When I hear the word “fandom,” I tend to think more along the lines of “fanatic.” There are many books, movies and TV shows that I am a fan of, but I have never really considered myself part of a “fandom,” especially after reading books like Fangirl or Gena/Finn, where the characters’ participation in fandom is a key part of their lives.
In some cases, hardcore fans of something have been very off-putting. I used to frequent a music forum where I could talk about some of my favourite artists and their upcoming albums. I was very put off by fans of some of the more popular artists, Beyonce being a major one, who consider themselves “stans,” let alone fans. For those who haven’t heard the term, “stan” comes from the Eminem song of the same name (here) about a man writing letters to the rap star, getting progressively more angry and obsessive each time the busy rapper fails to answer — eventually leading toward a final suicide-homicide. Since then, the term “stan” has come to refer to hardcore members of a fandom who are obsessed with it, although luckily not generally to the point of violence. On these forums, the “stans” were very off-putting since they believed their artist of choice, Beyonce being the main one but there were others, could do no wrong and they would verbally attack anyone who disagreed. The hostility of the environment not only put me off the forum, but it actually put me off the artists themselves. The fact that Beyonce’s fanbase was so obsessive, so aggressive and so adamant about their views really put me off her as an artist.
That’s not to say that all or even most people involved in a fandom behave that way. I actually joined that forum in the first place after becoming friends online with a young man who was a Brandy “stan,” and while he believed Brandy was the best singer and loved everything she did, he at least was not aggressive about his opinions. I should be clear that I have no problem with fans or “stans” having their own opinions, even very strong opinions, but where I take issue is when they try to bulldoze over other people to make sure their opinions are the only ones that are heard. Luckily, I’ve found that the Goodreads community so far has not been like that at all. If anything, we sometimes go a little too far the other way to avoid offending anyone, such as prefacing unpopular opinions with “This is just my opinion, and if you don’t agree then that’s okay.”
But to return to my original point, although I’ve always had things that I’ve been a fan of, I’ve never really strongly thought of myself as a part of a fandom. To me, being involved in a fandom is about more than just reading the book, or watching the show/movie. It is about going above and beyond to engage with it or with other fans in some way. I have never been the type to go to conventions or events, and I’m always a bit hesitant to buy merchandise because it’s often so expensive. But there are a few fandoms that I would say I’ve been involved with and I am still involved with — Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Disney movies, and The Addams Family. These are all books/movies/TV shows that I return to repeatedly, read online content such as fanfiction or essays, engage in discussions online, etc. Looking back on things that I’ve been a fan of throughout my life, I was surprised to find five that I am not really involved in anymore, but some of which were definitely fandoms for me.
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here. (My apologies for not mentioning Sam in my previous Top 5 Wednesday posts. I will do so from now on).
1) The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin
I think this book series could easily be considered my first fandom, and one that I was most obsessed with. I can’t remember what led me to read the first book, but I was hooked early on and quickly collected as many books in the series as I possibly could. I bought them in stores, gathered them from book sales at my library, and eagerly anticipated every Scholastic catalog at school so I could get the next book in the series. Not only did I read the main series, but I also read many of the spin-offs, watched the movie, and obsessively watched the TV series (which I actually wish I could find for free online to watch again). Every time we went to the video store, I ended up renting at least one of the Babysitters Club videos to watch again and again. I brought these books with me every time we went on vacation, re-read them many times, and even bought anything Babysitters Club related. The Scholastic catalogs often included bonus merchandise such as friendship bracelets or necklaces, diaries, stationary, etc. and I got it all! I related so strongly to some of the main characters (Mary Anne for her shyness, Mallory for her desire to be a writer). The main reason that I am no longer in this fandom is just that I grew out of it. When I was 8, I thought the characters seemed so mature and responsible, but as I got older I found it a bit weird that 11 and 13 year old kids were entrusted to babysit and run large-scale events like they so often did. The books also a got a bit repetitive, and I eventually moved on to others instead.
2) Puppy in my Pockets
I don’t know if anyone will even know what these are anymore, but I was obsessed with these toys. I started collecting them after one of them was a prize in a cereal box, and I saw that my best friend had a few. Essentially, they are small plastic figures of a wide variety of dogs and other animals. They used to come in packs of 5 or so, and each one had it’s own name and came with a small card that had some stats about the individual pet. Over the years, the set expanded to include Kitty in my Pocket, Pony in my Pocket, and a wide variety of extra sets that included bunnies, zoo animals, and others. There were also items that came with the sets, such as dog beds, wooden logs, awards platforms, etc. so you can create stories to play out with your animals. I was desperate to collect them all, although I never did. I remember my parents even taking me to some kind of warehouse store (which apparently was a toy wholesale shop, only open at certain times of year) where I could often find some of the sets that weren’t available near me. I remember being so upset that I couldn’t collect all of them. Each time you bought a set, you would get a small booklet that showed all the puppies available — many of which were not available to me! I even joined the fan club, where I got newsletters and I think the original intent was that it would offer some exclusive items, but I don’t think that ever happened. I still have all of the ones I collected and I refuse to get rid of them. Over the years, I have seen Puppy in my Pockets still in stores, but they are not the same anymore. The figurines are much less realistic (and nowhere near as cute!). I stopped collecting them because they were no longer available, but I honestly probably would have continued much longer if I could.
