OK Wanderers, so while I was frantically trying to think of a title and theme for this article, it suddenly hit me: we’ve talked about fandom as a personal thing (Fandom as a Social Circle, and Fandom As Family), and touched on the wider meaning of fandom (Fandom as One Big Fandom), but we’ve never considered the role of fandom in creating an entirely universal sub-culture spanning nations and decades.
Princeton University describes fandom thus: “Fandom (from the noun fan and the affix –dom, as in kingdom, freedom, etc.) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.” But what exactly does being a subculture mean, and what power does it give fans?
Subculture is defined as “a cultural group within a larger culture (or cultures), often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture.” So Wanderers, I think we can all agree that most fandoms can be categorised as a subculture – personally, having been in several fandoms over the years, my eyes have been opened to not only the subject of the fandom, but a multitude of other social and international issues – an interest which not only spans nations, but class and language barriers, and gives us all something to hold on to and share. In this way, fandom is sometimes caricatured as religious faith, as the interest of fans tends to grow to dominate their lifestyle, and fans are often very obstinate in professing and refusing to change their beliefs about their fandom.
Fandom as a subculture has been around for many years. Fans of the original literary version of Sherlock Holmes are widely considered to have composed the first modern fandom creating some of the first fan fiction as early as 1887 and holding public demonstrations of mourning after Holmes was “killed” off in 1893 – similarities can be drawn to the shrine which still stands for Ianto Jones in Cardiff after he was killed in the Torchwood series Children of Earth.
So, Wanderers, to return to my question: what power does this subculture give us as members? Just think of what fandoms have achieved. We’ve raised money, elevated awareness, given support, and provided motivation. For example, the Supernatural fandom is currently coming together to support one of the actresses (Rachel Miner, who plays Meg Masters in the series) who recently revealed she is suffering with the debilitating nerve disease multiple sclerosis. Many fans are sending letters of support, and even more are intending on sending her Christmas cards to demonstrate their support.
Oh, Wanderers, fandom is an amazing thing, with amazing power. When millions of individuals work together for a reason, no matter how tiny their separate impacts, the effect is huge. We can use this giant network of fandoms for the advantage of so many causes. Don’t forget, the British Make a Wish Foundation sent a severely disabled woman to the set of The Hobbit, and Martin Freeman described her as the most important person there. We can use fandom to make people’s lives better, and just being a part of this movement is enough to give me faith in humanity.
There are so many things fandom can do – so many of the celebrities we fangirl/fanboy over have causes close to their heart which we can move together to support – and just think how proud they would be of us, their fans, giving everything we can to make the world a better place.
So, then. Fandom is a subculture rife across the world, bringing people from disparate cultures, races, genders, ages, classes and religions together, and giving them the power to change the world they live in, all in the name of entertainment and the good of humanity. And I think that’s something amazing. Don’t you?
Hannah Carter (is off to re-join her subculture now)