Focus on the fandoms: how unique interests create community

Every day, many people around SVSU dress themselves in garb or adorn accessories that expresses their connection to a certain interest or activity.  Their technology may have a case that has the face of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock or even the logo of a sports team.  They may have dishes or cutlery that have a comic book super hero or a Disney character on them.  I myself have paraphernalia of many different sorts, including a “Pokémon” and a “Doctor Who” belt, Doctor Who shirts, a “Hunger Games” cup, posters and several different items expressing my connections to an interest or hobby.  These people not only have their merchandise, but also their own specific jargon that they find humorous or insightful, though it leaves outsiders confused.  What is going on?  Why is this happening?  Are these people insane?

Well, yes, a good number of them are, but in a good, kind of bonkers way.  The respectable, fun kind of insane, because these people are all individuals who identify themselves with one or several fandoms that exist in our young culture.

What is a fandom?  Well, it is a collective term for multiple people who all share a common interest or activity, which in turns creates an organized subculture.  The people of these fandoms usually enjoy affiliating with each other and discussing their interest to a point where they begin to feel like comrades.  They know more than just superficial, major details of their fandom, and have dug deeper to understand even minor details.

Typically, fandoms overlap, and people interested in one fandom will usually be interested in at least one other as well.  For example, I am a part of the “Doctor Who” fandom and know plenty of people who love it as well, and a good number of those people are also within the “Pokémon” fandom.  Anime fandoms usually overlap as well, as do several others.

Fandoms are important to recognize and understand because, in college, fandoms are typically a driving force in the creation of relationships between certain people.  Fandoms typically gather in a setting like a college, and they already have great conversation topics between each other because they are a shared interest.  If two people share the same fandom, then that is the ice breaker if the two people become aware of the shared fandom; they just talk about whatever they similarly affiliate with, and the awkward part when two people first meet is easily skipped over or forgotten.

At SVSU, there are plenty of fandoms that have even been the inspiration behind the formation of multiple RSOs.  MTG@SVSU, the Magic: The Gathering RSO, meets once a week.  Music ‘n Motion is a West Coast Swing RSO that revolves around the fandom of their particular dance.  The Zombie Defense Council is entirely based around the collection of fandom of the zombie-themed movies, shows, literature, et cetera.

There are even groups inspired by gathering multiple fandoms in one place, such as Press Start that brings together many different video game fandoms and enthusiasts.

Now, the term “fandom,” according to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, was first used in 1903 to refer to all of the fans of a sport, but nowadays the term is used to describe aspects of popular culture that individuals associate themselves with.  I’m focusing on the more geek-side of the modern usage of the word, but in a broader sense, it does apply to other subcultures, such as sports enthusiasts, celebrity-followers and even activities like CrossFit.  Basically, any group that is organized and full of enthusiasts or fanatics that have given up time and energy to go beyond a superficial understanding of their interest is a fandom.  And we see many groups like that here at SVSU.

But it’s also fascinating to see how these fandoms sort of assign people to certain reference groups in college.  Those who share a certain fandom seem to be more comfortable around each other, and usually look to each other more for quality time and entertainment.  I sometimes ask myself, do these people share the same fandom because they are similar to each other in multiple ways?  Or is it the fandom that has made them become similar?

Because they are similar.  They have similar humor.  They have mutual jargon.  They have shared entertainment strategies.  Sometimes I like to just observe a fandom that is entirely foreign to me and listen to everything I don’t understand, even though it really confuses me.  And then I wonder how people think of me and my fandom when I slip into jargon-phrases like “Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey” or “I’m gonna O-Ring your face,” and then other members of my fandom start laughing or joining in on the insane babbling.

Fandoms are important, though, especially in college.  Falling in love with the university, and also in love with the family-like relationships that come from these fandoms, is sometimes very essential to a successful college career.  Without the reference group that is a fandom, individuals would feel like they don’t belong or feel lonely because they can’t share something that is very important to them.  So, I encourage any of you that feel as though you are a part of a fandom to find others that share that specific craziness and be crazy together, geeking out about your fandom until you can’t anymore.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 17th, 2014 and is filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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