Thoughts of fandom have been running through my head. If you follow my twitter, you’re already aware of this. My latest, on fandom, fan fiction, and fictional worlds:
“In Defense of Fandom”
I didn’t understand it was fandom at the time. We did not have a true word to describe or understand our experiences. But looking back now, I know that the pop culture I loved was consumed completely, with a devotion to the characters and storyline unlike any other relationship I had yet to experience.
My first experiences with intense fandom included the films Clueless and The Craft and the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Felicity. My connection to these shows and films began at an age in which I could not relate to most of what was being discussed. But I understood them on a fundamental level. They were stories of the young female experience and even now, if they are done well, I react in much the same way. In the past, I’ve written that I never experienced adolescence in the way that I wanted or expected. It was “taken” from me. I became a woman before I could drive and so I sought that perfect middle ground of what it means to be not a child, but not yet adult.
I loved them because of the core ideas that I could understand: good and evil, right and wrong, friendship, beauty, hate, pain. All of these things made sense to me at 8 as much as they would at 16 as much as they do now at 25. I participated in online forums. I wrote long, extensive fan fiction stories. I discussed them at length and in great detail with whomever would listen. In part, the fandom was a way to keep the spark of the story alive. People often say, “What was my life before this show, this movie, this book?” I know that feeling. What was life before this flash of brilliance? Well, it wasn’t dark, but it wasn’t as bright and interesting as it is now. Why would one ever want that to go away?
My connection to the pop culture I consumed continued, although dissipated in strength greatly as I got older. I became less reliant on pop culture figures providing the guidance I sought and admired. It is not that they were no longer telling interesting stories. Rather, I learned that my own life was more complicated than what I saw on screen. And life often does not have a cinematic ending. Things are not clean cut and pleasant. One is usually left with the repercussions of their actions, and these repercussions don’t just fade away as quickly as they arrived.
I began watching Skins during my sophomore year of college. I “marathoned” the first series while procrastinating, a philosophy paper looming in the back of my mind. A year later, I rushed home late after night class to stream the latest uploaded episodes.
My participation in the fandom expanded in a variety of different ways. I created a website on the Tumblr platform to first explore my interests and theories regarding the show. It later developed into the sort of community I didn’t realize I was missing: one that felt as passionately about the ins and outs of this world – of any new world.
As a freshly-minted adult, I related to the show on a different, yet similar level: the characters were like people I knew and the experiences were ones I had gone through or were currently going through. There was the drinking, the sex, the parties, the angst, the confusion, and the friendships, played for laughs and heartbreak, and I felt connected to it on a level that I had, until last week with My Mad Fat Diary, not experienced since childhood. Because of this, the show became something I could obsess over. It was important to express my love for something so profoundly relatable.
In many ways, fandom is an expression for greatness in world creation. It is the acknowledgement of something powerful, profound, and important. As an aspiring writer, I can only hope that the words I create will elicit even a fraction of the response that my favorite works of pop culture do for millions around the world.
Not everything can elicit such strong reactions. There are shows that I really enjoy, that I would probably call my favorites, but that I could never truly obsess over in any meaningful way. It’s not that the show is lacking, but the characters and world-building is not as immediately affecting.
It is usually the pop culture that creates worlds (both impossible and plausible) rather than just build from what we already know, that builds the biggest reactions. And it is despite the differences in these worlds that the similarities in their appeal lies: the morals, the dialogue creation, the relationships, the beauty, the pain. The creator has created something powerful that touches deep on an almost visceral level. That should be admired rather than scorned. It takes a special type of writer to create and an even greater one to keep the creation going.