Category Archives: Fandom

Intend to Understand

My family has spent a lot of time together, virtually, since this pandemic began. On Friday, I mentioned about how we have been completing a daily challenge on music, movies or TV. We have also had movie discussions. One person throws out a movie and we all watch it. Then, we plan a get together to discuss. Yes, we chat about what was good, bad, etc. on top of analyzing little details, much like what Rhonda and I have done with everything Duran related. This past week, we watched the movie, Juliet Naked. I looked forward to this one as I had read the book. In fact, I blogged about it here. To summarize the book and movie, it is about a woman whose boyfriend is a huge fan of singer, Tucker Crowe. He is such a mega fan that he runs a website about his fandom. (Can you imagine? How crazy are people like that?! 😉 ) Anyway, after hearing a copy of unreleased demos, the big fan’s girlfriend wrote an anonymous review on the website, arguing that the songs were terrible. Tucker, himself, responded to her, privately, leading to an email relationship between the two.

In the movie, the big fan is presented in a really horrible light. He is self-centered, obsessive and inconsiderate. His fandom is such that viewers are supposed to view it as strange, at best, and awful, at worst. I watched the movie with my parents and my mother could not hold back about how much she hated him. Yet, I recognized that he was fitting the fan stereotype, leading me to have a bit of sympathy for him. In the movie, it was clear that the girlfriend could not relate or understand his fandom. This led me to think about more than just the movie. How important is it to have people in your life that understands fandom, in general, and your fandom, specifically?

Almost every time that I have found myself diving deep into a fan community, I have sought out fellow fans. I think back to the late 90s when I could not get enough of the show, Roswell. I quickly found my way to message boards where I could talk to other fans about every element of the show. Soon enough, it wasn’t enough to just chat online. I longed to meet other fans in person and did. Then, of course, with Duran, I also sought out message boards as well, which led me to attend the Duran Duran Fans Convention in New Orleans in 2004 where I met Rhonda and others. In those situations, I sought out other fans. I wanted to have people in my life that *got* it. Fandom was such a big part of my existence that I needed people like me in my circle. Interestingly enough, I think my family, for the most part, gets fandom. My brother is a huge comic book fan and I was raised as a big White Sox fan due to my parents. They get what it is like to be a fan. Yet, with both Duran and Roswell, I needed more than just understanding. I needed fellow fans who felt like I did.

On the flip side, though, I didn’t cut anyone in my life who wasn’t a fan. I think, though, I have been lucky in that no one has rejected me due to my fandom. While I’m not sure that people really understand my love for Duran, for instance, I don’t feel like people judge me for it either. I, sometimes, get teased but no one accuses me of being weird or obsessive as a result. I’m not sure how I would feel or react if someone did express the idea that something was wrong with me for being a big fan. Would I need to cut people off if they did? Maybe. I think it is one thing to not have people totally get it and something much worse if they hated this aspect of myself. Overall, I feel pretty lucky.

What about the rest of you? First of all, do you have people in your life that totally get your fandom? Did you seek them out or were you lucky enough to have them in your life already? Do you have people in your life who maybe do not understand your specific fandom but understand fandom, in general? Do you have people who don’t really get it but appreciate that fandom matters to you? Do you have people surrounding you who don’t get it and think it is wrong that you are a big fan? How do you navigate it through this? How much does this all matter to you?

-A

Emotional Connections

For the last few months, my family has participated in daily challenges surrounding popular culture. It started out in May after I shared a 30 day challenge surrounding music. Each day, like the daily challenge we are doing now, asked a different question about music. Then, each family member would answer the question and share the song over a group text. Then, in June, we focused on a new challenge about movies. Now, it is all about TV shows. The rumor is that my niece is working on writing one for next month about books. Through these challenges, I have thought about the difference between TV, movie and music as far as my personal connection, fandom and why.

As my family has moved through these challenges, it is obvious that my brother is far more into movies than I ever knew. My youngest niece loves television. My sister seems to like them all the same without loving any of them. What have I noticed about myself? I can definitely say that I am the least into movies. This surprised me but the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. As a kid, I watched a lot more movies than I do now. If I had to make a guess as to why, I think it is about the time. It is hard for me to take 2 hours out of my day to watch a movie. It feels like more of a commitment. I also don’t go to the movies much either. I hardly ever feel like it is worth the time and money. Beyond that, though, I know that a big part is that I don’t feel connected. Two hours isn’t long enough to develop a passion for the characters and their relationships. Interestingly enough, when I think about big movie fandoms like Harry Potter or Star Wars, I recognize that these are series. In the case of Harry Potter, it is based on books. Are there many fan communities surrounding individual movies? I doubt there are many. So, my inability to emotionally connect may not be super unique?

