Welcome to Fandom High.
If there’s one thing you should know about me as a person, it’s that I don’t like to get involved. I would much rather be an impartial bystander of a stranger than have people know me and be deeply involved in the fray. I might still not get the whole story (or even any of the story), but it does give me an interesting perspective.
And that perspective is – if there’s one thing you can liken fandom to, it’s the stereotypical high school of movies.
Any fandom, really. You can take it on a large scale – fandom in general, regardless of what it’s for (Harry Potter or the Saw films or anime pop) – or bring it down into a specific group of fans (for example: J-Pop -> Johnny’s boybands -> Arashi -> fansubbers -> the community of STORMY team fansubs. Not that I mean to be calling that group out on anything, I just happened to join the Aibakaland forums last month under the name of Coquelicot so they were the first that came to mind.) You will have the cliques, you will have the groupies, you will have the nerds, the jocks, the bullies, and the “cool” people (these would be the Big Name Fans), and the wannabes (who want to be the Big Name Fans). You will also undeniably have the drama, the wank, and the amusement that comes with the drama and wank.
My own high school experience was devoid of such a thing, but if you were to typecast me I’d probably still be an outsider. (Considering my high school was a “geek” high school, yes.) Not on the Honor Roll, nor on any Sports Team, and in my second term of sophomore year, despite joining multiple clubs in freshman year and helping start one in the first term of sophomore, I officially signed up for the Going Home club. That didn’t actually exist, but work with me.
And so individual fandoms have their cliques. Sure, they’re not necessarily intentional, and you’ll have people who spill across the boundary lines, but you can separate people by their specific preferences in that particular area of interest (such as that ridiculous Utada vs. Koda “battle” two years ago, or the one-sided wFL vs. Johnny’s one that’s been going on since w-inds. popped up on the music scene and the odd little Urata vs. Nissy fight that Raid’s always trying to wage) or what they contribute. The bloggers. The reviewers (who aren’t always the same as the bloggers). The media sharers. The translators (who are usually friends with…) The subbers/scanslators. The fanfic writers. The graphic designers. In the J-Pop fandoms, the lucky people who can actually go to the concerts/events being done. Then you have the people who try to do everything… and the people who sit back and enjoy it all or envying those who can do what they do.
Perhaps it’s just me and my own self-deprecating loner complex, but sometimes it becomes hard to join a fandom because it’s just so distant. Joining a new fandom can be akin to starting your first day in a new school – right before midterms.
That’s not to say that fandoms aren’t welcoming – you have the elitists and the bitches, but it’s generally not hard to find those people genuinely excited about welcoming a new cultist to the fold. But everyone who contributes something other than blind adoration to a fandom not only knows each other and but also knows the fandom better than anyone else. If you want to find out more about something, of course you should ask the people who know. But then it gets slightly discouraging, because everyone who’s not a douchebag wants to make a good impression, and looking like you’re trying to become a complete stranger’s friend because it’ll help you get ahead (and maybe get you special things from them too) is not “a good impression”. (Douchebags don’t care, but that’s why they’re called douchebags.)
As always, to get to know people, you have to participate. The people who will get to know you come naturally when you do. But there comes a point in every fandom where there’s nothing you can contribute that isn’t already there. If it’s something old, longer fans will dismiss it casually. If it’s something new, then it becomes a competition. If it’s something borrowed (and especially without credit), the anger (rightfully) erupts. And something blue… wait, where am I going with this?
Um. So. Two sorts of bad people in fandom – the overenthusiastic ones and the competitive ones. The overenthusiastic ones may or may not add anything more to the collective fandom than their blind devotion – but they’ll shove the blind devotion in your face until you’re blinded by it too – or just want to punch their lights out. The competitive people will make or share things, whether it’s videos, magazines scans, translations, news, or gossip – and fight to stand out more. They’ll make a battle of it even if the other side just doesn’t care.
Therein begins the drama and the wank… and then suddenly the fandom doesn’t seem so appealing anymore. Because unlike movie high schools, fandom’s supposed to be a concept where people with a similar liking for a certain thing can get together, have fun, and revel in said thing. Not a place you’re stuck in just because you somehow ended there and you want to get out as soon as possible in one piece.
Unfortunately, people aren’t going to change anytime soon, and it’s people that make up fandom of any sort. Some areas will always be daunting to head into, whether it’s because of the ridiculous amount of activity or because it’s just dead. (Why do they always have to be the fandoms that I fall into?) But if the world would work the way it was supposed to, things would be a lot less interesting.
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