Whether it’s because they idolize a celebrity, band or book series, fandoms are slowly taking the world by storm. Yes, the dedicated individuals in said fandoms are often labeled as “obsessive”, but participation and involvement in fandoms can be very beneficial.
For anyone unfamiliar, the term fandom describes fans of the same subject as a whole. These fans aren’t your typical everyday-average fans, though. Fandom members usually take their dedication much further by plastering their walls with posters, dressing up as their favorite characters at conventions and even sacrificing sleep to stay up and blog about their interests on websites like Tumblr.
Each fan base, depending on the size, goes about being social and meeting with each other in different ways. For instance, local groups that share interests schedule occasional meetups around town. At these meetups, group members can bond over the topics they love in person. For those who aren’t so close, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter help keep long distance groups connected.
Something as simple as attending different concerts also helps fans meet each other, which was the case for Ms. Engdahl, Leesville High School history teacher. She is a prime example of how active participation in a fan base can spark lifelong bonds.
Engdahl is a huge fan of Widespread Panic, a “jam band” she first discovered in 1998. Originally, Engdahl became a fan of the band because of their sound and how they “never play the same show twice.” Now, a lot of the love she has for Widespread Panic stems from the people she’s met through their music.
“The people I have met over the years at shows or because we discovered a shared love of the band, are the reason why I am still a fan. Of course, I love the music, but my closest friends are people I have met because of the band, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without those friends. They are like family, and anytime I go to a show, there is the potential to meet someone who could become a lifelong friend,” said Engdahl in an e-mail interview.
Outside of the concert setting, larger scale meetups, often called conventions, are also constantly occurring around the world. San Diego’s Comic Con is probably the most widely-known convention of them all.
At Comic Con, and smaller conventions like it, people of all ages cosplay (or dress up) as their favorite characters and come together to celebrate with their fandoms. Sometimes, larger conventions even have special guests, giving fans the opportunity to meet their favorite stars and writers. Conventions are a great way to meet new friends and make lasting memories.
Another teacher, Mrs. Whitley, has been to more of these conventions than she can count.
“Before my husband dragged me into the comics scene, I would never have attended a convention,” said Whitley via e-mail. “Now, I go quite often – and for the most part, it’s fantastic. Though I’m usually stuck behind the table, selling his comics…occasionally I get to sit in on or (eek!) be a part of panels regarding comic books and literacy.”
Whitley admits that the experience is worthwhile, saying, “There are some conventions that are about more than just showing up, paying money, and roaming the halls for great deals, new books, and signatures. Many conventions offer panel discussions with your favorite authors about your favorite subjects, live bands and awesomely nerdy parties, costume contests, game rooms, and more.”
Teachers aren’t the only ones who attend comic conventions. Anna Phillips, junior and proud “Whovian,” tries to attend at least one convention a year.
“My attraction to conventions is cosplaying. I love seeing all of the costumes people make. I love buying fan merch and meeting new people,” said Phillips.
Similarly to Whitley, Phillips credits conventions for some of her most prominent and lasting memories.
“I will always remember conventions because of all the memories I make with my friends. The memories will be something I cherish because they stay with you forever,” said Phillips.
Really, the social possibilities and opportunities that come with being in a fandom are endless. Even away from conventions, “fandoms” are always connecting and meeting up, whether it’s through websites or through community groups. Regardless of how it’s done or what we’re fans of, there is always a support group close by to gossip with about both the struggles and highlights of being in a fandom.