Much like the heroes that many of us follow, the journey from Fandom Neophyte to Fandom Veteran is incredible, exciting and full of danger. It is truly a hero’s journey in and of itself. For those who don’t know, “The Hero’s Journey” is a template or pattern of storytelling that shows up in everything from the ancient stories of Odysseus to The Hobbit to Pixar’s Turning Red. The Hero’s Journey as described in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero Of A Thousand Faces looks like this:
So how does this apply to fandom? First, I want to mention that almost everyone has a combination of both passive and active fandoms. You can be passionate about football and only casually interested in Star Wars. Or the Marvel Cinematic Universe lives in your blood, but you’ll sit through Lord Of The Rings if someone forces you. But the journey from passive to active fan and then from fan neophyte to fan veteran is an interesting one. So we start this journey where all of these stories start… With the Call to Action
Typically, I think, something in the book we’re reading, show we’re watching, game we’re playing etc.. calls to us. Something that we are experiencing speaks to where we are in that moment of our lives or we see a story that makes us feel powerful or magical because we connect to the characters. Something about what we are seeing or doing makes us FEEL seen and valued. Suddenly, we are no longer just entertained, we’re excited, we’re involved, and we want more. Thus begins the journey of seeking out more and seeking out others like you.
Crossing the Threshold
Do you remember when you joined your first fan community? Logged into a group chat where people were talking about YOUR THING? Maybe you joined a meetup or facebook group? Or did you go to an event. No matter how you did it, at some point, we all cross the threshold into the world of the FANS. It’s loud and numerous and overwhelming. It’s a wonder to realize that there are so many other people like you. And in the beginning, it can feel like coming home.
Meet the Mentor
If you’re lucky, you can often find a veteran fan to take you in and show you the ropes. Much like the breakdown of groups in a high school lunchroom, you’ve got to learn who’s sitting where, what the feuds are and how to navigate a new space. It’s around this time where you realize that this might not be the utopia you were expecting, but it’s still exciting.
Join The Community
This is the training montage. You’re learning quickly. Laughing loudly and feeling comfort and trust among the people who may just become your new found family.
The First Challenge
You’ve gone through the training montage of your fandom experience. Your mentor has shown you the things that they love. You’ve been introduced to your first community. You’ve observed the trials and the trolls that your new friends have fought and conquered in this new fandom realm. And suddenly, it’s your turn. Either you have been called out or you found a battle that you cannot ignore. Either way, you feel ready to ride into the fray!
The Work Continues
Whether or not you succeed in your first battle, the result is the same. You have now become KNOWN. Some other factions might start to see you as a challenge to conquer or target practice. Either way, their goal is to push you into silence.
The Abyss and the Dark Night of the Mind
The days you wonder if the fandom is worth it. You are challenged again and again. Battle after battle. You’ve seen friendships break. Trolls attack and maybe even a traitor or two in the community. What once brought you hope is now painful. There is no way that it is worth it.
Your mentor tries, but can’t quite convince you that it’ll all be okay. Your community wants to support you and you’re grateful, but maybe it is still time to hide.
But then you get a message:
“Hey. You don’t know me, but I wanted to let you know that your fic really meant a lot to me.”
“Thank you so much for standing up to that person. The fandom can be a trash-fire, but it helps knowing that people like you are around.”
“I’m OBSESSED with your fanart. Please tell me you have t-shirts or posters!”
Suddenly you realize that it’s not just the movie, the book, the tv show, the sport that is affecting people, you are too. In your tiny sphere of influence, your work is special to someone, maybe many someones. And maybe the positivity that you get from the media, the sport or the activity and the positivity that you put in the world as a result is more important than the negativity that you receive in between. Maybe it is worth it to get up and keep on going.
You’re ready to teach what you have learned. And keep on learning yourself. It might even be time to find your own mentee or take an even bigger leap, and move on to leadership yourself. And THAT is its own journey.
Fans. Sometimes, we get to be our own heroes.
The next post in this series will be about Fandom Leadership. In the meantime, if you like this blog and/or the Interspectional Podcast, please support our Kickstarter to help us continue this work: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/interspectional/interspectional-season-2