By Elizabeth Burkholder
“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”
You are a member of a fandom.
Oh, no, this isn’t one of those rhetorical things where I tell you to imagine yourself in the position of someone else in order to gain a deeper understanding of the someone else. No; you, dear reader, are actually part of a fandom, probably several.
At least sixty percent of the nation I live in congregates from all over the country to attend live sporting events. Many such people spend copious quantities of cash on team merchandise. They dedicate a corner or a wall of their homes to their favorite teams and players. They engage in debates over the finer points of the game, they can rattle off team members and stats, they look continually forward with anticipation to the next game, and they’d probably be willing to fight to the death to defend their team’s honor.
Across the globe, people huddle in front of TVs and computers to watch annual award ceremonies, proudly display shelves of Best Picture winners organized by year, eagerly follow the careers of talented editors and composers, engage in debates over the finer points of the “classics” and the merit or lack thereof of computer-generated effects (there’s lots of merit, btw), can rattle off the last 50 years of Oscar wins and – if you give them a minute – Golden Globes, look continually forward with anticipation to the next nominations, and would very probably be willing to fight to the death to defend their favorite director’s honor.
Many people spend their spare time and money cooking, or coin-collecting, or wood-working, or studying Victorian Gothic Literature, or amassing fine wine, or hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.
The only difference between these all of these people and fans, besides the object of their passion, is their titles and the general credibility associated with those titles. Scholar and curator and artisan are taken far more seriously than fan. But the lifestyle is the same; the passion is simply directed elsewhere – the stories and characters and creators of the fandom, as well as their fellow-fans.
Just as gourmands dedicate a significant chunk of their lives daily to planning, prepping, cooking, and cleaning up (which I can assure you are no short tasks), fans dedicate a significant chunk of their lives daily to following their fandoms and interacting with other fans.
A curator of rare coins is constantly on the lookout for news of discoveries of caches or sales through which they might add to their collection. A fan is constantly on the lookout for news of the next installment, or updates of their favorite fanfictions, or a new piece of fanart by their favorite artist.
The professor of Victorian Gothic literature continually studies, rereads, and re-examines the texts and interpretations she has poured over dozens of times before, finding deeper meaning and making new connections, which she shares with her scholar community. So too does the fan continually study, reread, rewatch, relisten, and re-examine the same stories and interpretations they have poured (and agonized) over dozens of times before, finding deeper meaning and making new connections, which they share with their community of fans.
The amount of money a wine connoisseur spends on the rare and aged bottles hoarded in their cellar is a bit ridiculous – the same ridiculous as the amount of money a fan spends on merch and content.
And it takes a fierce determination coupled with a special sort of insanity to stand up and say why, yes; we shall hike the entirety of this long-ass multi-state woodland mountain trail. That sounds like a great idea, one that is completely healthy and cannot possibly go wrong. It takes the exact same determination and insanity – or a very close sibling of it – to sit down and say why, yes; we shall marathon the entirety of this long-ass emotional series right now, stopping only for food and bathroom breaks. That sounds like a great idea, one that is completely healthy and cannot possibly go wrong.
But it’s not simply that these lifestyles are similar to the lifestyle of fandom. They literally are the lifestyle of fandom. Each of these examples – and every other hobby/passion out there – has its own community of like-minded, like-hearted enthusiasts with similar interests, united by a common love of the interest, and by the emotions and experiences that accompany this love/passion. Each has its own set of jargon, its own version of gatherings and conventions. Each demands time, attention, energy, funds, creativity, and passion from its members – its fanbase. And in each case, the members, the fans, are more than willing to give.
If you are deeply interested in anything, anything, then you are a member of a fandom. You, the jock who has never read a book willingly in your life, are part of a fandom. You, the scientist so focused on your experiments that you need to be reminded to eat, are part of fandom. You, the family-less businessperson who scorns any time not spent furthering your company, are part of a fandom. You, the writing professor who spoke at a recent Laura Ingalls Wilder “LauraPalooza” conference are part of a fandom. You, the radio professional so caught up in your work that you almost forget to go home, are part of a fandom. You, the endurant hiker who hasn’t set foot in a human settlement in weeks, are part of a fandom. You, the lawyer-pastor in the throes of continuing education, are part of a fandom.
Next time on The Fandom Life: As this blog will make fairly heavy use of the language and jargon of fandom, my next post will be a handy guide defining many basic and not-quite-so-basic fandom terms. In the meantime, what fandoms are you part of? Had you ever thought of then as fandoms before now? Please leave a comment!