Wanderers, I’d like to talk about Disneyland. Not just in general – well, yes, in general, I do love talking about the place – but specifically with regards to the reputation of the place. Few are those who’ve grown up knowing Disney’s films without dreaming of seeing that famous castle in real life at one of the Disney parks. Children become so excited by the idea of entering the magical world of their favourite characters – meeting Mickey, riding through the entire (irritating, singing) world on a little boat, and running wild in a land of imagination – that parents have taken to filming the moment of stunned delight when their children find out that they are, indeed, to make that journey.
It’s not just Disneyland, though – many ways to enjoy the worlds of our favourite series exist, across the world. From the Harry Potter Studio Tour near London to the various Legoland parks scattered like plastic bricks across the globe, and from premieres to panels to book signings, there are all sorts of ways to get closer to your favourite shows, toys, films or books. But many of them – whether due to high entrance fees or simply great travel distances – are expensive to visit; perhaps too expensive for some of us, no matter how long we save up for.
That’s where fandom, once again, steps in to bridge the gap. Even if you can’t afford to tour the set of Hogwarts, your experience doesn’t have to end with the last page or the end credits. Instead, you can leap straight into the online – and offline – fandom in order to make your own magic. Muggle Quidditch leagues are springing up all over, there are fanfictions galore, and Wizard Rock music allows you to immerse yourself in the world of Harry Potter for as long as you like if you’re not ready for the magic to end.
It’s not just magic-related fandoms that can sustain something incredible, though – any active fandom, with even one or two fans getting involved, can keep the excitement of a book, show or film going long after the canon runs out. If you know other fans of something you love, you can exchange ideas and thoughts and creations to keep that wonder and joy alive, even when you can’t physically reach a place or person closely linked to it. That buzz of exhilaration can still be yours.
So, what am I saying? Well, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be excited about theme parks and convention appearances and signings – and I’m not saying it’s never worth saving up and following your wildest dreams to somewhere you’ve wanted to be, to get close to your fandom. What I am saying is that you can still experience a lot of the wonder of your fandoms without paying out to visit somewhere distant or bankrupting yourself to get an autograph.
I’ve never been to Disneyland, but I have experienced the childlike joy of watching a Disney film for the first time, and the sixth time, and the thirteenth time… and when I’m all Disney-filmed out, I’ve been online, read and seen amazing art – princesses adapted to different races, alternate universes, crossovers – to keep the magic coming. I’ve never been to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, either, but I’ve experienced the entire history of the Wizarding World, all over the world, through fanfiction and clever theories. I have been to Legoland, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate all the gifs of the Lego Movie floating around on the internet, or a friend’s increasingly detailed explanations of Bionicle cultures. And I could go on, because all fandoms can be like that. Can’t get to a concert? Waiting for new songs from your favourite artist? You can bet there are some great fanmixes, covers, and playlists out there to tide you over.
In short, Wanderers, fandom can bring magic to you when you can’t go to it, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s never going to be a bad thing.
Eleanor Musgrove (proud holder of a Lego Boat Licence)