The good, the bad and the ugly: Inside looks at Fandom

(Photo by Jp Pitogo/SAIT)

Jacob Pecson, an avid action figure collector, works on putting together one of his newer pieces, a 1/100 replica model Gundam Heavyarms, from the popular Gundam anime series. Each Gundam model takes about 4-6 hours to construct, and requires tools and glue.
(Photo by Jp Pitogo/SAIT)

Fandom culture can be an amazing, beautiful thing that brings people from all different walks of life together in appreciation for a movie, show, game, comic or book.

The variety of experiences and people make fan communities an interesting patchwork blanket of passion and enthusiasm.

Jessie Ferguson, a library information technology student, has been active in various fandoms since the age of 10. Currently, Ferguson participates in the fan communities for Harry Potter, Marvel, Star Wars and Don’t Starve, among many others.

“I love the support from the community,” she enthuses. “A lot of the people are so caring, loving and supportive.”

For the past several years, Ferguson has attended the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, sometimes in cosplay as characters she admires. As a makeup artist, she enjoys doing makeup to look like characters such as Darth Maul.

Although Ferguson’s love of fandom culture is obvious, not every experience in fan culture is positive.

“I’ve had someone yell at me for disliking a character they loved,” she confided. “That friendship didn’t last.”

One of the most contentious parts of fandom culture is “shipping,” or pairing two characters together romantically. Sometimes, this can escalate into full-blown “shipping wars,” when members of a fandom with opposing ships harass the opposing side.

“Some people jump down your throat if you disagree with something, like thinking their favourite ship is bad,” said Ferguson, a view shared by Isabelle Charette, a nursing student at Lethbridge College.

“People will get extremely vocal and hostile about who they ship,” Charette said.

Aside from enjoying reading and viewing their favourite fictional worlds, some fans like to step into the role of characters, whether existing or original, and express their enthusiasm through roleplaying.

For example, Ferguson runs a roleplaying website for the popular Dragon Age video games, while Elisha Lowry, a high school student, prefers to play and run tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons.

Other people enjoy supplementing the worlds they love by reading and writing fanfiction, viewing or creating fan art and discussing fan theories. `

“It’s nice to escape if I’m really stressed about school,” stated Charette. “I like to lose myself in the familiarity.

For Brian Ziemba, manager of Phoenix Comics on 16th Ave, fandom has always been a positive force in his life. He started out reading a lot of Thor, Conan the Barbarian and Batman comics, but now reads a bit of everything, which helps with his work.

Ziemba’s enthusiasm for his job is evident.

“I get to be surrounded by what I love and hang out with my friends,” he said.

“People are here because they want to be here.”

Fan events, such as the upcoming Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, are incredible ways for fans of all types to come together.

Not only are they good for businesses that have booths in the vendors’ hall, they present opportunities to support local artists, see amazing cosplays and meet the celebrities and creators that bring beloved characters and worlds to life.

“I said hi to Carrie Fisher once,” Ziemba relates. “You see a lot of people that you see at the store and a lot of old friends.”

While the fan community, as with any group of people, is not perfect, it is, for the most part, positive.

“People that are into this sort of thing are passionate people,” Ziemba states. “Passionate people are interesting.”

Ultimately, fan culture can be best summed up in a quote from actor and screenwriter Simon Pegg: “Being a geek is about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection.”

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