The Power of Fandom

Hello and welcome back to My Geekology! I’m Ash and today we are going to explore fandoms! The incredible communities we have all been a part of virtually our entire lives. Whether your weapon of choice is a lightsaber or wand, or you travel by cloud or hitch a ride on The Bebop, this one’s for you. We will ask what fandoms are, how they serve their people, and why they are important. Do you have a fandom? See you on the other side!

Consider This

So much of our time on this planet is spent weaving through jungles of phases, fads, passing interests, hopping on and off hype trains, and chasing dreams trying to discover exactly who we are and what things make us happy. That is so supremely difficult and time-consuming that the action of sharing that with another person is pretty near sacred. In an incredible TED Talk on cosplaying ex-Mythbusters host, Adam Savage stated that when people cosplay “We’re connecting with something important inside of us,” he continued with “The costumes are how we reveal ourselves to each other.”

Fandoms, when considered with this type of thought, become very beautiful. When you participate in one outwardly, be that wearing a jersey, cosplaying, matching in an online game, or anything of that nature, you are saying “Hello, this is a part of myself that I am sharing with you.” Before you actually encounter another person wearing a costume from the same franchise as you, before you join a team in a video game, that person made the conscious decision to connect. How spectacular is that?

What is a FANDOM?

Naruto credits of characters running.
Iconic Naruto run.

The term fandom is commonly expressed with some variation of “the fans of a person or team.” However, before anything else, fandoms are communities. As much as a fandom is about the entity they celebrate, they are also distinguished by the distinct cultural elements that manifest in that celebration. Buffalo Bills fans slamming themselves on a table, Naruto fans running with their arms outstretched behind them like they are slicing the wind with speed, New York Yankees fans’ famous role-call tradition, and Star Wars fans pretending they are opening automatic doors with the Force are all unique elements to their fandoms as well as being joyous enough to illustrate to non-fandom people.

Fandoms are people bonded by a mutual passion, absolutely, however, the most beautiful part of them is their sub-communities within their communities. For example, the Star Wars fandom is absolutely massive. The fans of Star Wars are not only immense in numbers, but they are also widespread internationally. They connect through conventions, online groups, and forums, or through online gaming, but of course, it’s not limited to just those means.

501st at Dragon Con

Within that larger Star Wars community, there are different groups with different tastes, thoughts, and feelings. There are people separated by which trilogies have a special place in their hearts due to their generation or taste. Even beyond philosophy, there are people that express their passion differently and participate in the celebration of their fandom differently. There are gamers, comic book readers, cosplayers, people who watch everything, people who watch just the live-action, people who go to conventions, and people who celebrate May the Fourth (people who don’t know it’s a thing). Every single one of those people are valid.

I think the best way to look at fandoms are as cultures. For culture to exist and survive it must be learned and shared. Over time rituals and behaviors develop, identifying clothing, and even dances maybe. They develop their own art. These things are passed on. They become inseparable from their own fandoms. For example “360 no scope” and “put the team on my back” are both phrases relentlessly called back to in Call of Duty and Madden respectively. They both started as viral videos, became learned and experienced, and continue their lives as inherited expressions that those communities can call their own.

How Do Fandoms Serve Their People?

Gaming with friends in Genshin Impact.
Gaming with friends in Genshin Impact.

In a New York Times piece by author Donald Goddard, George Lucas is quoted as saying “The reason I’m making ‘Star Wars’ is that I want to give young people some sort of faraway exotic environment for their imaginations to run around in.” Many of us have a story of why we love the things we love. I was going to move away from the only place I had known, my family and I were moving east away from New Mexico. I was in the fifth grade and didn’t quite grasp the idea that I would probably not physically see a good number of people from my classes again.

My last day in New Mexico was spent playing Star Wars: Battlefront II with my best friend in the world. That video game and the vivid memory of that day became the ornamentation of my fandom for Star Wars. It provided something for me that so many can find on their own time and in their own way, an escape. The “faraway, exotic environment” Lucas mentioned, was exactly that for me. A source of joy that is always there when you need it. You can pick it up, learn everything about it, or just dip your toe in. It is fabulously accessible and requires nothing from you other than your time.

Now, we can go a layer deeper. There are families within those sub-communities. That is where fandoms begin to serve their people. The people we game with may be a series of letters and numbers for years, some never meet their gaming friends, however, their relationship is as real as any other.

Families In Fandom

Make shift family in Spy x Family anime.
Chosen family in Spy x Family.

When asked about her fans, Billie Eilish is quoted as saying “I don’t even call them fans. I don’t like that. They’re literally just a part of my life; they’re a part of my family.” Many people have what they would call a “found family.” For some people the family they find on their journey is the only one they have. That is really getting to the heart of why fandoms matter and the incredibly important role they serve in our world.

The most important thing to note about fandoms is that there is room! There is room for you always. The people who create incredible art like Hayao Miyasaki or Naoko Takeuchi, or those that look back at society like Stan Lee or Gene Roddenberry, what they have in common is ultimately you. These shoes, books, games, and movies, are intended to be experienced and engaged with by you.

Thank you for coming on this journey as we explored the wonderful world of fandoms! We hope you had fun, and we’ll see you here next time at My Geekology!