Monday, January 12, 2015

Fandoms: Obsession or Hobby?

I've been thinking about fandoms lately, and of course, being a person who has jumped through dozens of them over the years, I thought I'd talk about them today.  For someone who spends a lot of time keeping up with the more geeky fandoms throughout the years, I feel at least a bit comfortable talking on a surface level about just about anything.  Fandom (which, by the way, my spell checker does not like the word, and I keep getting squiggly red lines when I type) is a word that, at least to me, means something that a lot of people like and spend a lot of time thinking about and usually entails spending copious amounts of money on and takes up most of their lives.  This can range from a television show to a football team (*cough* OSU *cough), can be for a single actor, or for certain characters from movies.  It can be an anime or live action, it can be for a toy or a collection like baseball cards.  You name it, there's probably a fandom for it.  Food, furniture, plants, hobbies... well, the list could go on forever.

My own personal list has been fairly brief over the years, although when I get into something new, that old fandom is still back there in my mind, creeping up from time to time when I meet someone else who has the same obsession over the subject.  But I'll get to my opinion on whether these things are mere hobbies or obsessions a little later on, don't worry.


The first memory I can remember about my own personal fandom starts with My Little Pony.  Flashback to 1985, and they'd just switched from "My Pretty Pony" to the first generation of My Little Pony and I had a very small collection of ponies.  (For the record I was more obsessed over animals than dolls, and threw away my very first Barbie after chewing off her hands when I was 5 or 6)  I continued to collect the little pastel ponies throughout my years until I turned a teen, and even during the short time period where the ponies weren't being released by Hasbro (and the period where they looked stupid) I still thought about the ponies and would 'save' them from flea markets and garage sales where I could.  I still have my entire collection of ponies until this day, they probably hit the 100 mark now.

What's interesting about my first fandom was that I wasn't a member of a fandom when I was growing up.  This was a hobby, a collection, an obsession over little plastic toys with brushable hair.  It was much later, only in the last four years or so that I suddenly became a member of a fandom.  The Brony community was created and suddenly here I am, a member of this group of pony-lovers.  It's the one fandom that I don't believe I'll ever outgrow, even when the cartoon ends again or they change to some other strange pony style down the road.  Would I call this more of a hobby or an obsession?  At this point in my life I think it's still more of a hobby since I don't go to Brony conventions or spend much time talking to other fans.


My second longest fandom started in 1993 with the release of the Super Mario Brothers Movie.  Strangely enough, this was another fandom that just wasn't a fandom when I liked it at the beginning.  I knew only one other person who liked the movie and we obsessed over it for a year or two until my friend went onto other things and my obsession turned into more of a collection.  Much later, almost the 20th anniversary of the movie, and I discovered a community of like-minded individuals who had been even more obsessed about SMB then I had been and started up small conventions and showings, began comic books and helped bring about the release of the Blu-Ray of the movie.  I still love SMB:The Movie even though now it's also more of a collection that sits in my closet then something I go out and actively participate in.


A very short fandom that I still feel appreciative of was Batman Returns.  I had a crush on Danny DeVito's Penguin.  I cried when he died in the movie and was carried out into the water by the penguins.  For six months or so I wondered what it would be like to have flipper hands and be the Penguin's daughter.  This was, of course, one of my stranger fandoms and again, another where I've never been a member of a group...although I'm sure there's others like me out there!


Pokemon.  Do I need to say much about them?  My first Game Boy was a clear purple "color" which didn't have color of course.  My brother got both Red and Blue, I took Red, he got Blue and we both managed to get through the Elite Four.  We both gave up trying to get all the pokemon and cheated using a Game Genie (or was it a Shark in those days?) and filled my pokedex and got a blue mew for the heck of it.  Since then I've gotten just about every other pokemon game (minus a few over the years when friends had them) and also got into the card game for awhile.  I still collect the toys from time to time and just enjoy talking about pokemon.  I think this was my first "true" fandom as almost from the very start I knew other people who liked the games and we talked about them over the years.  Plus, I'm still a fan, although more on a fringe way I suppose as I haven't bought some of the reboots lately and have fallen out of things recently.


