Those of us who’ve been in fandom for a while know it can be really good for us. We’ve already discussed how it can push us to do things you wouldn’t have got round to, how it can bring us together as a community across continents, and how it can give us new opportunities to learn. But fandom can do more than just affect us as individuals. Fandom, as you may have surmised from the title of this article, can be a force for good.
Few things get us as fired up as a TV show, film, or book we can really get into. It’s amazing how much energy a great creation can produce, whether that’s channelled into making so many gifs based on the promo for next episode that people start thinking they’ve missed one (thank you, Once Upon A Time fandom), writing copious amounts of fanfiction speculating about the possible implications of every tiny costume detail, or maybe, just maybe, changing the world.
Take a look at the Harry Potter fandom, for example. The world-famous bestselling books and films inspired millions with their themes of courage, loyalty and love. As Harry stood up against the forces of darkness, fans began to come together and follow his example and the Harry Potter Alliance was formed. With its motto, ‘the weapon we have is love’, at the heart of everything it does, the Harry Potter Alliance has run a series of campaigns harnessing the immense power and energy of fandom for good. They’re currently running a campaign called ‘Equality FTW’ which aims to address inequalities in the areas of immigration, education, and marriage.
They’ve also run more directly Harry-inspired campaigns – such as the Deathly Hallows campaign, which ran between the releases of the last two Harry Potter films and sought to eliminate seven ‘Horcruxes’. These ‘Horcruxes’ included the ‘Starvation Wages Horcrux’, prompting the ongoing ‘Not In Harry’s Name’ campaign to ask Warner Bros. to stop using non-Fairtrade chocolate in its Potter-branded chocolate products, and the ‘Illiteracy Horcrux’, which members of the HPA combated by donating over 32,000 books towards the building of a new library in Brooklyn.
Meanwhile, we can’t talk about the effects of energy on a fandom without mentioning the Sherlock fandom, who’ve been building up quite a head of steam while they await series three, and the wider fandom of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. No doubt we’re all aware of how this particular fandom gets when it’s waiting for a case – not unlike its eponymous main character, the fandom gets a little… restless. But then, suddenly, they realised they had a case to focus on after all.
Conan Doyle’s former home, Undershaw, in Surrey, had lain derelict for several years and was in danger of being divided into flats and completely redeveloped. The house had great sentimental value to many fans – Conan Doyle designed it himself and wrote several of his most famous works there, including The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Empty House – which, of course, Sherlock fans are eagerly awaiting the BBC reimagining of. But what could be done? Well, as it turned out, a couple of words in the ears of the fans and the whole ‘Save Undershaw’ campaign gained momentum. With Mark Gatiss as the patron of the Undershaw Preservation Trust, fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories in all their many forms rallied round to make a huge fuss and raise money and awareness. A judicial review halted plans for the redevelopment, and the Undershaw Preservation Trust continues to raise money and support in the hope that the house can be restored to its former glory and opened to visitors.
Basically, fandom is a great thing for uniting people. When you find a cause those united people all agree on, there’s very little that motivated group can’t achieve. After all, fandoms already spend a good deal of time creating the sort of posters and pictures and impassioned rhetoric that really spurs a campaign on – it’s easy, and gives a good glowy feeling inside, to put those efforts to use for a good cause instead.
So next time someone tells you you get ‘too worked up about that silly fandom thing’… remind them it could just change the world.
Eleanor Musgrove (definitely hopes to visit Undershaw one day)