Where do we come from, we who immerse ourselves fully in fandom? How do we come by it, and why do we stick around? Is there a predisposition for geekery, or is it a learned behavior, a defense mechanism that is remarkably self-defeating?
I’m not sure I have any answers to those questions, but I have a lot of observations regarding them. When I look at the people I know who fall into the broad category of “fan,” I see people from all walks of life – male, female, mixed race, white, atheistic, religious, brilliant, and plain. No two people have the same “this is why I’m a fan” story, but we all find camaraderie in our differences from both each other and the mainstream.
It’s very hard for me to say how I grew to love what I love; it very much seems to me as though I have always been predisposed to latching on to stories and obsessing over subjects. I was a curious child, and I continue to be a curious adult, someone who asks too many questions (mostly to myself) and who can remember small details. Perhaps this was partially passed on by my parents, because who else but fantastical dreamers could name one daughter after an Arthurian sorceress and the other after a Klingon? And it’s true that it was through my father’s diligence in helping me record Sailor Moon after school that I was first exposed to anime.
So I suppose I was predisposed in many ways, but what made it all stick? Why, at the age of nearly-twenty-four, am I still scrolling through fanart and browsing fanfiction and creating head-canons for characters half my age who were first created when I was in kindergarten? Why does all of this still matter to me?
Because media matters. The impressions I was given in my childhood continue to affect the impressions I create now, in my later life. Through exposure to the different and diverse, I have come to a greater understanding of cultures and systems other than my own, and while I owe a great deal of that to my upbringing and my own cultural heritage, it is also fair to say that I owe an equal share to the media I have been consuming all my life, whether that be anime, manga, science-fiction or fantasy literature, or various films.
As much as I try to differentiate myself from the mainstream or from my peers, I am also a product of media and consumerism in the same way, except that my media diet is a little bit different from the majority. People in my daily life have difficulty placing me, and I find that there are few with whom I can really share the breadth of my experience.
And that suits me just fine. I am happy in my self-awareness and my obsessiveness and my over-thinking-it-ness. I am happy to live partially in my head, cataloging my observations of everyday life and squirreling them away for later reference. I am interested in people, in history, and in psychology, and my hobbies and potential career choices mirror those interests quite clearly – at least, to me.
I, like so many others, have been touched by a community that, until very recently, has been quiet but vibrant. I got by in middle and high school with my handful of similarly-minded friends and the knowledge that, if we existed, so must others like us. And those others certainly do exist; with the rise of technology, their voices are deafening, and the ability to reach out and commune with someone across the globe – someone I would have no chance of meeting in my day-to-day life – has been a great source of comfort.
And amongst those deafening voices, oh the diversity! The majority of fan work that I see is produced by women, and I’ve been exposed to interpretations of characters that bring forth a myriad of lived experiences. Through our one commonality, we are able to introduce a world of possibilities.
And that’s a good part of the reason I’m still around, as well. I yearn to see what the next generation of fans will create – because what are all the current and former creators if not fans of something that came before them? I am excited to be a part of that generation of fans, a part that continues to observe, to elucidate, to encourage, and to promote.