So what about television? This is a much more interesting medium for me. When I first graduated from college and moved to Madison, I turned to TV to keep me company. I quickly became addicted to the show, Roswell, and reached out to join that fan community. Like many others, I spent time on message boards talking about the plot, characters, relationships and more. I even got together with a few people nearby to enjoy the show and its fandom together. Those friendships have remained! While I never created in response to my fandom, I did read and discuss fanfic, appreciated fan art and watched the videos that other fans created. I ate up as much as I could, including the music played on the show. Then, my career took over and TV became a luxury that I didn’t partake in too much. I would turn it on, sometimes, for background noise. In most cases, the background info would be the news. In the last couple of years, I have found myself tuning into more and more TV. Part of it is that I start watching shows with my niece. We pick a show and agree to watch a few episodes per week then discuss either by email or phone. This made TV social. By watching the same characters and relationships over time, I have found myself having more of an emotional connection again. I like that it does not require as much time to watch a single episode while still providing an escape from reality.

Where does that leave music? Well, in many ways, music is the most interesting. I feel like music has been with me all along. While movies have never been a big part of my life and TV has come and gone, music is standard. Yet, within that, I recognize that I still need an emotional connection there. There is a lot of music that I can listen to that I like, that I think is quality. That said, I need some emotional reaction to move it beyond that category of good, to make it something that I want to listen to beyond background music. This is how it has always been for me, too. I remember as a kid hearing good reviews about Depeche Mode so I bought an album without having heard them. When it arrived in the mail, I put the cassette in my walkman (good memories here!) and listened. I thought it was interesting and cool sounding but it took many listens before I connected to People Are People. What if I never bonded with that song? Would I not have become a fan? Would it have happened eventually? Then, once I feel a song or an artist speaks to me, I cannot get enough.

I’m not sure that any of this is a revelation. Fandom takes passion. If you are going to spend a lot of time doing, thinking, speaking about something in pop culture, it has to matter to you. For me, it needs to speak to my soul, in a way. It must make me feel and feel deeply. Why does this work better for me with music and TV? I am not sure. Perhaps, it is as simple as time. I can spend more time with both. I think with music, lyrics might help that emotional bond. If I can see myself in the song, I tend to fall in love with it.

So what about the rest of you? Have you bonded with TV and movies as much as you have with music? Do you also need this emotional connection?

-A

Meeting You

Since this pandemic/safer at home order began, I have found myself having lots of time to think about everything under the sun. In some ways, I feel like I’m beginning to understand myself better, including how I view connections, fandom, etc. Is it enough to just watch public performances? Is it enough to read and watch interviews? Is it enough to exchange messages online? What does it take to feel a real connection?

Initially, I started thinking about the idea of connection in relationship to politics and politicians. It is one thing to look at policies and positions and decide to vote for people based on that. It is another thing to feel motivated to campaign for them or to run someone’s campaign. When I look back at all the campaigns I have worked on, the ones that mattered most to me were not necessarily the ones with the highest position but the ones that I felt the greatest connection to. How did those connections happen? In the case of President Obama, I remember him telling a story about inner city students that felt like he had reached inside of me and brought words to my feelings. That said, my level of commitment grew when I met him. He acknowledged my work and spoke to me not as if he was the president or a presidential candidate but as my equal. It allowed me to feel instantly comfortable. In fact, I was probably too comfortable, which led me to literally whine like a middle schooler at him when he asked for more work out of me. Overall, though, getting to know political candidates as people has definitely increased not only my connection to them but my desire to help them succeed.

Does this kind of connection help with friendships and fandom? Friendship is an interesting case. As kids, people usually became friends with someone who goes to school with you or is involved in the same activities as you like sports or music. In some ways, adulthood is the same. I have met a lot of my current friends through work or my political activities. Sometimes, I have gotten to know neighbors at the various places I have lived. This would imply that face-to-face connection on top of having something in common really matters. Yet, interestingly enough, I think about Rhonda.

We first “met” online when we were nothing more than names on a message board or email. Would we have become friends through just those types of interactions? Maybe. It is hard to say. I won’t lie, though. As I started meeting more and more Duranies online, she did not stick out to me. There was nothing negative there but there did not feel like a connection, either. When I decided to go to the Duran Duran Fans Convention in New Orleans in 2004, I was looking forward to meeting, in person, so many people I had communicated with online but I cannot say that she was at the top of my list. No, it took to meeting in person, over vodka tonics, no less, that I started to think that a friendship could happen. Then, of course, the following year, we attended some shows together and the rest became history. Looking at our friendship, we are used to being far away from each other and rarely actually spending time in the same place. Yet, for me, at least, having some sort of face-to-face contact helps keep the connection.

