Lately, I’ve been seeing a few arguments, in various corners of cyberspace, about what it means, or doesn’t mean, to be a fan of something – should you buy the special editions, read the fan fic, wear the T-shirt? Who are the true fans? How can you tell them from the fake? Who is, or isn’t, permitted to be a fan of a particular thing? How should a real fan behave in the face of criticism of their beloved book/franchise/medium/pseudo-religion? Can you be too into something?
As is often the way with online arguments, a lot of this discussion can get quite… emotional. Here, for posterity, is my humble contribution, in the form of a handy five-point fan manifesto.
1) You can be a fan of whatever the hell you want, as passionately as you want. Ain’t no such thing as a guilty pleasure baby. It doesn’t matter when you were born, where you live, what you look like, which school you went to, who you dream about, what colour your hair is, if you piss sitting down, if you piss standing up, or who you are on a Monday morning. If you love something, you love it, and nobody can tell you otherwise.
2) There’s no right or wrong way to be a fan. You can be obsessive, you can be casual, you can be anything in between. Everyone started somewhere, after all. Watch the movie but don’t read the book. Write the slash fiction but don’t watch the show. Play the Android game but don’t buy the box-set. Wear the T-shirt just because you think it looks cool. You can read/watch/play/wear/write/listen/draw/consume/squee over whatever combination of stuff appeals to you, and if someone else thinks you’re weird because of it, that’s their problem, not yours.
3) Sharing your passion with others is great. Discussing passions with others is also great. Telling someone they’re not a ‘real’ fan because they don’t accept your headcanon, or they ship the ‘wrong’ couple, or you don’t like their cosplay, or whatever other reason… I think there’s a term for that. Oh yes, that’s right, it’s called Being A Dick. Don’t do that, people.
4) You can not be a fan of whatever you like. Everybody else likes something else – so what? Doesn’t matter what those Amazon algorithms say, not everyone who likes X has to like Y. Deal with it.
5) It’s possible to love something, but not love every single thing about it: to find certain parts of it troubling or distasteful, or just not as good as the rest of it. It’s even possible to hate some aspects of it; just as you can love a person deeply, but hate their alcohol problem. Acknowledging problems with something you love isn’t weakness, it’s maturity.
And if someone criticises something you love, it doesn’t necessarily mean they hate it, or hate you, or that you should hate them. Everyone is, after all, entitled to their own opinion, and sometimes the greatest fans can also be the harshest critics.