I’d like to take a break from my deeper musing on Fandom to look at how having a Fandom as an identity and as a culture really isn’t that different from non-fannish stuff.
Its probably easy to think of those that identify heavily as Fandom as different. After all most people, say, are not obsessed with “Sleepy Hollow”* Ergo fans are “different” from “other cultures,” which of course is basically bollocks because people are people. We’re just different people.
But when we step back from Fandoms we realize they really are their own culture, albeit embedded in a larger culture. Now, as I’ve argued, identifying primarily with that culture is not always a healthy or positive thing. But cultures they are.
Consider what they have.
Senses Of History
Fandoms often have their won sense of founding, of important eras, and of dates. This show was released, this character came on, this thing happened. In a long-running fandom (Doctor Who, Star Trek, etc.) the timelines can take on elaborate significance.
Any culture has a sense of its own history, and fandom is no different. The archives, the timelines, the (mis)remembered events, all serve to help build identity and a sense of things.
Often I’ve seen older fans** talk about a lack of history of “the youngsters” who invented or re-invented their own fandoms on the internet. That sense someone is disconnected “from proper history” tells you just how important it is.
(Though really, kids, pay attention to your history. Also get off my lawn.)
Myths And Legends
Fandoms have myths and legends. Sure we may not call them that for our fandom, but they’re there, even if we suggest they’re “history” and “truth”
There’s founding stories and memories of great conflicts. There’s significant figures that take on Herculean or Luciferian connotations. There’s events that stand out and are celebrated and noted or mourned.
Oh sure they may not be “True” in the literal sense, but they’re part of the culture. People may even know they’re embellished but part of the fun is embellishing them. It’s fun to bling out reality, and storytellers that we humans are, we’ll do it.
It is perhaps easy for non-fans laugh at these things, at lionized fanfic authors or despised seasons of a show, but for fans they have meaning. They tie into identity, and some become pivotal enough they take on the form of legend.
By the way, throw in the internet, and legends seem to be able to be fast-tracked to creation.
Senses Of The Future
Fandoms often look to the future – as does any culture. The next release, the next fanfic, the new website, the next convention. There may even be a kind of subcultural Ragnarok seen coming when a series ends or a cancellation notice comes.
Fandoms take place in time, and thus the sense of what is coming comes with it.
I think in some cases, fandoms that show pathology may lack a sense of future. To not think of what comes next, to fear it, or to not ask about repercussions creates problems. If you’ve ever seen a terrible flame war, you have to wonder how people crawling among the metaphorical record could ever wonder “how did that happen?” Yet the people in the conflict don’t think of the shame and regret to come.
And this is perhaps an area of conflict between younger and older*** fans. The oldsters have a sense of history and thus a sense of the future, of cause and effect. They fear the younger fans may not.
It’s All Culture
Be it a country or a TV show fandom, culture is culture. It helps to keep that in mind – so we do not discount the things people take seriously. Even if we consider that seriousness inappropriate, we need to understand it to understand others.
Now with that being said, let’s change our view to fandoms that don’t think they are . . .
* Though they should be, craziest damn show I’ve seen in ages. Like an anime fan wanted an American version of Doctor Who and saw National Treasure too much.
** He means people his age and even younger but doesn’t like to say that as he feels old.
*** He still means people his age and younger.
– Steven Savage
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.