So what about fandom? This is, obviously, a stranger situation to consider. Friendships are based on the personal. I have met many politicians through working for them or some other close connected campaign. Fandom is different, though. I am one of many. I cannot and do not expect actual connections. (I mean…my goodness…why would a celebrity want to meet me or any other fan? It just doesn’t work that way, which I’m more than okay with.) Yet, I have to admit that I like to see beyond the public persona, beyond the celebrity status. I’m not sure if that is because it makes my fandom stronger or not. It is just something I have noticed about myself. I think this is the reason that I seek out interviews. I want to see more than just their musicianship, in the case of Duran Duran. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Why else do people read magazines with celebrities or tune into talk shows? It also marks some sort of weird divide between being a casual fan and a more serious fan, for me. In the case of Duran Duran, I’ll watch any and all interviews. There are a number of interviews that I have watched a bunch. Yet, there are other bands that I would tune into an interview if it was convenient but would not go out of my way to see it. Depeche Mode comes to mind here.

As much as I watch and enjoy interviews with celebrities I am a fan of, I also know that there is still a persona that shields that person(s). I get it and do not blame them. They are, after all, aware that what they say and do could cause harm to their careers or their standing with their fans. I do the same thing standing up in front of my students. There is no way that I should step out of that role as teacher, not at that setting. Yet, I also get that my students like and enjoy when I am more myself and human with them as opposed to just educator. This is why I tell a lot of bad jokes and not-very-interesting stories. It does help to create connections. Hmm…so maybe the key is to allow some glimpses beyond a public persona to create or keep those connections.

Interestingly enough, I feel like this has been happening, naturally, in Duranland. I think we are getting some of those more human as opposed to rock star moments. Two examples come to mind. The first one is every time that John cannot get the social media platform he is using to work. His frustration is not only understandable but also relatable. It makes me think of the countless times in my classroom that I cannot get some piece of technology to work. In that moment, John Taylor is like me or I’m like him. We both have struggled in that department. Then, I think of the video that Roger recently did, which featured his kiddo. How many people have had children or pets venture into a video or conference call? Again, other people could relate. At those moments, they are no longer just celebrities on a pedestal but real people with lives, problems, moments of joy, etc. To me, those moments are even better than any interview. I get a glimpse of the real person and feel a connection. That will definitely keep me coming back for more.

A-

Is Fandom Genetic?

Is fandom genetic? I ask that question not really looking for an answer as many will want to tell me “no.” I also not talking about raising one’s kids to be Duran Duran fans because they have grown up listening and loving them. That situation, I think, would be an argument that the environment plays a big role in developing tastes, hobbies, etc. Goodness knows, I am a White Sox fan because I grew up in a house that watched a lot of White Sox baseball. I spent many hours attending baseball games in old Comiskey Park in the 70s and 80s. My entire family cheers for the team, even my nieces who grow up far away from the South Side of Chicago. No, the White Sox fandom is a situation in which nurturing created fans. To me, the question is more about having a gene that makes it likely for you to join a fandom. Is there something within my genetic makeup that draws me to fandom, for instance?

Let me be clear here. I think everyone can be a fan and probably is a fan of something. Not everyone seeks out others who are fans, which is more of what I mean about fandom. Relatively few people want to commit serious chunks of time doing something related to what they are a fan of. Even my dad who is a big White Sox fan only spends so much time and energy on it per week. Yet, some of us dive into a fandom, wanting to eat, live and breath it. Obviously, I fit into that category. As much as other things take my time, I still make sure that my week allows me to focus on Duran and being a Duranie at some point. I write this blog, at least three times a week, and spend quite a bit of time thinking about the band, especially when they are around in some capacity or when I see/hear/read something online about them. I would go see as many shows as I could and happy that I have collected as much as I have. So how come I wasn’t just content with buying their albums when they came out, going to see a concert or two? Why did/do I need to do more? Why did I need to connect with other fans?

As I start to think about this question, what pops in my head is passion. I don’t just like Duran Duran. No, my feelings are much more intense than that. When they do something awesome, I feel like I’m on top of the world. When something happens like a band member leaves, my level of concern is overwhelming. I feel deeply. That’s the question when it comes to the fandom gene. Why do I feel deeply about Duran Duran and my sister, for example, doesn’t feel deeply about anything she is a fan of? How is that since we grew up in the same house and had shared experiences?

