Think of all your favorites. Television, movies, music, sports teams, celebrities, books, athletes, reality stars, animation, one thing they all have in common is fan culture. You name it; there’s a fandom for that.
Some call it an experience; others consider it a lifestyle. Regardless of where you fit in on the fan scale, there’s no doubt fan culture is popular and powerful.
Figuring Out Fan Culture
As the name implies, fan culture is made up of fans. Fans are those who are actively engaged and support something or someone they admire. We venture into fan culture territory when those fans begin to create, promote, debate, interact, and disseminate products and information related to their faves.
We’ve always had fanatics in our midst. In fact, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work Sherlock Holmes is credited with inspiring the first active fandom circa the late 1800s. Sans Internet, Sherlockians, or Holmesians as they were often called, conjured up some of the world’s first fan fiction and even held a mock funeral in 1893 when Holmes was killed off in the famous series. Fans were so outraged at the character’s death that Doyle brought him back to life and continued the series.
We can also think back to Beatlemania or maybe even to your own bedroom where you plastered every inch of blank wall space with magazine pictures of your favorite boy band, but fan culture these days is seriously amped up.
Technology has truly changed the game, and there’s some psychology behind why we take our fan level to frenzy.
Let’s examine just what draws us into the depths of fandom.
Social media has revolutionized how we interact with, well, everyone, but we have access to our favorites and follows like never before. Tweets, TikToks, Snaps, IG Live, etc.; content is literally in the palm of our hands all day, every day. And it’s not just static content.
Fan culture means interacting with that content online. It used to be (way back in the dark ages, the 90s! Gasp!) Interactions with traditional media meant you watched something, read something, or listened to something, and likely that was it. Perhaps a chat or two with some fellow fans, but Now, we can be in the mix.
You can send hearts to Halsey while she sings her new release live or write your own blog about The Bachelor so that everyone knows who should receive that rose!
Everybody wants to belong! In fandom, we often find our people. We enjoy socializing and interacting with people who share common interests, and it provides a sense of comfort and camaraderie.
There are also interesting psychological and physiological effects.
The Mayo Clinic tells us that social ties that accompany a sense of belonging help us feel protected and manage our stress levels. It can even be a positive influence on certain behavioral issues.
When we belong to a group, we feel:
- More resilient
- A better ability to cope with adversity
- Higher self-esteem
- More positive overall
Well, fandom gives us that sense of belonging. Whether online or in person, like-minded fans with similar interests share a community.
So if you want to wear fishnet stockings while throwing toast at a movie screen, you can, and there will be an entire room full of people who accept you and support you in doing it.
What’s the next chapter in your Fifty Shades fan fiction? What Eras outfit are you wearing? How’s that watercolor portrait of Han Solo looking? No matter your medium, fan culture allows for expression.
It opens opportunities for the perfect mix of interest, talent, and identity. Fans become inspired and often find their creative juices flowing when they focus on their fan culture icons.
Excitement and Energy
A stadium full of screaming fans can get the endorphins flowing! There’s something special about thousands of voices united in chanting, “I believe that we will win!” or singing in perfect harmony with Harry Styles.
There’s a feeling generated when you’re experiencing something you love in a large group of equally devoted individuals. Nearly 170,000 Comic Con attendees can’t be wrong. The annual event is perhaps the pinnacle of fandom gatherings, hosting nearly 2,000 activities and hundreds of panels, and autograph sessions.
Sometimes fan culture is just downright fun.
Fan Culture: We’re Here for It
When it comes down to it, fan culture provides so much of what we crave as human beings. Belonging, self-expression, feeling excitement, and of course, our newfound love for social media
Whovians, Beliebers, Potterheads, Trekkies, Cityzens, and everyone in the Beyhive, we know you’re not obsessed. You have dedication and passion and are driven by innate human desires that we all have; sometimes, it just manifests itself in a 25-stanza poem and a great cosplay costume.
Better stop reading now and go get started on that fan fiction.