When Fandom Fades
I read the above Tweet today and it got me thinking. I’m seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens tomorrow morning and I can’t muster up anything like the enthusiasm shown by Belghast. Furthermore I find this waning of passion is not exclusive to Star Wars but pertinent to other subjects I consider myself to be a fan of. In fact I have begun to come to terms with the fact that I’ve possibly stepped away from the entire fan concept per se. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the things that I’ve always enjoyed anymore, because I still do. I just don’t feel so enamoured with them. More to the point, the way I relate to them has fundamentally changed which beggars the question why exactly?
Fandom has always struck me as being a very passionate love of something. A love that is not always tempered or rational. It can offer boundless support but lacks objectivity. It also personalises your relationship with that which you adore. Fans will frequently ascribe a strong significance to their fandom and as a result feel they have a two way relationship with the object of their affection. All these factors have both good and bad connotations. Fandom builds communities, brings people together and can help people through difficult times and with personal problems. It can also distract an individual from other aspects of their life and foster a sense of entitlement. Fandom seldom deals with dissent or debate well.
Like music, fashion, literature as well as politics and religion fandom is often about finding an identity and a sense of belonging. All of which can change over time. Both good and bad experiences help us make sense of the world and we slowly learn the things we really cherish and consider important in our lives. In my case I have discovered that reboots, remakes and new interpretations don’t ruin our youth. I also genuinely worry about pop culture being used as a diversion from more important matters that the authorities don’t want you thinking about. Sadly fandom has become synonymous with toxic communities and death threats in recent years; things I do not wish to be associated with.
Nowadays I find that my love of specific things is far more honed. For example my affection for the movies of Ray Harryhausen is now driven by their significance in cinematic history, rather than purely wide eyed joy. I recognise that although the effects work was seminal, some of the movies did have weaknesses in other areas and I see no reason to get defensive about such criticisms. Again age seems to be a major factor. So much of fandom is transient or time and context specific. What is more important, seeing a rare cut of Game of Death with Bruce Lee or spending time with a family member who may not be around for much longer? Fandom in some ways is an indulgence and even a conceit. I’m at a stage in my life where I’ve realised that it doesn’t have to be about me all the time.
So returning to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I have relatively modest expectations regarding the movie. Although initial reviews are very positive, I do not expect to have the exact I had in 1977. Both the world and I have changed greatly since then. Furthermore I am fully aware that this is only a movie and as such, it can only satisfy and entertain to a certain level. Even if it is exceptionally good, I cannot see myself leaving the cinema claiming it to be the best experience of my life. But you know what? I’m okay with that. Life goes on and things move forward. Change is fundamental to life. If I remained static in my views, opinions and personal tastes I think I’d be far more worried.