Fandom and subculture go hand in hand in a sense. A Subculture is a group of people with a common interest. They are a smaller group in a larger culture. Fandom consists of a group of people who are fans or have an interest in a particular topic, genre or hobby.
When I hear fandom, I think primarily of Tv, Books and Movies. We use the term to sum up a group of people, “Harry Potter Fandom! JK Rowling releases a new book”. While theses groups are targets for marketing strategies, they are more of a community.
Almost every interest in the media at the moment has a following, a fandom. When the ABC show Scandal began, it had a cult following. In the show, those who work for the crisis management firm call themselves ‘Gladiators in Suits’. Not long after the first episode aired, did fans of the show identify themselves as Gladiators. Soon, Gladiators would live tweet the new episodes every week. The fandom grew and the shows creators and stars began using the term ‘Gladiators’ to identify the fanbase. This is an example of an organic Fandom. The creators of the show did not give the fans this term to identify with, it grew naturally. The network ABC has since used it in its advertising campaigns.
This sense of community has in turn created more content by collecting more fans. Every Thursday, ‘Gladiators’ live tweet the new episodes. ‘Gladiators’ can meet up and find others who watch Scandal. ‘Gladiators’ can share their theories, opinions and predictions on various social medias. The Scandal Fandom grows which has boosted the shows popularity and there for, more episodes are produced.
While I use the Tv show Scandal as an example, it is evident in other Tv Fandoms. Pretty Little Liars have their ‘PLLArmy’ who have a massive community on Tumblr and Twitter. Glee had its Gleeks, Doctor Who fans identify as Whovian.
Fandoms spread across all aspects of popular culture. Individual singers and actors have their fans who identify themselves; Justin Biebers “Beliebers” , Benedict Cumberbatches “Cumberbitches”. This is no different than BeatleMania in the 60s, it is naming your obsession so you find your peers.
In class we discussed “Crazy about One Direction” a documentary about the One Direction Fandom. An insight into the fans of popular boy band One Direction. Some could and have villinised or judged these fans. Calling them ‘insane’ or ‘pathetic’ however I see them as no different to Scandals Gladiators or Pretty Little Liars PLL Army. One Direction are up on a stage (literally) to be adored. They are a lifestyle. To marry one would mean you wouldn’t have to worry about money or school. To be one you be rich and adored by all. It is a fantasy. Let the fans live their fantasy. Just as the PLLArmy feel they are involved in solving the mysteries the characters have to solve. It is escapism and sometimes a welcomed escape. Towards the end of the documentary we start to see that some of the fans have tough home lives. They are responsible for younger siblings, they are bullied, have no friends. It is very easy to sympathies with these fans when you understand why they need an escape. By fixating on a boy band, however intense they may get, is their outlet. Their sense of community, of belonging.
Fandoms and their subject have a symbiotic relationship.
Fandoms produce content of their own. By being an active member of a fandom, you engage with the subject and build upon it. Fan art and fan fiction are works inspired by the subject of the fandoms. While they have sexual connotations, the majority of fan work is a simply the fans interpretation of the content. This could be seen as a manifestation of the fans own desires and creativity. Some could say Da Vinci’s work is simply fan art, inspired by the bible.
Once again, it is a shared experience within the fandom. Admiration and appreciation for your work could only be valuable from your peers. That is to say, like minded people understand your creativity and opinions.
Just as the many subcultures before, and the many to come, Fandoms give a sense of identity and belonging.