3) Nicholas Sparks books
I first heard of Nicholas Sparks because of the A Walk To Remember movie, which I adored. It actually took me quite a while to read that book, but I devoured everything else that he had written. I especially loved A Bend in the Road and The Guardian. I loved how Nicholas Sparks created such bittersweet, emotional stories, but over the years I found other authors that I liked even more. I wouldn’t say that I’ve completely left this fandom, since I still enjoy his writing and I look out for the next book, but I’m definitely not as obsessed with them as I used to be. I think his books were my main transition from reading middle grade/YA to reading more adult-level books. His earliest books especially were a great middle ground since they were easy to read and compelling enough to interest me, while still being a bit more advanced than other books I was reading at the time. To be fair, I am still a huge reader of YA books, but I remember Nicholas Sparks being one of my first introductions to books with adult characters instead of children or teens. The main reason I am less obsessed than I used to be is because I started to find the books a bit too similar, and the writing just didn’t capture me the same way as it used to. I still love the books, and I enjoy watching the movie versions as well, but I’m not sure I’d consider Nicholas Sparks my favourite author like I used to.
4) The Simpsons
It is almost a cliche at this point to say that you used to be a fan of The Simpsons but it’s not so good anymore. I think we all know by now that the series just isn’t what is used to be, although I have to say this year’s season has actually been pretty good. I started watching The Simpsons because my older brother really liked it, and it quickly became one of my favourite shows. I remember actively avoiding the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials because they scared me, but I loved the hilarious weekly episodes. This was one of the few shows that I consistently continued to watch week after week over the years, even sticking with it as the quality started to decline. In elementary school, one of my closest friends and I would endlessly quote the show on our walks home from school, and we had a massive e-mail going back and forth which collected all of our favourite quotes. I never really collected any of the merchandise associated with it, but I have read some pretty interesting online analysis and books of essays discussing how the show relates to psychology, philosophy, etc. Over the years, and especially as I started to watch a lot less TV in general, this show kind of fell by the wayside. I’ve never completely stopped watching, but even in the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that it doesn’t really bother me to wait a few days before seeing the latest episode. I don’t like missing episodes completely, but I can easily have one recorded off the TV for close to a week before I remember to watch it. Don’t get me wrong — the show still has its moments, and I still generally enjoy it, but it’s not as funny or as strong as it used to be.
I’m hesitant to include this on the list, because I can’t quite consider it a fandom that I am no longer a part of. Especially in the past year or so, I got back into Pokemon in a big way. My love of Pokemon started when I was in elementary school, when the video games and cards became a worldwide phenomenon. I poured so much money into collecting the cards and bought all of the main video games, often even both variants of the same game. I was never really into all the side games (Pokemon Rumble, Mystery Dungeon, etc)., but I loved Pokemon Snap and Pokemon Stadium, although I could only play them at my friend’s house since I didn’t have the gaming system for them. I was absolutely obsessed with the anime series and movies (as much as Ash as the main character frustrated me!) and I hated to miss an episode. This is the only show I can think of that I actually watched the entire marathon when TV channels hosted them, although these marathons were usually only 2 hours long. I collected books from the book series, including guidebooks for the card game, a “Pokedex” book that described each Pokemon, and a trivia book that tests your Pokemon knowledge. I have always enjoyed the video games and find them very entertaining, despite the fact that they have always essentially been the same game over and over. I drifted away from Pokemon for a while for two main reasons. One was just a lack of time. I have always bought the video games as they came out, but most often I’d get about halfway through, got caught up with schoolwork, and ended up putting it off until I forgot about it. The other was simply not having anyone to play with. Only one or two of my friends were interested in Pokemon cards, and once they lost interest, I had no one to play with so I slowly stopped collecting the cards. This year, my boyfriend showed me the online version of the card game, which I’ve become a little obsessed with, and that’s reignited my interest in Pokemon and the games. Every so often, I set myself a goal of rewatching the original series and continuing on to the later series, but a lack of time always impedes my progress. So although I was no longer really a part of this fandom for a while, I would definitely say I’m back into it now.