The Stigma of Fandom
Let's face it, Speculative Fiction fandom has a stigma attached to it that no other fans base does. Music and sports fans are celebrated, while SF fans are often ridiculed for engaging in the same activities.
Rise of Anti-intellectualism
I blame the rise of the anti-intellectual movements which began to organize in 1972, and the culture of ignorant bliss they promulgated for the stigma. They pushed the image of a good American as a one more interested in might than dialogue. Following the leader and the trends those leaders established were seen as more valuable than free thought. Questions were not encouraged.
Civics classes were dropped from the curriculum in the 1970s, and science education suffered soon there after.
This new culture held instinct and feeling as a higher source of insight than rationalism and education.
Never left High School
The tension between nerds and jocks in American High Schools is a schism that has probably always been with us, but in the 1970's and '80's this conflict was moved into the popular culture through movies, music, and television. These shows portrayed the jock as the hero and the nerd as the misfit who should be mocked and left out.
Dialogue and debate were stripped from our public dialogue, replaced by televised shouting matches. Pop culture's development was stunted. Adherents never matured out of the the high school mindset because there was no need. Pop Culture lowered itself so it would remain accessible to this new class of permanent high schoolers.
The Consumer Culture
There is a financial reason to stunt the growth of Pop Culture. The less discerning your audience is, the less expensive content is to make, the more people are likely to buy it.
Despite the pleas for better content, the financial benefit of keeping people from maturing and developing opinions is just too high to dissuade them from their present course.
Revenge of the Nerds
In the 1980's and '90's, the misfits started to fight back. Movies like Revenge of the Nerds, The Goonies, and Mallrats became touchstones for outcasts to rally behind, but the damage had already been done.
The culture had been damaged, and fans were charactured as annoyances. The misfits, now nothing more than the punchline of a poorly written joke, had to fend for themselves. We orginized into tighter groups.
The Heart's Ache
Through it all, the fans persevered, because through it all, we knew something the pop culture never will. We know what it is to find meaning.
The music, books, series, and movies we love gave us meaning. It is different for every fan, but it is still there. In our hearts, we know why we are in the world and what we have to do.
Image via Wikipedia
I found my meaning in the Klingons from Star Trek. While I wouldn't say my life has been a hard on, I still had to fight for everything that I have. I had to fight for my identity, my life, and my very mind and soul. Through the Klingons, I learned that life is about the struggle. It is about the fight not the outcome.
I used to cosplay as a Klingon at the conventions (when I wasn't a vampire). I took their idea of honor, and made it my own. It helped me to reign in my temper, and enjoy the struggles of my life. I am a better person for rejecting the popular culture and embracing fandom.
Unlike so many that I meet, my heart doesn't ache from a lack of meaning.
Laugh if you want to
So laugh at me if you want to. Tell me that I am taking these silly books, songs, series, and movies too seriously. That's ok, I am used to it. My only hope is that if my words can find their way to that one kid who is ashamed of who they are, how they see the world, and how they want to live, it is all worth it.
Fandom quite literally saved my life. Suicide is all too common among people who don't feel like they belong. Fandom is the only culture and community that asks so little of its members.
Do you love something so much you want to keep it with you always? Has there ever been a song that you felt told your story so perfectly you had to love it? Have you ever seen a show that drew you in so deeply you saw yourself in it? Have you ever read a book that changed you, and made you better?
I feel sorry for the people who cannot answer yes to those questions, and I hope they will open their hearts and let something in.