Fandom is a strange sort of magic. Strangers united under the same umbrella, bound by a love of things that are not always as physical as they are ethereal. Bound by things that the mainstream once deemed as frivolous and wasteful but which found their way into the mainstream. Suddenly the mainstream embraced things they once made laughed at. Suddenly the mainstream was learning about superheroes, and space operas and video game characters. Suddenly the mainstream knew about all sorts of minutia that would make some old school fans’ heads spin.
And maybe it was when it all went mainstream that fandom changed.
Maybe it was when it wasn’t all a secret, a club, a love that was shared by just a few that things started to spin out of control. Maybe it was that now that more eyes were on things, that more people were into things that that world of fandom expanded, that the plates moved and what was once one continent fractured and became many. Suddenly there were more voices and more ideas and more people who wanted to see themselves reflected in these fandoms that they had just discovered. Maybe it was that.
Or maybe it was that the fans just didn’t recognize one another anymore and in that they didn’t recognize themselves.
And here we are, with fandom a prism that of late is showing more of its nastier side than anything else.
And it is nasty.
I suppose it always was.
Any time you get passionate people together you will find a bedrock of meanness and nastiness because people have to be right, even if it’s just for the sake of being right.
Fandom is a vast chocolate bunny with nothing inside.
Well, but that isn’t true.
There’s nothing unless we put something there.
We have been watching fandom fall for a good many years now. Watched as the bullies came in. Watched as the molesters came in. Watched as the racists and sexists came in. We watched as they started trying to mold the culture of gaming and comics and sci-fi and other fandoms to their small interests so it better reflected their tiny world.
Too many of us watched and never stopped them.
And you had franchises bend to the will of these trolls. Reshaping things so that all fandoms mattered and that those who had been watching from the sidelines, who had finally started to see themselves reflected in these fandoms were told that they didn’t matter, that they should accept what they got, and if they didn’t like it then they can get the hell out.
Now, ah, now you have perhaps the cherry on the top of it all as San Diego Comic Con, the granddaddy of the comic conventions, changed the game. There’s been a sort of, dare I say ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that the phrase ‘comic con’ was just part of the language of the culture. Con meant convention. A comic con was a comics focused convention. Easy. With so many conventions now though the brand identity that San Diego felt it was owed was suddenly in question. Chicago and New York suddenly had large comic conventions and other ones were popping up as well, both large and small. A word that many attributed to the San Diego show had been taken as the buzzword for all conventions. San Diego wasn’t THE comic con now they were A comic con. Losing the luster of something they felt they had started the convention did what they felt they had to – they claimed ownership of the name ‘comic con’ and thus they betrayed the very fans they claim to serve. They betrayed the very culture they helped to create.
San Diego Comic Con’s need to protect their turf, as they seemed to look at it, slit the throat of decades of fandom.
It is the symbol of the times.
A cynical move done to protect the moment and not the culture.
There’s an aspect of fandom that has always been freewheeling and loose. Based on fans doing it with fans and for fans. Even as the shows got bigger the fans were at the heart of it all. Once the corporations got involved, as they inevitably do, everything changed.
And here we are. We find we have sworn our allegiances to companies and corporations and not to the ideas that impassioned us to begin with. We are more interested in the brand, the license, the tag than we are in one another and in celebrating our fandom. We have lost sight of the stories and films and people that inspired our passion. We have gotten caught up in the nonsense that other fans and companies have created. Here’s a secret – ANYONE can create a fan festiva.
I know because I did it.
Will it be like Chicago, or New York, or San Diego, or any other big show?
And it doesn’t have to be like those.
It started as a celebration of fans and fandom.
It can be about it again.
We can start celebrating ourselves and our passions again.
We can cheer for one another and for people who realize how impactful fandom is.
We don’t need celebrities or big shows.
We don’t need corporate validation.
We need our inspirations, our passion, and each other.
We have watched as the worst of us have taken over, as the corporations have taken over, and we have let self-appointed tastemakers decide what is good, cool, and worthy.
It’s time we took our fandoms back and took it back to being about dreams and dreamers and the excitement that unites those two factions.
It’s cool if you came for the comics, or the movies, or the costumes, or the stars, or whatever and as long as you celebrate what you love, then awesome. That’s what it’s about and there’s room for you at the table, no matter what the hardcore old schoolers say. If you come with hate or with ulterior motives then friend, that’s fuel that’ll burn out real fast and you’re gonna plummet to the ground like every con and fake and the rest of us will still be here, shining from the joy that only magic can bring, manmade or otherwise.
Fandom is ours and if we let someone take it from us then that’s on us.
That’s on us.