September 12th, 2006

Being a fan can be a pretty intense experience; video gamers can attest to that.  But different types of fandom affect us in different ways, and inspire us to express our love differently: whether we’re baking Link cakes, wearing old-school Mario shirts, or laying awake at night dreaming of Samus Aran and her wild blond mane.

One of the most important features in an enjoyable fandom–for me–is being by myself.  That may sound strange, but let me put it this way: When I’m a lone fan, there’s nothing to come between me and the thing I adore; I can be completely, unself-consciously consumed by it.  In fact, that’s what I love about art in general–its ability to project the semblance of others while allowing me to remain alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m strange.

But it is a bit alarming when the thing you thought you loved in solitude turns out to be a mass hit.  Suddenly, the fandom you had–the specific, meaningful interplay you shared with a game, a TV show, a book–is the talk of the town.  People at the next table in restaurants are always blabbing about it.  (It happens with Lost every single time I go out to eat.)  It makes you feel cheap. 

Maybe that’s why I’ll never understand sports fans.  If all your friends are as dedicated and enthused as you, how can you begin to build a personal relationship with the thing you love?  What can it possibly mean to you when it means to same to someone else?  Then again, that might be that new-fangled idea called “bonding”.

Tags: Blog

7 Responses to “Solo Fandom vs. Mass Fandom”

  1. FerrousBuller Says:

    Yes, you are strange. But that’s OK, I am too, as I’ve felt the same way sometimes. :-)

    Over the last decade or two, I’ve watched several of my geeky hobbies step out of the shadows and into the mainstream limelight: comic books, videogames, anime, manga – you name it, it’s more popular now than it was when I first got into them a long time ago. The recent popularity of the new Star Wars and Lord of the Rings films mean scifi and fantasy are more mainstream than they used to be, too.

    Now on the one hand, it’s nice to see your love of a genre or medium validated by having lots of other people love the same things you do: to know you’re not just some sad dork sitting alone in a dark room, but that you’re surrounded by dorks. :-) Plus it’s nice to be able to go into any Best Buy for my anime and gaming fix.

    But on the other hand, if you’ve somehow tied your sense of identity to the things you love and to your outsider status, having other people intrude somehow diminishes one’s sense of self: like you’re being sublimated by the masses. And sometimes there’s a sense of elitism that goes with loving something obscure: to think you’re above the hoi polloi because you appreciate something the rest of them don’t or can’t. So once fandom gets overrun by the masses, you seek out new higher ground.

    I remember the days of nth-generation fansubbed tapes; now I can find anime DVDs in Walmart and anime broadcasts on Cartoon Network. I remember the days when manga was just starting to broach the specialty comics market; now I can find the shelves at Borders stuffed with Naruto and Dragonball. I remember when gaming was just for kids and nerds; now it seems like everyone under the age of 30 has at least one game console. It’s strange to watch your personal space get overrun with philistines…

  2. Cybersexy Says:

    The ideal is when you find just one or two other people who are into your “thing” (whatever it may be). Then you know that person (or people) is truly like you. It can be the start of a wonderful friendship.

  3. John H. Says:

    Good point (although I’m a little disappointed you weren’t able to work the word “bondage” into the title).

    I think people get into sports more due to peer pressure than anything else. It’s an excuse to do things with other people more than something that’s enjoyed by themselves.

  4. Scott Jon Siegel Says:

    There’s just something fun about common interest. Wednesday nights at 10, you can bet there will be a crowd around the cable television in our building to watch Project Runway. Everyone makes disapproving sounds at the same unpopular characters, and it’s fun to know you’re not the only one who thinks that Laura’s a bitch (P.S.: god, I hope she gets kicked off this week. Vincent totally saved her ass in the last episode by making something slightly uglier). -sj

  5. BrainFromArous Says:

    You kids. I tells ya…

    I go back to the time before anyone outside of a handful of video nuts had VCRs. When being a fantasy or science fiction fan meant READING BOOKS – many of which required scouring speciality bookstores and mail order catalogs – and savoring the occasional non-shit movie that came along. When playing D&D meant making your own dungeons – not out of creative pride, but because there just wasn’t much yet published and DIY was pretty much it. (Unless you chose to abandon all dignity and use Judges’ Guild stuff ). Bah, where’s my soup?! NURSE!!!!

  6. FerrousBuller Says:

    “You kids. I tells ya"¦”

    They gots no appreciation for whats they got – no appreciation at all! Durn spoiled whippersnappers!

    Now where’s my cocoa?!

  7. Bonnie Says:

    Good point (although I'm a little disappointed you weren't able to work the word "bondage" into the title).
    Who said what now?

    Wednesday nights at 10, you can bet there will be a crowd around the cable television in our building to watch Project Runway.
    1) I prefer watching it on tape with you–that way I can fast forward through the commercials 2) you’re never going to develop a deep connection to Project Runway. Unless, I guess, you’re like really into fashion ;P.

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