Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fandom: What it is to me and how it has followed me through college?

By: Levena Lindahl

Fandom has gotten a bad rap over the years, and most people see it as something bad, full of nerds, or full of angry people demanding things on the internet.  I can’t speak for everyone, but this is my experience with fandoms, and how it has affected me both in college and in life. 
Hi, my name is Levena, and I am a fangirl.  (I am also going to Dragon-can soon, and I am so excited I could burst!)

I guess you could say I have been a fangirl most of my life, though I didn’t start in the usual venues.  There were no boy bands for me in my youth, but there was KA Applegate and Animorphs.  I was a book and author fangirl, eagerly awaiting the next book, the next series.  I was on a first name basis with the lovely ladies that worked at the Waldenbooks at our mall, and they always gave me ideas for the next thing I was going to read.  It was the same way with the librarians; every week I’d drag my dad through the doors and disappear into the stacks for an hour or two.
When I got older, I found Magic the Gathering thanks to a cousin of mine.  While I fell out around the Mirage expansion, I still played card games.  I ended up in Yu-gi-oh for a while (Thanks to the anime and my still unchanged affection for that show.  It’s a guilty pleasure, I blame Dan Green.)  I fell back into MtG during the Innistrad set, and had to essentially re-learn the game.  Who were these Planeswalkers?  What the heck were all of these new cards?  I never felt frustrated though, as Magic players are some of the most awesome people you will ever meet.  When I struggled, people offered me help without making me feel inferior.  When I was building decks, people offered me tips or even cards to help me become a better player.  The Magic fandom for me is community, welcoming and fun.

I also will admit that I am a huge fan of anime, thanks Toonami!  I quickly branched out from that limited selection and went out searching for new, better, more and with the baby internet of the time that was an often frustrating affair.  Special orders and I became good friends as my interest grew.  Now, I will admit, while anime has become more mainstream, people in the US still think of it as something for kids, or as something…adult.  There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground in people’s opinions.  Either you are the weirdo watching kids’ shows, or you are the weirdo watching adult- themed cartoons.  While this is kind of depressing, the fact that there is so much more out there is why I still tell people about the shows I watch.  Like vampires and some spooky themes?  Go watch Hellsing.  Giant robots your thing?  Gundam is there to blow stuff up for you.  And hey, these shows often have amazing plots, full of character development and really intense emotions.  I have used these themes in papers before, often describing modern takes on the age old stories of the hero, the quest, or even takes on Romeo and Juliet. 
Anime was my springboard into the wide world of comics and the Marvel and DC universes.  Deadpool was and remains one of my favorite characters ever.  I even wrote a paper for a fiction class about how Wade Wilson is a picaresque character.  (No, seriously.  It remains one of the coolest papers I have ever written in college.)  From Deadpool, I went into Iron Man, Hawkeye, and a bunch of the Marvel Universe.  When the Marvel movie universe started, I was right there with bated breath, anxious to see what happened.  While I admit to a more Marvel bias (Loki! EEE!), I do still enjoy DC works.  Granted, I am not a big fan of the Batman, but I really love the characters around him, especially the Robins.  They were always just so much more interesting to me than Bruce Wayne.  People tend to look down on comics and those who read them, but I find that weird and kind of sad.  Who cares if there are pictures?  Pictures are worth a thousand words as the saying goes, and people can’t seem to look past the fact that comics are pictures to appreciate a good story and wonderful characters.  A story is a story in my opinion.  Is Sandman any less amazing, intricate, and stunning for the fact that it is a graphic novel?  I think not.

I am not the only one who has taken their love of their fandom with them into what they did in school or even life.  Have you heard of David Tennant?  If you are, or know of a Doctor Who fan, chances are you have.  He was the Tenth Doctor, and when he was still in school he would often get in trouble for writing essays on Doctor Who.  (They were like his ideas for the show, fan theories and the like, how cool!)  He was often yelled at for this, but it didn’t stop him.  He grew up, kept his love as a Whovian, and eventually became the Doctor, his dream.  He even married the daughter of his favorite Doctor.  Now, that is some fan dedication.
Well.  This was a bit rambling, but I freely admit I get excited when talking about my fandoms.  It’s a thing.  People who know me know I am kind of quiet.  I prefer to stay home rather than go out, and I typically will find pets more interesting than their owners.  However, when I see a person with a shirt, bag, or something from one of my fandoms, I want to talk to them.  I will strike up a conversation, and I can’t even tell you how many friends I have made this way.  When I started at Trident, I didn’t know anyone, and had no friends in the area.  I felt overwhelmed and depressed; I didn’t know how I was going to get through the day, much less the semester in this sea of strangers.  I was sitting alone in the student lounge, watching people reunite with friends when I saw a person with a DS.  I enjoy playing a bunch of video games, console and handheld alike, and he was sitting alone too.  I got up, and when I got closer I saw the DS had a Kingdom Hearts cover.  (Yes, I LOVE Kingdom Hearts, I own every game and I know no shame.)  I started a conversation, and CJ became my first friend in South Carolina.  Thanks, bro. 

Basically, what I want to say is that fandom itself isn’t bad. Having things you like is important, be it sports, books, games or boy bands.  Do things that make you happy, and as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, I don’t see how it is something ‘bad’.  While there are people who can give fandoms a bad name, get to know the person or the subject before you pass judgment.  Who knows, you might make a new friend, or even get an appreciation of something new. 


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