I have pondered this question over the past week after having a long conversation with my youngest niece. My niece and I have been watching a show “together” for months now. While we live far away, we pick out a TV show to watch, agree on how many episodes to watch per week and then plan a time to discuss. At times, when we are both busy, the discussion might take place via email. Now, we are calling each other more and more to talk about the shows since we are both stuck at home. This last time led us to talk about fandom. My niece gets very passionate when she is into a show and feels deeply with various plot points. We talked about how we both loved some of the shows we watched, which led us to discuss conventions with the actors or creators attending. I told her that I had been to a couple of those conventions and enjoyed myself. As soon as I said it, I realized that I would love to go with her to one! She enthusiastically agreed! I explained that I attended those conventions alone in the past and would love company. I wanted to be with someone who got it, who understood fandom. She immediately understood and went on to share about how weird it is for her, at home, because no one at her house gets it. Her sister, her dad and her mom just like shows, movies and music but they don’t love them. No, my youngest niece and I are more kindred spirits in that way.

So how did my niece get the passion for various TV shows that she did when she did not grow up in a house with fandom? I could say that she learned it from me or her uncle (who loves comic books) but we all live far away and when we would get together, fandom was rarely a part. This is why I wonder that maybe there is a fandom gene?! What do the rest of you think? Do other members of your family also participate in fandom? If so, why? Was it learned or just part of their nature?

-A

It’s As If I Don’t Recall

Is fandom dead?

Well, maybe not dead…but different from when I was a kid? Last night, as I was cooking dinner, I skipped around the channels on the television, looking for something to…well, completely distract me from the task at hand. (I still hate cooking) As I scrolled along, I saw that Breaking Dawn, Part 1 & 2 were on Freeform channel.

Now, while you chuckle at that disastrous movie series, for me, they bring back memories of trading Twilight books with my oldest, talking and giggling over Edward and Bella, Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, and going to see the movies on the first night of their release. These were the books my oldest grew up with (she wasn’t a huge Harry Potter fan), and she came upon them right around the same age I was when I found Duran Duran.

I can remember the first time Heather asked me if she could read Twilight. I was skeptical because the content seemed a bit mature for her, but agreed, as long as I read the books first. She didn’t love that she’d have to wait for me to read and absorb the content before I passed them on to her, but luckily for Heather – I was a super quick reader, finishing the first book in a matter of hours, not days. Sure, it was a little mature, but I was able to use the subject matter as a way to broach issues that I knew would be eventually on the horizon. Say what you will about the content, the writing, or even the implications of controlling relationships as described in the novels – for us, Twilight was a bonding experience that I will always appreciate.

For one, I understood what it meant to be a fan. Lifelong Duranie, right? I not only understood, but encouraged Heather to enjoy the ride. I jumped on the merchandise train, buying her posters, t-shirts, books, and anything else that seemed worthy. Her bedroom started to look a little like mine had in the 80s, sans the big, bold colors and Nick Rhodes eyeliner. For another, it was the last chance I really had to bond with Heather before the teen years began in earnest. Those moments mattered.

I remember going to see the first movie on opening night. We stood in line with a gaggle of other girls her age, parents in tow. The other moms peered at one another over the heads of the excited throng of pre-teens, commiserating and smiling ruefully as we listened to their chatter. Once we were seated in the crowded theater, a security guard actually came down to the front, and stood on the small stage in front of the screen, while he explained to the kids that they absolutely needed to stay in their seats, and there was to be no screaming.

Let me reiterate: the kids weren’t supposed to scream…in delight, mind you…at a screen. It wasn’t even as though the actual celebrities were in our theater. No, kids were screaming at a movie screen as though they were at a rock concert. I was thoroughly amused.

Sadly, it all ended as quickly as it began. By the time Breaking Dawn part 2 was out, Heather hardly seemed interested in going. I talked her into it purely because it was the final movie – the others had turned out so dismal that she said it was difficult be excited. I understood the disappointment, but told her we owed it to ourselves to see it through anyway. Not long after the movie, Heather took down her posters and grew out of her t-shirts. We didn’t talk too much about Twilight after that, until last night when I turned to her and suggested watching.

To my utter disappointment, Heather wasn’t interested. “Nahh….” she said, as she headed into the office with her boyfriend.

“What? Really??” I marveled out loud. “You don’t want to watch with me? Oh, come on…it’d be like old times!”

Heather laughed. “No thanks, Mom. Those movies were the worst!” She walked into the office, sliding the door shut behind her. I sighed heavily. Out of sympathy, my husband decided to sit with me and watch. Not quite the same, but better than being alone!

We watched both parts to Breaking Dawn on my own, enjoying each one despite marveling at how awful the acting and special effects were (Part 2 is still the best one out of all the Twilight movies, though). I also reflected back on how, for a very short time, I saw how much fun fandom could be for a young pre-teen. That period of parenting was a gift for me, softening me for some tougher times ahead.

Reflecting a bit more today, I can’t help but wonder if fandom is just different now altogether. None of my kids ever got into something with the same sort of gusto I did with Duran Duran, and definitely not music. Both of my girls have had their favorite book series, and Gavin was a huge Starcraft II fan (and player) for quite a while, but nothing like the lifelong, hardcore fandom I have in Duran Duran.

