Having been a nerd and into fandom for a while, I’ve noticed a lot of trends come and go over the years. The ebb and flow of different media and how fandom has changed from a subculture to part of mainstream culture.
I could talk about the effects of that, but everybody’s read an article on that by some ancient geek who’s been there and done that and seen things change.
What I want to talk about is competition. The strive to be better than the other person. This competitive spirit is everywhere in society, not just in fandom. Who has the best toys? Who knows the most about a topic? Top 10 best people, etc.
The thing is, old geek culture used to be similar. Everybody was niche because there wasn’t really a way to talk about a given topic that you’d be interested in except to find these people and convene together into a space. Ultimately, it led to people seeing who knows the most. Even fan clubs with mailing lists. The only ones seeking out others to bond with were those who had such a passion for the medium that they knew everything about it, including spinoffs and random factoids.
This was fine, but then geek culture broke into mainstream. Suddenly tech icons were gods and scientists were superstars and fandom blew up into the spotlight.
Suddenly to like a thing, was to become a fan of that thing. To become a fan of a thing, you were now in that thing’s fandom. Even if you weren’t a content creator, you were exposed to the fandom, either online or through engaging with the thing online.
All of these new concepts of what fandom is tipped the pot on fandom. You didn’t have to be a rabid fan of the medium and knew every intimate detail, including side content. It was fine to just watch the medium or even just like it enough to know enough.
But that’s where the divide is. There are people who still think in the old mode of fandom: you must know every intimate facet of a medium you’re into. While a comfortable few fit into this category, a lot are the latter, they know only enough about a medium in that they like it and want to actively engage in it without knowing minutia.
This is where the arguments happen, the splits, and name calling. Those more passionate consider those who just love it as fake. And those who are passionate are considered unhealthily obsessed.
A lot of this flak has happened more publicly in the world of gaming. While girls have been always around gaming, their numbers were drastically less than males who play games. When gaming became popular, suddenly there was a threat. Women and girls who loved playing games simply because they were fun were seen as not ‘real gamers’ and real gamers were conceptualized as playing COD for hours to win.
This sudden hyper-competitiveness about fandom has to be the reason the stores have been dominated by cheap plastic crap, either blind boxed or just boxed in a special case. How can you be a real fan of this media if you haven’t gotten all of the small toys in a series?