I can’t escape fandom. I don’t really know that anyone can in modern American culture as fans are everywhere, but I really feel like I cannot escape it if I tried. Just this week, I had a number of times that fandom rears its head (good, bad and ugly) that showed me that my study of fandom and my reaction to it will never really be done, even if the book on it has been written. Each time that it popped up, I paused, took in the situation, thought about it and silently filed my reaction to it.
Just yesterday, for example, fandom entered my classroom in the form of a super excited high school student. A couple of the University of Wisconsin-Madison basketball players were in the school to be guest speakers for a class. One of my students (a female student, I might add) found this out and had been talking about her desire to meet one of them ALL week. Clearly, she came to me to discuss her interest because she knows that I know what it is like to be a fan of something. The first time she mentioned it was on Monday and the excitement and conversation about it increased as the event got closer until, finally, this basketball star came to visit. My student arrived to class shouting with excitement. She was all flushed and couldn’t sit still! Instead, she wanted to tell everyone and anyone about her interaction with this player and to show the picture she got. I smiled a lot at hearing her story and seeing her enthusiasm. I understood exactly how she was feeling! When other students began commenting on how this basketball player isn’t that good, I stopped them and explained that fandom is just about feelings and passions, which is hard to understand if you don’t have it. The class got quiet after that. Fandom really is about passion for something or someone and this student of mine had it in abundance!
The passion of fandom doesn’t always translate to excitement. Sometimes, it translate to frustration or anger or some other less than positive response. Interestingly enough, I found myself having that reaction on Monday night with the last of the new X-Files episodes airing! The show ended with a cliffhanger, which feels like torture when the fans, like me, don’t really know if or when the show will be back. I immediately expressed my feelings online and chatted briefly with some other X-Files fans. This is very different from how I am with my Duran fandom. Typically, when something is announced in Duranland, I might have a gut response, a fly off the handle response BUT…like I am at work, I have learned that it is better to think, to let the information sit there for a second or two or 200 before I really react. In doing this blog, I have developed this pattern as I know that if put some emotion out there without really thinking it through that I’m usually inarticulate and unclear, which can result in really negative reactions back from our readers. That said, I have to admit that I enjoyed just reacting to the X-Files episode. I like that I don’t really have any connection to the X-Files fan community other than being an observer from a far and even that might be taking it too far as I don’t really even watch their fan community much. This, of course, is also very different than how I am with Duran.
My Duran Duran fandom is really just pretty unique. Sometimes, I long for those days when I was totally anonymous and no one in the community knew me and when I didn’t know anyone back. Yet, I know that I couldn’t go back to that, no matter if I tried. I am someone who blogs on a daily basis. I’m someone who organizes fan events and plans full-blown Duranie conventions. I am not the same kind of fan that I am with X-Files, which reminds me of a conversation I had with a colleague at work. He asked me how long I have been a Duran Duran fan. I explained to him that I became a fan at 8, over 30 years ago. After he got over that shock, he asked me if my fandom is the same as it was. I immediately laughed. A LOT. Ah…no. My fandom is now VERY different than it was when I was a kid. When I was a kid, I was pretty happy listening to the music on the local Top 40 channel or on my record player. Their music videos and documentaries like Sing Blue Silver were watched over and over and over again. I looked forward to buying the latest issue of Bop or Tiger Beat and placing those little posters on my wall. I dreamed of seeing the band in concert. Now, I don’t spend a lot of time listening to the radio or even watching those videos. On top of being too busy, my fandom is now focused on things like touring. If someone told my 8 year old self that I would travel to see the band play concerts, I wouldn’t have believed them. Once I experienced touring, I couldn’t go back to being content with what my fandom was. I think the same would be true, really, when it comes to writing or doing fan events. It would feel weird not to. Those activities, related to my fandom, have become truly part of my day-to-day existence in a way that X-Files is not.
These events reminded me that fandom comes in so many forms from the squeeing teenage girl to the casual fan tweeting a reaction to the latest release to someone like me who dived so deep into her fandom that it can no longer be separated from the rest of life. It seems to me that all types of fans, from the casual fan (like my X-Files example) to the more serious (like my student) to the most intense like me and Duran, are worthy. I’m happy that I get to be or got to be a little like all those types of fans. It brings an understanding of fandom that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.