Alice Oseman discusses why fandoms are magic & don’t deserve the hate they get
Fandom gets a terrible rep. In most media, fangirls (and fans in general) are portrayed as awkward nerds at best, and sociopaths at worst. While being a sports fan or a gamer is seen as perfectly normal, fandom is too often seen as silly and immature. It’s a double standard rooted deep in misogyny.
I wrote my third novel, ‘I Was Born for This‘, to show that fandom can be a magical, inclusive place where people can find friends, joy, and comfort. Its fangirl protagonist, Angel, finds this in the fandom of a boyband called The Ark, and while other parts of her life aren’t too great, she keeps an upbeat, positive outlook through her passion for The Ark.
Writing this novel made me consider the multitude of ways that fandom is a magical place, but here I’m going to attempt to cut it down to five. So, without further ado, here are my five reasons fandom rules:
1. It’s an incredible place to make friends
In ‘I Was Born for This’, Angel struggles to find anyone in her daily life that she can connect to. But through The Ark fandom, she meets her best friend, Juliet, on the internet, and talks to her regularly.
Fandom spaces are ideal places to make close friends because you obviously share a big similar interest and are likely to share some other interests too. And there are so many different ways to meet people in fandom. There’s everything from following and interacting with other fan accounts, to joining group chats on websites like Twitter and Discord, to attending real-life fandom meet-ups and fan events.
2. Fandom creativity
What many critics of fandom don’t realise is that fandom is a hugely creative space. Artists, writers, gif-makers, video editors, musicians, and more can all find a creative outlet in fandom. Fandom content is almost always focused around the artwork, writing, and creative output of its members, and you only have to spend a few minutes searching around the fan art tags on Tumblr to see how much incredible talent there is out there. Many artists and writers focus entirely on fan art and fanfiction. There is certainly a unique joy in making creative work about characters you already know and adore and a similar joy in seeing and reading about them.
For many artists, creating fan art can launch their careers! Artists amass hundreds of thousands of followers by posting fan art, which can lead to being commissioned for original work.
Many people argue that classical art has always been fan art. After all, classical artists used to paint scenes from the Bible!
3. A safe place for LGBT+ teens
Fandom has for a long time been a safe space for the LGBT+ community; LGBT+ teenagers in particular. Most people know that fandom ‘shipping’ exists, but fandom’s involvement in LGBT+ issues often goes far beyond that. Fanfiction offers room to explore queer relationships in a safe environment. Online fandom spaces allow closeted teens room to express who they are safely. And because fandom is such an accepting place for the LGBT+ community, fandom is a good place for LGBT+ teens to find friends who are also LGBT+, which many people find more difficult in real life.
4. A place for genuine critical analysis
Alongside fandom’s creativity, there is a whole other area in which many people become interested – critical analysis. Many fans enjoy getting together, online or in real life, to discuss and analyse elements of the series, movie, etc, that they’re a fan of. This can, of course, go too far – ‘I Was Born for This’ explores what happens when this level of critical analysis is applied to real celebrities – but often it’s a place to use the very skills we were all taught in classes like English literature and history. Reasoning, analysis, in-depth critiques of characters – all of this is a big part of fandom and is something that many fans find fascinating to write, read or both.
5. Fandom revolves around passion and enjoyment!
Most importantly, fandom is, by its very nature, focused on passion and enjoyment. While the occasional negativity does crop up, it’s mostly a space for expressing your love for something, be it a TV show, a film, a book series, a band, or anything else. It’s a place for people to go when they want to take a break from the hardships of real life, and it brings millions of people comfort and joy every single day.
So the next time someone tries to argue that fandom is a sad, pathetic place, remind them of some of the reasons above. Fandom is magic and deserves so much more than the bad rep it gets!
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