Alright, Wanderers, I’m going to level with you here. I’ve been writing pretentious articles for weeks about what fandom does for us in terms of, well, all sorts of brilliant logical, academic, intellectual reasons – and I’m sure I’ll do so again. That’s kind of what we do here, after all. But today I have been working flat-out to get all the boring real life stuff done, and I can’t be bothered to make excuses for myself; I am going to watch a show. Or a film, I’ve not decided yet. At any rate, I will be watching something I enjoy, because I need to chill out and have some fun. It could be anything from Scrubs to Skins to Misfits to Merlin – if I plump for a film it might be Rent, or Repo, or The Lion King, or The Muppets Treasure Island.
But you don’t want to hear about my evening plans. I do have a point in my rambling, though – fandoms, and the things we build fandom around, are fun. They cheer us up, they calm us down, they drive us to distraction sometimes – but there’s a certain delight that every fan knows, that comes with picking up a favourite book or watching the opening credits of a favourite show.
“Hold on,” I hear you cry, “I’ve seen Rent, and Repo. They’re hardly feel-good films, on closer inspection.” And you’re right. But it doesn’t matter if the media I’m watching makes me laugh or cry, or veer crazily between the two like I can’t quite remember which of those two spaces I left my car in. (The car is a metaphor for my emotions. Keep up.) The important thing is that I get out of my life for a bit – I live in my life every day and while there’s nothing wrong with it, like many things, when you do it every day it gets dull – and have a bit of a go at a completely different experience.
And the best thing about fandom, as opposed to just watching a film, is that when the credits roll and the story ends, the fun keeps coming. I can log onto a fanfiction website, or – let’s face it – Tumblr, or find a forum, and carry on with more stories, more adventures and more escapism. And if I don’t see what I want to read or look at, well, I can make my own adventures in the same universe! I have the power to bring long-lost characters back to life, peer around the corners of the screen to see what else was going on at the same time, and flesh out that one really interesting character who walked through in the background once. You know the one.
Fandom is inherently light-hearted, despite the frequent onslaughts of The Feels. You can be writing a story about Sherlock set during The Reichenbach Fall or drawing Mufasa’s point of view of the stampede, but in the end, you’re doing it to bring pleasure to yourself and others. That’s an inherently positive and uplifting thing to be a part of, whether you’re creating or consuming it.
There’s an air of fun to fandom-based activities that I somehow doubt would flourish on the small screen – although I can think of a few examples of fanfiction-style playing within certain media’s own canons. Community experimented with AUs and parallel timelines in a series three episode entitled Remedial Chaos Theory, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer briefly became an on-screen crack!fic (fandom slang for a crazy, humorous story that doesn’t take itself too seriously) with Once More With Feeling in its sixth series. OK, maybe I’m being a little harsh on Once More With Feeling – it did have genuine plot in it, after all. But it was also hilarious, so let me roll with it.
Where was I? Ah. Yes. It took me a good few minutes to think of those examples in canon media – examples of things that not only flourish in fandom but actually form the backbone of large parts of it. It’s possible to make and enjoy fanfiction or any other kind of fanart without deviating a jot from the facts and tone of the story you’re adapting – there are several very plausible post-Reichenbach fics in the Sherlock fandom, for example, and several really good pieces of art depicting Dumbledore’s triumphant return to Hogwarts circulated after Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released. But quicker than you can say ‘Rat’ or ‘Hallows’, canon changes and the story that once seemed like the most logical progression becomes another AU. Canon, by virtue of being the universe, can’t really do that, which means that those infinite other universes and parallel dimensions? They’re all ours, fandom. Yummy.
So what’s my point in this bizarre, tangential narrative? Well, to show that as much as the things we like to watch are a source of fun and delight in themselves, fandom plays an important role in that too, partly just because there’s more of it. Whether you just want to scream at someone about the hotness of Regina Mills in Once Upon a Time, or you’re looking for a deep, dark exploration of Castiel’s history to tide you over until the next time you get to see Supernatural, you can find or create that, and you can share it with a load of people who think it’s fun too.
So just for this issue, I’m not arguing that fandom is important to commerce, or our senses of self-worth, or our intellectual development. I think it is relevant to those things, but that’s not the point, is it? My conclusion this issue is simply this; that being a part of a fandom is really good fun. If you haven’t tried it, try it. Get far enough into a fandom – or even slightly into enough of them – and you’ll never be bored!
Eleanor Musgrove (accepts no liability for boredom experienced despite being part of a fandom, or indeed for sleepless nights spent chasing plot bunnies)