Do you remember what it was like when you first joined the Duran fandom? Or any other fandom? My memories from every fandom feel the same. It feels good, happy, thrilling, exciting. Everything and everyone feels positive. I, for one, typically can’t get enough and can’t stop talking about whatever the object of that particular fandom is. Everyone in the fandom literally feels like a family and I can’t ever imagine that there is ever bad blood or that people don’t get along. I have such fond memories of when I joined the Duran fandom in 2004 (remember I was a fan before that but not part of the community). I posted frequently on message boards and spent time reading them even more. I spent a lot of money trying to fill in any gaps in the Duran catalog and organizing the pieces of memorabilia that I had while acquiring even more. I wanted to know and have everything and everyone in the fandom seemed to support this. It was wonderful. Just wonderful. When I decided to go to the convention, part of the reason was that I wanted more. I wanted to be around others who understood the overwhelming love I had for this band. At the convention, it seemed like every single fan was awesome and each and every one of them could become my best friend because we all shared this very important thing. I didn’t need to hide. In fact, my fandom was cherished, was celebrated. Everything and everyone seemed perfect from my fellow fans to the band.
After that, the album came out and the tour happened. I went on tour for the first time in my life. It continued to be perfect. Part of the reason was that it provided a perfectly positive escape. Who doesn’t need an escape once in awhile? I know that I did. I had just finished my master’s degree and was tired of taking classes, writing papers, etc. Work was still pretty significant and was literally working many hours more beyond that forty hour a week contract. While I wasn’t unhappy, I still needed those mental and emotional breaks that fandom was providing, that the Duran fandom was providing. Once I went on tour, my interest became like a real obsession. The escape from reality was intense there. I wasn’t thinking about students, curriculum, behavior plans, etc. I wasn’t worried about presenting myself professionally with parents or administrators. Instead, it was all about fun–going from one show to the next, partying, staying up late, laughing like there was no tomorrow. I found my refuge, for sure. I loved it and couldn’t imagine ever stopping. Heck, still today, I can’t imagine ever really stopping. I can’t imagine not going on tour ever again. Thus, in the early days of my Duran fandom, it was perfectly fun. Beyond fun. Beyond anything I could have ever wanted or imagined. In my observation, while the details and experiences I had in Duranland might be different from other activities in other fandoms, the feelings I had were the same, at least to some degree, in other fandoms and what I have seen with other friends and family and their fandoms. This feeling of everything and everyone being wonderful and the feelings of escape seem to happen with all fandoms when people join them.
Yet, as time has gone on, I have learned that not everything in Duranland is rainbows, butterflies and unicorns. It isn’t perfect. The band isn’t perfect and neither are the fans. I don’t always agree with everything the band and their management has done. I have met many, many fans. Some of them have become close friends of mine (ha!), some have become people I like and would like to get to know more, and some I’m not too crazy about and they aren’t too crazy about me, either. The perfection did not last. The hearts and flowers did not live forever. I still have many, many great days as part of this fandom. I can’t really imagine leaving. Yet, I have to acknowledge that it doesn’t always have that same level of escape and fun that it was once did. In fact, there are days that I wonder if I shouldn’t consider walking away. Why? Simple. I have those thoughts on days when it feels like the Duran fandom is the exact opposite of an escape. There are days that it can feel almost like a trap. The negatives fly fast and furious. Luckily, those days, those times don’t last forever. I then can focus on the good times I have had, the good friends I have made. This allows me to wipe away the negatives, the hostility from others. My experience has taught me what it takes to remain in a fandom and why some people might go from fandom to fandom. I suspect those people are trying to avoid the negatives. They only want the fun and escape. I can’t blame them. Who can? Part of me is jealous because I can’t ever go back to those innocent, carefree days of early fandom, at least not with Duran. I know too much. I have seen too much. People have seen and heard too much of me.
Initial fandom might feel like a perfect escape and definitely can be for awhile. Yet, as time goes on and people settle in, imperfections that occur with every human being, with every human community becomes clear. To remain in a fandom means accepting those imperfections, accepting that it can’t always be an escape. At times, it can and will feel just like the rest of reality with positives and negatives, with people of all opinions and more. In that sense, fandom and fan communities become just like any other community, filled with reality.