Let’s Talk About Fandoms
by Alessia Passarelli Library Assistant II
Fandoms may remind you of screaming fans at a concert or somebody cosplaying as their favorite fantasy character at a convention. Regardless of what comes to mind, fandoms have been around for many years because of how important they are to the entertainment industry, and they might represent more than you think. I have been part of various fandoms for as long as I can remember, from musical artists like Taylor Swift and One Direction to book franchises like “Harry Potter” and “Shadow and Bone”. Fandoms provide a unique support system, a dependable community of like-minded individuals, and possibly most importantly, they can offer an escape from reality. These three books from the Manhattan Public Library catalog illustrate an understanding of what it means to be in fandoms and how these unique communities can provide an essential support system.
“Everything I Need I Get From You: How Fangirls Created The Internet As We Know It” by Kaitlyn Tiffany is my favorite nonfiction book because of how appreciated it makes me feel. Tiffany explains how fans from different fandoms and backgrounds create the slang and social dynamics that we all experience on the internet today. While friends in real life have their inside jokes and jargon with each other, fandoms do as well. From memes and references to even having their own anniversaries and traditions, each fandom creates a family with its own unique subculture. The internet creates a space for people to unapologetically come together to collectively adore something without shame. Fans can become long-term friends in these online spaces, whether they meet in real life or stay as friends virtually. Tiffany is a One Direction fan, so the novel’s examples of internet culture are mostly dedicated to that fandom. However, I think this is a valuable read if you want to have a greater understanding of the rise of the internet and the role it plays in fandom culture today.
“Nerd: Adventures in Fandom from This Universe to the Multiverse” by Maya Phillips is a collection of nonfiction essays written as a love letter to the fandom community. Phillips touches on multiple fandoms and her experiences as a Black woman in these communities. Philips provides a refreshing outlook comparing how different backgrounds may interact differently with other fandoms. She grew up in New York and first explored the fandom world through 90s cartoons that she watched in her childhood. These experiences catapulted her into joining many fandoms throughout her life, making her a fandom expert. Phillips also discusses important topics surrounding racism, classism, and sexism, including the portrayal of Black people and women in the media. This is a must-read that can broaden your understanding of everything that goes on in fandoms behind the scenes and on the screens. Regardless of your background, community and relatability can be found in any fandom. Phillips encourages everyone to embrace their interests, lean into being a “nerd”, and be open to all of the possibilities that can stem from it.
“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell is a beloved coming-of-age Young Adult fiction novel following Cath who writes fanfiction about Simon Snow and how she adapts to her new life in college without her sister by her side. Cath and her twin sister, Wren, live and breathe Simon Snow because it helps them cope with their mom abandoning them. In college, Wren doesn’t want to be Cath’s roommate, leaving Cath to experience the trials and tribulations of college alone with her social anxiety. Cath acknowledges how dull the real world can be, and when it is, her fanfiction is her ray of light before life gets better again. Whether your reality feels dark for days or years, your online community can be the most stable and accessible asset in your life when you need it most. For Cath, this was especially true when her life changed so drastically, but her fictitious world stayed the same and she could still call it home.
Escapism allows us to temporarily forget our reality. We escape when we wind down at night to watch a TV show or read a book. When the real world becomes too much, we can rely on a make-believe world to get us through it. Being a part of a community centered on escapism with friends aligned with our interests enhances our well-being. I’ve met some of my closest real-life friends because of fandoms and other friendships were made stronger because of it. When your real-life support system cannot provide the space to be there for you when you need it, you can bet that at least one person in the thousands of your online community can. Pursue your interests wherever they lead you. You could make new friends and learn more about yourself, and Manhattan Public Library has the books and media to get you through your dark days.
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