You see I am into a lot of nerdy/geeky things but I find I have startlingly little in common, personality-wise, with most people of similar interests. The thing is, I am not really a “fan” of stuff. I mean, I enjoy Adventure Time and Walking Dead and other touchstones of nerd culture. But I don’t obsess about them; I don’t think making references to them somehow constitutes wit; I will not be crushed when they go off the air. (In fact we recently canceled our fancy cable and I don’t miss them.) I like a lot of this stuff but I’m not a fan of it, and I don’t really understand fans, and they get on my nerves.
Here are some disparate things that are leading me to this conclusion:
Case one, the Monty Python fans: One of the first times I vividly remember being seriously annoyed by my fellow geeks was back in college. I was introducing a new roommate to some people I knew. He was from Czechoslovakia (well, it had just become the Czech Republic) and his English wasn’t great and all my friends could do was make (lame) Monty Python references over and over throughout our conversation. At the time I thought I was just embarrassed by the cluelessness of my friends (who would rather share some pop culture in-jokes than interact meaningfully with this guy who who could barely follow their conversation without their badly mimicked caricature accents of Monty Python skits). But in hindsight I was less embarrassed by their “rudeness” than by the fact as I watched them mimic stuff they saw on TV I realized that they really were relying on old foreign comedy sketches to supply them with something worth talking about. Don’t get me wrong, the occasional reference or quote has its place. But these half dozen college students couldn’t get through a frigging conversation without breaking into repeated and extended recitations of sketches. I will watch Monty Python almost any time it is on, but I guess I’m just not a fan. I don’t think shouting “Ni!Ni!” is always inherently funny, and I don’t want a Monty Python screen saver or merchandise. So I guess I don’t automatically feel a bond with people on the basis of a shared appreciation of a show, movie or book.
Case two, a Facebook group: I ‘joined’ a Facebook group for fans of science fiction in my area. I get one or two emails notifying me of activity there every week. Usually it is someone gushing about a new science fiction film or TV show, or an old one now on DVD or Netflix, or a link to some piece of merchandise that slyly references Star Trek, Star Wars, Trek Wars, or Star Star. I get the sense that the other folks in this group are excited just because the new film is science fiction, regardless of how stupid or derivative the trailer looks. I have read a fair amount of science fiction, but I don’t read just anything and I have never, ever read single novel about Star Wars or Star Trek; I don’t know much of anything about Orson Scott Card (except that he makes himself sound like a real douchebag in interviews) or George R.R. Martin (except that he keeps writing some kind of soap opera fantasy saga and is unlikely to live long enough to finish it); I don’t assume Japanese animated films are going to be anything special. (OK, I watched Akira and Vampire Hunter D and few other films 20+ years ago; they were pretty cool). Sure I love reading fantasy and science fiction, and I probably set a lower bar for genre fiction and films than I do for non-genre stuff, but I can see I’m not a “real” fan because I don’t just get automatically excited to hear a new this or that is coming out. So I guess I am not a loyalist to a particular genre.
Case three, Joss Wedon (or is it Josh Wedon? Is “Joss” a real name?): I have heard from many people I know that this Wedon character was behind some great TV shows or something and so I should look forward to anything else he touches. In fact I can think of think of a couple of otherwise intelligent people who think anything he touches automagically turns to gold and shits rainbows. I don’t get it. It seems like they just outsourced their entire palate for what is clever, cool, or worthwhile to this one person’s imagination. Because I’m not all that interested in binge-watching the entire Buffy or Firefly catalog, they have practically nothing to talk to me about. It’s really weird. I mean, I do have a few directors and writers I really like, but I can admit that, say, some of Ralph Bakshi’s movies are kind of lame (cough, Cool world) or that some of Poul Anderson’s books are pretty flat (cough, Beyond the beyond, Winter of the world…). So I guess I don’t properly idolize any genre artists.
Is that what fandom is? Idolizing pulp/genre artists? Uncritical loyalty to a genre? A sense of belonging based on this shared fanaticism? Well then I’m not a fan.
And yet — I do enjoy “genre” entertainment. I do have favorite authors and directors whose work I’ll seek out. So maybe I’m a fan of the genres, just not of fandom?