Princess Twilights essay

Fandom Sociology: The Mechanics Behind the Beast

By Princess Twilight

Please note: The author intended this as a humourous look at fandom. Her tongue is firmly planted in her cheek and she does not mean to say this is the definitive tome on people found in the fandom. It's for fun!

The online fandom is a unique form of socialization. The majority of the population in the world doesn't have this added area in their life. Behavior is largely learned from family, friends, school, work, and by a higher power (government, officials, etc.). But then there are the few of us who deviate from the mode of behavior by getting caught up enough in what the rest of the world sees as simple entertainment that they leave behind after the credits roll.

To us, it's not as simple as entertainment, but a form of escape. Especially with shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel the Series, Alias, Firefly, Lord Of the Rings, and Stargate SG1 (the list goes on...) where the primary draw is fantasy, horror, amazing abilities, things we do NOT have in our own lives.

That doesn't mean the basic rules of sociology don't apply to us, but we have special circumstances created by the computer revolution that allow us a certain anonymity that we've never had before. We're not necessarily held accountable for our actions --- so there are other forms of sanctions. Exile, gossip, rumors, pointed fingers, flamers, outright hostility and constant monitoring... we've all seen this in our lives and it takes on an added dimension when THEY (those who apply the sanctions) are anonymous themselves and you're nothing more than text on their monitor in their mind. Which is why we all divide into sections inside of fandom.

Sections can be easily labeled as subcultures. There are the shippers who separate themselves because of their one true pairing, and there are those who think they are above shipping, who discuss the intellectual aspects of the show. Some are purely there to be entertained.

A few of the main personalities:

Diva (aka BNF): These are the "stars." The people we respect, write a lot, are very vocal with their opinions, or maintain websites that have somehow changed the face of the fandom. Everyone wants to fuck 'em, everyone wants to be 'em. These exist in our every day life, so why wouldn't they exist in online fandom?

Wanna Be Divas: These guys mimic and copycat what the Diva does. Simply, even with the anonymous quality to the internet, they haven't been able to overcome their wallflower qualities and stand up with their own opinions and garner the attention they'd like to have.

The Rebel: This person is a bitch, but you probably like her. She's been mouthy to the wrong people, written/drawn/built/said something that didn't quite fit in with the ideal of the fandom. Often "The Rebel" doesn't agree with conformity, even if the price of rebellion is social collapse aka a bad fucking century. I like this person nearly as much as I like the artist.

Lurkers: Like "Wanna Be Divas," the lurker isn't able to use the anonymity of the computer as a way to empower themselves. Or they are just quiet people who would rather watch than participate in this circus of a society. Probably, they're the sane ones of the bunch, who shake their head when things erupt on places such as BBF, Fandom_wank, or live journals. They can see it coming because they are completely outside observers.

The "Artist": Everything about this person screams "I'm cool, mysterious, and think thoughts that make me depressed." They write fan fiction, design fan art, or make music videos. These guys probably need the escape more than anyone else and you can find them hurling things at the wall, at you, and occasionally at themselves. Torture is good for the muse, they'll tell you. Be afraid, but love them all the same for the entertainment they provide you.

Ahhh, Freak!: This person excels at messing with people's minds. And they LOVE it. They'll say the most disgusting, disturbing, and in your mind, WEIRD things that can be at any given time. And they like being that way. They're of no harm to anyone unless people give them the power and say: "You're so odd! I must be like you!" And then what you have is an "odd diva" who gets pissy when not everyone loves her or agrees. But that's a whole different fandom stereotypical personality, and we're only covering a few of the basics.

The Shipper: They live, breathe, read, and dream about their one true pairing. Everyone is a shipper to a certain degree (minor exceptions) even if they won't admit it. Basically, this guy is in love with the love. Not much harm to anyone, and they form up the subculture of the fandom --- but if you start telling them that their ship will never sail... well, be prepared for an all out war.

Grouch: You know who I'm talking about. The trolls. They want to cause trouble and nothing ever satisfies them. And if you dare tell them that they are wrong, they'll whine about it and say you attacked them. If you get a "Grouchy Shipper" you're in for a real bad time of it. This person probably has issues in their every day life that carry over and spill like acid into the fandom. Don't talk to them. They'll judge and hate you no matter WHAT you say.

The Sheep: This is an entire group of people who congregate and annoy the rest of us. Because, like, oh my god, oh my god!1111! Get my point? They're not so bad, and don't mean to annoy us, but they can't help themselves. Ten years later, they'll probably be among the adult shippers and will be less annoying.

There are of course, several other classic personalities and then sub-personalities such as the leader, the mindless followers, and those with opinions but who decide to follow just the same. But that's for another time.

With all these subcultures, there seems to be an overriding theme. Let me introduce you to the "Joss owes me" syndrome. We've all suffered from it and I continue to. We WANT something and think Joss is obligated to provide it. You can never truly escape it, but can briefly step back and realize: that no, Joss *doesn't owe us anything. It's not going to kill me that Tara died on the show, even if it made me sad. It's entertainment, riddled with cliches, and the only obligation Joss Whedon has to any of us is to provide the story he has inside his mind. Whether that story line is "good" is all a personal perspective and based around whether or not we've gotten what we desired.

Sometimes this can lead to a conflict of interest and tension inside our culture. We don't all want the same thing. Some of us are happy about this season's developments, some of us have been completely disillusioned, either way, the show has succeeded in entertaining or completely losing us. Not every story line appeals to the entire fandom's nature.

There are other aspects that prove my idea of fandom as a society in itself, and I'd like to get into the fact that we have a persona that might not always be true to life (Jenny O spoke of it quite eloquently months ago), and I will possibly later get into the other personalities and conflict/resolution/consequences/ideals of behavior between the subcultures of fandom, but I have an essay on George Bush to write and well, I'm hungry.

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