There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Olympics and their legacy. Let’s skim over the vast array of fandoms celebrated at the Opening Ceremony, and I’m even going to mimic my TV-watching habits and skip over the majority of the sports. That brings us to the big question every single newsreader seemed to be asking at the end of the Closing Ceremony: will the Olympics inspire more young people to take up sports?
“Of course not,” I heard from somewhere in the direction of the next armchair over, “they don’t care, they’re all too busy checking out Tom Daley.” Well, that may be an accurate analysis of the sudden trend for teenage girls watching Olympic diving, given that a few days ago the hordes descended on Bluewater shopping centre, where the 18-year-old bronze medal winner was doing a book signing, to flail at his feet. I don’t think that necessarily means that those fans won’t be encouraged to take up sport.
The government in the UK, which of course has been responsible for hosting the 2012 Olympics, is keen to encourage its people – young people especially – to get out there and hit the track, pool or court, to get fit, to become more athletic. Who’s to say that those Daley fans won’t take up diving or swimming themselves? Even if their main motivation is to one day be able to casually strike up conversation with him about a mutual interest, or run into him at the pool, if people want to follow Tom Daley into sport then so be it. It’s not as if they’ll be any less fit than those who watch Mo Farah pounding around the track and go ‘I wish my muscles were working that hard’.
So what does this have to do with fandom in general? Well, like it or not, it’s pretty natural behaviour to follow the example of someone you admire. Sheep will follow a bellweather, bees will follow a queen, lemmings will follow just about anything (or was that disproven?), and we humans? We follow people we perceive to be more successful than us, or better in some way. For some of us, it’s our parents. For others, it’s sporting personalities. For a lot of us, it’s our favourite characters.
We’ve touched on the Great Sherlock Fitness Challenge before, but it’s worth mentioning again because it’s a great example of what I’m talking about – though why so many of these are to do with fitness, I’ve no idea. Anyway, the challenge encourages Sherlock fans to get fit in order to be more capable of chasing cabs around London if required (a frequent pastime of the consulting detective, according to the first episode of Sherlock). I took part in the initial wave of that challenge, and still dip in and out – I’m not a sporty person by nature and generally, if someone suggests that we should improve our fitness together, I look at them as if they’re mad and go on my merry way, but somehow the idea of it improving my ability to be a consulting detective made it seem like the coolest idea ever.
Non-sporting fans, you know what I mean too, I’m sure. How many Press Gang fans have started writing for their school paper? I’m sure it’s more than the handful I’m aware of. And what about the Harry Potter Alliance, taking the books’ messages of equality and harmony forwards through charity work?
I’m overlooking the most obvious example – those who see their favourite authors, screenwriters, directors, musicians and actors working hard to achieve their goals and say “Yeah. That’s what I want to do.” What is fanfic if not an attempt to hone your ability to write? That screenplay you started writing after you saw a filmmaker you admire tell you to write the story in your heart – that’s fandom-motivated, just as much as anything else any other fan has ever done.
Now, some of you may be thinking ‘How does she know about that screenplay?’. That is immaterial. I also know about your original fiction, your huge, detailed digital paintings, and your thesis on one of your favourite books. What I want to know, though, is this: is it finished? Fandom can be a great motivator, it can push us to do things we never thought we’d be able to do, but it can’t do all the work for us.
So next week, when a few Fandom Wanderers deadlines aren’t demanding my attention and the editor isn’t waiting impatiently for what she needs to put this issue together, I intend to pull out the screenplay for the television series I started writing a little while back, and I am going to keep going until episode one is finished. That seems like a reasonable short-term goal, don’t you think? I will keep working on it until it’s done, because in that I am following the example of everyone I have ever admired. If fandom has inspired you to start something, I urge you to do the same and keep working on it.
Because even if you’re doing something ‘just because you’re a fan of [something]’, it’s enough that you’re doing it.
Eleanor Musgrove (figures ‘ulterior motives’ are still motivation)