I think they missed out, actually!

-R

The Closing Down

This week, like many of the last few, has been pretty intense on a variety of levels. As I attempted to hold on, emotionally, I found myself wondering what life will look like and be like next year at this time. What about five years from now? Ten? 15? It reminds me of when I was a kid. Every year, my dad would sit us kids down to talk about our goals. This meant that we had to share our ideas for our future. As a kid, I just thought my dad was being weird. How the heck was I supposed to know what my goal in five years should be?! Now, as an adult, I get it more. For example, I am starting to see retirement far on the horizon. Granted, it is just a tiny speck and too far away but it’s there. When I think about that, I often wonder what it will feel like knowing that it was my last year of teaching. Will I get sad with every last whatever? Will I just not give a crap? Will I spend time appreciating every moment? Is it better to know it is the end?

This leads me to think about Duran Duran and my fandom. When I was a kid, I never once thought about when Duran Duran was going to retire or leave the business or even break up. Likewise, I never considered that I might stop being a fan. Even, when the side projects happened in 1985 or when Roger and Andy departed, I never thought about the end. I just assumed it would go back to what it was like. I didn’t realize what it meant when the band recorded, Notorious, as a three person group rather than five. I just put my entire faith that everything would work out. Ah, the innocence and ignorance of being young. What if I did get it? Would it have been better to really get it and know things were changing as it happened?

As an adult, I have often thought about the end of Duran Duran. Just to be clear before people start screaming at me–I’m not wishing that or thinking that is happening. I think as I have gotten older and have started to deal with some health issues, I have realized that not everything lasts forever even if I want it too No one has that much control, especially me. Whenever I begin to think about the end of Duran, or my fandom, I just go back to the question I asked above. Would I want to know? Would I want to know if this next album would be the last? What about the last tour? Would it be good to know? What about my participation? What if I know that a show is going to be my last–not just the last of a tour or until next time but the last last. The final. The end. Would it be better to know or not?

This is obviously not an easy question. If I knew it was the last album/tour/show, would I appreciate it more? Maybe. Perhaps, I would take time just to appreciate, to stop and smell the roses more. I could see myself documenting everything more. There might be more photos, more everything. In some ways, I think that would be great. I would try to capture as much as I could and I wouldn’t haven’t any regrets at the end. On the other hand, would this make it harder, emotionally? Would I be too sad to really enjoy myself? Would I be too worried about capturing it all that I wouldn’t actually experience it? I don’t have a good answer but it does make me wonder.

-A

But You Have to Make a Choice

For some weird reason, this week featured a number of conversations with family members. On Monday, I spoke with my brother to wish him a happy birthday. After catching up on the basics, the discussion turned towards talking about Star Trek: Discovery and Picard as both of us enjoy the Star Trek universe. Later in the week there was a family intervention to stop my youngest niece from leaving the White Sox fandom. She discovered that her favorite player would not be with the Sox next year so she pondered whether or not she could actually cheer for the team anymore. Both of these conversations combined in my brain to get me thinking about fandom and whether or not there are advantages and disadvantages to fandoms involving music (like mine), like TV/movies (like my brother’s) or like sports (like my family’s). Is it easier or better to be a fan of one over the others?

Sports Fandom:

I know a little about sports fandom as I was born and raised in a White Sox family. This means that we watch games together, we cheer for the team together, and we definitely pay attention to the standings to see if our team has a chance to make the playoffs. I think a few memories might highlight the good parts to sports fandom. Baseball has always been shared with our extended family. As a kid, this meant that we went to games at old Comiskey with my aunt, uncle and cousins. Likewise, after my grandpa died, we did what he would have been doing himself, which was to turn on the game and cheer for the Sox. It helped us get through a really tough summer. Over the years, we have shared magical moments together like when they won the World Series in 2005. When the final out was made, my parents and I jumped up and down to celebrate just like the players on the field right before the phone started to ring with my siblings calling to join in. We were together, emotionally, even though we could not be physically together.

What does all of this tell me? Sports fandom brings people together like the White Sox have with my family. This, in turn, creates shared memories and traditions that can be passed down. My nieces, for example, have grown up as White Sox fans even though they live in North Carolina. Sports fandom is such that it is a constant. Every spring, we know that the baseball season will begin along with the potential of a winning team. A constant like sports can definitely provide comfort as well as a distraction from real life worries. On top of that, it is also the most socially acceptable of fandoms. No one thinks it is weird that my family plans trips around seeing the Sox. All that said, the people connected with one’s fandom does change. My niece is feeling that right now as her favorite player has moved on. We also learn little about the players beyond their statistics on the field. It is far less personal. No one (or very, very few) is reading or writing fanfic about baseball or other sports. It does not allow a lot of creativity or fan production. Then, there is the question of what the heck to do in between seasons or if the team sucks. Do you watch highlight reels of winnings years? While I think you could, I’m not sure that it feeds the soul in the same way as other fan activities might.

