Let me get one thing straight right off the bat: I am a fan of being a fan of things. I adore being a fan of things. I love obsessing over inane details, I love the joy of the pointless theorizing and philosophizing, I love the breathless anticipation right before the opening credits start, or the new episode airs, or you crack the cover of the new volume, or you press “play” on the new album, and I love talking about it with other people who love it as much as I do. Being a fan is fucking great.
This isn’t about being a fan. This is about fandoms.
I think I’ve always known there was a difference between the two, but it’s never been so glaringly obvious or unsettling to me as it is right now. When I grew up, the only named fandom I was aware of was Trekkies, and honestly it seemed a little weird, but it was essentially just a specific offshoot of general sci-fi nerdery. After all, when I was a kid, both TOS and TNG had run their course, there were half a dozen movies, and if I remember right, Voyager and DS9 were airing concurrently—there was an awful lot to nerd out about, and if that’s the universe you wanted to get lost in, I could understand even if I didn’t agree.
In high school, I got to know Juggalos and Maggots, which were the first (and, at the time, only) named musical fandoms I knew. I wasn’t particularly fond of Slipknot or ICP, but I loved the music I loved and again, wasn’t going to let it bother me. To be fair, I didn’t really know how insane Juggalo culture was at the time, but I think for the sake of simplicity and relative brevity we can leave the Juggalos out of the rest of this argument, and just leave it at it didn’t bother me.
But now, I feel like being a fan, being a nerd, being a geek, has been taken to a whole new level, and it’s one I want no part of.
I think it’s only fair to pick on things I myself am a fan of. Trekkies as I knew them don’t really exist, and the new films haven’t exactly spawned a revival that I’m aware of, so let’s talk about Doctor Who and Firefly. I love the shit out of both of those shows, I’ll theorize for hours with anybody who will let me, and I’m almost embarrassed by how many obscure facts I know about each show.
Firefly is best known to nerds as Joss Whedon’s sci fi opus, cut tragically short by an unappreciative network, and best known to most other people as “that weird show all those nerds watch.” But even within the sect of nerds who loved and obsess over the minutia and write fanfics about where the story could have gone, there are the Browncoats, and they’re insufferable. Their entire personality becomes defined by how much they love this show that went off the air eleven years ago, and that would be annoying enough on its own if they hadn’t come up with an obvious contextual reference to use as an explanation for why they’re acting like such a damned spazz, spouting off random words in Mandarin and calling everything “shiny.”
Similarly, Doctor Who is the show that has never, ever not existed in England despite having a definite start date and lengthy periods of inactivity, and has in the last several years staged an extremely successful comeback. Again, I have spent hours on Wikipedia, trying to pull different threads together to figure out who, exactly, John Hurt is supposed to be, and I will talk about the inconsistencies of time travel and the far-reaching moral quandaries of reincarnation as posited within the show at great length if given the opportunity. But I will never, ever identify myself as a Whovian, because as much as I love the show, it is not a part of who I am. I am a nerd, and I science fiction because I am a nerd; if I stopped loving science fiction, I would still be a nerd, but if a Whovian stops loving Doctor Who, do they need to formally retract their status? Is there paperwork to be filed with William Hartnell’s estate? Who do you become? What do you become?
The same holds true for other fandoms, which I won’t pick apart because that seems unfair. But I will call out the ones I’m aware of, because I feel like the message is important. Justin Bieber fans, you don’t have to call yourselves Beliebers. One Direction fans, you don’t have to be Directioners. Smilers, you can just like Miley Cyrus and leave it at that. Little Monsters, just tell people you like Lady Gaga—nowadays, that’s shocking enough by itself. And all you Supernatural geeks, nobody else knows what the fuck a Saltgunner is, I saw the term pop up half a dozen times on Facebook and had to google for ten minutes just to figure out what the hell it meant, give it a rest.
Be who you are and like what you like, and like it as much as you want and don’t let me or anybody else tell you it’s wrong. Just don’t let what you like become who you are.