Highlander: The Series.  Let's switch gears and think TV shows.  I had a stint with X-Files around 1997 or so where I got posters and journals and cards and my room was papered with magazine clippings that looked like I was a shut-in.  However, that was only because I couldn't afford much of the Highlander stuff that came out until after I graduated and was in college.  I was a huge fan of Adrian Paul and later Peter Wingfield.  This was one of my most expensive fandoms as I spent a ton of money on buying the VHS sets that came with a bunch of extra cool stuff.  I still use a bag that I got from that and have some jewelry items I bring out from time to time.  I see people wearing Highlander jackets on occasion out and about too, so I know that even though the fandom died back, it didn't die off completely.  In fact, there's been tons of references just lately to the Highlander series in various cartoons and TV shows (like Forever, for example).

Highlander was the first time I really obsessed over a show and all I talked about was the series.  I wanted to be an immortal.  I met people online who also wanted to be immortal.  I wrote fanfiction, I tried my hand drawing artwork (and failed miserably, but I knew friends who could draw excellently) and I made my first website about the series.  It grew for years into three websites, forums and eventually even a meet-up.  I met a bunch of people and hung out with friends from other states, chatted online with people from Europe and exchanged artwork and presents.

Unfortunately, this series upon it's end, basically meant the end of the fandom for me.  Mostly.  My friends and quibbled about real-life things since we really had nothing else in common besides the series, and when it was over and we'd talked it all out, that was it.  A few friends went into new fandoms (two of which went onto Russel Crowe, another onto Outlander years later), and eventually I just fell back on my pokemon fandom for awhile as I really couldn't keep up with them.  I didn't like Russel Crowe, I couldn't get obsessed over him, and I didn't want to.


My pokemon fandom had a combination with my short stint as a gamer. I won't say that this fandom of tabletop and cardgames was actually a fandom for me.  It was more like a "I need to like these things to get a boyfriend" thought for a few years.  Unfortunately I went through nearly everyone in the gaming group I was in until I realized that just wasn't going to work and mistakes learned, I moved away from that fandom back to pokemon and it's grandmother Anime.


Trigun.  Anime was always on the backburner for me from the time that Sailor Moon was released, Pokemon, and a few shows here and there until suddenly I was watching Adult Swim at night and there was Cowboy Bebop, Inu Yasha, YuYuHakusho and Trigun.

Vash the Stampede was a crush of mine for quite a few years from 2002-2006.  Heck, I think I obsessed over him a bit longer than that too, although in 2006 I met my future husband and that basically ended my obsession.  However, Trigun was something unique to me when it came to the fandom.  Trigun had a small fan base in the USA with the release of the anime.  There were a few people online who had created websites, they had created some translations and had a limited amount of information available on the web.  But, most of it had been abandoned.  It became a fandom that I pulled up out of the dirt, brushed off and started all over again.

I started up my own website and posted things every day.  I created my first blog of sorts with the daily updates.  I had some fun things to see, started writing some fanfiction, and met some others who liked the series too.  I answered questions about the show and started collecting the manga even though it only existed in Japanese at the time.  I met people who had available to them the brand new chapters as they came out in Japan.  I pulled translations from them, eventually helped start a translation group, and then watched it go it's own way.  At the peak of my website, there were hours where the bandwidth allotment was reached and people couldn't visit until the next hour.  I had people emailing me every day with questions and information.  I chatted with people on AIM for hours about the topic and I was the person you went to for information about the series.

I'm still proud of my Trigun fandom.  I pulled up and brought it back to life and kept it running for quite a few years.  The fandom itself is pretty small now, but I still have the number one site for information about the series (except of course the Trigun Wiki page, but what do you expect?)  And I still have Trigun posters and pictures on my wall that I look at on a regular basis.