TV/Movie Fandom:

How does TV or movie fandom compare to sports fandom? Like the sports fandom, I feel like I have some experience with this. As many of you know, I was pretty involved in the Roswell fandom when the original TV show was on the air (early 2000s). That fandom was good to me as I met some good friends through it. In our case, the four of us met on a message board for the show. Through various posts, we discovered that not only did we interpret the show similarly but we also loved fanfic surrounding it. When we all figured out that we were all in the Midwest, we jumped at the chance to meet in person resulting in a weekend in Wisconsin with little sleep, much junk food and more laughs than I could count. Of course, the show did not last forever. In fact, it was only on the air for three seasons. Yet, our friendships adjusted and remained.

It seems to me that there are two big differences between sports fandom and one surrounding a TV show/movie. First, sports have a much longer life span. While the players and uniforms might change, the team lives on. TV shows and movies usually have a much shorter life span. Of course, there are franchises like Star Trek that carries on past the half century mark, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Still, though, there have been many a moment that seemed the end for Star Trek. Therefore, there is always a possible end to TV shows/movies. While there is always the opportunity to watch it again and again, there will be a point in which nothing new is produced. Maybe, this is where fans enter the picture as they create new stories, videos and art about their fandom. It gives fans a chance to produce something themselves. Yet, I would argue that it is much harder to keep a fandom going once there is no more official product released. On top of that, unlike sports, it is often misunderstood by non-fans.

Music Fandom:

Obviously, we have covered music fandom pretty intensely on this blog since it began nine years ago (!). In some ways, music fandom definitely does parallel TV/movie fandom. Both offer chances to rewatch/re-listen. I think about how TV/movie fandom have conventions that are super popular. Yet, they also have premieres. I think music fandom is pretty cool in that it has concerts, which, to me, is like a premiere and a convention combined. You get the opportunity to see a show for the first time (even if it is not the first concert of a tour as every show is different) and you get the chance to hang out with other fans. Maybe you even get to see the subject of your fandom in person–just like a convention! At the same time, music feels different. While both have the chance for fan productions of fanfic and fan art, one tends to focus on fictional characters and the other is about real people. For me, music fandom allows a really significant escape from reality when you are on tour but has less chance of small moments of escape that can be found with a TV show.

Obviously, I have not thought about every aspect of fandom or how they compare when looking at these three big categories. Instead, I just let my mind wander about how they compare. Clearly, there are similarities with all of them. For instance, they all bring people together or can. They provides chances for escape or big fun moments or times. Yet, there are differences. Some are about real people and the other is fiction. Some have a better chance at continuing through the years than others. Society likes some fandoms more than others. There are advantages and disadvantages for all of them and fandom in general.

What about the rest of you? What sticks out in your mind about the different categories of fandom?

-A

I Should Be on Solid Ground

Before I dive into today’s blog, I want to apologize again for yesterday’s lack of a blog. I had hopes that I might be able to do a quick blog of sorts in the morning before I left for work but the brain and computer weren’t working. It might have something to do with me being overwhelmed with finals (many of them still await my grading). Anyway, I apologize.

The last couple of weeks have meant finishing up the first semester and getting ready for the next one. Part of me hates this time of the year as the grading is way too much but another part of me likes that we get to restart. It also means a number of meetings to reset there, too. In the middle of one of these meetings, I had a realization. Bear with me as I try to explain this. It seems to me that there are some fundamentals in which people build their lives. For many people, this foundation of sorts includes family, friends, a career, a community, etc. If all of those are working as they should, life feels good. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is perfect, just that it feels normal, safe, relatively predictable.

In thinking about all of this, I realized that my foundation has been shook over the last decade or so. In some cases, there have just been little cracks like my parents have both had health concerns and I recognize that they aren’t getting any younger. Other areas have been more dramatically affected. In teaching U.S. history, we discuss how the United States have ideals that include liberty, democracy, equality, etc. Through actions both at the state level and nationally, those ideals seem like nothing more than pipe dreams, at times. Even with my career, aspects that I expected no longer seem possible, forget about probable. All this has left me feeling shaken, disturbed, anxious, unsafe.

