Deconstructing the Nuances of Fandom Culture

In the contemporary marketplace of popular film and media, with its strong reliance on adaptations of comic book superheroes, best-selling young adult novels, and decades-old television shows, the concept of fandom becomes something of a complex, hybridized connection between fan consciousness, nostalgia, and the life extension of contemporary studio– and producer-driven media. Being a fan in this generation entails subscribing to a cult, that digs its roots among similar demographics all around the world, a community of like-minded individuals with a strong passion for a popular sensation. Now with the advent of social media, the fandom culture has grown, and it continues to grow as an essential part of the lives of these people.
    Fandoms are essentially what transform cinematic and literary works into multimillion-dollar franchises with millions of followers across the globe. The enormous power that these franchises have harnessed on account of their popularity, of shaping and moulding the lives of people, cannot be undermined. What is said and done by these popular sensations influence the sense of right and wrong in the people who follow it. It is subtle, and never shoved in people’s faces, which is also what makes the inadvertent teachings of these sensations so hard to monitor and critically accept. Belonging to a fandom has its own set of advantages.  They give rise to businesses; inspire art and imaginative extensions to already existing plotlines (ie. fan-fiction) and results in a different kind of social atmosphere.  Being in a fandom means being united in opinions, and internalizing the ideologies propagated by the said sensation. This is precisely where the hazards of being a devoted fan come into play. Even though the ability to criticise and separate the reel from the real should ideally be inseparable parts of every fandom, it is not always so. It lies in the fans’ critical faculties to be able to alienate themselves from the fan point-of-view to able discern all that is wrong with the said sensation. What is good for entertainment, doesn’t necessarily qualify as ideologies the impressionable young adults should embrace. This is a gospel truth that isn’t accepted by the more vehement fans.
    Take for instance, the fandom of the increasingly popular sitcom FRIENDS. It is imperative above all to recognize its popular success and its ability to provide a light hearted laugh when needed. But it is rather disconcerting how a huge demographic of young adults have overlooked the not-so-subtle prejudices in the script and subscribed to idolising characters and their relationships. To try and point out say, the homophobic and racist angles of the show, the lack of character growth, or toxic romantic relationships which have been so popularly idolised, would mean going against the ethics of being in a fandom like this. Conscious imitation or inadvertent impact- no matter what the medium is, idolising the wrong things would lead to very flawed ideologies and eventually hamper a teenager’s emotional growth.
   It is quite evident how widespread the impact of popular culture has become nowadays. It impacts us and moulds us in ways we can’t decipher, in subtleties, in silent admiration, in vocal appreciation. Being a part of a fandom also illustrates a world of black and white, a world of unconditional admiration, with no room for critical acceptance. Personally, I feel this has also become a trademark of how the current youth deals with their personal affairs as well, all in blacks and whites, with no space for a solace in greys. We have been conditioned to believe that blind following is the only genuine love, and reasonable criticism of anything you have claimed to love amounts to silent betrayal.
   To me, fandoms have been one of the fascinating phenomena in recent popular culture. Fandoms illustrate a world of never-ending curiosity, a world where a passion drives the best of artistic creations, a place where limitless imagination can find a home. To be able to believe so strongly in a world of make-believe is indeed something magical, only however when exercised with caution.


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