Fandom Is: On the Broken, Inescapable Nature of Fandom

As I get older, I find it increasingly difficult to not compare the way things are to the way they were. It’s natural to do, and perhaps why so many people are grumps when they get older. Everything changes and nothing stays the same, and that can be tough to deal with. That manifests itself in many different aspects of life – many of which are good! 7 – but the one I’ve been thinking of the most lately is what it means to be a fan.

The greatest tragedy of David Harper’s life, pre age 10, as depicted by Andy Kubert, Matt Ryan and Joe Rosas in X-Men #25

When I was a kid, my love of things was so pure. I accepted everything, even if it wasn’t how I wanted it to be. The death of Optimus Prime in Transformers: The Movie, Wolverine having his adamantium removed by Magneto in X-Men #25, the Indiana Pacers losing in the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games in consecutive years…these were all moments where my emotions ran high. Somewhere in Alaska, a youthful David Harper was apoplectic about how each story turned out. But I vividly, even positively remember them because of those emotions, and thanks to those memories, I learned to love those beats over time. That’s the wonder of youth: most of the time you just love things or you move on, and that’s kind of that.

Now, being a fan is something different altogether. Take Star Wars fandom, for example. There are so many different ways to “love” Star Wars these days that it manifests itself in artificial manipulation of user ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, harassment of actors, beheading action figures you presumably purchased yourself, 8 and any number of other negative behaviors simply because you don’t like a movie. When something new that was clearly impacted by that behavior arrives, which film you align yourself with becomes almost a partisan issue, an identifying characteristic that lets people know who you are simply through your preference of story.

These days, loving nerdy things has basically become the exact same thing as loving sports. DC vs. Marvel and The Last Jedi vs. Rise of Skywalker are variations on the Celtics vs. Lakers or Yankees vs. Red Sox, while things like The Snyder Cut or Abrams Cut become forever topics like the Harden Trade, 9 ideas that those who associate themselves with certain fandoms cannot help but wonder “What if?” about.

A metaphor, from The Last Jedi

Of course, there’s a substantial difference between sports and movies, TV shows, comics or whatever format you take your nerdy delights in: there’s no inherently competitive element to loving something. That’s why the way fandom works in 2020 is so exhausting and honestly infuriating. The distance between loving and hating something has become non-existent, separated by an invisible barrier that leads to a complete overlap. No one hates stories like fans of those very same franchises, and we’ve seen that proven time and time again in recent years. In this one instance, I’m confident in saying something that will almost certainly make me seem very old: I haven’t changed, the way we love things has. It feels like fandom is fundamentally broken, and even worse, it’s become inescapable, a defining element of who we are and what we do.

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  1. I for one am thrilled I can read basically any Marvel comic ever thanks to my Marvel Unlimited subscription, for example, ignoring hundreds or thousands of far more important social change.

  2. Which lowkey may be the craziest thing to do of those three, even if isn’t the worst.

  3. A much analyzed deal in the NBA in which the Oklahoma City Thunder dealt future league MVP James Harden away for a relative pittance – shouts to my guys Steven Adams and Jeremy Lamb! – because they didn’t want to pay him a minor sum relative to his value.

  4. I for one am thrilled I can read basically any Marvel comic ever thanks to my Marvel Unlimited subscription, for example, ignoring hundreds or thousands of far more important social change.

  5. Which lowkey may be the craziest thing to do of those three, even if isn’t the worst.

  6. A much analyzed deal in the NBA in which the Oklahoma City Thunder dealt future league MVP James Harden away for a relative pittance – shouts to my guys Steven Adams and Jeremy Lamb! – because they didn’t want to pay him a minor sum relative to his value.

  7. I for one am thrilled I can read basically any Marvel comic ever thanks to my Marvel Unlimited subscription, for example, ignoring hundreds or thousands of far more important social change.

  8. Which lowkey may be the craziest thing to do of those three, even if isn’t the worst.

  9. A much analyzed deal in the NBA in which the Oklahoma City Thunder dealt future league MVP James Harden away for a relative pittance – shouts to my guys Steven Adams and Jeremy Lamb! – because they didn’t want to pay him a minor sum relative to his value.