Where does that leave fandom? Good question. When I first started touring, it was all about fun. Life was relatively good and going on tour, posting on message boards just made life a little better. Then, as more and more has happened to shake my foundation, fandom has taken on a different role. For awhile, when the rest of life began to be so uncertain, I looked to fandom to provide the one “normal” part of life. I could count on it to be an escape, a fun time with friends. I desperately clung to it. If you even look back to blogs I had written in 2011, 2012, 2013 you could sense this. I needed the band to finish an album, go on tour, etc. It was the only thing that felt right. Now, I’m not even sure that fandom feels that solid as well and I don’t even know why. Maybe it is simply because the rest of my foundation is so badly shaken that the cracks have hit even fandom. I don’t know. I know that if I were to go on tour, it would still be an amazingly fun time but the going on tour part seems uncertain for the first time.

I don’t know where this goes from here. I have no clue. Really, the only thing I know is that I would like some part of my life to feel safe, that I could trust it. I would the ground to stop shifting beneath my feet. I would welcome it if that part would be fandom. One hundred percent. But like everything else, I have more questions than answers about whether or not that is possible and what if anything can be done about it.

So what about the rest of you? Has fandom changed in terms of where it fit into your life or why you participated? How do you feel about your fandom moving forward?

-A

And Still They Come To Hear The Drum

Amanda’s post earlier this week on the new Depeche Mode film struck a chord with me. Not only am I excited to see the film, I have a feeling it will affirm my belief that serious fandom for a band (or three) fills a void in our soul that would otherwise remain empty. I knew early on in life that I was that sort of person and my Duran-fanaticism blossomed when I was only ten. By the time I was in high school, my tastes were expanding and my fandom was stretching into new sounds.

By the end of the 1980s, I was becoming a, for a lack of a better term, “serious” music fan. I was exploring the birth of the delta blues as I followed Eric Clapton’s influences back in time. I was absorbing the country music that my parents were listening to as well as the garage rock they grew up on. I was intrigued by the T. Rex cover from The Power Station which led me towards Bowie and glam rock. Eventually, all these threads reached a crossroads with one band: Cowboy Junkies.

On paper, Cowboy Junkies are an extreme departure from Duran Duran but my fandom for both has co-existed peacefully. How extreme is too extreme when you’re a fan of a band? Can you see too many shows? I am about to reach 150 Cowboy Junkies shows since I first saw them in March of 1994. I quit my job in 2010 and literally followed their tour around America. And I still look forward to more shows. Their music fills a need that I cannot explain. 

One of the things that gets lost in translation when talking to people who do not share the obsession for music that we have (you’re reading a Duran Duran blog so clearly you are one of us) is the community that grows around fandom. With a band as massive as Duran Duran, there are still individual friendships born from attending shows and seeing familiar faces. This is even more pronounced when your favorite band has been consistently playing small theaters year after year.

Through an old-fashioned message board on the band’s website, friendships were born around Cowboy Junkies. Once, I arrived in San Francisco for a show and walked into an apartment of someone I had never met in person. Five minutes later, he left me in his apartment and went to work before we met up at the Cowboy Junkies show later that night, trusting me not to steal his furniture. I’ve crashed on more couches than I can remember over the 147 shows I’ve attended. Everyone helped each other out with the single goal in mind: see the show. If crashing on a floor or even sleeping in a car means one more show, serious fans go for it! 

I’ll leave you with one story from my travels with Cowboy Junkies. After a show in California, a handful of us following a week’s worth of shows were chatting with Margo Timmins, the singer. One of the guys mentioned that he was bringing his wife and daughter the next night and that a specific song had helped them as a family during the difficult “teenage” years. He asked if the band might play it and Margo looked concerned. This was an obscure song from them. It was a bit like if Rhonda asked Simon to play “Late Bar” the next night at a Duran Duran show!

The next night, the band invited us in for soundcheck as is the norm with the core fans and my friend had his wife and daughter with him. As they worked through a few songs, Mike the guitarist called out “A Few Simple Words”, the song that had been requested. The drummer’s initial response was something along the lines of, whaaaaatttt???? But Margo whispered to him and the band pulled off a totally unrehearsed version of the song for the fan and his family. There was only about 12 of us there but there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I don’t remember what the band played during the show but I’ll always remember that soundcheck. 

Like Depeche Mode, almost every band has a flock of fans who will fly anywhere and do anything to see them. Last week, I met a guest at my restaurant who feels like that about Sister Hazel. Remember them? He takes cruises with them and showed me tons of pictures of his adventures to see shows. While I might not love Sister Hazel, his narrative felt like my own. Being a Duran Duran fan comes with the added bonus of being the underdog, of being slightly dismissed by the “serious” music fans. To me, that makes it all the better. So fly your Medazzaland flags high and proud!  As a man I worked for once said, if we weren’t crazy, we’d all go insane.

