Ben Gates: “One step short of crazy; what do you get?”
Riley Poole: “Obsessed.”
Ben Gates: “Passionate.”
What exactly is fandom? Pain, the knowledgeable will say. Life-ruining, others will add. Insanity is a popular choice. Pathetic and obsessed will be the response from the many people with the wrong idea about fandoms. But the terms that come to my mind are more along the lines of community and creativity, passion and welcoming, empathy and acceptance, and yes, decidedly pain, and certainly some form of insanity; but also joy and open-mindedness and liberal and healing and talent and non-judgmental and love and support and, well, family.
If you read that collection of words with mild confusion or with scorn and disbelief or
with a simple non-comprehension, this blog is for you, for you in particular. (Though if your reaction more closely resembled oh sweet heavens, she understands, you are also welcome and encouraged to hang around.) So very many people misperceive and misunderstand fans, fandom, and the fandom lifestyle. I know several such individuals quite personally, and it was these individuals who inspired this blog. For it is my intent, through this blog, to:
- Explain something of the fandom lifestyle and what it truly entails.
- Show certain misinformed parties how fandom can be inspiring and enheartening and even healthy; certainly not life-wasting.
- Bring some validity and integrity to the fandom life.
To that end, I begin my odyssey with an attempt to pin down so nebulous and varied a concept as fandom with some kind of understandable definition or explanation.
A fandom is any community of people who share an understanding and deep passion for a specific thing, that is, the object of the fandom. Fandom can also mean the object in question. The differentiation will be made clear through context. (Though this object can be anything from a sports team to cooking to coin-collecting, the objects whose fandoms are actually thought of as fandoms are mostly stories, games, people, and music groups. Therefore, it is this variety of fandom to which I refer in this blog unless expressly stated otherwise.) The members of the fandom, sometimes also known as the fanbase, are united by a common love of the object in question, and by the emotions and experiences that accompany this love / passion / (all right, I’ll say it) obsession. This community functions as a quirky sort of support-group–family–artistic-commune.
Everyone is a member of at least a few fandoms, whether they realize it (and like it) or not. Yet fandoms centered around stories are rarely taken seriously by outsiders, who view them with disparagement and consider them lame at best. Even Urban Dictionary, haven of internet terms and slang, defines the fandom life as “a life you don’t have.” In my next post, I’ll explain how this definition could not be farther from the truth. I’ll show why the disparagement could hardly be less warranted. And I’ll demonstrate the sheer hypocrisy of the fandoms-are-lame-and-a-little-bit-sad mindset.