This month marks four years in fandom for me. I've been thinking a lot about fandom lately and so I thought I'd write about what it means to me.
I stumbled into fandom after watching The Phantom of the Opera. I went online to find more Phantom stuff and found Gerardbutler.net, and then the fan video section of GB.net. The videos absolutely blew my mind and I was hooked. While I'd been a fan of various books or movies before (The Lord of the Rings in a huge way) I had no idea there were communities for them, or that fan works existed. After discovering GB.net I watched most of Gerard Butler's movies. I discussed the Phantom and its music to death. I watched a ton of videos and happily engaged in conversation about them with the creators and other viewers. I took the plunge and became enthralled with vidding. I helped in the creation and maintenance of a current list of videos posted to the site. And then I found LiveJournal and was tickled pink to discover that the fannish community I loved extended beyond the Phantom to other TV and movies. Four years later I'm still in fandom, even though my interests have shifted a little. I'm a little bit amazed at just how much vidding and fandom has meant to me. It's provided me with countless hours of entertainment, introduced me to amazing people and taught me some very technical skills. If fact, I'm reasonably sure that I would never have attempted video editing and building a website, or seriously considered learning to code Ruby, PHP and SQL databases if it weren't for fandom. I've learned a lot about the computer from all of those things, even though I still haven't actually learned to code, all in the name of sharing my thoughts with others.
I view TV and movies as the literature of our time. People don't read like they used to, so now we tell our stories visually. I still love reading because it's such a different experience than TV or movies, but I really do love the visual aspect that the camera brings to a story. I have loved vidding in part because it has taught me to 'see' the visual components to building a story. How to cut around within a scene, how to use motion to build momentum, how to use the framing of your characters and set, how color and light affect mood, how one scene flows into another, the importance of music to the mood, the beauty of using effects to layer meaning into your story, and the incredible satisfaction that comes when your music and clips meld perfectly and create a response in your viewer. There is a whole visual language in TV and movies that vidding has encouraged me to understand and I think it has deepened my appreciation for the art of visual communication. I'm not saying I'm a master vidder or cinematographer, but I'm learning. We all learn how to critique literature in school by writing essays, but we don't learn how to critique film, or appreciate its subtlety. Vidding has taught me how to do that through experience. It's also taught me to evaluate character and motivations. In order to vid a character you have to understand them, and then be able to clearly communicate your thoughts to your audience. It's a different form of discussion than the essay, but just as expressive to me.
I love that other people love this stuff as much as I do. Kassrachel included part of a poem by Thomas Lux in her Why I Joined The OTW post that says: "You make the thing because you love the thing / and you love the thing because someone else loved it / enough to make you love it." That's what fandom is to me: love. Love for our shows, love for vidding and writing and web design and photoshopping, love for creativity and expression. Love for each other. Enough love to reach out to a stranger and patiently teach them something complicated and brand new. To generously share their knowledge with others for the greater good. To go out of their way to do something for others simply for the sake of being nice. Fandom is full of smart women who know stuff and do stuff and I love that. It's something I don't really get anywhere else. It's full of people that think outside the box, who have redrawn the box so that everyone gets to have a voice. I have never met these people in person but it is still a real community, one that I'm proud to be a part of.
I've been watching Us by Lim lately because fandom is talking about it, and so is the press. It's a very detailed piece of fandom meta that I'm only really starting to get after several views. At first I didn't like the "hand drawn" quality she gave the footage because it made it difficult to recognize the different sources used. But I've come to love it because that's how I see us enjoying media; through a filter where we add our own context and ideas. It's a superb visual metaphor for what we do. I also love the variety of sources she includes, and how at the end she plays "Six degrees of fandom" with them, drawing lines from one source to another to another. From Patrick Stewart in X-Men to Star Trek: The Next Generation, to William Shatner in Boston Legal with James Spader, to James Spader's character in Stargate, and so on. It's how we interact with media, following our favorite actors or directors around through different roles and projects.
And then at the end the widespread removal of the masks - That's us! We don't just idly sit back and absorb, we talk back, we challenge, we twist it around and we support. I'm not saying that Our Way is the right way to respond to media and the world around us, it's the fact that we do respond at all that's important. "They" aren't always right, whether it be the government, big media companies, religion or society at large. Part of being a free thinker is thinking about the things we take for granted, questioning them and creating something different when we see the need to, and we the fans do that in our small way. That may be elevating fannish works to more than they are, because a lot of the time it's just fun stuff. Another character evaluation of Starbuck and her flaws isn't going to change the world. But maybe we see the world in our shows, and understanding them better helps us understand ourselves better.
At first I wasn’t sure about the lyrics, in particular the line “They made a statue of us”. I didn’t like the idea of ‘Them’ celebrating fandom for us. But then I realized that Lim may have been using the lyrics to be satirical. ‘They’ made a statue, ‘They’ come to stare, ‘They’ give us a talking-to for living in a den of thieves. The lyrics actually fit really well. The media thinks they’ve just discovered us, their hot new story, and the Powers That Be (aka The Man) are after us for intellectual copyright. They act like it’s all new and all about them, but we know better. We’ve created this community that we love over years, even decades, and it has grown exponentially. We’ve carved a place for ourselves out of space / time and have thrived. We're creating a future for ourselves too, one I expect to last a very long time.
So in the end I want to say a big Thank You! to all the fans out there. To each person who sat down and made a video or wrote a fic or created an icon, even if it’s just one. You’ve made my time online and in fandom so very exciting and rewarding. And another big Thank You! to all the fans that leave feedback on the fanworks they like, whether they be mine or anyone else’s. The feedback and conversations create such a vibrant community, and it’s so much fun to share this stuff with others who love it like I do!