Wanderers, the thing about being a person is that sometimes you get so caught up in your own life and your own point of view that you forget to step back and have a look around at the rest of the world. You forget to look at yourself objectively sometimes and wonder what another person might do in your shoes. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily; everyone does it, because we’re used to being ourselves and much less used to being other people. But sometimes, it’s good to get another perspective.
What does this have to do with fandom? I’m glad you asked. And if you didn’t ask, I’m glad you read the title of this article. Fandom, you see, can open our eyes to things we never would have considered before – from another country’s laws on alcohol consumption to the plight of someone who had lost their home without warning – and encourage us to think more about our own views on the subject. Is there something we could do for that abruptly-homeless person? What might they be feeling? How does the drinking age in various countries affect their cultures, and what can we learn from them?
This can lead to anything from having your eyes opened to the fact that something is terribly wrong – people are being persecuted for no good reason, or weapons are too easily traded – or realising that actually, what you previously thought about something doesn’t really make much sense, and your views might have to change now that you have more information at your disposal. It might lead you to support a particular charity, or just lead to better accuracy in your fanfiction.
No matter what the result is, though, there are some issues that you might never consider until a fandom touches upon them. Perhaps you never considered the impact of the women’s rights movement until your favourite female character made it clear that in their society, that movement had never happened. Perhaps you’d never stopped to think about the amount of waste humanity generates until you saw a futuristic imagining of where that path could lead, with one determined robot trying to tidy up an abandoned planet. Maybe you couldn’t understand what was wrong with that shell-shocked war veteran until you saw a soldier with PTSD on your television screen, and heard the story behind the character. And maybe you still don’t agree with Pixar about the likelihood of the planet turning into the enormous junkyard of Wall-E, or know what you could do to make that PTSD sufferer’s life a little easier. The important thing is, of course, that now you know whether you agree or not, because now you are aware of whatever it is that you were, until now, not really thinking about.
The same goes for celebrities at the centre of our fandoms; many feel that since their voices are heard in the world, they ought to speak about big issues that are important to them. They may express disappointment with current affairs, they may promote charities, they may simply speak about challenges and obstacles they’ve experienced and overcome. They will have opinions about things, whether they share them with the world or keep them quiet. Listen to them, because they will draw your attention to things you may never even have considered, broadening your life experience somewhat as you benefit from theirs.
However, you don’t have to agree with everything – or even anything – the person at the heart of your fandom says, be they fictional or real people. If your favourite character decides to kill everyone who even thinks about disobeying them, you don’t have to think they’re right to do it. If your favourite celebrity says children under eight years of age shouldn’t be allowed in restaurants, you don’t have to agree. If your entire fandom is protesting that one of the writers of your show should be fired, or knighted, or fired into space from a cannon, you still don’t have to agree with any one of those things.
Fandom can open your eyes to certain things you hadn’t seen, certainly. But it’s up to you, dear fans, to make up your own minds. Go out there and get thinking.
Eleanor Musgrove (has seen some things, man)