Cowboy Junkies covering David Bowie

Got To Do the Things the Way I Do

I’m giving you the news

This past weekend, my husband and I went out with a couple from our neighborhood. Like us, they moved in last winter, and have been acclimating themselves to the area. Unlike us, they don’t have children, and they still commute to the Bay Area (San Jose, which is about 2 and a half hours from here) during the week for work. Their home in Atascadero serves as their weekend home, and eventually they’ll live here full time. We went to a local wine bar in our tiny little downtown area, which was nice. While we were there, we talked about nearly everything under the sun, including this website, blog, and the writing project Amanda and I are working on.

For me, these little outings tend to make me feel just the smallest bit like a fish out of water. Most of the time, I’m the only one who doesn’t work, and so I don’t have a lot to add to conversation about high tech jobs, marketing, or engineering. On this night though, I had the opportunity to explain what I do with my days. Tentatively, I tried to give a basic overview of Daily Duranie, without raising the “oh my gosh, you’re a crazy fan” alarm bells.

I’ve got a right to say

I have decided it is nearly impossible to explain a fan blog. I mean, once I start in with “Well, I write a daily blog about being a Duran Duran fan…” and before I’ve finished, they’re already looking at me with an amused expression. I find that from there, the more I try to explain, the more stuck they are on the fact that I’m still a fan “at this age”.

Personally, I think it’s sad that more people our age aren’t big fans of something. On this night though, I dive in headfirst, no thinking it through before the words flow. I explain that I write this blog, and have done so for nine years. Then I say we’ve written several manuscripts that remain unpublished, but that we’re working on something new that really excites me.

To my shock, both want to know what I’m writing, and how it is working with a co-author long distance. Normally it’s at this point that my voice trails off, because is obvious that I’ve either lost their attention, or they’re going to quiz me about how big of a Duran Duran fan I really am. Invariably, it is also at this point when my husband speaks up, talking about his huge record collection. In some ways, I think he does it to try and cover for me, and in other ways, I know he believes the blog to be a waste of time. He might be right, but it has kept me sane for nine years, so I’m not sure I’d call it a total waste. Regardless, I’m pleasantly surprised. I almost never get this far! I realize that I have to explain what we’re studying in fuller detail.

If you know what it’s all about

I think it may have helped that this couple, or at least the male, grew up in Germany. He has an appreciation for Duran Duran and other bands of that era that is wildly unlike anything I’ve dealt with from men here. (unless of course you are a male Duranie – the “unicorn” of our species!) It was refreshing to be able to show excitement for what I’m working on without worrying about how the information was being received – it was obvious he had no preconceived notions about female fans.

I came away from the evening feeling very good about our project, and even about being a fan of Duran Duran, which was nice for a change. Normally – unless I’m surrounded by Duranies, like I was in Vegas, it isn’t even worth discussing my writing. Either my work is totally discounted because I haven’t been published (therefore it is obviously a waste of time) or I’m having to argue my points with someone who doesn’t quite get it.

It isn’t often when I feel satisfied, or validated in the same way I do when I’m with my friends, like a couple of weeks ago in Vegas. I fully appreciate when I’m explaining something I’m working on to people who genuinely understand, and even find value within what we’re doing. The word is probably “encouraging”. There’s joy in that for me, too. The idea that I can be myself – not having to hide part of who I am, or what I do, is so freeing. At home, my time is split between being “mom” and being “wife”. There isn’t a lot left over for me. Not many people understand that. For me, I have to find the time to fit in a blog, or to take notes on a paper, or even write. It’s not just about Duran Duran, either.

Always trying to control me

I’ve been trying to find a week so that I can start going to practice for the community band, something that has proven to be an exercise in futility at best. Either one of the cars is down for the count, thereby relegating me to the role of “chauffeur”, making my driving schedule impossible; or, like this past week – my trusty clarinet needs at least two pads replaced before I can really play. Naturally, these issues are temporary. I keep telling myself that if I really want to put myself out there and join this group, I have to just push through and do it. It reminds me of when I was young and my parents were trying to go back to school. In both cases they gave up because the hurdles were just too numerous, and too high to conquer. I refuse to be beaten, though. Not this time. This is one thing I desperately need, and I’m doing it.

If there is one thing about being a fan as an adult has taught me, is that it’s not easy. When you’re young – there always seems to be time. It isn’t hard to sit down and listen to an album or thumb through a magazine. As we get older though, free time is difficult to come by. The ability to go to concerts might be easier, but the logistics make it tougher. I find that I have to really want it in order to make it happen. The same holds true for writing, and even for things like the community band, too. I have to want it at least twice as much as I did when I was young.

I’ll put it this way, as alarming as it might seem: I need this. There are times when I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of quicksand. The only way to get unstuck, is to follow my heart, even if it takes forever to get there. For me, that includes (but is not limited to) writing this project, and playing in the band. Those two things are on the life raft at the moment, and I’m not going to give in and let go.

-R