Jenkins doesn’t just stop there. He explains that even the way fandom is organized and handled (the fans create and enforce the “rules”), this too mimics the way a perfect society would operate. Having been a fan for most of my life, I don’t think I’ve ever considered our fandom as a perfect society. (That thought is staggering to me today. I have been a fan of Duran Duran for most. of my. life. I really have very thin, very vague memories of life before Roger Taylor stepped into my memories…yet I have memories of Duran before I ever started wearing make-up!! That’s crazy when I take the time to think of it in this way…. And they wonder why we’re so loyal?? We have virtually no idea of what life is like without them. THAT’S WHY) It would seem to me that this, like nearly everything else in life, seems pretty perfect until you scratch the surface. Most of us have already peered in way, WAY past the surface at this point, haven’t we?
Keep in mind, this isn’t a commentary on the band, so don’t send me hate mail – I’m talking about being a fan. Fandom is a curious thing. From the outside, it seems so pure and good. We love the band, we support their efforts. We see our meet-ups and our gatherings as a way to celebrate the band we love, our connections and friendships that have been fostered through years of being a fan. That all sounds wonderful. Scratch that surface though, and we might see something completely different.
What about the arguments and missteps on message boards about anything from VIP tickets to meet and greets? How about those moments in the GA line when you realize that although you did your time fair and square, the girl ahead of you also did her time…for herself and the ten of her friends that showed up a half hour before doors opened? What about the times where you make plans with a group of friends after a show, only to have one of those friends get a mysterious text. She begs off saying she’ll see you all later, and the next day you find out that she ended up getting some information that she couldn’t “possibly” share. Those annoyances aren’t necessarily symbolic of a utopian society where everyone is treated equally under rays of sunshine and the perfumed scent of roses, that is certain.
So many times I find myself reading updates from fellow fans that are full of anger. These are people who have been fans for many years in most cases. They love the band, they thoroughly enjoy the music, but the act of being a fan and dealing with other fans finally drives them to the brink. I know of people who have completely walked away from the community aspect(s) of being a fan – they go to the shows, they still keep track of what the band is doing, but they no longer wish to fraternize. On the other hand, I adore the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed view of fandom from those who have only just recently found their way to the community. They love the idea of meet-ups, of being included, of rejoicing in the spirit that this band freely flows upon the community. There is nothing ugly or chipped in the reflection of the fan community to these people. So what makes the view change?
I think the answer is easy to see, not nearly as easy to accept. I agree with Jenkins that fandom is an escape of sorts. For me, just listening to music is an escape. Even when I’m getting ready to write – the first thing I do is pop in my earbuds, turn on Spotify and prepare to find “motivational writing music” (A moment of honesty? I turn up the earbuds so that I block out the general noise of my household. Shh…don’t tell my kids!!) There are the times when I announce to my husband that I’m going to the grocery store, run out to my car before a small child can follow and then turn up the tunes along the way. Sometimes, I just need those tiny moments. I remember quite clearly when I first began to feel as though I really belonged somewhere in this community. For me it was a message board, but for you it might be a Facebook group, a circle of friends that you keep in touch with, a blog, or something different entirely. I thought fandom was wonderful and it really did feel utopian to me. When I attended the convention in New Orleans back in 2004, I remember feeling almost a complete sigh of relief when I was there. It was as though I finally relaxed into being myself again. I felt whole. I didn’t notice people being catty, or insipid arguments about GA lines, band members, or much of anything. I was thoroughly convinced I’d found my paradise, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone. It was only over time as I became more involved in the community that I started to see the cracks in the pavement, er…reflection. (yes, the pun is intended!)
Naturally, our blog takes aim at those cracks and we try to expose them. It’s not to point fingers as much as it is that we figure by acknowledging and talking about them, they’re less of a dirty little secret we try to hide and more like “character lines”…things we’d prefer not to have, but you know, they make the community what it is.
Like anything, fandom looks great from the outside. It’s a place to be included and revel in the knowledge that there are others with similar cares and interest. Just don’t scratch the surface….