There’s been a lot of talk about fandom, and a lot of people have explained it way better than I ever could so I’m not going get into that.
There’s just one assumption that bugs me every single time I hear it and that is the idea that fandom – specifically online fandom – is what makes me ‘read too much into things’, like it was something I would not do without fandom. Let me tell you, that is very much not the case. Pop culture has never been a passive experience for me; it’s always been a conversation and I’ve always looked too deep.
I was eight years old when I first saw Star Wars, and I didn’t even know what the Internet was let alone have access to it. But I didn’t watch Star Wars and just think, “This is a cool movie”. I immersed myself it. I talked about it non-stop – my poor family can back me up on this. I had a taped copy of Return of the Jedi and I watched that copy until it died. I learned that movie inside and out, and then I started to build on it. I have notebooks filled with stories and questions and ideas and just random thoughts about Star Wars, that pretty much resemble any young fangirl’s Tumblr. Except I barely even knew how to use a computer.
This wasn’t an isolated incident. It happened with the Spice Girls, Hanson, The Lord of the Rings, and of course Harry Potter. Probably a bunch of other things I have totally forgotten about because memories are fickle like that. I didn’t just enjoy things; I wanted to know why I enjoyed them, what specific parts were enjoyable, what would make this thing I love even more enjoyable than it already was. I would write letters to authors, letters that I never sent of course, but I would still write them. I would ask why this happened, or how come that character had to end up that way. I did all this without the Internet and without fandom.
Before you say that most kids do things like that and they grow out of it, know that none of my peers felt the need to pick at the things they loved like a scab until it bled, but that is what I did. Reading a book, then putting it down and moving on to the next one just does not appeal to me. At all. Coming out of a movie, talking for a few moments about whether or not you liked it and then changing the topic is THE WORST. Let me tell you how much I hate that; I hate it a lot. A LOT, a lot. But also I know not everyone wants go frame by frame through a movie they’ve just seen. This is where fandom comes in.
You have to understand how world shattering it was when I found my first fan forum online. When I asked them if they think Draco Malfoy is a little obsessed with Harry Potter, they had an answer. A detailed one. (That conversation was eye opening for other reasons – oh boy it was – but that’s a whole other story.) And then they had more questions. They had thought about this before, like whoa. I had always talked about the stuff I loved, whether it was Star Wars or the Spice Girls but mostly it was me talking AT people. Suddenly I was talking TO people and THEY WERE TALKING BACK. I still feel this, to this day. Every single time I meet someone that love things they way I do, it’s pure joy.
There seems to be this idea that without fandom, I would just accept the pop culture I consumed without question. That I would just watch a TV show and do nothing more than maybe have a five minute conversation about what happened by the water cooler on Monday morning. But that was never going to happen. I always wanted more, looked for more, created more from the stuff that I loved because that’s how I expressed my love. If I hadn’t found fandom, I’d still be doing that, I’d just be doing it alone.
Without fandom, you would find me at the supermarket check-out explaining to the cashier why Sansa Stark deserved better, there are 237 reasons. (I actually do have a list, in case you were wondering.) I’m at the pub on a Saturday night yelling loudly about how Steve and Bucky definitely messed around at least once before the war, because I have proof look at this diagram. Catch me at Christmas giving a PowerPoint presentation to my family about how those two boybanders are legit in love I will fight you, grandma, do not tempt me.
I don’t do this because I want to ruin the thing you love. THIS IS HOW I ENJOY STUFF. I don’t do this because fandom brainwashed me into overanalysing stuff. THIS IS HOW I ENJOY STUFF. This is what makes pop culture fun for me. Just watching, reading, listening to something is fine, but it’s not what I’m here for and it never was. Fandom just gives me someone to talk to so I don’t have to yell at my grandma over Christmas lunch.
Fandom changed my world. No question. Fandom taught me SO MANY things; it gave insights and skills and much more, but my desire to overly invest in and interrogate the things I love, that was all me. That didn’t come from fandom; it was already there.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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