Author Dikshya Khadgi
Fandom – a cultural phenome
I love gushing over things that perks my interest. I love fandom spaces. From the time I have had access to the internet, I have been a part of many fandoms. Fandoms, mostly where the number of participants is women and queer people, are often mocked for being over-zealous and dedication but there is more to it.
Books, music, TV shows, pop culture, video games, fashion etc. Social media has made it easier for me to meet people who shares my interest and talk about it. This article is based off my personal experiences and things I have come to love about fandom spaces.
Fans who create edits, fan cams, and videos, fan theorists, fan-fiction writers, fan artists are the core of any fandoms and I am grateful they exist. I don’t know the exact sociological meaning of what a fandom means but from all my experience from being in fandoms, one thing is sure, it is a great experience. The whole affair is communities built upon common interest. It starts with liking something and getting into social media, finding people with similar interest and just gushing about it with each other, or if you are rich enough you go ahead and buy all sort of merchandise, attend concerts, signing events, etc.
I have been in fandoms that are considered too ‘girly’ or too ‘childish’ by real life people. The online spaces I have been is mostly female centric or queer in nature. I have tons of online friends from all around the world. Despite, the time zone, we somehow manage to talk about everything and anything. I personally prefer websites like Archive of Our Own-ao3(non-profit open source), discord, twitter, tumblr.
I find fandom spaces more feminist than other online space. Certain values of feminist principles of Internet such as access, agency, expression, public participation and movement building, economy, etc are the elemental part of fandoms in online space.
Fan culture, for the most part is seen as futile or a by-product of consumerism and capitalism but it is beyond that. Meeting people from around the world, learning to navigate spaces despite the difference in language, bonding over fictional characters, fandom inside jokes to sharing memes, overcoming cultural shock to understanding cultural difference, finding online friends (or sometimes love), fandoms for the most part are a constant that makes people help to go through their day-to-day life.
There is no space on the internet that practices and values anonymity like in the fan spaces. People uses all kind of names and display picture for their accounts. Anonymity is important to maintain fan identity. Sometimes the veil of a fan identity is needed to explore one’s own sexuality or identity that are otherwise criminalized or are at risk. Everyone is respected and their opinions are valued despite their anonymity unlike other spaces.
Fan culture can be a means of self-expression in the digital world. Often times, fans usually explore the character’s sexuality and queerness, kinks or project their own sexuality and queerness through the creative process. Many fans find it as a medium to express their creativity through fan fictions, fan theories, fan arts, video edits, memes, song covers, etc. These fans are relentless and dedicated with their artistry. They go wild with things they can produce within and beyond the world building that is canonically set. They come up with all kind of head canons and give their own unique twist while writing their fan fiction, painting their fan art or creating their song, video. They ship characters or sometimes even real celebrities for creating their end results. Fan theorists are the intellects of the fandoms, they have a lot of theories about everything and do intense academic research (most of the time, I don’t know if I should ask them to go to sleep or thank them for finding the easter eggs). If it is not creating, then there are fans who just consume whatever they get. So, in a way, its participatory.
There is ongoing alternative economic transaction that goes within fandoms. If someone wants personalized fan arts, fan fics, fan cams they can commission the creators. Often times, creators in the fandom produce commissioned work, or sometimes they have link to their kofi accounts where other fans can contribute. In a way this has been a great way to show support to the content creators in the fandom.
As much as fandom is a space for self-exploration, in recent days it has also been a tool for political activism, especially the kpop fandom.
In this era of social media, fandoms are accelerating the process of globalization. Fan accounts, because of their huge followings talk about global issues of racism, geo-political relation, cultural appropriation or socio-political happening around the world. Especially, in a way the kpop fandom has been doing a lot of effort to make the world a better place to live in. Fandoms in recent year has been a great space for movement building and philanthropy. There are a lot of examples of fandom organizing charity and donating it to causes, volunteering, building library, planting trees, distributing foods and other philanthropical acts to build an equitable world with their idols. Some examples of political mobilization and movement building can be: the role of kpop fandoms during the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, KPOP fandom against Myanmar military Junta, etc. Fandoms, especially KPOP fandoms are notorious for trending hashtags and making it top trends in order to make people aware of socio-political issues and hence are a very important force for political activism in the age of social media. #WhatishappeninginThailand, #Gazaunderattack, are some of the hashtags that were heavily amplified by kpop stan twitters in recent months.
Fandoms is someone’s place to escape, someone’s place to learn and socialize, gush about things that interest them and more. For me, it has been this constant that gives nuance to my life about different lives, things, places experiences from the comfort of my home through a screen.