As you might be able to tell, Rhonda and I have been thinking a lot about our early fandom. We have been pondering how and why we became Duran Duran fans when we did, as kids. Of course, we can talk about the catchy songs or the very cool videos that whisked us away from our sometimes less than fun childhoods. All of that would be true. Yet, when I really start to think about fandom, both then and now, one aspect becomes glaringly obvious. Friends matter. They matter big time.
As long time readers of this blog know, my first fandom wasn’t really Duran Duran. Well, Duran was my first individual, self-chosen fandom. It was the first one that I found outside of my family, but the first one ever was my White Sox fandom. My family constantly had their baseball games on. Unlike many/most people, I don’t remember my first live major league baseball game. I went to my first game when I was very young, way too young to remember. In fact, if I asked my parents when I went to my first baseball game, they wouldn’t know because going to games was so common.
Even though, I’m long beyond childhood, I’m still a Sox fan. I always will be. I still go over to my parents’ house to watch games and I’m not surprised when the Sox come up in conversation with family. When something awesome happens with a game or the team, my family gets in contact with each other. For example, when the Sox won the World Series in 2005, after my parents and I were done literally jumping up and down with joy, we called my sister and my brother to celebrate with them. Thus, I can’t separate my Sox fandom from my family. They made me a fan and they keep me a fan.
When I was about 8 years old, I became a Duran Duran fan. I don’t really remember the exact song or video that I heard first. I know that I listened to Top 40 radio and loved having MTV on in our TV room. My childhood best friend, Beth, did, too. Thinking back, I know that I liked what songs I heard and saw but I don’t think I became a fan until Beth and I talked about the band. I have no clue who mentioned the band first but once that conversation happened, we were definite fans. I often state how the Reflex made me a dedicated fan. After all, the song and video became extremely popular in 1984 and it featured one seriously good-looking John Taylor. While Beth and I drooled over John Taylor, we reinforced our newly formed fandom by constantly watching and talking about him.
We frequently exchanged phone calls whenever the video aired on MTV. Soon enough, we searched to find the best magazines to buy and share with the other person. The two of us spent many hours at Beth’s house watching Sing Blue Silver over and over on video since her family purchased their first VCR months before my family did. With every fan activity we did, our fandom grew stronger. Our friendship did, too. We shared a common love, a common passion. Our get togethers had a theme, a reason for happening.
Unfortunately, life circumstances separated us, geographically. My dad’s job forced my family to move about 70 miles away. While we tried desperately to remain best friends, distance made it tough, especially once her family moved as well making our separation even more substantial. Our lives no longer could surround our friendship with each other or our Duran Duran fandom. School and other activities drew us away despite our phone calls and weekend get togethers.
I distinctly remember a phone call I made to Beth in 1986 or 1987. During that call, Beth told me matter-of-factly that she had taken down her Duran posters and was “moving on”. My spirit was crushed. I already felt isolated and an outsider in my new hometown. Knowing that Beth still loved what I loved gave me the strength to be the weird one, the outsider. At that moment, I felt incredibly alone and so uncool. Was there something wrong with me, I wondered. Should I, too, be moving on? Was it wrong of me to continue to love this band? I didn’t know.
I attempted to maintain my fandom. For example, I bought Notorious as soon as it came out and tried to love it as much as I did the previous albums. Fandom activities remained as I still searched for magazines and watched MTV for new videos and news but soon found myself losing interest. Not having anyone to talk to about Duran took a lot of the fun away. Soon, I found myself searching for a new interest that would fulfill the gaping hole of my heart. That search lead me to other bands like Depeche Mode or even Skinny Puppy but none really grabbed me as my Duran did.
Once adulthood hit, I began to go beyond bands but looked for other forms of entertainment to grab me. I focused on Star Trek for awhile as I figured that would bring me closer to my brother, which it did. Yet, that didn’t provide the same level of excitement that Duran did as a kid. Then, a little show called Roswell began to air on TV, focusing on a group of outsiders. Something deep inside of me could relate to that feeling of not belonging, of being a perpetual outsider despite appearing to fit in. The interest grew, leading me to seek out others who loved the show like I did. As I formed connections with other fans, my passion grew. Finally, I felt something like what I had as a kid.
Unfortunately, the show did not last long but some of the friendships I made during its run have. In fact, my friends from that fandom are coming out for a weekend in a couple of weeks. In the case of this fandom, the demise of the show led for all of us to pull away from it slowly, but collectively. I didn’t feel the same sense of isolation and otherness as I did when Beth pulled back from her Duran fandom. Perhaps, part of the reason for that is because I also rediscovered Duran Duran at the same time. Maybe, the pull back from the fandom did not feel like a rejection of me, which in many ways is what Beth leaving Duran felt like.
Since then, my focus truly has been my Duran Duran fandom. Despite this focus, other interests periodically grab me and threaten to pull me in. For example, I was super excited when X-Files returned as that is a show that I have dearly loved. During those new episodes, I found myself seeking out other fans, but no real connections were made. Will my interest increase if there is a season 11? Of course. Will I seek out other fans then? I suspect that it is possible. That said, I believe that my passion will be temporary, though, unless real connections are made with other fans.
When I think about fandom throughout my life, the only logical conclusion I can have is that friends are essential to me diving deep into an interest. They also help to maintain fandom for me over time. In thinking about Duran Duran, I have to wonder if I would have become this hardcore had I not found Rhonda. Would I still be as passionate about them today without her or other friends I have made? Would I feel that same sense of isolation and loneliness if Rhonda were to leave the fandom like I did when Beth did? I suspect I would.
Clearly, for me, friendship and fandom have gone hand-in-hand and will continue to do so. What about the rest of you? Is that true for you? If not, how do you keep your interest in a fandom up without others to feed off of?