The argument for fandom

How fan communities create positive spaces for everyone


Fandom. Sometimes it feels like a dirty secret, instead of something that’s actually a truly fulfilling part of my life. 

A fandom, sometimes short for fan kingdom or fan domain, is a community – usually formed online – that rallies around a TV show, movie, book or really, anything. If something can have fans, there’s probably a fandom for it. Fandom artists, fan fiction writers, cosplayers, musicians, filmmakers and other kinds of content creators, as well as the people who participate in the fan culture, are what make a fandom thrive, because it is, at its core, a content-based community first. 

I’ve been a part of various fandoms since I was 14. For me, contributing to fandom is a way for me to do some of the things I love.

With fanfiction writers always looking for editors, I used my affinity for copyediting to not only build lasting friendships but to also hone my editing skills. My friends, who are artists, writers and more, all say that being a part of a fandom has given them an opportunity do something they love, while also learning how to get better at it. 

As a result, fandom allows artists to practice their crafts and it’s tough to argue against a community that encourages the creation of art. 

Fandom is also a way for me to meet people with a common interest – I have many friends whom I’ve met because of a shared love of Harry Potter and the Dallas Stars. You wouldn’t think a hockey team and a book series would be all it takes for a friendship to blossom, but here I am to tell you that it’s true. These friendships go beyond the fandom; the friends I have made around the world are as important and as close to me as the friends I have at home. 

The community that fandom creates is about more than just the media we consume; the relationships people make often run deeper than talking about whether or not Hermione should have married Ron. I’ve been witness to dozens of crowdfunding campaigns start and be fully funded by a fandom, for everything from paying for school to paying for healthcare. All of this happened because a group of people thought it was important to them and to the world, and they wanted to do something about it. 

When I first started contributing to these communities, I was an innocent 14-year-old with a very shallow understanding of my surroundings and the media I was consuming. 

Since becoming a part of various fandom communities, I’ve learned to be kind and patient with people who are learning how to live their lives. I’ve learned the value of minding my own business and I’m learning how to be less judgemental. Most importantly, I have unlearned problematic behaviours – for example, since joining these communities, I very quickly learned my understanding of gender was not inclusive and often led to oppressive thinking and actions and I grew from that. 

As well as creating friendships and teaching valuable life skills, fandom communities will often discuss and debate various aspects of a show and consequently demand better from creators. For example, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and director of The Avengers, Joss Whedon is equally revered and despised for his white feminist art. Some argue that he, at the very least, creates strong female characters; others say that his version of a strong female character fits into a very strict scope of gender and beauty, and isn’t diverse enough for our time. 

This fandom controversy inspires the voicing of various opinions, often leading to more diverse and equitable books, shows and movies. For example, after pressure from these fandom communities, Joss Whedon admitted that Buffy The Vampire Slayer could have included more underrepresented communities.  

Fandom is a positive thing – it isn’t just about porn and nerds in basements. These communities deserve to be taken seriously because the art and relationships they create are just as valid as any other. The art that comes out of fandoms takes an equal amount of work, skill and talent as any original content creator. 

Likewise, the way some fandoms mobilize to make the world a better place through activities like fundraising or demanding better from influential media creators is the kind of engagement that leads to positive change. That means something far more than a shared interest in hockey teams. 

Fandoms create positive, welcoming spaces for culture and community on a global scale. I’ll stand by that any day. 

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