From Potterheads to Thronies: what are fandoms all about?

Photo by Mikhail Nilov:

When watching a huge sporting event on television, you’ll notice some similarities among the audience: they all wear the same kind of uniforms, sing the same chants, and hold homemade banners with encouraging messages dedicated to their favorite team or player. It’s the same when you’re at a concert, watching Harry Styles perform his latest hits: the audience signs along while sharing the joy of being there to see their beloved performer live. While these two audiences have different demographics, they have one thing in common: they feel the same kind of emotions which serve as proof that nothing is more powerful than a fan.

The power of fandom culture 

Fan culture is not new – its origins link back to the 1960s when the Star Trek fandom was born. But things have never been as intense as they are now, and it all has to do with the digital age. The Internet offers plenty of opportunities, allowing fans to create safe havens where they can share their love for their favorite artists. Modern fans control the charts and are the ones to decide whether a show stays on the air or not. They have taken social platforms by storm, building meaningful connections and redefining the word ‘social’. But the power of fans goes beyond that. Think about the BTS Army, the fandom of the Korean group BTS which creates catchy songs while also driving social change. In 2020 alone, BTS’ fandom has launched valuable campaigns, succeeding in raising millions. They have run multiple charity projects with only one goal in mind: to make the world a better place. And there are many other similar examples of fan communities that fight for what matters.

Fandom is linked to human evolution, which hardwires people to look for repeated experiences and those with similar interests and passions. The human brain is designed to seek connection with outside entities. Put simply, when you like something, wanting more of it is only natural. According to psychologists, belonging to a fandom helps teenagers define their identity while providing a sense of purpose. A weak sense of belonging is linked to depression, but knowing that someone cares for you makes it easier to bear life’s hardships. And joining a fandom is a good starting point, as it builds a common ground in a world that’s otherwise divisive. Connecting with people with similar interests benefits your mental and emotional health because it offers a sense of security. Besides, fandoms promote creativity and stimulate your imagination, allowing you to express yourself freely. For instance, cosplay can be creative and fun, especially for fashion enthusiasts.

How fans show support for their favorite show or artist

Harry Potter. Game of Thrones. Squid Game. Stranger Things. It’s impossible not to have heard of them, as their popularity broke the Internet! The exciting plots and impressive characters appealed to many, and the fandoms of the series were soon born. Potterheads were the ones to shape today’s internet fandom through all the fanfiction, artworks, and conversations on Harry Potter-based forums. But these aren’t the only way to express love for an artist or movie series. 

Merchandise also has a deep meaning for fans and symbolizes their dedication and invaluable support. It can range from albums and wearables to homeware and toys. Pop culture collectables, for instance, are an essential part of fans’ lives. They express love for a particular series or artist and provide a sense of nostalgia that brings you back to the moment you fell in love with them. But above all, merch is about connection and can help you find your people. By wearing a T-shirt with your favorite series at a social event, there’s a high chance of making friends with someone who belongs to the fandom, which is a heartwarming experience. And let’s be honest, is there any fan who wouldn’t like to have an Original Pop in Box? We bet not!  

The darker side of fandoms

On the bright side, fandoms have the power to make a change in the world. But that’s not always true. The reality is more complex, and fandoms also have a darker side. For instance, wars between fandoms and cyberbullying are pretty common, and this toxic behavior can have serious consequences. While disagreeing with individuals on the Internet is fine, hateful language and bullying tactics are very hurtful and detrimental to someone’s mental health. There’s a fine line between being a fan and becoming obsessed with your favorite artist. 

Showing support to an artist is great because it lets them know their work is appreciated. But in some instances, fans forget that celebrities are humans, too, and write hurtful comments and create unnecessary drama that sometimes even leads celebrities to drastic decisions like deleting their social accounts for a while. Fans need to remember that celebrities deserve respect, and there’s no better way to express your love towards an artist than setting limits on their behavior. Genuine ardor and obsession are very different concepts, and the former usually fuses fiction with reality and affects someone’s quality of life. The goal is to keep a healthy perspective on things and remember why you have joined the fandom – to share the love for your favorite artist, TV show or film, and be a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s important not to let these sentiments get lost, regardless of how much drama unfolds.

Fandom culture isn’t the problem; human behavior is

When hearing about fandoms, many tend to label them right away as something bad. But it’s worth noting that the fandom isn’t a problem in itself. There are people in fandoms who care about others and are there only to share their love for art. But others’ behavior can be unhealthy, and sometimes even dangerous. So no, there isn’t anything wrong with being a fan as long as you don’t let it get too far. Being a bully is wrong. Getting too obsessive is wrong. Not respecting another human being only because they are a celebrity is wrong. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that behind the screen, there’s another human being who has feelings. That said, belonging to a fandom is a beautiful thing that comes with multiple benefits and can help you differentiate who you are from who you were taught to be.