But is it an obsession?  No.  Not any more.  I don't spend hours thinking about Vash or Wolfwood taking me on adventures and spending time being a gunfighter on the desert planet.  I don't draw Vash non-stop, nor do I write fanfiction on the subject.  I still watch the show from time to time, still look at the manga, and I can't convince myself to throw out the magazines I had when they were first released even though the books have all been released and the series is completely translated.  But it's a collection, a memory of the fandom, and I'll have the website for awhile yet, but even that will eventually fade away as well.


The Future.

I don't have a fandom that I'm really a member of at the moment.  I don't like anything so much that I'll go out of my way to spend hours talking about it.  I don't go out and spend time with others who like a certain thing and I don't write fanfiction or draw or share photos of anything.  Well, I suppose you could say that I like cats a lot, but I think that's more of cat-scratch fever than an actual obsession.  (Look it up - the virus of cat-scratch fever can actually effect your brain.  I almost think that people who are immune to this are those who become dog people or no-pet people)

But does that mean I'll never find another fandom?  I'm not sure.  I still collect My Little Ponies and Pokemon, I still watch anime, so I suppose in the greater sense I'm an anime fan.  But am I obsessed?  No.  This is more of a hobby.


And now I will finally get around to speaking on the topic of this blog.  Are Fandoms really obsessions or are they hobbies?

Actually, they're both.

A fandom normally starts out as a hobby.  Perhaps you've watched a couple shows.  Maybe you've found yourself looking up information about the topic on Wiki or IMDB.  Maybe you've added yourself to a fangroup on FB.  Perhaps you buy a few knickknacks or a T-shirt.  Most people actually treat a fandom as a hobby.  I'd say, at least typically it starts out that way, and it just depends on how much time you spend thinking about it.  An hour a day?  Hobby.  Twenty-four hours a day?  Obsession.

Until Highlander, most of my fandoms were hobbies.  With Highlander and Trigun I had an out-right Obsession brewing.  I spent all of my free time on the topic, talked about it and enjoyed every single minute.


I'm sure this is a mixed debate for people when it comes to fandoms.  A sports fan might argue that a person who only plays video games all day is wasting their lives, but that same sports fan might have a house full of OSU memorabilia, spend all their time on fantasy football, and the rest of the time trying to avoid blue and gold at all costs.  Are they any less obsessed than the video game player?  Nope.  Is it bad?  Probably not.

Obsessions tend to happen to people who are single, and they usually happen between the ages of 13-25.  Mind you, I'm speaking of fandom obsessions, because obviously there are people obsessions that can happen whenever and that...well, I won't go into that.  Anyway, most of these people are looking for acceptance into a group.  Find something you like, find others who like the same things you like, and that equals acceptance and something to talk about and just really makes one fit in.

On the flip side, some obsessions can also lead to some people shutting themselves in, obsessing over something that they don't share with others, and can lead to some far worse things.  There always must be a certain buffer from allowing oneself to fall into that category.  There's usually far worse things involved in these situations, so I won't go into it more than this.

I think for those who are single, obsession fandoms are great.  They open up new friendships, new relationships, gives them a creative release, brings them into a group where they can feel loved or at the very least, accepted for who they are and what they like.  This goes from a group who enjoy a single character from a TV series, to people like the Bronies, who do a whole lot of good in their communities.

I think for adults, and especially for those with families... obsessive hobbies should be watched.  Why do I say this?  Well, over the years I've witnessed quite a few different obsessions lead to some problems in family life and home.  A family full of OSU nuts?  Okay.  One gal who LOVES an actor so much they're willing to go to New Zealand in order to stalk the guy... Not good.

A person with a family should always be obsessed with their family first.  Why?  Because, it's their family, and they need to look out for them.  If the the family are all fans of the same thing, or at least marginally, they create that unit of acceptance that the single fan creates with their fandom.  They create a circle of acceptance, equality, and understanding.  That's great.  But it's all about the family first and how everyone fits in.  My family is obsessed with anime and figures.  It's a fairly all-encompassing fandom, but one we share.

