All or nothing: A guide to fandom

Introducing … super fan! Graphic by Reece Butler.


All or nothing. 

Nowadays it often feels like you have to be completely immersed in something in order to be a true fan. Whether it be celebrities, music or a franchise, it seems the superfans have altered the idea of what it means to be a supporter. 

When I was younger, I considered myself to be one of the biggest fans of the Harry Potter franchise. I had Ravenclaw robes, an Invisibility Cloak, an abundance of wands and even Lucius Malfoy’s cane. I read the books and watched the movies many times, memorizing even the smallest details. I would annoy my friends with tidbits and fun facts at any given moment. All this to say, I was a superfan. 

Yes, I was one of those girls who gatekept the series in school because no one was going to be a true fan like me. I know I was annoying; I wasn’t aware at that age, but I am now. Many people take a similar approach to what they love, not fully understanding how that might impact others. 

On the opposite end of the stick, I consider myself a casual fan of many things such as the Marvel franchise. I watch the movies and sometimes the TV shows, but I’ve never picked up a comic book or read fanfiction. When you step into the theater to see the latest Marvel movie, you’ll be met by all kinds of fans: superfans, casual fans, moviegoers and chaperones. No matter the crowd you belong to, there’s always that one person who wants to have a leg up on your followership and will try to achieve that by any means necessary. 

It’s not just in franchises that we see fans with this attitude, but major celebrities as well. Celebrities are idolized in society, so it’s understandable when people gatekeep them; they simply want to feel important. They might feel that by being the biggest fan, they will get some recognition too. 

When women express interest in a piece of media, many people often jump to the conclusion that they are only interested in it because the actor, artist or celebrity is attractive. This is frequently the case in fan bases that are primarily made up of men. 

First-year chemistry major Abby Maroun notes that being a female fan in a typically male-dominated fan base often affects her experience and credentials of being a fan. 

“A lot of times when I say I love Marvel it’s more like, ‘Oh, you just like the actors,’” Maroun said. “For me, that was never the point of getting into Marvel.” 

Maroun brings up an interesting point — female fans oftentimes are held to different expectations or stereotyped, especially in male-dominated communities like Marvel. Many female fans are defaulted to liking the franchise simply because the actors are physically attractive. These expectations are different from community to community, but different rules can be found in all. 

Music fandoms are at the top of the most wanted list for gatekeeping. 

Taylor Swift and Harry Styles are some of the biggest celebrity names that come to mind when I think about this idea of gatekeeping. Even though they have such large followings, many die-hard fans want to keep them for themselves to prove that they are the biggest fans. With the success these celebrities have earned, it’s next to impossible to not have fans of various levels of enjoyment, both intense superfans and casual listeners. 

First-year marketing major Hope Taylor offers an example of how some superfans justify their gatekeeping of an artist. 

“There’s been people who have said, ‘Well, I’ve liked them since they were small, and I hate that they’re getting big; I wish that they were still the small little band that they used to be,’” Taylor said. 

I am a huge Harry Styles fan, and it upsets me when I see others in the community trying to one-up other fans on their knowledge, dedication or love for the artist. That’s not what he’s about, and that’s not what a fandom community should feel like. 

But, unfortunately, that is what many fandom communities feel like, especially in music. I can’t wear a vintage band tee without someone coming up to me and demanding that I name three songs. 

Brooklyn Stewart, a music, music therapy and sound engineering triple major, said that it is frustrating to have a superfan question your dedication to an artist, especially the ‘name five songs’ trope that many so often experience. 

“That really pisses me off personally,” Stewart said. “I just can’t get behind that, because I think that there’s a difference between sharing your passions and gatekeeping … I definitely think it’s a thing especially in music because music is so broad and universally loved.” 

The fact of the matter is that there is so much media out there that no one can be a superfan of everything. It’s okay to just like one song off of one album or one movie that an actor is in. Your involvement in a fandom is allowed to be casual. 

There is more to being a fan than just naming the artist’s discography, all the movies they’ve been in or their big three zodiac signs. But, if that’s what floats your boat, you go right ahead and memorize all that; just don’t expect me to as well. 

You can still be a fan even if you don’t know what the celebrity’s favorite color was when they were 13 or what their mom makes on Thanksgiving. 

To me, being a fan is both enjoying the media that an individual releases and finding something new that you like. There is no one way to be a fan, just like there is no one way to live. When you find something that tickles your fancy, don’t let anyone diminish the enjoyment it brings.


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