Sometimes, dear Wanderers, things just don’t go to plan. Sometimes, you fail your exams (here are our tips to avoid that, by the way) or your best friend moves away or you just feel a bit down for no apparent reason. Sometimes – horror of horrors – you get a really bad cold. What do you do when that happens?
Well, we’ve already looked at how we can use fandom as an escape, but sometimes we don’t want to get away from our feelings. Sometimes, we want to curl up under our duvets, cue up a soundtrack of rainfall and fireplace noises, and feel sorry for ourselves for a little while. I’m sure if you were planning a duvet day, you’d know exactly which film or book would be the one to make you feel better.
For a long time, a savvy observer could tell that I was feeling a bit poorly if I dragged out the old VCR and put in my old video of the Famous Five musical. I saw the show live when I was very young, and since then it’s been a comfort blanket of sorts; when I had a rough day at school or got ill and missed someone’s birthday party, I would settle down with my beloved old video and allow myself to be taken back in time by the familiar story and music.
Nowadays, Wanderers, you’re more likely to find me listening to the Matilda: The Musical soundtrack, for a number of reasons. For one thing, I no longer have the equipment required to watch a VHS tape, and I haven’t got round to getting a DVD of it yet, so the Famous Five musical has had to be retired for now. For another, Matilda works for me on a number of levels; I watched the film as a kid and it’s a familiar story, yes, but the main attraction of the musical soundtrack is that I’ve just about hit that time in my life where everyone expects me to be a lot more responsible than I actually know how to be. There’s a song, ‘When I Grow Up’, that sums that up perfectly, I think, and it’s reassuring to be reminded that it’s not just me who feels that way sometimes.
So, the things we’re fans of can transport us back to places we felt safe and happy. They can reassure us that the things we are feeling have been felt before and are a normal part of existing as a human. And, just as importantly, they can bring us into contact with other people who understand those songs or stories – and therefore have a starting point to listen to and comfort you. We’ve already touched upon the community aspect of fandom in previous articles, so I won’t ramble on about it this issue, but it’s great to have that community in place when you do need some comforting.
And, of course, there are the stories that fill in for that human contact when it’s the middle of the night and all your friends are asleep. Stories of love, and friendship, and whatever it is you wish you could have right now. Sometimes, when it feels like all your friends are off on dates and you’re sat by yourself without even a tub of ‘american-style’ ice cream to keep you company, it’s nice to read a bit of fluff. When you feel like you’re powerless or nothing special, it’s nice to be whisked away on someone else’s journey towards unexpected princessdom, or world domination, or both. Whichever you fancy, really.
So, basically, what I’m saying is that fandom can help when things are rubbish. Fandom can be like the friend who sits next to you and pats your hand and says comforting things like ‘we’ve been here before, remember? You got through it that time, and you’ll get through it this time’, when your actual friends are quite rightly off doing their homework or sleeping or doing something else they need to do.
And sometimes, that’s a really good thing to have.
Eleanor Musgrove (has been working hard and feels she deserves a duvet day of her own)