What is a fandom, anyways?


The positive and negatives of fandoms

By Lauren Paulsen, Senior Columnist

Most likely you have heard the term “fandom” before. If you don’t associate yourself with a fandom, when you hear the term you probably think of over-the-top, obsessive fans. In a way you might be right, true fans can be somewhat obsessive, but in reality fandoms are so much more.

Even though the general public tends to have a negative view towards fandom—uncertain why those people are so obsessed with a novel or other art form—I believe that fandoms are inherently a positive thing for people. A fandom is a community. It provides people with a way to interact and connect with other people who have the same interests.

This sense of community and the feeling of belonging can be very important to people. I have a friend from high school who had a tough time getting along with most people at school, partly because she was socially awkward, but also because she had interests that only a minority at school shared. She felt more secure in her fandoms and was able to express herself better there than she could at school. I think being part of these fandoms really helped her through high school and made her feel better about herself. Since we’ve graduated, she has become less shy, and I believe her fandoms really helped with this too.

A second reason that fandoms can be positive is that they allow people to escape real life for a while. It’s socially acceptable to watch a television program or read a novel, so why not immerse yourself in this world with other like-minded people to help relieve stress? I know a few other people from high school that did this because they had tough situations at home.

Many fans are also very creative. It is not uncommon for them to think up their own work, such as fanfiction or art, in connection with the original canon. As a writer, I used to find it difficult to accept fans using other people’s work in their own stories, because I thought that it was lazy. I was adamant that everything I wrote had to be original. I now feel ashamed to have been so narrow-minded. Although I still create my own worlds and my own characters, I have come to learn that writing fanfiction is really an art in itself. When a fan feels so strongly about a character or world that they want to make the character their own, it is a great honour to the creator. I would feel awed if anyone wanted to write fanfiction about any of my characters or worlds.

After having my eyes opened to the world of fandom, I can really only come up with one big negative aspect. This would be when fans immerse themselves too completely into the fandom, and their real lives suffer for it. It’s nice to live in a world of fiction (heck, I’m a writer! I live there a lot), but real life needs attention as well.

So when a fan can find a happy medium between their real life and fandom(s), then it really is a positive thing. We have people following sports, so why not fictional characters?