With the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga released and devoured, fans of the films and the books are popping out of the woodwork to discuss the universe with just about everyone they can get in ear-shot. Fandom theories, speculation, disappointment, and excitement are certainly shared amongst everyone with an interest in that beloved galaxy, so very far, far away.
But, do you love Star Wars as much as I do? Is your Facebook cover Tatooine related? Is your BB-8 replica displayed on your shelf, or do you keep it in a toy box? Do you have a TIE fighter text tone?
I really like Star Wars. I find so much interest in the characters, the action, and the world in which the stories take place. I love it, but I have never read a Star Wars book, and my knowledge of what goes on in the universe outside of the films is slim. Which is why when I spoke to a co-worker about events in the novels, I really enjoyed hearing what he had to share. He explained certain storylines to me and gave his opinion on certain characters. It was incredibly interesting to learn about these bits and pieces of the world from his point of view, the view of a dedicated fan with a true passion for the stories.
In this particular situation, I didn’t feel put down or like my love for the series had been degraded by his. On the contrary, he seemed to legitimately enjoy sharing his ideas and feelings with me as a person, instead of throwing facts at my face to show me up as a lesser fan than he.
Unfortunately, not every fandom conversation is as smooth and fulfilling as that one. I’ve experienced and witnessed fandom bullying both in person and online, and as someone who has felt this way more than once, my guess is that it stems from the drive for fandom ownership and individuality.
Like most, a good chunk of my pre-teen and teen years were spent trying to find a niche for myself. I tried life as the punk rock girl, the intellectual, the comedian, and the creative, but for the longest time no one persona ever stuck. It was devastating to feel as if I was just floating by while everyone around me seemed so confident in who they were. Even into my college years, surrounded by all new faces, it took longer than I’d hoped for my lightbulb to go off, but I am so glad that it finally did.
I know who I am. I’m a fan.
Fandom for me is far more than my love for reading or my obsession with certain films, I’m also a fan of my friends, my family, my boyfriend’s cooking, and the way our dog tries to practice yoga with me every morning. I love things, people, and situations so much that I want to support them in any way I can. You could just as easily find me fangirling over a perfectly crisp french fry as a new episode of Sherlock or Ingrid Michaelson’s latest single.
I like to like things, and when someone asks me to step onto the fandom scale to discover just how much I like something, I feel threatened and small. I understand the desire for ownership over something you love, because in your heart you feel that you love it the most, but through the years I’ve been shown that there is a difference between loving something and owning it. This covers a huge spectrum of topics, but definitely applies to the fandom community.
If you love to cosplay, or attend quote-alongs at the cinema, or play at gaming conventions, it’s all amazing and such a rush to be around people with the same passions as you, but for someone as non-confrontational as myself, fandom competition is frightening. When I’m challenged I either become extra protective of my “ownership” or I clam up and throw in the towel at the first sniff of attack, because unless we’re sitting playing Kingdom Hearts I really would rather not attack anything, let alone a fellow fan who I’d rather be sharing stories and laughs with.
When the best part of loving something is the idea that you’re truly loving it wholly, it’s not worth it to ask someone to analyze their feelings and judge them against your own. Let’s all step off of the fandom scale together and into the convention center, online forum, comic-book store or movie theater with full hearts and open minds.