Fandom and genre don’t always coincide. You might be addicted to a lot of stories, characters or even just the aesthetics of countless disparate works.
The genre isn’t a barrier. It might be what makes us take the first step – the so called point of entry – but at a certain moment our passion for a fandom transcends any label and even leads us to experiment different types of content (genres) and format (video games, TV series, cinema, novels, comics…).
Fan engagement is built on psychological mechanisms that concern the realm of imagination on the one hand, and the emotional processes on the other.1 Being part of a fan community means that you’ve passed the threshold. You already feel connected enough to the material in a way that gives you sense of nearly ownership over that work. You might pluck your favorite character from its Dramatic Novel surroundings and drop into a Steampunk universe.
And that’s when it happens: when you start interacting directly with the content you will most probably tweak the genre. Using that flexibility gives you the total freedom you creatively need to develop and maintain your relationship with the characters, certain narrative moments or a whole universe.
As Henry Jenkins has so clearly contrasted, the fan culture has gone from a stage where it was deeply marginalized to an age where fan participation is not only accepted and encouraged, as it is “increasingly central to the production decisions shaping the current media landscape”2.
However, being part of a fandom doesn’t always just mean that you have a whole new world to explore, a parallel universe to escape to. You can become addicted to writing or reading fanfiction, to creating or watching fanvids or even listening or playing some very specific music genres (Wrock, anyone?).
If you allow yourself to get involved, to engage with the different components on a systematic basis, it can become an integral part of your life, sometimes with strange consequences.
Have you thought about the emotional baggage you suddenly attach to you?
We’ll talk about that on the next installment of these series.
1) JENKINS, Henry and SHRESHTOVA, Sangita: “Up, Up and Away! The Power and Potential of Fan Activism”, http://henryjenkins.org/2012/07/fandom_is_built_on_psychologic.html
2) JENKINS, Henry “When Fandom Goes Mainstream…” http://henryjenkins.org/2006/11/when_fandom_goes_mainstream.html