Beliebers, Browncoats, Potterheads and Metalheads: Exploring Fandom

James Lambert

Screenshot of the Fandom live blogging event

Screenshot of the Fandom live blogging event

iCov’s series of live blogging events continued on 21 May with the subject of fandom – what it is, what it means to people and how it can affect them. Cathy Eglington again chaired the discussion, and James Lambert and Dr Bianca Wright also returned. Special guest, Janelle Vermaak, a lecturer and doctoral student at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University drew on her study of fandom to engage with participants in the live chat event.

The conversation started off by exploring what fandom means to people, and quickly moved on to discuss the different levels of fandom- what may be called “extreme” or “obsessive” fandom, to more reserved fandom, and how people express themselves within these definitions.

Another question that permeated the discussion was how a “fan” would be defined, both objectively and with regard to each participant’s own experiences. Said experiences and definitions ranged from simply absorbing media and buying merchandise to gaining a sense of belonging and comfort from things and taking on ideas and philosophies from characters and media.

A participant shows off her fan-inspired body art

A participant shows off her fan-inspired body art

Examples of fandom given included groups that have nicknames applied to themselves as a collective such as “Beliebers” and “Twihards”, people who engage in cosplay (dressing as fictional characters in costumes that are often very accurate), and a more reserved level; fan art. Other topics included the stereotypes of “Geeks” and “Nerds” and what the words actually mean, as well as how people feel when the terms are applied to them, or even self-applied.

The reactions to the topic were all positive, with many examples given of how fandom is a positive trait that can provide a lot of comfort for people, and can be a very important part of their lives. The last real topic was that of how one shows off their fandom- whether dress and/or speech can identity someone as a member of a fan base, and also what people can do to show off their love for various media.

Watch the replay here.

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