The Fandom Utopia

Last night, after exhausting the options available on regular TV (as in, there were none of interest), I decided to watch a couple of episodes of a show on Prime called Upload. About a month ago I watched a few episodes when all of the kids were here. (note to any parents out there – it’s not kid friendly and I think my youngest is still scarred from my clapping my hand over her eyes a few times that first evening!) The show is set in the not-so-distant future year of 2033, a time where cars operate autonomously and people can choose to “upload” themselves digitally after death.

Essentially, your personality and spirit are downloaded from your dying body and then uploaded to the mainframe of an enormous corporation that manages your “life” after your death. From there, based on the afterlife you or your loved ones have chosen to subscribe (oh yes, capitalism is still alive and well in 2033), you can continue a virtual “life”….one in which you can call and interact with your still-living loved ones. Can you imagine?

Upload intrigued me because I liked the premise. Personal faith aside, what happens after death? I don’t know. As I watched the first episode or two, it seemed like uploading oneself to a virtual afterlife would be the perfect answer. We live this sometimes very difficult life on this planet (and naturally, for some the life is always hard and punishing), and then after, we’re rewarded by living out our days in paradise. Is there any such thing as total paradise – or as we Duranies should probably call it – Arcadia? (Check the thesaurus for paradise, people.)

In the midst of this seemingly “utopian” world on Upload, there are a number of other social commentaries going on. The “haves” and “have nots” found on earth still exist in the virtual afterlife. Some people can afford a virtual life on a grand scale. They are uploaded to a gorgeous high end resort called Lakeview. The basics are included in the Lakeview package, however, even in the virtual after life, there are in-app purchases and upgrades! Others who need more of the budget-conscious afterlife settle for what is called “2 gig”, a place where the inhabitants have two gigs of data each month before freezing in place, and perhaps can’t afford clothing, or other things we’d consider necessities.

The reason I bring up the show, is that it got me thinking. When I first got involved in the fan community, I couldn’t believe how happy I was. I finally knew other people who were as obsessed with Duran Duran as I was! So many people knew more than I did – they knew of songs I’d never heard and videos I hadn’t seen. I spent months gleaning as much as I could from anyone and everyone I met! Then I went to my very first “fan” event – a convention! I hit the jackpot in a major way.

For me, that convention was three or four days of total immersion into what felt like a fantasy world. Three words: Real Life Arcadia. It was all-Duran Duran, all the time. There were no faces to clean, arguments to referee, or meals to prepare. I had the time to just. be. me. This utopia was one that while I couldn’t enjoy all of the time, it was worth the effort to revisit a few times a year.

So I did just that. Every so often, as the band toured and I was able, I’d plan trips with Amanda. We’d leave our real lives and enter Duran-mode, or my own personal utopia. I’d spend three or four days (or more), forgetting about the mom and wife part of me I’d left behind, and attempt to somehow blanket myself in the joy of fandom, hoping to absorb enough of it all to last until the next time.

The thing is, just like Upload – there’s really no such thing as utopia. The idea of a place where all is perfect with no trouble can be super alluring, particularly when real life doesn’t quite live up. This is why fantasies sell.

As time wore on and I went to more and more shows, the cracks in the facade began to show themselves. You all know and have experienced the basic elements: jealousy, obsession, competition, toxicity, fan entitlement…I could go on. Duran Duran fans aren’t any different than anyone else. When you get a group of people together, and as they start to get to know one another and forget about being on their best behavior, it all peels like an onion. None of us are perfect, least of all me. Even so, I wanted that perfect “place” to continue surviving. I needed it.

For me, fandom has taken me on a crazy ride. I went from being it’s biggest cheerleader, to thinking I could explain and control it, to being overly critical of the reason I am here (the band), to kind of hating fandom itself, and now I’ve landed…here. I’m not exactly sure how I’d describe where I’m standing now. It’s odd. Overall, I’m most thankful for the music. I crave that special spark that comes with live music, and I dearly miss the band who creates it. These days, I’m a lot less willing to put myself out there and have discussions with other fans, outside of maybe Amanda, about Duran Duran. We all feel whatever we feel about things, and there’s no changing someone because they don’t like Dom, or they love a song I just don’t. You be you, and let me be me. Sometimes though, I take the time to write on Instagram or Twitter about something the band has done – whether that’s about Whoosh! (DD “radio” program that Simon does with Katy), or John’s Stone Love Bass Odyssey or something else. Whether they read them or not, I’ll never know for sure, and that’s okay. I don’t want to be sorry or regret not saying something I should have said or written, if that makes sense.

My most recent epiphany, is respecting the one constant I have had in fandom, the band themselves. Another post for another day.

What a weird trip it has been so far. Amanda and I had wanted to take our fandom and do something special with it. We created this blog, and when that didn’t feel like it was enough, we tried writing a manuscript, and when that wasn’t enough, we wanted to hold a fan convention. I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of common thread running through all of it for me that I’m not admitting, or letting myself see, at the moment. The smart people out there – those that study fandom – always say that fandom has a lot to do with the things you’re NOT getting in your real life. Maybe so. Perhaps it is that I wanted to be liked, respected and/or even admired by other fans? I’m not above admitting that, I guess. At this point you all know a lot of things about me anyway. Surprise!!! I’m a flawed human!

Amanda and I upped the fandom ante for ourselves as often as possible, until it just didn’t seem like there was anything else that could be done. It was as far as we could go on our own steam. We didn’t publish a book (wrote a few though), we did host a convention, we didn’t get backstage or interview the band. Fandom – that means any of you reading and even those who refuse to read – has/have a love/hate relationship with us. They liked us until they hated us, are the words I like to use. At that point, or juncture, Amanda and I had to find our own path. We’re still friends, we’re still Duran Duran fans, and we still write the blog, but it’s different. I think she’d agree with me on that. Even our friendship is different now. In some ways, it is even better. In others, I miss the way we’d put everything aside and encapsulate ourselves whenever we’d talk. Back then, we’d talk often, and sometimes, throughout each day!

For me – I think that when I got to that point – I didn’t know how to feel. I still don’t, really. I look at people who have actually done something tangible with their fandom and made it into careers, who are so incredibly loved and revered by other fans, and wonder why that didn’t work out for me – at least not in an obvious sort of way. Just where on earth do I belong or fit in??

I still don’t think I know. Maybe I won’t. Hence, this is not utopia. Or paradise. Or even Arcadia.

I try not to get down on myself about not knowing, or maybe accepting my path, in the same way I once did. I just sort of respect that for whatever reason, my path lies elsewhere. I’m clearly standing on it, even if I don’t quite get what the hell I’m doing here or why. I’m still here blogging – or attempting to – at any rate. I’m also doing other things for other people who count on me that have nothing to do with Duran Duran. I hear that’s called “life balance”. <insert chuckle here>

Utopia doesn’t exist, at least, not for long. Even if I could upload myself to some virtual life that included a career outside of the home, with more friends and maybe even more obvious signs of personal success – what would it look like? Could I be any happier?

If you notice, I used the word “could” rather than “would” in that sentence. Maybe that says more about than anything else I’ve written today.

-R

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