A person with a family who is not obsessed with their family first, most likely is not happy with their family.  They aren't happy where they are and it can cause trouble in that environment.  The first such person I saw in this situation was during the end of my Highlander days.  Both she and her husband enjoyed playing video games, watching Doctor Who and going golfing.  However, she was also completely obsessed with Highlander and loved Adrian Paul and Peter Wingfield.  But after the series ended and she began her obsession with Russel Crowe, she joined groups online and started making plans to meet him.  Now, he's a pretty big celebrity, so this was a pretty big thing.  At the end of our friendship (and I have no idea where she went next as I've never been able to find her on Facebook) she was getting her jaw worked on and getting a divorce.  She hadn't even slept in the same bed with her husband for years, so I think she'd already written off the marriage pretty early.

A more recent situation was were a friend of mine got into My Little Pony, called himself a Brony, and then started meeting other people and spending lots of time on the internet.  At first his wife joined him in the pony obsession.  (At least to an extent, as most Bronies are single until they find that special "Somepony")  But then he went off onto Adventure Time, and again, they both found interest in the cartoon series.  But then his hobby turned into an obsession with writing fanfiction and finding others to include in his inner circle.  This no longer included his wife, however, and even his long-time friends who tried to find interest in his fandom (my husband and I), found ourselves in this strange less than 6-month battle as fandom obsession turned war.


In conclusion... heh.  I spent far too much time writing essays in college to let them go.  Strangely enough my blogs still take essay form.  Forgive me!  You just learned something!  Intro, content, conclusion.

In conclusion, I believe that fandoms are better left hobbies, rather than letting them get into the obsession category.  However, I do believe there is good in allowing a fandom to take over your life, just so long as you don't forget those around you.  Make friends, use them to learn new things and expand your horizons.  Find others who share your obsession, but don't lock yourself away with it.  Share your stories and drawings, share your interests, ideas and thoughts, and don't feel ashamed of it.  Those who shun you for those activities are not people you want to hang out with!

Love your fandom and take good care of it.  Don't find yourself shunning others who want to be included, they are just trying to find a place in life too.  Don't keep your fandom from your family, maybe they'll want to get into what you like too.  Find things to surround you to keep you happy, but don't spend a fortune on dust-collectors (ahem, self!) and try not to go too over the top with your decor (ahem, OSU room people!)  Love what you like, share what you love, but also keep your eyes open to new things that could interest and create a new fandom for you.


Where will my fandom go in the future?  I think it'll always be with anime and cartoons, childish things, yes perhaps. I'm already infected with liking cats, so...can't help much there I'm afraid (ahahaha!)  But will I ever get that series I'm totally obsessed with again?

Well...only time will tell really.  I kind of don't think so though.  Typically my fandoms, the ones where I really got into it so much that all of my time was spent thinking about them...those were when I was single.  I crushed over guys (whether human or animated) and I spent my time thinking about how much I wanted to be with them and for their lives to coincide with my own.  But I have a husband now.  I don't think about Hollywood movie starts or characters from TV shows with any romantic interest, nor do I want to.  I enjoy being a fan of anime WITH my husband.  I enjoy liking what he likes but I also have stuff that he does I don't care for and he doesn't care for some of my things.  I feel like if I were ever to be obsessed, truly obsessed as I had been in the past, it would take away from my home life, it would take away from those things that I hold dear to me, and I think it would take time away from them (my family) so why would I do that?  If I ever did get completely obsessed again...I think I would worry about myself as it would show signs of being unhappy, and I'm not unhappy.

But...then again, time will tell of course.  Maybe there is a way to be completely obsessed with something and also be happy with one's family.  Heck, I've seen plenty of OSU families, so it's got to be a thing!  Perhaps if we find something to be obsessed with together, that is where our future will lie.

I'll try to enjoy my fandoms - and I hope, dear reader, you will enjoy yours as well!

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