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

6 thoughts on “Is Fandom Genetic?”

  1. I don’t think it’s genetic as wanting to belong to something and be with people who share an interest. They love something so much and want to find others who feel the same. I know people who were in fandoms and married people also in the fandom. I’m active in the fandom for a current show and I post often on various sites about it. My mom loved Elvis Presley and had friends who did as well and they saw him in concert but would she have gone to a fan club party or anything like that? probably not, she’d think it was weird. However growing up my parents had an antique car they drove everywhere and most of their friends were from various car clubs. It’s not a fandom for a specific movie/tv/band (though many of the antique cars ended up in movies) but a hobby which is really what fandom is. It’s passion, my parents were passionate about their car and I was passionate about music and pop culture in general.

  2. Interesting. My daughter is very much into fandom …. Is involved is various role play groups, gets way involved in music, TV, films etc that she knows every character, every plot, every song etc.

    No-one else in our family is into things on the same way … My younger sisters never developed an obsession for their favourite music the way I did for Duran.

    Is it genetic … No idea but my daughter certainly has developed my genes if it is xxx

    1. This is how I feel about my niece. No clue if it is genetic but it would make sense, if so! šŸ™‚ -A

  3. I do think there is a genetic component. Not a specific gene coded for ‘fandom’ which did not really exist for long enough to be selected for. But rather a gene that lends itself to a certain amount of obsessive attention to something in the environment. This might express itself in closer attention to threat, or pleasure. Those of us who demonstrate fannish tendencies above simple enjoyment are demonstrating this. My father was fannish, and many long and complex Star Trek roleplaying games were a part of my childhood.Mom appreciated the show but was not up to the demands of playing a character.I believe the ease with which I could join shows a genetic basis for fannish behaviour. Too bad I never had kids as it would give additional clues. Of course it could be a recessive trait.

    1. I suspect that you are right. Even if there is a genetic component, the environment probably plays a role, too. While my niece’s immediate household was not into any fandoms, she still saw me. -A

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